How To Be Extraordinary (Even If You Feel Anything But)

Estimated read time: 2 minutes

Here’s your heads up display.

  • What Confucius had to say about practice
  • How to be extraordinary (even if you feel anything but)
  • Use practice as a noun

Get Wide Apart

Waypoint 1: Ancient Wisdom + Practice


“By nature, men are nearly alike; by practice, they get to be wide apart.”

Confucius, philosopher, politician, circa 500 BCE



Waypoint 2: Science + Practice

There’s a wrong way to practice. Researchers call it naïve practice.

I call it ignorant practice.

It’s when you do a thing over and over again and wonder why there’s no progress.

10,000 hours of ignorance is … you can do the math.

Been there. Done that.

There’s a right way to practice. It’s called purposeful practice.


“The reason that most people don’t possess extraordinary capabilities isn’t because they don’t have the capacity for them, but rather because they’re satisfied to live in the comfortable rut of homeostasis and never do the work that is required to get out of it. They live in the world of “good enough.”

K. Anders Ericsson, cognitive psychologist, Ph.D., circa 2016

Here’s how to do it (and some examples):

  1. Set a clearly defined goal and deadline
    Not: I want to make watches for people.
    Yes: I will launch a Kickstarter for my design in May.
  2. Divide the goal into manageable chunks
    Not: I’ll have my watch design in May.
    Yes: I will finalize the dial renders by the end of the week.
  3. Focus
    Not: I will look at other microbrand websites and scroll Instagram for hours.
    Yes: I will set up my website and share my work.
  4. Get critique from mentor or someone with a practice you admire
    Not: Ask family and count Facebook likes.
    Yes: Find someone who runs a microbrand.
  5. Rinse and repeat

Ericsson, the expert on experts, wrote an entire book on purposeful practice called Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise.

Practice as a Noun.

Waypoint 3: Redux + Practice

Practice sometimes sounds like a dirty word.

We hear it as, “I’m not good enough.”

But it’s different when you realize it isn’t punishment or a sign of failure.

Instead, it’s who you are.

What you do everyday.

A Practice. Your practice.

Whatever you’re doing every day, it’s a practice for better or worse.

So, practice, but practice with purpose.

The whole 10,000 hour thing was grossly oversimplified (1,2,3).

“If at first you don’t succeed try try again” is bunk.

Instead, try smarter.

You will stumble.

You will fall.

It will hurt.

It’s ok. Rise again.

You will feel disappointment, discouragement.

But only focus on the next step.

What’s the one thing I can do next?

Look forward and start.

Have a bias for action.

You don’t learn until you get to it.

All the thinking, all the planning, all the reading. It’s all good.

But the good can also transmogrify into stalling.

It’s worth nothing to the world until you make and deliver.

Until you write. Until you sing. Until you plant. Until you solve. Until you speak. Until you paint.

Until you give that piece of you to the world.

Until you do you.

Whatever you make, be it a spreadsheet or a sonnet.

Show up. Send it.

Be generous enough to be willing to put work out there.

Don’t be so selfish that you think hiding your light will do anyone good.

Least of all you. You won’t look back and say, “Gosh, I wish I hadn’t tried that or made that. I wish I had just daydreamed more and wished upon a star.”

We all have a practice. It doesn’t stop.

Our truest practice is not defined by our jobs. Best case is the job teaches us more about our practice and lengthens our runway.

We have some idea that practice has at its end goal some arrival, some destination of greatness.

On our last days, we will not care about the money, the applause, the awards, the “likes,” the “followers,” the “friends.”

We’ll be satisfied knowing we did the work, and our practice served more people than we imagine.

Practice does not make perfect, purposeful practice makes flow.

[Psst. Fellow COURG crew member, Seth Godin, just published his new bestseller The Practice — all about creating your best work and getting it out into the world. I bought it, and it’s next on my reading list.]

Read more

Share this post