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Steps to Level Up Your Skills to Reach Your Goal with Ron Friedman

Ron Friedman, Ph.D. is an award-winning psychologist and founder of ignite80, a consulting firm that helps smart leaders build extraordinary workplaces.

An expert on human motivation, Friedman has served on the faculty of the University of Rochester, Nazareth College, and Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Popular accounts of his research have appeared on NPR and in major newspapers, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Vancouver Post, the Globe and Mail, The Guardian, as well as magazines such as Men’s Health, Shape, and Allure.

He contributes to the blogs of Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Forbes, Psychology Today, and 99u.

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What are the scientific steps to improving your skills to reach your goals?

Once you’ve identified your goal, the next action is to narrow the gap between where you are and where you want to be. If you’ve struggled with this problem before or are working to figure this out now, this episode is for you.

Back with us today is award-winning social psychologist, Ron Friedman. He’s here to go into more detail about his latest book, Decoding Greatness: How the Best in the World Reverse Engineer Success.

Before we continue, be sure to listen to our first episode with Ron, here. In it, we talk about decoding greatness and finding your inner genius by tackling the game-changing approach to mastering any new skill: reverse engineering.

Today, we’re going to go even more in-depth. Listen in as Ron reveals the secrets to achieving your goals by closing the gap between your vision and your current abilities.

*** Do you want to stay up to date with every new episode and get my brand new Kwik Brain Accelerator Program? Go to www.KwikBrain.com/podcast to get instant access. ***

"Closing the gap between your vision and your skills starts with crafting your scoreboard because anything you measure, you will improve on."


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Crafting Your Scoreboard

  • Ira Glass coined the term the Vision Ability Gap.
  • This is when you know what your vision is, but you also know you’re not going to be able to execute that vision yet.
  • You need some time to improve your skills.
  • The first step in identifying this gap is to create a scoreboard.
  • This is based on the scoreboard principle.
  • Anything you measure, you will improve on.
  • The key is to figure out what steps you need in order to improve.
  • Then start tracking those steps and measuring your progress.
  • For example: if you want to increase your water consumption, you would start tracking how many ounces of water you’re drinking every day.
  • If you want to lose weight, keep a food diary.
  • If you want to improve your focus, keep track of how many interrupted minutes you have over the course of the workday.
  • There is a lot of data showing that humans are instinctually attracted to numbers.
  • It’s evolutionary.
  • You needed to know the difference between a large food source versus a smaller one, so you didn’t devote resources chasing the wrong one down.
  • It also alerts you when you’re in danger.
  • If you’re surrounded by a large group of strangers, your anxiety levels rise. But if you didn’t know the difference in size or numbers, you wouldn’t be scared.
  • The business world utilizes this concept by tracking metrics.
  • A good example is the Ritz-Carlton.
  • They became one of the leaders in customer service by realizing that in order to drive business, they needed to keep track of their net promoter scores.
  • These are the number of people who endorse their hotel after they leave.
  • Tracking those scores led to insights that completely transformed the hotel.
  • Tracking metrics have proven time and time again to lead to success, and this process can work for you.
  • Start by taking a moment to figure out what specific attributes and tasks you need to do every day to reach your goals, and track them.

Understand Your Objective

  • It’s very common for most people to shift from objective to objective.
  • You can be focused on saving for retirement when a friend buying a car shifts your objective.
  • Instead of optimizing your behavior for long-term wealth, you’re optimizing for status or having fun in the moment.
  • This is aspirational whiplash, where you don’t know what you’re optimizing for.
  • It’s also where misery comes from.
  • You have to figure out what you’re optimizing for and then start tracking those metrics.
  • There’s no way to know you’re improving if you don’t track your progress.
  • You get a powerful emotional jolt when you see your scores rise.
  • That jolt transforms into motivation.
  • If you don’t have motivation, you’re not going to do the work.
  • Getting that emotional jolt when you see progress, or the shame of not seeing your score improve—those are both very motivating.
  • You want to harness that motivation.
  • But tracking your score also illuminates anything that isn’t contributing to your score.
  • An example is when entrepreneurs leave corporations, they become resistant to attending meetings.
  • They are now keenly aware that meetings don’t contribute to their bottom line.
  • Imagine if employees had metrics that showed them clearly what they needed to do in order to get their next promotion.
  • They would be hyper-focused on that.
  • Be sure to understand your objective and optimize your measurements to track those skills.

The Myth Of Practice

  • For the most part, the definition of practice is too narrow.
  • When you think about practice, it’s normal to think about practicing in the present.
  • You’ve likely heard about deliberate practice.
  • That’s the idea of doing something just outside of your ability and utilizing feedback to improve in the future.
  • But athletes improve by practicing in the past and in the future.
  • Research refers to practicing in the past as reflective practice.
  • Reflective practice is taking a moment to think back on your past performance and identify gaps between your expectations and your experience.
  • What did you expect versus what actually happened.
  • One of the best ways to embrace reflective practice is through a five-year journal.
  • There are five slots per page, one page for each day of the year.
  • At the end of the day, write a brief summary of the day.
  • The following year, you can see what you did today, but also what you did the same day last year.
  • By the end of the book, you have five years of data.
  • This process of continuously comparing what you did today versus last year strengthens your memory.
  • But it also gives you a comparison of your expectations versus your experience.
  • You can learn things about yourself with this insight and use it to fine-tune your metrics for success.
  • Practicing the future is using imagery.
  • This is the process of closing your eyes and thinking about what is going to happen.
  • If you’re going to give a speech, visualize what it’s going to feel like walking on stage, feeling the clicker in your hand, feeling the heat of the lights shining down.
  • Use your senses to imagine you’re there.
  • This is not visualizing success.
  • There’s research showing visualizing success does not work.
  • When you use imagery, you’re front-loading decisions priming you to take action.
  • Now, when you go on stage, you don’t have to react to the lights or freeze trying to find the clicker.
  • You’ve anticipated that and front-loaded the experience.
  • You’re more present and can execute more effectively.
  • Research shows physicians make fewer mistakes during surgery when they use imagery. Public speakers are more persuasive. You can even learn to play instruments faster.
  • Imagery is a powerful tool that is underutilized outside of sports.
  • Studies have found that athletes who use imagery versus those who don’t are able to cut down on their physical practice.
  • It helps avoid burnout and accelerates success.

Broaden Your Definition Of Practice

  • Practice is usually defined as repeating a task over and over, until you get the desired result.
  • This is problematic when it comes to success because your brain is actually working against you.
  • Your brain tunes out repetitive tasks by automating them.
  • Think about when you first started to drive.
  • You pay less attention to the road now than back then.
  • This same automation happens to everything you do over a long period of time.
  • In order to get better at practice, you need to level up the degree of difficulty consistently.
  • You can do that through novelty, or by interweaving different tasks within your practice tasks.
  • Another way to keep practice challenging is by cross-training.
  • Find a task that encompasses a lot of overlapping, similar skills.
  • NFL players practice ballet in the off-season because it has a lot of overlapping skills but doesn’t use the same muscle groups.
  • They can get better without burning out.
  • Figure out which hobbies are fun but will also make you better at the skills to reach your goal.
  • An example of this is improv comedy.
  • A lot of executives and leaders are signing up not because they want to be funny, but because it teaches mindful presence and deep listening.
  • Both are skills they need to be successful executives.
  • To start, find five specific things you need to execute a successful day.
  • You can also think about what things you want to avoid doing.
  • Both of these focal points are key factors in leveraging a scoreboard effectively.
  • Track both scores: things you want to do and things you want to avoid.
  • It’s a simple exercise that you can start doing today that will lead you down the path to success.
  • If you haven’t listened to the first episode with Ron, please be sure to listen, here.
  • Be sure to check out the unedited, extended episode on YouTube, here.

Share With Us

  • Take a screenshot of this episode, tag us on social media (@RonFriedmanPhD & @JimKwik), and share one thing you’re going to start tracking today.
  • Get your copy of Decoding Greatness: How the Best in the World Reverse Engineer Success, here.
  • Get more information and visit Ron, here.


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