Jul 16

muhammad ali

Want to become a pro at something? There are 3 things that you must master to become a pro – the 1st is to become a technician, the 2nd is to become like liquid and adapt quickly to changing situations, and the 3rd is to master the art of learning from one’s mistakes.

Many of you know this but you focus heavily on only 1 or 2 of the 3 and think that it is enough to allow you to transcend to the next level; it isn’t.

Becoming a Technician

Let us consider the art of fighting; (pick your poison it all applies) Martial arts, boxing, fencing… whatever. To become a technician the fighter must know his techniques, know what combos into what and have it come naturally through muscle memory, not thought.

In the world of competition muscle memory is everything; it removes the need to think. The pro sees a familiar pattern, has been through that pattern a million times before, and reacts on that pattern in a way that has always worked. A horrible right cross is dodged in time for a quick low counter, not because the boxer thought it would be the best shot but because it automatically came out from years of training.

People who overthink during times of action will always lose; thinking takes time, so it should be done on the training mat where you can simulate the situation so that at crunch time there is no thought – just muscle memory.

“Before doing battle, in the temple one calculates and will win, because many calculations were made;” – Sun Tzu

Becoming Liquid

Many people fail hardest at learning how to adapt. In the professional eSport arena for video games, Street fighter Daigo Umehara has been legendary for years with his ability to adapt and overcome. Superstar tennis players like Serena Williams have gotten to the level they are due to their ability to adapt and overcome. Adapting takes patience, a mind for reading patterns and exploiting them, and most importantly the mental strength to change up the game.

Many kids who obsess over a sport, a video game, or any competitive thing will idolize the pros, play hard enough to become really good technicians,  then get stuck at a mediocre level. This happens because they cannot adapt; they have all the fancy moves, but they will never beat a person who has “downloaded” their skills even if that person only knows the basics.

Being an automaton that can do sweet combos, devastating knockouts and awesome aces off the serve does not instantly mean you will be a pro. It just means that you have an impressive execution; this falls apart in competition however because you have a readable pattern and the knowledgeable champion will recognize your shortcomings and then defeat you.

Learning from one’s mistakes

Even if you are great at executing moves and reading your opponent you will not win consistently if you never learn from your mistakes. There have been pro boxers who got torn apart for making the same mistake over and over until they danced with a fighter who studied their tape.

Many times this area of concentration is negated due to the ego of a champion; the quarterback who never feels the need to study the tape after the game; the gamer who thinks that his team is the unstoppable answer to any question.

In the movie Pumping Iron Arnold Schwarzenegger made a good speech about being the wolf on the top of the mountain yet still being hungry. Working on muscle groups he feels are lacking while simultaneously bringing up the rest a bit more to make it all “perfect”. A bodybuilder without this level of intensity in wanting to reach perfection will eventually get beaten. Big Arnold won 6 straight Mr. Olympia titles and a 7th a few years later.

* * * *

If you find yourself an immense fanboi or fangirl of a chosen sport, game, or fighting genre and you want to be on the same level with your heroes, you have to be willing to sacrifice. Many times I go on forums for something I like and you have your 2 -3 web heroes that have the membership convinced that they are pros yet when it comes to competition they are not even in the top 9. These people are normally glorified technicians; but let them tell it, they will have you convinced they are the greatest. Whatever.

When you want to get to the next level you have to be ticking harmoniously on these 3 elements or you will not get to where you want to be. Get in the gym, reduce your mistakes, learn from them when you make them, and make sure you fight your opponent – not the idea of your opponent. Sure there may be another element or 2 to add to the equation but these 3 have worked for many people who we idolize, even today.

Of course this isn’t easy or we would all call ourselves pro, but you never know until you do and when you do it is best to go about it the correct way.

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