Three Steps for Mastering Any Skill

Bob Bly is a pretty cool guy — and a great copywriter.  I subscribe to his email newsletter to learn how to improve my writing.  Bob also has some great insights into other things as well.  Yesterday, he sent an email in which he explained his thoughts on how to master a new skill.  I sent him one back asking if I could post it here.  He responded a minute later giving me the OK to do so.

Here are Bob Bly’s thoughts on mastering a new skill or subject.

In my experience, there are 3 things you can do to accelerate
your mastery of a skill or subject.

1–Study. Read books and e-books on the topic. Listen to
podcasts, webinars, and teleseminars. Go to conferences,
workshops, and lectures. You probably already do this.

But if studying is all you do, you are not doing enough. You
must add the 2 steps below, especially #3.

2–Observe. Follow the successful people in your field, see what
they do, and do the same.

If you are a direct mail copywriter, for instance, don’t throw
away your junk mail. Open and study each piece, and collect the
ones that impress you or that you receive multiple times. (If
you receive it multiple times, it means the mailer is working.)

3–Do. If you are an aspiring web designer, design some web
sites. If you are an aspiring novelist, write a novel.

Malcolm Gladwell, Mark Ford, and others have said that to get
good at something you have to do it for 1,000 hours … and to
become a master you have to do it for 10,000 hours.

Yet when I speak at writers’ conference and ask how many write
every day, only about 20% of attendees raise their hands.

The trick is to get yourself in a situation where you write
every day, so you quickly log the 1,000 hours you need to become

If you are an aspiring writer, take a look at your local weekly
newspaper. Are they advertising in the help-wanted section for
part-time reporters? Sign up. Churn out a lot of articles. The
hours will accumulate and you will start to get much better as a
writer. Or volunteer to write the newsletter for your church or
the professional associations of which you are a member.

In college, although I majored in chemical engineering, I
actively wrote feature and news articles for the school
newspaper, which luckily for me, was a daily, not a weekly.

Here’s one:

By the time I graduated with my BS in chemical engineering, I
had logged over 1,000 hours writing. I wasn’t great, but I was
already good — a huge advantage.

I welcome your feedback! Did you like today’s message?

What other topics would you like to see covered in my e-mails?

Please let me know at:

As always, please feel free to forward this e-mail to a friend!

If you liked this essay, and want to read 75 more just like it,
get my new book Don’t Wear a Cowboy Hat Unless You are a Cowboy
— and Other Grumblings from a Cranky Curmudgeon, which you can
order here:

I like Bob’s common sense approach to mastering a new skill: Study, Observe, Do.  I especially like “Do.” You will get better with practice.  That’s a fact.

Your career mentor,


PS: You can download a free copy of my bestseller Straight Talk for Success at  When you do, I’ll begin sending you daily motivational quotes and give you a free basic membership in my career mentoring site.



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