Fortune Cookie Friday: There Are Three Ps in Expertise
The other day I watched my son fiddle away at the piano. I say fiddle because he wasn’t really practicing any music or performing for anyone. He was just playing whatever came to him. Sometimes it was something he made up and other times it was a song from the radio. He has the amazing ability to play by ear. That means he can hear a tune and reproduce it on the piano, the drums, the ukulele, or whatever instrument he can get his hands on.
I often find myself envying his ability. I dream of sitting down with those ivory keys and playing happy songs that make people want to sing along, like some inspirational piano man. Unfortunately, what comes easy to my son, takes a lot of hard work and practice for me.
Now that I think about it, I would love to play any instrument with ease, and compose music like Handel, Gershwin, or Sondheim. I would also like to be a well-renowned artist, like Monet, Da Vinci, or even Bob Ross (without the puffy hair). As a writer, I am inspired by (and envy) Mo Willems, J.K. Rowling, and J. R. R. Tolkien. All of these people, in my opinion, are experts in their fields. I am not an expert; I can’t possibly be as good as them? Or can I?
Every expert started as a beginner. Famous physicists, like Albert Einstein, had to learn how to add one and one. Great orators, like Martin Luther King Jr, had to learn their ABC’s. The current women’s world’s best holder in the marathon, Paula Radcliff, had to learn to walk before she could run. These people weren’t born experts, they had to learn the basics and develop their skills—over time.
It takes some time to become well-versed in anything, but with the three P’s, you can become an expert in your craft. These are patience, persistence, and perseverance.
This is the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset. It’s absolutely necessary if you want to achieve anything. The best things in life are worth working hard and waiting for. They won’t happen instantaneously; they’re going to take some time, and you are going to have to deal with that. This goes for learning a new language, training for a marathon, or waiting for water to boil for that first cup of coffee in the morning. The important thing to do is not let the delay or misfortune get you down. A positive attitude will help you continue forward towards success.
This is a firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition. Basically, it is continuing or repeating a behavior, over and over again. If you want to play the guitar, you will practice your chords every day. If you want to get in shape, you will have to make time to exercise every day. If you want a two-bar shine on your shoes, you will rub polish on them, in tiny circles, until they shine like the top of the Chrysler Building. Think of Dori, from Finding Nemo, singing, “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. What do we do? We swim, swim, swim.”
This is steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. It’s not giving up. No matter what life throws at you, you keep going. No matter how hard it gets, you keep your eyes on the prize. Don’t look back. Don’t stop. You tell yourself, “You can do it!” If perseverance doesn’t come naturally to you, I suggest you get a copy of the theme song from Chariots of Fire or Rocky and play it whenever you feel an inkling of doubt.
Let me show you an example of all three P’s working together. You step outside on a blustery day, on your way to get a mocha latte from your favorite coffee shop. The air chills you to your bones. You take that first step forward into the wind. It slows you down and blows open your coat, but you take another step. Each step gets you closer to that warm chocolaty goodness. So you take a third, fourth, and fifth step. This is persistence. You push forward, continually stepping.
Half way to the coffee shop, it begins to rain. Yeah, rain—but you wipe the droplets from your face like they are a cleansing shower. The wind picks up but you lean into it and find amazement in Mother Nature’s power. It challenges you—and you take that challenge. That mocha latte is calling and you have come to answer the call! That is perseverance.
You make it to the coffee shop but the line is out the door. You stand in line, slowly moving forward into the building and up to the counter, all the while smiling while rude customers taking incredibly long to decide what flavor they want in their cappuccino, only to decide that a nice herbal tea is more suited for the inclement weather. You breathe deeply.
Then they have to scrounge for change in their ginormous handbag, emptying its contents onto the counter until they find that last penny. You pray to whatever deity that gives you hope, they step out of line and you are next to be served. That is patience. Now you can reap the rewards. Warm hands wrapped around your favorite brew.
You can change this scenario to fit your lifestyle, but you get the gist. Notice how the Three P’s don’t have to go in any particular order. That’s alright. You just need to use them all and you will eventually succeed.
Now that you have some tools to aid you in your journey to expertise, it won’t be so difficult. All experts use these techniques. Now you just need to decide what kind of expert you want to be. Take some advice from Alex Trebek, the host of “Jeopardy!”. He said, “We are all experts in our own little niches.” Maybe you are already an expert at something and didn’t even realize it. You could have a winning recipe for chocolate chip cookies, a knack for finding the best sales, or maybe you’re a whiz at crossword puzzles. Whatever you decide, just remember that there are three Ps in expertise.