Engage the Talents of Your Workforce


The Key to Extraordinary Achievement

August 4, 2010 by Targeted Learning | add new comment

Targeted Intensive Practice Part II

Targeted intensive practice involves a long-term commitment to a process of continuous improvement that will drive extraordinary achievement. This process involves five steps:

Step1: Set Goals. High achievers are continuously setting very specific short-term goals that are beyond their current grasp. Implicit in this first step is the belief that failure is a necessary part of the learning process.

Step 2: Plan. High achievers identify the specific steps that are necessary for them to achieve their goals, and who they need to help them reach their goals. The assumption is that greatness is never achieved alone.

Step 3: Act. High achievers implement their plans with an intensity and focus that demands all their faculties. This is what is often referred to as “practice.”

Step 4: Review. High achievers rigorously review their actions and outcomes against their plans and goals, noting gaps and opportunities for improvement. Feedback from others is a critical part of this review process.

Step 5: Revise. If the goal is not achieved, then the plan is revised and the cycle is repeated. As soon as that goal is achieved, the bar is raised and another goal is set.

How did Benjamin Franklin become the best-selling author of his generation? How did Mozart become one of the greatest composers of all time? How did Michelangelo sculpt and paint himself into immortality? You got it. Targeted intensive practice over an extended period of time.

Think of talents as muscles rather than as fixed, innate abilities possessed by a lucky few. Just as muscles grow by having greater demands placed on them, so too our talents and mental capacities grow when we push ourselves to do difficult things.

Extraordinary innate ability is not the source of our greatness. Rather, greatness is the result of a long-term commitment to targeted intensive practice. We are the masters of our destiny – not our genes.

For those who are familiar with the principles we teach in our career development workshops, we would like to say a little more about talents. Superior talent only determines who will show the greatest promise during the first year in a new field of endeavor. Without passion, people with superior talent fail to push themselves and are soon overtaken. Only those who have a genuine passion for their craft have the self-discipline and drive necessary to continue to pursue the process of targeted intensive practice for a decade or more. In our estimate, extraordinary achievement is 80% passion and 20% talent. This means that people of modest talent and extraordinary passion can achieve extraordinary things, while those with extraordinary talent but limited passion fail to live up to their early promise. Michelangelo was not trying to be modest when he said, “If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.”

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