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Want To Conquer A New Skill? Do It Every Day

At the intersection of psychology and productivity lies a simple truth: To do something well, you must embrace quantity.

When you're learning a new skill—whether developing dance moves or websites—quantity is way more important than quality.

Why? Over at Medium, entrepreneur-essayist Herbert Lui expounds on expansion:

Quantity should be a higher priority than quality, because it leads to higher quality. The shorter path to maximized quality is in maximized quantity, and executing on the feedback after each finished product.

To put it into startup terms, you're making yourself maximally iterative. To put it into hardware, the idea is to get as many cycles as possible. To put it into workout terms, the idea is to get as many reps as possible. Try fast, fail fast, learn fast.

Why does the do-it-a-bunch technique work? Take it away, science:

We saw this in Karen X. Cheng, whose unstoppable drive to improve herself is worth another look. She hustled into a dream job as a Microsoft project manager, then realized it wasn't her dream, then taught herself design and landed a sweet design gig. And, oh yeah, taught herself how to dance like this in a year:

What's the motivation?

As Cheng told Fast Company in a subsequent interview, making the video itself provided an ample impetus: She knew that she wanted to share a clip from day 30, for instance, so she had to make a big enough improvements to make the video compelling.

"The dance video isn't about dancing," she told us, "it's about working on something you're passionate about."

And that impassioned work ethic, Cheng explained, is an everyday thing. Growing up playing a range of instruments, she correspondingly absorbed a range of productivity hacks—the most crucial is to do it, whatever it is, every day.

Even at a micro level: When Cheng was learning to dance, she tapped out rhythms with one hand while piloting her mouse with another. Or, she says, if your skill-to-be-learned requires a special environment, like say rock climbing, you can take five minutes to visualize what you would be doing—mental practice, too, can make perfect.

Everyday volume

It's like Edison said: If you want to have a great idea, have a lot of them. Or like Macklemore puts it, the greats weren't great because at birth they could paint, they were great because they painted a lot. Or as Lui, the Medium writer, paraphrases This American Life host Ira Glass, "the best way to refine your craft is to create a huge volume of work. Not to create the most perfect piece you can, but to create many pieces of work."

Hat tip: Medium

[Image: Shutterstock]

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  • Elle

    Thank-you xs ten. I enjoed this article and feel I was meant to read it; it's inspiring.

    Have a great week.

  • chasephus

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. I got fired from my job today, so obviously I've been spending the rest of the day scouring the web for inspirational articles; I must say, this is the most inspiring one I've come across. This was a much needed shot of motivation.

  • Elle

    Good luck to you! You never know what God has in store for you. Everything happens for a reason. Carpe Diem, fellow marketer/advertiser.

  • Sierragrizz

    Thanks for sharing your insight with us. The header image takes me back to my skateboarding days in high school practicing the same kick flip everyday until I finally had it down solid. I have gained inspiration from your post as I am currently learning the Ruby programming language. I'll look back when I reach day 66 and see how much I've learned. Thanks for the share and I'll be sure to share your post!

  • Sandy Pham

    This is an inspiring entry especially for those looking to take on a new career. Take initiative and practice your favored skills until something comes of it. Thank you for sharing and cheers! :)