A few years ago, I was commuting into work. A radio program was on the air where it talked about the process of learning. It asked the question: Most of us drive every day. Does this ‘practice’ of driving make us better drivers?

The answer for me, and I would imagine more most people is, no. In fact we probably are becoming worse drivers. This insight can probably apply to many things that we do. If we study a lot, does that make us better students? If we spend time with kids, does it make us better parents? If we do the tasks of our jobs, does that make us better doctors, teachers, accountants, engineers?

The unfortunate truth is that we are probably not getting better in most of the things that we are doing regularly. We are commuting through our life.

I had a chance recently to pose a different scenario to a group of students. Imagine that in 10 years, you are going to be a driver, but not just any kind of driver, you will be driving around VIPs as an undercover agent. You will be a James Bond-level expert driver. If you had 10 years to work on this skill in your spare time, what would you do? The class had 5 minutes in small groups to generate some answers. Here are some examples of what they said:

  • Drive different kinds of vehicles (get different licences for different kinds of vehicles)
  • Sign up for a defensive driving course and then advanced driving courses
  • Drive for Uber and use that time to try out different skills
  • Drive in different weather condidtions
  • Drive in different locales (especially internationally where the rules of driving are different)
  • Learn about the engineering aspects of different cars
  • …(and many other answers)

These ideas were all very reasonable. If we decided to become an expert driver in 10 years, we CAN, by putting into practice a combination of the above ideas, become a truly amazing driver. Again, while this is a driving analogy, it can apply to whatever domain we choose to become an expert in. If in our jobs, we spend 40 to 60 hours a week on it, shouldn’t we invest that little extra time to become an expert? A master?

Generally people don’t invest the time or the mental energy.

But why?

Because it takes a long time. If you wanted to become an expert driver, you can’t get there in 1 week, or 1 month, or even 1 year.

Imagine that you wake up each day, and you had two choices, you can eat a donut or you can run a mile.

If you chose to eat a donut, you won’t notice much in a week, or even in a month. The difference is very incremental. However, if you compare the you that ate 1,095 donuts (3 years) versus the you that ran 1,095 miles, you will see a big difference. This is what the author Darren Hardy has coined as the Compound Effect.

The idea in a nutshell is that true excellence is developed over time with small, intentional, positive choices. In the beginning the effects are not very noticeable, but over time, the effect ‘compounds’ and you will find yourself transformed. This is the realm of the ‘overnight success’. To others, it may appear that you got lucky. They want to know tips and tricks. They want to know your ‘secret’.

There’s really no secret. It’s just determined work over time that will transform you. You can actually completely transform yourself to world-class excellence in 10 years. It takes a long time, but is 10 years really that long for true self-transformation? (hint you’ll start noticing real results within 5 years)

Most of us are commuters. We turn away from developing excellence, and then mediocrity becomes our life.


Related Posts:

What Do You REALLY Want From Med School?

  1. Relationships: Finding Your Tribe
  2. Mastering Knowledge and Skills: The 10-Year Commute
  3. Achievement: The Essence of Achievement
  4. Self-Discovery: Transcending Corporate Medicine

If you successfully target all four quadrant quadrants, you will have an AMAZING medical school experience. 


Prompt for Personal Reflection

Where do I want to develop true mastery and excellence in my life?

What small, intentional habits do I want to cultivate?