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In his book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell asserts that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to become masterful at anything. In his book, he shares examples ranging from musicians to Bill Gates. This statement was widely repeated and supported. It relies on the idea that more deliberate practice makes a real difference.

Yet, a few years later, a study from Princeton University suggests that this 10,000 hour rule isn’t true across the board- that it depends on which domains are being considered.

The study highlights that deliberate practice explained 26% of the variance in performance for games, 21% for music, 18% for sports, 4% for education, and less than 1% for professions.

What this means, then, is that if you are trying to excel at games, music, or sports- more deliberate practice does make better.

Yet if you are trying to improve your knowledge or career achievement, deliberate practice may not have much effect.

I’ve been thinking about this lately as it applies to business-ownership/entrepreneurship.

I’ve been having the opportunity to speak with more small business owners who are building their businesses online. Across the spectrum, most of them are confused by the technology, and, in some cases, are doing manually what the technology is supposed to help automate.

They are investing a lot of time and energy in effort in trying to learn new ideas and implement them. I think the reason, in part, it’s not working so well is that when you keep practicing the things that don’t work- you don’t get any closer to mastery.

In business building, mastering the fundamentals- and applying them consistently- seems to be the way to lasting and sustainable success.

Mastery of the fundamental, in turn, relies on clarity and focus.

You have to know what outcome you want to achieve- and to have a measurable goal to reach for.

So this means, for example, if you’re trying to market your new coaching program, you need to start with clarity, from the beginning, of what a successful marketing campaign will mean in terms of numbers. How many people will you enroll? How much will they pay? How much will you make?

And then you need to be sure you’ve done the basics of customer avatar creation, message to market match, and awareness of your offering. You need to keep good track of your numbers so you know if your marketing is working as you expect.

You need to review these numbers along the way so you can make adjustments.

Usually, it’s not about learning a new skill, or a new technology, or a new marketing approach. It’s about testing until you find something that works. And once you do- continuing to do that until you master the steps and can repeatedly create the outcomes you want. After a while, your results should be expectable, not a surprise.

The way to master anything is to keep implementing what actually works- not practicing over and over that which doesn’t.