How to Learn a New Skill: Progressive Mastery Method

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "High Performance Habits" by Brendon Burchard. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do you want to know how to learn a new skill in the most effective and efficient way possible? Is there a method to make mastering skills easier?

In his book High Performance Habits, Brendon Burchard discusses how to learn a new skill using the progressive mastery method. Progressive mastery relies on deliberate practice as opposed to mindless repetition.

Here is how to learn a new skill with progressive mastery method.

The Best Method for How to Learn a New Skill

People often make the excuse that they’re “just not equipped” to learn a new skill. However, you can learn to do almost anything with time and effort. 

Note: As you find the skills you need to develop, don’t rely on mindless repetition. While mindless repetition can produce some results, it’s not the best way to improve. For example, a runner looking to improve their time can run the same route every day, but, if they’re not pushing themselves to beat personal records, they won’t see significant improvement.

Instead of simple repetition, practice progressive mastery to improve your skills. Progressive mastery relies on setting increasingly challenging goals, attaching meaning to your process, and using teaching as a method to learn. Here are the steps of progressive mastery:

  1. Define the skill you want to work on. 
  2. Make long-term stretch goals that will challenge you.
  3. Attach meaning to your work by reminding yourself why it’s important.
  4. Visualize success and failure.
  5. Schedule time to practice challenges and exercises created by experts.
  6. Chart your progress and invite external feedback. 
  7. Share your learning experience by competing or practicing with others. 
  8. If you reach a goal, set another goal that challenges you even further.
  9. Take time to teach others what you’re learning.

To start your journey towards skill mastery, define the five most important skills in your field. Constantly be on the lookout for new educational opportunities and improved ways of working. The more you know about the essential elements of your field, the more effectively you’ll be able to work. For example, if you’re a salesperson, important skills include communication, problem-solving, customer service, negotiation, and market awareness.

How to Learn a New Skill: Progressive Mastery Method

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Here's what you'll find in our full High Performance Habits summary :

  • The 6 habits that high performers have
  • How being a high performer is about more than one big achievement
  • The 3 traps that can foil you, even if you're a high performer

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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