1. “Deliberate practice requires a mind-set of never, ever, being satisfied with your current ability. It requires a constant self-critique, a pathological restlessness, a passion to aim consistently just beyond one’s capability so that daily disappointment and failure is actually desired, and a never-ending resolve to dust oneself off and try again and again and again.” ~ David Shenk, The Genius in All of Us
You might have heard that mastery of a domain requires 10,000 hours of practice. Well, research shows that the quality of practice matters just as much as the sheer amount of it. 10,000 hours of poor practice will not make you a master. What you want to strive for is a lot of deliberate practice. As David Shenk argues, deliberate practice is about having a never-ending desire to push yourself to fail in small ways so that you can learn from those mistakes and improve. It requires constant reflection on on your mind and body, examining yourself in intricate detail so that you can modify and tweak your performance, ratcheting up your standards of practice and performance.
2. “I consider it a dangerous misconception of mental hygiene to assume that what man needs in the first place is equilibrium or, as it is called in biology, ‘homeostasis,’ i.e., a tensionless state. What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task.” ~ Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
Viktor Frankl was a famous 20th century thinker who survived the horrors of Auschwitz by finding meaning in an unimaginably terrible situation where many would simply give up all hope. By continue to struggle in the quest to find meaning, Frankl and other survivors of the holocaust were able to keep themselves alive. His point in this quote is that happiness is not to be found in perfect equilibrium. Rather, we want there to always be a small amount of tension that keeps us moving forward in an autonomous journey.
3. “Human nature is to need a map. If you’re brave enough to draw one, people will follow.” ~ Seth Godin, Poke the Box
It is the rare person who draws their own map instead of following others. But if you want to be a creator of something worthwhile, you will need to strike out on your own journey into uncharted territory and create your own guide to reality.
4. “The mind is its own place and, in itself, can make a heaven of Hell, a hell of Heaven.” ~ John Milton
Attitude is everything. Perspective is reality. This is the true lesson of stoicism: true contentedness with life is less about what happens to us but rather how we interpret what happens to us.
5. “No man can have a peaceful life who thinks too much about lengthening it.” ~ Seneca
If you live your life in constant fear of death, you will never be able to live in the here and now, where life finds its realization.
6. “…[A] useful lesson for anyone hoping to motivate themselves or others…suggests an easy method for triggering the will to act: Find a choice, almost any choice, that allows you to exert control.” ~ Charles Duhigg, Smarter Faster Better
Psychological research points towards a striking conclusion about motivation: if you want to have more of it, you need to set up yourself such that you can exert control, even if it’s in the smallest of increments, even if it’s only over your own attitude or mental state.
7. “Over-seriousness is a warning sign for mediocrity and bureaucratic thinking. People who are seriously committed to mastery and high performance are secure enough to lighten up.” ~ Michael J. Gelb
If you want to operate at a level of high performance, it helps tremendously to have levity. Zen masters would describe the state of enlightenment as being exactly like normal life, except you are walking on an inch of air. Lightness is key.