Looking good and getting good

There’s a lot of great literature that focuses on looking good. We know plenty about how people perceive us, how people think and how we can do this and that to persuade people. It is no coincidence that “How to Win Friends and Influence People” was the book that invented the self help genre.

Looking good, however, isn’t all that helpful if you haven’t done the work to get good. It can mask competence for a while. But, not for long.

So, what do we know about getting good? I think there are three things we know about getting good.

First, we must commit to getting good. It doesn’t really matter what we choose to get good at. It just matters we choose something. We don’t need more confidence. We just need more commitment.

Second, we must apply the principles of deliberate practice toward our journey. To get better at our craft, we must train relentlessly, seek task specific feedback from a coach and push ourselves to expand our comfort zone. No coach? No worry – find people who’ve done it before and mimic their approach until you find your own style. The end result from this process is developing a mental model that enables us to “see” the world differently. It is these mental models that help us make consistently better decisions.

Finally, once we get good, we must then commit to a life of depth. Becoming good doesn’t mean we will stay good. To become experts, pastmasters even, we must consistently hone our skills and commit to a process of lifelong learning. We do that by building a deep life – one where focus, commitment, and mindfulness are the norm. It is the sort of life where we distance ourselves from the noise of distraction and keep our focus on the things that truly matter – good self-care, good people and a focus on the work that helps us make the world a bit better. A deep life is the surest sign of a good life.

By all means, continue the conversation on looking good. But, if we’re going to run the marathon, let’s make sure we’re fit enough to go the distance… and then maybe go some more.

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2 thoughts on “Looking good and getting good”

  1. Hi, Rohan. Here’s something I think is worth adding to that model: I suspect that very few cross the “kicking ass” threshold by pushing themselves to do something they dislike. Most likely, the ones who cross it take some joy in continuing to improve — whether it is pleasure in the practice, self-regard for their accomplishments, or external validation (thanks and compliments and pay) from those they serve. Flow is enjoyable. There are plenty of pursuits that, for some particular person, dropping out (that career someone else thought you should have) or merely maintaining competence (washing dishes) could be the right choice. Each of us may have only one or a few pursuits that we can take joy in excelling through!

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