Sunday, 20 June 2010

HOW TO BECOME A MASTER IN ANY TOPIC, ANY FIELD, ANY SKILL

Mental Strength 1 & 2


‘Mastery’, Mastery. The question I have is how can we create mastery in any different topic or field or skill? For example, how does someone become a master golfer? I don’t mean Tiger Woods, you know, there can only be one number one golfer in the world, of course. I mean by definition, if you’re number one, there can only be one of you. That maybe requires something very, very special, but I believe that anybody, almost anybody, can become a master golfer.

A master golfer is really any professional golfer. I mean if someone is making money from playing golf, you know, maybe they’re playing in the PGA Tour or even some other tours around the world, that’s a master golfer. They’re world-class golfers. They’re better than 99.9% of golfers in the world. Those are master golfers. So how do those people become masters at golf?

Or, we can look at another sport let’s say football or soccer. We say soccer in America, football everywhere else. In football or soccer how does someone become a master at soccer, you know, someone who can play at a professional level, for example?

Or let’s think of something besides sports. What about music? How does someone become a master guitar player, a master piano player? Or, of course, we can think of our topic which is language.

The first question, how did you become a master of your own language? How did I become a master of English when I was a baby, when I was a small child? And how do we become masters of a foreign language, for you, English as a foreign language? So it’s an interesting question. You know, I know a lot about language teaching and language learning, but recently I have been interested in this more general topic of mastery. Because as I’ve been reading more and more about mastery, I realize that, of course, each of these areas is different – soccer, football, baseball, music, piano, guitar, learning languages – that there are specific things you must do in each of these areas.

However, what I’ve also begun to learn is that there are some general strategies of learning and practice that produce mastery and it doesn’t matter, it works for any skill, any topic. So I began to see that, in fact, our brains have certain ways for learning that work better. Our brains prefer to learn in certain ways. We learn faster, we gain skill faster and better when we practice in a certain way, when we learn in a certain way, and we go more slowly if we try other ways.

So this is always the question I have for anything is how can we get better results faster and enjoy it more? This is the question I always have when I’m teaching you. As a teacher I’m thinking, how can I help you, especially my VIPs, learn more English, learn it faster, learn it more deeply, remember it longer, use it better and enjoy the process more.

That’s always my goal, so that’s why I’ve been reading, reading, reading like crazy. On this trip, reading all these books about brain science, for example, all these studies and all these scientists who are studying our brains and how our brains work; how our brains create connections and when we learn something new what’s happening in our brain, what’s happening in our nervous system.

When we know what’s happening, we know how all of this works, then we can look at, okay, how can we learn and practice in a way that helps our brain create connections better and faster so that we learn faster, we learn better and we, eventually, perform better.

Very interesting subject, very interesting topic and let me tell you what I’ve learned because I’ve learned some very interesting things that will, hopefully, help you improve the way you are learning with Effortless English.

Now, number one, the number one strategy I have found and it works for any topic is that we must practice deeply with CANEI. That’s that Tony Robbins word again. CANEI means constant and never-ending improvement. So let me talk about how we practice is very important.

You know in my email course I talk about deep learning. You know, it’s one of our rules, one of our seven rules, deep learning. And in that email and the video that goes with the email, mostly I’m talking about repetition, right? I say learn a smaller amount of stuff – English, for example – but learn it very deeply. Repeat it a lot until you know it completely, until you understand it 100%.

So in that email, I’m really emphasizing repetition, repetition and, guess what? Of course that’s important. It’s important for any skill. If you’re learning to play golf, guess what? You have to practice that golf swing again and again and again. You have to repeat that golf swing many, many times.

If you’re practicing tennis, you have to practice your basic tennis strokes and swings again and again and again and again. You repeat it thousands and tens of thousands of times. Any master tennis player has done this.

And, so, with language, we must hear the most important, most common, words and phrases and grammar and pronunciation again and again and again and again, thousands and tens of thousands of times. And, of course, in the Seven Rules Course, I tell you that one of the weaknesses of schools is not enough repetition.

They go too fast. You learn the past tense a little bit, you learn it, but then in a couple months later they change and then they’re focusing on the future or then they’re focusing on the present perfect and you did not get  enough repetition with the past tense. The past tense is important; it’s probably the most common tense that we use in normal English conversation.

So repetition, I really emphasize repetition a lot, all of you already know this, but I want to emphasize something else about deep practice, because repetition, just repetition is not enough and I realized, after learning and doing this research the last few months, I’ve realized that I missed something -- that I need to emphasize something else besides just a lot of repetition. Because just repeating again and again and again it’s great, but you have to have a couple other things if you really want to learn quickly and to really master English.

Here’s one of the important points. It’s not just repeating a lot, it’s how you repeat that is very important. When I talk about learn deeply or deep practice, the quality of the practice is also important. It’s not just the quantity, it’s not just how many time you repeat it, repeat something 30 times, repeat something 100 times, that’s great, but it’s only great if you do it with total attention, total focus, total concentration and good energy. This is something I’ve learned from all of these studies of mastery.

They looked at how people practice; let’s say golf, for example. Let’s talk about something similar, golf. Well, some people do repeat their golf swing a lot, but there are a lot of mediocre golf players. They do their golf swing again and again and again and again every day, maybe they swing it 100 times and they go out and they practice it a lot, but here’s the difference between them and a master like Tiger Woods or Ernie Els or someone like that.

The mediocre player is not focusing totally every time. A lot of times the mediocre player, while they’re repeating, they’re not really paying attention carefully. They’re just doing the same thing again and again and again, but, you know, maybe their mind is thinking about something else or maybe they’re trying to hurry.  They’re thinking okay, today I must swing 200 times and they’re in a hurry to finish, right?

Maybe you’ve had this with English sometimes. You think okay, today I must study English one hour or every day I will listen to English one hour and you do it almost every day, but the problem is when you’re doing it you’re kind of hurrying. You’re looking at the clock. You know, oh, 30 minutes, only 30 minutes more. Okay, only 15 more minutes. So your mind is not totally focused and totally there, in the moment, listening very deeply, focusing all of your attention, right?

I know you’ve done this, because I’ve done it too. I’ve done it with music. I’ve done it with singing and base. I’ve done it when I’ve practiced many other things. Sometimes I’m totally focused and other times I’m not. Well, guess what? What the research shows, the brain science shows, is this. When we’re totally focused on something when we’re practicing, our brain makes a lot of new connections. The nerves actually make more connections with each other.

Also, something else happens, there’s something called myelin. What is that? Myelin is something that wraps around nerve fibers, nerve cells, and whenever you are doing a new skill it will wrap around the nerves that you use to make that skill. If it’s a language it wraps around the nerves in your brain and body for understanding and using the language. If it’s a sport then it wraps around different nerve connections. What is does is when it wraps around these nerve connections it’s like insulation and it helps the nerve impulses, the signals, travel faster and more efficiently. Now you don’t need to know all of this, it’s not so important, but what you need to know is that it happens much more when you are really focused and concentrating. More connections happen, more insulation happens and what that means is you learn faster, you remember it longer or forever and, eventually, you can use it much better.

If you’re not focusing…see, some people have this dream that they will play their Effort English lessons in the background while they’re cleaning the house, while they’re watching TV, while they’re talking on the phone or the perfect dream that all of you have and I know you do is that you’ll play it while you’re sleeping and  somehow it will all be absorbed. Maybe you’ve looked and found some little study on the Internet that says oh you can learn while you sleep. Well you might be able to get a little bit that way, but let me tell you the hard truth. The hard truth is uh-ah. That is not a very good way to learn. When you’re distracted, when you’re trying to pay attention to two things at the same time, the research shows that you’re not learning either thing very well and it all just goes into short-term memory. So if you’re talking on the phone and you’re hearing  your Effortless English a little bit or you’re cleaning the house while you kind of listen to the lessons, but not very well, with not a lot of focus, you’re getting some of this, you’re remembering it, you’re hearing it, you’re understanding it, but it’s only going into your short-term memory.

This is a problem, it’s only short term. That means, guess what? That long term you don’t remember it. It means it gets forgotten quickly. It doesn’t become a permanent connection in your brain. To create the  permanent connections, the long-term connections, those deep connections so that you remember forever and you can use it and master it, you must be totally focused, totally concentrated. That means the best way to listen to your Effortless English lessons is to have your iPod on or playing it in your computer and that’s all you are doing.

Now I do recommend you can do it while you walk. You could go outside with an iPod and that’s fine,  because walking doesn’t require a lot, a lot, a lot of concentration. You can still be focusing your mind totally on what you’re listening to as you walk and the walking will give you a little bit of energy, so that’s quite nice.

In fact, walking may give you more concentration because by walking you’re going to have more physical energy and that will help you have more concentration, more focus. So by walking as you listen, you can probably concentrate for a longer period of time and that is very important. Here’s what the research also shows. Twenty minutes of total concentration is better than one hour of distracted, half concentration. So it’s not just about the amount of time, it’s about the amount of concentrated, focused time.

So some of you, I know you get focused on how much time you’re listening to English. That’s great, but you also need to focus on the quality of that listening and to realize that just listening for four hours a day is not very helpful if you’re not really focused and concentrating while you do it; in fact, not only while you do it, but the entire time you’re doing it.

The moment your concentration goes away, the moment your focus drops down a little bit, you’re no longer getting long-term memory. It’s just going to short-term memory and it’s really wasting your time. So what I want you to do this month, especially, is to really focus on how you are listening to English and practicing English -- how you’re doing it and to focus on the quality of your focus, the quality of your concentration.

So it’s not just the amount of time, but it’s how well you are using that time. Don’t try to be doing something else with your focus or your mind. Do not be trying to clean the house while you listen. It’s not really that helpful, to be honest. It’s better to sit down for 10 minutes and really focus than to be listening to an hour while you’re doing something else. You won’t get the same benefit if you’re distracted, okay? So this is very, very important.

Now I know this is tough because, guess what? We now live in a culture which goes against mastery, which goes against concentration and focus. I mean we’ve all seen this, especially with children. I see this with my little young cousins, for example. That they’ve grown up with television and Internet and all this stuff.  Everything is always changing-changing-changing all the time and these kids have a very tough time focusing and concentrating for a long period of time.

You know I find it’s true even with adults now. A lot of adults I have, a lot of friends I have, they can’t focus and concentrate for a very long period of time, certainly not as long as I can and it drives me crazy  sometimes. I’ve noticed now that it’s hard to have conversations with a lot of people because they’re always distracted, you know?  I want to sit down and focus on a topic and talk about it and I can do this. When I’m focused on a topic I can talk about it for hours and hours, right? Thinking about something, talking about it, thinking of all the different ideas and really looking at it and focusing on it in a deep way, but I find that a lot of people cannot do this and after 10 minutes or 20 minutes they’re looking at their iPhone and doing text  messages or they’re looking away or they’re changing the topic or they just can’t focus so much. This is a result of television and Internet, to a degree, but it’s just kind of our whole world culture now. It’s all about distraction. It’s about everything very fast and easy, fast and easy, fast and easy and always, you know, don’t want to focus, always something changing. Oh, I’m doing a text message on my thing, now I’m talking on the phone. Now I’m looking at this, now I’m talking to someone. It’s just like everyone’s attention is going everywhere all at the same time and nobody is really focusing deeply on something for a long period of time.

And, so, when I talk about this topic of deeply focusing and concentrating for a long period of time, longer and longer periods of time, people are kind of like oh A.J., that’s difficult. It’s boring. It’s tough. Well, it’s not. You know, actually, I find it’s very relaxing, there’s something great about it. You know, it’s almost like a kind of meditation when you do it, but it’s something that you must practice and you build it step by step. So if you do have trouble concentrating for a long time, if you try to focus and after five minutes oh, your mind is going everywhere and you feel really tired or you start getting sleepy or you get bored, you know, don’t say I can’t do it. Just realize that right now you’re brain is not trained for concentrating and focusing very much because you haven’t been practicing it, so you just gotta’ practice it.

So maybe today it’s only five minutes and maybe this week it’s only five minutes. Well, remember constant and never-ending improvement, right? All you need to do is say okay, I need to improve this. I’m going to practice it. Next week I’ll try to focus for 10 minutes. Total concentration, total focus for 10 minutes on English or whatever it is you’re trying to practice and you do that until 10 minutes is easy.

And then, of course, what do you do? You increase it again to 15 minutes and then to 20 and then to 30. You keep doing this and, actually, in a few months you’ll find that you can concentrate for one hour and it’s not a problem and, in fact, you’ll find that you enjoy it more and more.

In the beginning it might feel boring, you might feel sleepy. That’s your brain just being lazy because you haven’t been practicing this, but if you keep focusing on it, you keep trying, you keep going a little longer, a little longer, eventually your brain gets stronger. It’s kind of like a muscle and you are able to concentrate more. You can go deeply. You can remember things more deeply. You can concentrate better and then you’ll begin to love this deep practice. Then you’ll be able to repeat a lot and you’ll be able to do it with total focus and concentration.

Those are the two magic things about deep practice. You must have both. You must have both. You must focus totally, with total concentration and, of course, you must do it in a repetitive way so that you’re doing the same thing again and again and again, many times, with total concentration. So you need to do this, again, total concentration and very repetitive.

Now this a common problem and question and I’m going to say it again and again because I see this  comment on our forums all the time. I see it in the VIP social site. Students ask me about this all the time. The thing that always happens is people say yes, A.J., but I start to feel tired. I get sleepy when I’m listening to something, you know, in English, especially if I’m listening to it many times. I get tired and sleepy or bored when I’m trying to focus a lot on something.

This is a problem, but you know what? You need to think of your brain like your body, because we also need to make our brains stronger. Like I said, we live in cultures now, in a society that makes our brains kind of weak and lazy. You know everything is always changing really fast and we don’t have to focus so much anymore and that’s not good. It’s the same thing that’s happening to us physically in our societies, because now we’re seeing more and more and more people in countries everywhere in the world getting fatter and lazier, fatter and lazier. Everything’s too easy, you know? We just sit around on our butts all day in chairs, working on computers maybe or when we go to work we’re always driving in cars or sitting in trains or sitting in buses.

A lot of people don’t walk very much anymore and they certainly don’t do heavy, difficult lifting, you know, and hard physical work like we used to in the past. You know just 100 years ago, most people were farmers and they were doing a lot of hard physical work. Of course if you go back thousands of years, as humans evolved, as our species evolved, we were hunting and gathering and we were doing very physical things all the time, so our bodies were more healthy and stronger, but now in our societies people are becoming very kind of soft and lazy physically.

And, so, the same thing happens physically, right? I see this. I see this with my mom, for example, who’s trying to lose weight, but she doesn’t like to exercise and she complains oh, I don’t want walk too much. Oh, I feel tired when I walk a lot or, you know, my knees hurt when I walk a lot.

So it’s exactly the same kind of phenomenon or situation, which is if you don’t use your body enough it becomes tired and lazy and then, if try to use it again after that, you feel very uncomfortable. Sometimes you feel some pain, but often you just feel really tired very quickly. Tired and ah and uncomfortable and ah, you know, walking too much doesn’t feel good or having to do hard physical work oh, my God, I don’t want to do it, right?

You see this. I know you know people like this. Maybe you are a person who’s like this. I’ve had periods in my life like this. In fact, just recently I feel like I haven’t been working hard enough physically and I know I need to get out there and exercise. I need to lift some weights. I need to do something hard and challenging so that my body doesn’t become weaker and weaker.

This happens as we get older. We think its age that’s causing it. Oh, well, I’m 40 now, I’m 50 now, I’m 60 now, that’s why I’m weak. Bullshit! That’s not why you’re weak. The reason you’re weak is because you haven’t been using your body very much for 10-20-30 years. You haven’t been challenging your body for 10-20-30 years. You haven’t been using a lot of physical energy and doing things that are difficult for 10-20 or 30 years.That’s why you get weak. That’s why you start getting sick more and more. That’s why you feel more tired more easily. That’s why you’re energy drops and drops and drops as you get older. It’s not the number, it’s not the age, it’s not the years it’s neglecting your body. What does this have to do with English learning? Well, it’s the same thing with our brains, because this happens with our brains. People stop challenging their brains as they get older.

When we’re young we’re learning, learning, learning, all the time. We’re in school. We’re constantly being challenged with new things, more difficult things. After you learn to add and subtract in Math class, you don’t stop, next you learn to multiply and divide. Then they make you take Algebra classes and Trigonometry classes and Geometry classes and if you keep going they make you take Calculus and more advanced Geometry. You’re constantly being pushed to do something a little more difficult, a little more difficult, and a little more difficult.

So when we’re younger, in elementary school, middle school, high school, university, grad school, we’re constantly being physically and mentally challenged, especially mentally in school. Therefore, at that age, our brains are learning and growing and they’re not so tired, ah and we kind of have to concentrate more,  especially in the past. You know kids are getting lazier now too, unfortunately, but what happens, though, then we get in our 20’s and maybe we start a new job and, again, that’s a lot of learning. There’s a learning process that’s happening. We’re being challenged a lot, but what happens with a lot of people is they get comfortable. They eventually get into some career or some job or some situation where it’s familiar and after a few years they feel very confident and comfortable and they know it very well.

They feel confident and that’s great, but what happens is you get a little too comfortable and then you just stop challenging yourself so much. It’s not as intense as it was when you were younger and, you know, you don’t notice this very much when it’s just a few years, but after five years, eight years, 10 years, 15 years, 20 years of being a little too comfortable, the brain also gets weaker and weaker and weaker.

Your memory will start to go down a little bit, a little bit, a little bit, each year if you’re not using it and  challenging it. Your ability to concentrate and focus will get less and less, just a little bit. You don’t notice it so much. In one month you won’t notice it, in six months you might not notice it, but after a year, five years, 10 years, it definitely starts going down and then, as people get older in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, they start complaining. Oh, I’m forgetting things a lot. Sometimes even younger people say oh, I can’t concentrate too much, I get tired. I get sleepy if I focus on English too much, if I concentrate too much.

Well that is a bad sign. That’s like being fat. Your brain has become fat and lazy and you gotta’ train it, right? You don’t want to be a 60-year-old person getting Alzheimer’s disease. I know you don’t. I know you don’t even want to be a 30-year-old person feeling tired and uncomfortable and just a little bit lazy and you don’t want to focus and oh, it’s too much, I’ll do it tomorrow. You don’t want to be one of those people physically and you don’t want to be one of those people mentally and so you gotta’ workout mentally also.

That’s really what this topic is about today, it’s about pushing yourself mentally, especially with your concentration, your attention and it’s so, so important. So, like I said, just to wrap up, to finish here. To wrap up means to finish something, so I’m going to wrap this up now. I’m going to finish this topic and just give you the main point and the main point is this. The quality of your practice, the quality of your study, is just as important, probably more important, than the quantity.

So it’s not just the number of minutes and the number of hours that you are listening to English or studying, that is important, of course it’s important and of course more is better, but it’s also the quality, it’s how focused are you. How much concentration do you have? How long can you concentrate without being distracted?

However long that is, I want you to push it longer. So I want you to train your mind the way you would train your body. So if you can concentrate for 15 minutes deeply with total attention that’s great, but I want you to start pushing yourself to go 16 minutes, 18 minutes, 20 minutes.

If you have great concentration, if you can concentrate for one full hour and you can be totally concentrated and focused and really listening carefully or remembering carefully that’s great, but you know what? If you just stop there your brain will start to get a little lazy again, so I want you to push it a little more. Try to do an hour and 10 minutes. Try to do an hour and 15 minutes. Try to do an hour and a half.

Keep pushing yourself a little bit, so you’re a little bit uncomfortable, it’s a little bit difficult and if you notice yourself getting sleepy ah or you start feeling bored, don’t get upset about that. Just realize that’s your brain getting a little tired. It’s a sign of a lazy brain, okay? And that’s fine. Just try to push yourself a little bit farther, not a lot, a little bit. Remember, this is constant and never-ending improvement. Little improvement, little improvement, constantly, that’s the secret to mastery.

So if you can only concentrate for 15 minutes and then you get tired and then you get sleepy and then you get bored, don’t try to do two hours next day, you know, that’s too much. It’s too much of an increase. Just try to do 20-25 minutes the next day, maybe for the next week and when that becomes possible then try to push yourself to 40 minutes with really intense focus and concentration and just keep extending that time longer and longer.

This is so good for your mental health. Yes, it will help your English ability, but there are also a lot of studies that I’ve been reading about, about aging in our brain and what happens when we get older and by doing this, what I’m suggesting, by pushing yourself and really practicing concentration and focus, you’re also keeping your brain in top shape. It’s like good fitness and health for your brain so that as you get older you will not lose your memory, you will also be preventing Alzheimer’s when you get much older and you will prevent all the other problems that happen as people get older with their brains, you know? They have trouble remembering words or their balance isn’t as good. All of these things are signs of an aging brain, but all that means is that somebody has let their brain get a little bit too lazy and fat. Not really fat, but it’s kind of like being fat in your head. So this is good for your mental health. It will help all parts of your life.

By doing this with your English ability, you’ll start to notice that your general memory will improve for all subjects in all areas. You’ll notice that you think faster. You’ll notice that you’re able to learn anything better and faster, not just English. It will help you in your job. It will help you in your social life. It will help you in all parts of your life where you need to use your brain.

So, what are you going to do this month? You’re going to focus on focusing. You’re going to concentrate on concentrating. You’re going to try to push yourself a little bit, a little bit, to train your brain to focus more deeply and for a longer period of time and each week you’re gonna’ try to concentrate a little bit longer, a little bit longer, each time you listen to English, okay? Brain training this month.

Okay, I hope you enjoyed this topic. I’ll talk a little bit more about it in my extra commentary for you. So have a great day. Have a great month. Thank you my VIP. You know you’re special because you’re a VIP. I’m happy to be back in San Francisco where I have very fast Internet, so I’ll be giving you some bonuses coming soon.  All right, thank you my special VIP member. See you on the VIP social site. Have a great day, a great week and a great month. See you again soon, bye-bye.
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