The key factor separating geniuses from the merely accomplished is not a divine spark. It's not IQ, a generally bad predictor of success, even in realms like chess. Instead, it's deliberate practice. Top performers spend more hours (many more hours) rigorously practicing their craft." - David Brooks
In case you haven’t heard, live streaming video is all the rage in the online marketing world right now.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, live streaming is essentially turning on a camera on your phone or laptop and going on video in real time for the whole world to see.
It’s a wonderful and terrifying thing all at once, ha. But, truly, it’s a brilliant way to connect with others.
Going on camera can bring out the sweats. Trust me, I know. I still sweat from time to time when I go live. That being said, I’ve come to love it, sweats and all.
Every once in a while I get a question from someone asking about how to get better at live streaming. So, I thought I'd address that today. I realized as I was writing, this applies to getting better at pretty much anything. So, let’s improve together, shall we?
How to Get Better at Anything, Even Live Video
You’ve probably already heard it takes ten thousand hours to become an expert at something. Right?
What if I told you that wasn’t exactly the entire truth?
I mean, think about it. If you watched ten thousand hours of tv, does that make you an expert at filmmaking? Or at being a doctor because you watched an actor playing one?
If you talk for a cumulative ten thousand hours in your life, does that make you an expert speaker? Hardly.
If you work out for ten thousand hours are you guaranteed expert, athlete status? Not necessarily.
It takes more than simply putting in the hours. We can all put in mindless, repetitive hours and not necessarily be any better than when we started. It takes a specific kind of focus for ten thousand hours, give or take, to hone in on a skill.
This is a little something dubbed ‘deliberate practice’.
Deliberate practice is the real ten thousand hours and how we excel at anything in life. I know, I know, you were hoping for a sexy secret with pixie dust and ‘deliberate practice’ doesn’t sound anything like that, but I’ll tell you what, it works.
Angela Duckworth talks about this extensively in Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance and points to studies showing the effectiveness of deliberate practice and says, “Even the most complex and creative of human abilities can be broken down into its component skills, each of which can be practiced, practiced, practiced.”
What exactly makes up deliberate practice?
Duckworth clarifies that deliberate practice must include the following: A clearly defined stretch goal, full concentration and effort, immediate and informative feedback, repetition with reflection and refinement (from Grit).
Let’s break this down, and I’ll give you a peek behind the scenes on how this plays out in my world.
1. Set a Stretch Goal
In the coaching world, a stretch goal is a goal that's just beyond what you think is possible...you know, a stretch. In Grit and Deliberate Practice Land, a stretch goal is a little different.
What we’re talking about here, is getting clear on an area you aren’t excelling at and purposely setting a goal around this. It’s essentially focusing on your weakness. It’s setting a goal for what you can’t do or haven’t done well (yet).
In general, I’m all for accentuating the positive and doubling down on what’s working, but when it comes to getting better at anything, this is what deliberate practice is all about.
So, in our case, a stretch goal might be going live on video and delivering a talk for twenty minutes. For someone else, it might be writing funny quips or coming up with compelling headlines.
To get better at anything, we first have to define what our weakness is.
2. Full Concentration and Effort
This means playing full out and committing one hundred percent. To improve, deliberate practice requires full concentration, focus, and conscious effort.
How many of us claim we’re working on something when we’re really phoning it in? How many of us are tuned out to our work or just pressing rinse and repeat on what we’ve done in the past?
If we want to improve live video or anything else in our business it requires all of our attention.
3. Immediate and Informative Feedback
I remember when I was still acting, I always dreaded watching myself on camera after we’d finish a take. At the start, I was stubborn and avoided it all together, but I quickly learned, if the opportunity to watch was there, I had to take it because this was invaluable and immediate feedback I could use to improve the next take.
The same goes for anything we’re deliberately practicing. We want to seek feedback right away. We have to put our egos in time out and be receptive to feedback, so we can see our blind spots and adjust accordingly.
This is a key element to improving and excelling.
A note that this isn’t about judging or beating ourselves up, instead it’s acting like observers or scientists in our lives and looking for feedback. Bonus points for finding someone else to give you outside, constructive feedback.
Bringing it back to live videos, as painful as it may be, I watch my live streams after I’m finished and take notes to give myself that immediate feedback. I look for ways I could have tightened up my delivery. I watch for ticks. I also notice what I’ve done in terms of filming, lighting, and background, so I can improve the next time around.
Whether you’re looking to get better at live streaming or anything else, find ways to get or give yourself feedback ASAP.
4. The 3 Rs: Repeat, Reflect, and Refine
This is gold. It’s not enough to deliberately practice once or twice, it’s about continuing to go after stretch goals, focusing and taking effortful, action, getting feedback, and taking a moment to reflect and understand what that feedback means.
How can you refine your efforts? What can you do differently?
After you have an answer, this is where the magic happens, you then repeat the process. You keep repeating the cycle until you’ve mastered your goal. Then, you choose a new one!
That’s the true secret to getting better at live streaming or anything else. You can’t buy it. You can’t manifest it. You have to do it. One messy attempt at a time.
As Duckworth says, “great performers in every domain improve through deliberate practice….hidden behind every effortless performance on YouTube are hours and hours of unrecorded, invisible to the outside, challenging, effortful, mistake-ridden practice.”
Which is kind of beautiful because it’s an equalizer. I promise you this, if you keep showing up and practicing deliberately you WILL get better, even at live video.
That’s my not-so-secret answer to you for how you can get better at just about anything in life, even live video.
Wishing you your version of success!
P.S. Have you experienced the benefits of deliberate practice? Let me know in the comments below!