I recently changed careers after spending 22 years in a field where I was considered an expert. I don’t have 22 years to master new skills starting now. Do you have any advice on how to speed up the process of becoming an “expert”?
I commend you for your determination and resolve. Many people believe that experts became experts almost exclusively be--cause they were born with amazing talents and intuitions.
In our daily lives we hear people say he is a “born” salesman, athlete or leader. To some degree, this is true. God has given some people the natural ability to do great things and those people have an obligation to look at their natural gifts from a vocational perspective. In other words, why did God give me this gift and how can I honor him by using it?
In your case, however, you are beginning with the correct assumption that you can work your way toward becoming an expert. Assuming you are not attempting to make an NBA team, your assumption is correct. Expertise is mostly derived from hard work. Or, as Thomas Edison is said to have put it: “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”
The quiet grace of fortitude is often the tool that God gives people instead of raw talent. Fortitude, a cardinal virtue, can be molded into many things if it is directed appropriately.
So now you’re pursuing new expertise and you’d like to speed up the process. You’ll need to practice four behaviors to make that happen: repetition, frequency, purpose and intensity.
Repetition is important because it provides the basic blocks for building skills. But the repeated action is only valuable if it is done frequently.
If you decided to make 100 runs of two miles each, you would become very familiar with the pain, distance and pacing associated with the task of a two-mile run — if you made the 100 runs within, say, a six-month time frame.
If you gave yourself 20 years to do the runs, the action would become something you do “every now and again.” That wouldn’t be enough to bring about the benefits of repetition.
If there’s a purpose to your running, you can really take growth to the next level. Your purpose could be to lose weight, strengthen your heart or compete in a race. These objectives are motivating and they aid in your commitment to becoming an expert.
I suggest that you define your purpose so that you can keep it fresh in your mind. Be sure to consider not only financial needs but vocational needs, as well. What will becoming an expert in this new field mean as it relates to the gifts God has given you? How can you be a witness to Christ during the process of becoming an expert and once you are an expert?
The last of the four components for becoming an expert is intensity. I believe this is the piece where saints are made. It is the most difficult part for most people.
Intensity is the daily recommitment to reaching your goal. Think of it as playing in practice as though the game is on the line — or, better yet, as doing the little things like you are doing them all for Christ.
Become an expert for Christ and you’ll soon enough become something of an expert at life — and your second career.
Executive coach Dave Durand, author of
Time Management for Catholics, is online at davedurand.com.