This post originally appeared on the “Better Questions” email list. If you’d like to get one email like this a week, please sign up at BetterQuestionsEmail.com. Thanks!
Better Questions has hit 5,000 subscribers!
Thank you so much for being here. It means the world to me, and I hope you’ve gotten some value out of these emails.
I promised I would do something special to celebrate, and I’m working on it…watch this space. 🙂
In the meantime, let’s get down to business, shall we?
What’s the easiest way to get better?
Pick anything you currently care about:
Your career, your relationships, your art, a skill.
If you wanted to transform your performance on every level, what would be the easiest way to do it?
For most of us, we focus on being better than our best.
We work on beating our personal record: lifting more weight, running faster, getting a bigger bonus.
This does, in fact, increase our average performance.
But it’s also fiendishly hard.
Because your all-time best performance is a function of both skill and chance.
Ye,: your skill played an important role. Without your abilities, experience, and knowledge you wouldn’t have been able to get as far as you did.
But chance also factored in. Maybe you were just on that day. Maybe your competition fell apart. Maybe you had a particularly good night’s sleep.
Whatever the reason, both skill and chance conspired to make that particular performance your best.
This means that if you want to improve on that best-ever performance, you need to not only show up with improved skills…
…you also need luck on your side.
Getting both of those elements to line up simultaneously is rare. That’s why it’s so damn hard for us to beat our own personal records. It’s hard to be better than our best.
Luckily, there’s a much easier way to improve.
Let’s go back for a moment, and think again about your average performance.
Your average performance as a wife or husband, as a businessperson, as a musician, as a competitor…is made up of all your performances, good and bad, averaged together.
Let’s do some simple math to make this clear. Imagine that a great performance gets a score of +2, a good, but not stellar performance gets a +1, and a mediocre performance gets a big fat 0.
When we perform poorly, we get a -1; when we really screw things up, we get a score of -2.
Imagine that we practice everyday and give ourselves a score based on how we perform.
A given week might look like this:
Our best performance was on Thursday, with a +2.
Our worst performance was on Tuesday, with a -2.
Our average performance was .28.
We could try to improve on our very best day, but we know that’s going to be difficult. If we could somehow get that +2 to a +3, what would happen?
Our new average performance would be .42. Not bad!
But what would happen if instead of trying to improve our best-ever performance…..
All we did was turn our worst day into a mediocre one?
If we could change our -2 day to a 0 day, our average performance for the week would change to .57.
We’d get a bigger improvement by making our worst day a mediocre one than we would by making our best day even better.
Which do you think would be easier to do?
We’re often taught that getting better needs to be difficult.
That we need to push, and struggle, and hustle to get where we want to be.
In truth, it’s often far simpler than that:
Simply find the moments where your performance falls apart…
And find a way to be better than your worst.
Cool Stuff To Read:
This article gave me goosebumps. I highly recommend you check out the accompanying video, in which Berglas recounts how he made a concert grand piano disappear in the middle of a large group of people.1