Look Like a Pro By Crossing This Learning Benchmark

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There is a definitive threshold that is crossed when I have acquired an above average skill level. That threshold is when I move from a broad understanding to a subtle understanding. It is the subtleties that make someone a pro. The best way to build confidence it to find some things within your control and begin to build competence.

Let’s use an example to get a better understanding of what I’m writing about here.

Subtleties in Public Speaking 🗣

Something I have developed a certain level of competence, and thus confidence, in is public speaking. I am certainly no expert, but I am able to notice subtleties that can make a speech great. Taking me from a perspective of “that person is a great speaker” to “that person does x, y, and z really well when they are speaking“.

Today is MLK day in the U.S. Let’s take a look at one of the best speeches in history: the I Have a Dream speech by Martin Luther King Jr. This speech is so powerful it evokes an emotional response whenever I listen to it; if you haven’t seen or listened to the full speech I encourage you to do so now. This is not a comprehensive analysis by any means, but I will point out a few of the subtleties that make this so great:

  1. A hook – MLK sets the stage by saying to his audience that this moment will go down as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation. That is a compelling reason to listen. A good speech hooks the listener in.
  2. Association – He goes on to say “five score years ago”. This is a similar phrase used to open one of the other great speeches of history, Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Referencing something your audience associates with is a way to bring that to mind without going into detail. He does this masterfully well throughout the speech.
  3. Pacing & pausing – you’ll notice at the beginning of the speech the pacing is slower, and he picks up his tempo as the speech reaches the crescendo. All the while pausing incrementally to keep the audience at the edge of their seat.

There is so much to be said about this speech and great speaking in general. The point I am looking to get across today is, once you decide you want to be good at something, to learn enough about it so you can understand the subtleties.

Let’s look at a couple other examples.

Subtleties in sport & movement 🤼‍♂️🏋🏻‍♂️🏀

  • Grappling Submissions – this morning I was studying a submission called the Kimura Lock before I went to practice. It is a twisting arm lock that involves taking your opponent’s hand behind their back. When I first learned this submission it seemed very straightforward, but as I have found out to get it to work in a real situation I need to understand the subtleties such as hand placement, weight distribution, and leverage.
Islam Makhachev almost broke Dan Hooker's arm with a nasty kimura submission  at UFC 267 | Business Insider India
Islam Makhachev submitting Dan Hooker via Kimura , UFC 267
Proper hand placement displayed by John Danaher, who I met and wrote about in my post “The Golden Age of Learning You want to have your middle finger across their wrist, allowing you to grab their forearm at the end of the lever without compromising the force vector by bending your opponent’s wrist.
  • Squatting – something people do every day. Yet I used to have knee pain from squatting until I read the most important fitness resource I ever came across, Becoming a Supple Leopard. Through this resource I was able to understand the nuances of a proper squat such as bracing my core, where to place tension in my knees & feet, and where the bar should be placed on my back.
The Missing Link: Movement as a Skill | Mark's Daily Apple
Kelly Starrett displaying a proper squat.
  • Basketball – just kidding, I’m a hack and a below average basketball player who doesn’t understand the subtleties. 😂

The Takeaway

What I would love for readers to come away with from this post is twofold:

  1. A benchmark of competence for you to strive for in whatever you want to get better at. That benchmark is getting to the point where you are noticing little things that are not visible to the untrained eye.
  2. A sense of optimism around the information age. It is easy to get cynical about the information age – the privacy issues, the rampant outrage, and conspiracy theories. At the same time, when the tools that are available to us are used as tools – it has never been easier to rapidly gather useful information and improve on a skill you are focused on.

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