If you want to be great, I mean truly outstanding then read the story below. Have you ever witnessed someone so skilled at their craft that simply watching them was inspiring? I recently had the chance to see pure mastery. A couple of months ago my son had an opportunity to spend a weekend with arguably the best ice skating coach in the world. His name is Besa Tsintsadze. Besa is from Tbilisi, Georgia and grew up behind the Iron Curtain in the former Soviet Union. Besa loved to play hockey as a boy but when he was 12 years old his coach told him he was too small and encouraged him to switch to figure skating, which he did. After a successful career as a figure skater he retired and began teaching hockey players in the US how to skate. This is where the story gets interesting.
For seven years he worked in relative obscurity, practicing and perfecting his methods until one day the National Hockey League took notice. The Pittsburgh Penguins hired Besa as their skating coach and over the next 5 years he trained some of the best players in the sport. In 2011, the Boston Bruins hired Besa as a skating consultant during which time they won the Stanley Cup. With his reputation now firmly in place, the superstars of the league are now phoning Besa to set up private coaching sessions.
10 Years of Silence
Besa’s ability to help the best skaters in the world get better is nothing short of amazing and there is an important lesson here in the principles of excellence. Have you ever heard of the 10 Years of Silence? It’s a term coined by John Hayes, a cognitive psychology professor at Carnegie Mellon University. Hayes wanted to know how long does it take for someone to reach elite levels of performance at something. Hayes has spent years studying masters in their field such as Mozart and Picasso. While researching musicians he discovered that over 95% of the most popular symphonies were written in year ten or after of a composers career.
In fact, none of the masters were overnight successes. It seems excellence requires more than raw talent, it needs time. Dr. Hayes began to refer to this period filled with hard work and little recognition as the 10 Years of Silence.
Not Just Time But Deliberate Practice
But time was not the only factor, which led to success for each of these geniuses. It was time filled with what Anders Eriksson calls Deliberate Practice. It’s about spending focused time everyday trying to improve a certain area of your craft. In Besa’s case, he already possessed an amazing ability to skate, but that did not mean he was ready to teach it to hockey players. It took him 7 years of perfecting his drills to become someone who could train the very best in the world.
I have often said that leadership is a role and you can get better with practice. Great leaders are not born but are made by deliberate focus and daily improvement. The key for you is to stay focused in how you spend your time. Everyone is busy, but the truly great ones make mastery a priority.
The 10 Years of Silence Requires Persistence.
What if Besa had quit after 4 years, or 5 or even 6? No NHL superstars would have him on speed dial, that’s for sure. But he didn’t. He kept working, diligently, day after day, from one cold ice rink to another, until his excellence could no longer be ignored.
So what is your magnificent obsession? How will you gift the world with what you have already been given? Where do you need to focus a little time each day to improve your craft so that you will eventually reach genius-level mastery? Is it giving speeches, leading teams, teaching others, or writing? Perhaps it’s plotting strategy, coaching staff, or designing training programs? Whatever it is, be willing to stay the course during your 10 Years of Silence so that you too may cause people to sit up and take notice.
Forward this on to someone you know who could use some encouragement.