Reading time: 3 minutes Aug 15th 2016

The Invisible Secret of World Champions

With everyone in Olympic mode, I wanted to discuss what I believe to be the single most important thing that separates the world champions from the rest of the world. I believe it is an invisible quality that is not often discussed or mentioned. At the same time, most people understand intellectually that it is a critical ingredient to success at the highest level.

The O’Donovan brothers from Skibbereen in Ireland won the hearts of millions around the world with their down to earth brilliant and funny interviews. They charmed the world as the Irish are known to do. But they, along with all the Olympic champions and medal holders have something in common. It is this invisible quality.

If you want to be world class at something, you need to practice it over and over again with the intention of becoming better. Whenever we watch the Olympics, we see these athletes perform at their best but we do not see the thousands of hours of practice that they put in over and over again. It is similar to when we go to the theatre, watch a movie or see a concert; it is so easy to take for granted the brilliance that we witness.

One of the most important ideas that we need to remember is the idea of making sure we regularly and intentionally practice whatever it is we want to be brilliant at. These days it is only too easy to get distracted or become over stimulated with things to learn or do or become good at. I have found myself starting to learn a language only to get more interested in another language.

That is okay as long as you understand the consequences to that. If you really want to become world class, you need to focus your time, attention and energy on one skill. You have to have the ability to either not get bored doing the same thing over and over again or tolerate and accept the boredom and push through. You also have to have the intention to improve and get better. A lot of research out there shows that simply practicing is not nearly as rewarding and effective as structured and deliberate practice with the aim of improving.

So, whatever you want to become masterful at, the solution is simple. Schedule plenty of time to focus on it and only it. Create a structured plan with the aim of continuously becoming better and better and seek out the opportunities to master the skills.

Whenever you see the best doing what they do, always ask yourself what they must already be doing regularly every single day in order to achieve that. Make the invisible work visible. It is only when you do that you will find it possible to replicate the kind of brilliance that you witness over time. No matter what it is that you are trying to master.

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