I’m coming to the conclusion that whatever it is you’re trying to do, the way to be successful can usually be reduced to a set of simple steps.
This should come as no surprise. Throw a metaphorical rock at the Internet and you will hit dozens of articles telling you how to do stuff. Want to lose weight? Follow these steps. Want to play the guitar? Watch this video. Want to write a book? Buy this book.
The problems come when people actually try to do these things, because simple is not the same as easy. Losing weight is a simple biological process, take in fewer calories than you use, and then do it the next day, and the next, but for some people that is a very difficult thing to do. If it wasn’t then Weight Watchers and all the other companies who make money out of people wanting to be thinner would be out of business.
Playing the guitar is a simple process, you hold the strings down with one hand and twang them with the other. Whether it sounds good is another matter, to sound good you have to practise, for a long time, like several years.
Writing a book is simple. Put one word after another about 50,000 times. Hoorah! You’ve got a book. Anybody want to read it?
Part of the problem is that these simple steps are usually written down or demonstrated by people who are actually very good at what they do. They’ve been through the process, they’ve sweated and toiled, they’ve put in their 10,000 hours.
(Not totally sure about the whole 10,000 hours theory btw. In Outliers, Malcom Gladwell suggests that this is how long you need to practise in order to become expert in a particular field. This is based on evidence from what experts have done. The bit that’s missing here is that I’m not sure how hard he looked for people who had put in their 10,000 hours and were still crap.)
Either way, you go to an expert and ask them “How do you do that?” and they will then try to summarise what they do, usually in a set of simple steps. And to them, it makes complete sense, that is what they do as they see it. But then give someone else those steps and it doesn’t work.
You see there is no magic ingredient, no magic button, no golden ticket. You’ve got to put the time in, do the work, make the mistakes, feel like giving up and then keep going anyway.
At this point you could just watch Kung Fu Panda rather than reading this post, it’s longer but will make you laugh more.
The point is this. If you keep going long enough you will get to the point where you can outline your success in a series of simple steps. Steps that will seem deceptively easy but that you know are simply the signposts on a long and difficult journey.
The Path Of The Sword by Martin Swinford will be published in May. For a limited time you can download a free review copy here