Successful or Proficient?

A man is standing on a busy street corner in New York City looking lost. He stops a woman and asks her, “Excuse me, how do you get to Carnegie Hall?”

She replies, “Practice, practice, practice.” then continues walking.

The old joke is funny because there is an underlying thread of truth to it. To be successful at something takes a lot of practice – no one walks out of school a master in their field.  School may (or may not) have given a person a foundation for their career, but they will need to continue to practice, learn and evolve before they can call themselves experts.

Malcolm Gladwell, author of “Outliers: The Story of Success“, believes that it takes an average of 10,000 hours of consistent effort to be successful in an area. Even people we consider prodigies had to practice and hone their skills before they could be considered extraordinary. Though they may be instinctively gifted, the prodigy’s key differential is that they also consistently spend significantly more hours at a task than the average person, thereby reaching their 10,000 hours sooner.

So what happens when someone doesn’t make the effort to put in their 10,000 hours? Maybe they frequently decide to change the focus of their career or jump around at jobs, or neglect an area of interest such as a hobby or vocation. The obvious outcome from stopping an activity is that success is never reached, but even stopping and starting has its drawbacks. One can be proficient in an area without ever being successful. Each time we stop and start we lose momentum and have to play catch-up to get back to where we left off, thereby delaying or completely avoiding success.

Aside from wanting to be successful in their chosen field, many people also want to be successful at winning new business and servicing clients. This doesn’t happen overnight, and it certainly can’t be done without applying consistent effort. To be successful in these areas one must work at it every day. As I suggested in my previous post, one needs to build good habits, and from regular application of good habits, success and increased confidence will result.

Unsure where to start? Set a reminder in your calendar to read my regular Business Development Tip of the Day posts on LinkedIn and apply that day’s tip. If you want more intensive help, I am available to coach you toward a specific goal or habit. You can reach me through LinkedIn, or via my website at

Don’t just be proficient, be successful.


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