Donald Trump is obsessed with real estate. Howard Hughes was obsessed with aircraft. Calvin Klein was obsessed with fashion. Bobby Fischer was obsessed with chess and Tiger Woods is obsessed with golf.
That obsession led to their success.
Obsession means eating, sleeping and drinking your passion. You train, you read, you study, you experiment, you fail, you learn, you discuss, you try again, you succeed.
It’s a cliche, but there’s no substitute for hard work. As author Thomas A. Schweich puts it bluntly as Rule No. 9 in his book Staying Power: “Work is a Member of the Family.”
You may think you’re working hard — and, indeed, you may be putting in a lot of hours — but are you doing the “right” work? Not just physically demanding work, but “demanding work”, the work that forces you to think, to keep learning, to keep searching.
Researchers call it “deliberate practice.” It’s anything that’s intended to improve your performance, that has you stretching beyond your current level of competence. You can practice any chore on your farm, or any business element that you can measure results. You can practice reading herd reports — really deciphering what the numbers mean. You can practice breeding decisions — really following the genetics through to the end result.
You can practice communicating with your employees, or with your customers. You can practice tillage and planting and harvesting, as long as you analyze what you’re doing and figure out ways to do it better. Banish (and I mean banish!) the phrase, “We’ve always done it this way.”
That mental challenge isn’t easy, which is why many people only climb so far in their chosen fields.
“Having reached an acceptable performance… most people relax. Their performance then becomes automatic and therefore impervious to further improvement. In contrast, experts-in-training keep the lid of their mind’s box open all the time…” wrote Philip E. Ross in an article, “The Expert Mind” published in 2006 in Scientific American.
If success came easily, we’d all be Warren Buffet.
Ross also wrote that “motivation appears to be a more important factor than innate ability in the development of expertise,” which is why Pete Rose earned the nickname “Charlie Hustle” en route to his three World Series rings and 17 All-Star appearances. It takes motivation to want to improve and then deliberately practice that which we already know how to do.
Success begets success. Each accomplishment, no matter how small, will boost your self-confidence and keep you motivated to try harder. Or as Donald Trump puts it: “If you sink the first putt, and if you keep sinking a couple of more putts and as the round goes on, you just feel confident. It’s that way in life. If you sink the putt, you get more and more confident.”
You can learn to be successful, to be better at your chosen profession. We can all sink a few more putts. It just takes practice.
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