Excellence is attainable, and by every healthy person. I received this lesson from a man I never met, named Earl Nightingale. Today I’m passing it along to you.
Earl researched and taught about success for decades, and he took his job seriously. His work is often forgotten now, but if you can find it, it is definitely worth your time. I had it on cassette tapes, but I suspect it’s still available in some format.
One of Earl’s more interesting lessons was this:
If you spend 30 minutes – every day – learning about one specific subject, you’ll become a legitimate expert in six months.
This is true. And I know it’s true because I took Earl’s advice and I became an expert.
Perhaps it will take longer than six months for a very difficult subject, but 30 minutes per day – if you actually use the time for serious study – is a lot of focused time.
How to Do It
This is far easier than you might think, as long as you can make firm decisions and run your own life… if you can refuse to live by the expectations of others.
This means that you must to be able to say “no.” It means that you can accept others being disappointed with you. You must be able to do what you think is right, regardless of their repeated objections.
When I first did this, it involved not having lunch with the people I worked with. I went off on my own and read while eating. Some of my colleagues thought I was being rude or weird, but I did it anyway.
Then, when my co-workers went out after work, I went home. I smiled, explained that I didn’t like drinking and that I had too much to do at home. And then I went home and read. They shook their heads but soon stopped asking.
So, when the people you work with go out to lunch, sit by yourself and read. When they go out after work, go home and study. If friends or family don’t like it, do it anyway. Be different. Assure them that there is no insult intended, but take whatever insults you must and do what’s best for you.
You probably won’t lose many friends over this, but if you do, so be it. Any friend who requires that you don’t change and grow is not a friend you need to keep.
How to Read
Here are a few tips:
- Go for quality, not quantity. Forget about reading a certain number of pages per day. That’s a mistake. Make sure that you understand what you read – that’s the only thing that matters.
- Don’t just go through the motions. Stop and back up whenever you must. If you don’t understand something, circle it and look it up at your first opportunity. Don’t leave anything out; if you do, you’re subverting your future learning. Fill in the gaps as you go, not later.
- You must understand why things work as they do. It is not enough to understand how they work, you must understand why… you must know what interacts with the things you’re studying, making them act as they do. Once you understand that, you’ll start becoming a real expert.
- Always keep paper and a pen next to your book. Write down things you need to check. Write down other ideas that come up while reading. Write down ideas for using the things you are reading about.
- Once you finish a book (or magazine or whatever), review your notes and put everything of value into a file.
And If You Do…
If you do this, you’ll become a legitimate expert at whatever you study. Special talents are not required for this. Genius is not required. What is required is that you make your own decision and stick with it.
Or, in the words of Calvin Coolidge:
Press on. Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing in the world is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
Make good choices, hold to them regardless of pressure, and press on.