10 Strategies That Will Help You Improve at Anything Faster
From one aspiring polymath to another.
Photo from when my friend Jen got her black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu a few weeks back.
It’s not like I was this catastrophic failure or public embarrassment, but for most of my early life, I lived — as Henry David Thoreau would say — a life of “quiet desperation”.
I always wanted to be “great”, but it seemed like that just wasn’t in the cards for me. I had mediocre goals, mediocre results, and it appeared to me that everything in my life was going to be very average.
There’s nothing wrong with that, but these self-conceived limits made me a miserable teenager.
In school, learning was always this obnoxiously hard challenge for me. I’ll never forget when my high school science teacher called me “a dumb jock who’s been hit on the head too many times” during my senior year.
Respectfully, fuck her.
But as much as it pains me to admit, she was kind of right in some ways. I had to drop her class because I had a 50% in it and I “needed” to quit the class to be eligible to compete in wrestling.
I wasn’t dumb, but I was scatter-brained and disorganized. 5 years later, I found out that I have ADHD.
I was a serial underperformer until I came up with the strategies below and implemented them into my life over a 5 year period.
These 10 strategies can help you learn anything faster, more efficiently, and more effectively.
Learn from the best, but remember that you can learn from everyone.
In Jiu-Jitsu, I always try to seek out the best athletes, coaches, and training partners that I possibly can. At the point I’m at in my career, I’m allowed to be selective about who I train with.
I’m allowed to be selective, but I choose not to be too selective because I still learn from nearly everyone.
Heck, I even learn stuff by watching my 11-year-old students fight each other in kids’ class.
Don’t get pretentious about where you get your knowledge —good lessons are good, no matter where they come from.
Write everything down.
Goals, facts, techniques, all of it. Writing helps you see the thoughts as they fly through your head. This is the main reason I write so damn much.
Writing has helped to process a lifetime of martial arts training to become a better teacher, writer, and human being.
Develop a visualization routine.
This will automatically put you above 90% of people.
It sounds a little conceited, but the best way to actually get better at stuff is to sit back, relax, and then think about yourself smashing through all of your goals like it’s nothing.
Before I step out onto the mat to compete in the world championships, I’ve already done it hundreds of times in my head.
Learn how to love hard work for hard work’s sake.
Do not have a mindset that runs off of achievements or success. When you love the hard work, you will not feel forced to do it.
I love getting out of bed at the crack of dawn to go train. I hate when I can’t do it. I love late nights at my desk, hammering out new writing. I hate when I’m forced to take the night off.
I love the hard work.
When you love the hard work, getting better faster is simply a byproduct.
Eat, sleep, and breathe your skill.
Obsession precedes success — always.
You can become good at things you aren’t obsessed with, but to truly stand out as the cream of the crop, you need to be okay with being a little crazy. You need passion. You need fire.
Don’t shoot the messenger, but no one’s ever won a world championship by putting “balance” as their top priority. You have to choose a sacrifice.
“…there are no shortcuts to excellence. Developing real expertise, figuring out really hard problems, it all takes time―longer than most people imagine….you’ve got to apply those skills and produce goods or services that are valuable to people….Grit is about working on something you care about so much that you’re willing to stay loyal to it…it’s doing what you love, but not just falling in love―staying in love.”― Angela Duckworth
Don’t have a backup plan.
Most people will tell you to have a backup plan when striving to reach your goals and dreams.
I won’t. I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do if this whole “writing/Jiu-Jitsu thing” doesn’t work out.
While there’s nothing wrong with looking at all your options, if you’re not careful, a backup plan can become a comfort zone. It can become a safety net, and you don’t want to need your safety net. If you really want to force yourself to grow, do not have a backup.
Bruce Wayne couldn’t jump out of “The Pit” until he tried it without the rope. Think about what that means.
Quit everything that is of no use.
Quit exhausting relationships, bad habits, and coping mechanisms that do not help you progress. You’re going to need all of the energy and time you can have. People who drain you will not only disrupt your progress, they will derail it.
Learning is hard enough, it’s even hard when you are working against yourself.
Practice the skill in public.
In Jiu-Jitsu, this means competitions and sparring with new people. In writing, this means hitting “publish”, as much as possible. In school, this means taking tests.
Get comfortable being judged.
If you can develop a healthy relationship with your ego and your limits, you can open yourself up to an entire world of potential.
Work below your limits.
You’re playing the long game.
Be consistent over an insanely long period of time. You do that by avoiding breakdowns and overwork. Burnout is a dagger in the heart of all dreams and goals.
Your limits exist. Deal with it. Learn to work with your limits instead of against them.
Develop strong mental health.
I battled pretty severe depression, anxiety, and derealization for a really long time. I was not able to reach my potential until I got my mental health to a manageable level.
The idea of the “tortured artist” is bullshit. Being mentally stable will make you better at everything you do because it will allow you to develop the discipline to make genuine skill improvements. Take it from someone who’s been both suicidal and happy in his life — it’s always better for productivity and creativity to be happy.
I’m not perfect. I still make mistakes (all the time), but these strategies have helped me become a quick learner over the years.
I was in high school just 6 years ago, and now, I’ve won a world championship in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, graduated college, had my writing viewed more than 1 million times, and I make a living as an independent writer/BJJ instructor.
I love my life. Sometimes, I’m so happy it makes me uncomfortable.
At the same time, I’m only 24. I get that I probably don’t seem like the authority on all things “life advice”, but I have figured out how to get good at stuff. If I start writing parenting advice, feel free to call me out.
These are by no means the only ways to get better at stuff, but these 10 strategies have helped me take control of my life over the last 6 years, and I’m very confident that they can help you too to get on the path of continuous improvement.
“Ever since I was a child I have had this instinctive urge for expansion and growth. To me, the function and duty of a quality human being is the sincere and honest development of one’s potential.” — Bruce Lee
CONTRIBUTED BY Chris Wojcik
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