Jan. 10, 2022

Nick Velasquez | Develop the Power to Master and Learn Any Skill

Nick Velasquez | Develop the Power to Master and Learn Any Skill

Nick Velasquez shares insight from his book that will help you develop the power to learn any skill, no matter your background or competitive advantage. Taking wisdom from learning science, cognitive psychology and examples set by the greats, Nick will...

Nick Velasquez shares insight from his book that will help you develop the power to learn any skill, no matter your background or competitive advantage. Taking wisdom from learning science, cognitive psychology and examples set by the greats, Nick will not only show you how you can learn anything but also how you can maximize the efficacy of your learning.

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Srini: Nick, Welcome to the unmistakable creative. Thanks so much for taking the time to join us.

Nick Velasquez: Thank you so much for having me.

Srini: Yeah, it is my pleasure to have you here. I found out about your work and your book by way of your publicist, all of which we will get into. But before we get into that I want to start by asking you where in the world were you born and raised and what impact did that end up having on the choices that you've made with your life and your.

Nick Velasquez: So I was born in Metta in Columbia and I lived a big chunk of my life there. I think what it made the most difference is that I went through this middle school and high school. That was very different from anything else. So it's not something particular about Columbia. It was just a particular high school and we didn't have any teachers.

Nick Velasquez: The whole school was based on. The ideas of Socrates. So the Atlantic method thinking that we need to draw out knowledge through questions instead of imposing it. So we didn't have teachers, we had tutors, we, there were no classes, no lectures where you had to study on their own. And one of the great things about the places that we needed to take exam for every subject we studied and the exam had to be passed with 90% or more.

Nick Velasquez: So it was based on excellence. And if you fail an exam, the whole point was like, You just the master to subject. So go back to it and study, and then you'll take the exam again. So I think that having that kind of education and instilled in me this passion for knowledge and for learning things like, I'm not afraid of picking up a book on any subject and just starting to learn.

Nick Velasquez: And it was because learning was never a drag. That school is you're learning on your own. It becomes a process of discussing. And instead of just something that is imposed on you. So that's what sparked my passion for knowledge and gave me the discipline to go after any subject that I wanted to study.

Nick Velasquez: Yeah.

Srini: One thing I wonder about is in a, schooling environment like that, how do they structure a curriculum and now how do they build structure around what you actually need to learn?

Nick Velasquez: So I think it was pretty similar to other schools where you will have, let's say seventh grade math, and then seventh grade math has maybe 13 different subjects that you need to cover.

Nick Velasquez: So that was the same idea. And you had study guides for every one of those subjects and you have to take an exam for each one of them. And then you would only be studying about three subjects at a time. So you could be studying math history and geography. And until you finish one of those for the entire year, you couldn't move on to something else because one of the beliefs was while you go into physics and then to chemistry and then to math and then to geography.

Nick Velasquez: And at the end of the day, you can't remember anything. So I was kinda more focused on you need to work on three different subjects at a time or two different areas of knowledge at a time. But we would cover everything that at any other normal school,

Srini: Yeah. So how does the w structure and then curriculum and format of education, similar to the one that you had differ from normal education in Columbia.

Srini: And is that any different from the way that we educate people here in the United States?

Nick Velasquez: No, I think the regular schooling system in Columbia is the same as in the states. So it was just the regular classes and the regular curriculum. It's all pretty much the same. This was, this school was just something particular.

Nick Velasquez: And I just ended up there by chance because I missed the calendar school is moving from a different city. And this was the only school that will take anyone at any time, because you're going at your own pace. So technically you could finish a grade in six months, six months, which I did for some of them, or it could take you 18 months to finish one grade.

Nick Velasquez: It was really up to you. You like the discipline was on you to do the things. You control the learning process, which was awesome.

Srini: What I wonder is, in my mind, I wonder if that's effective for everybody because you go to school here in the United States, and of course you have straight a students who are just overachievers and driven and sometimes that's due to parental influence.

Srini: If you're an Indian kid like me, sometimes just Nate. But what about the people who are not particularly motivated or, don't have any sort of drive, do they fall apart in an environment like that? Or do they. Basically rise to the occasion. How do you deal with those types of people in that kind of environment?

Nick Velasquez: You had several scenarios. So some of them as someone that was lazy or didn't have any motivation or dealing care that would eventually leave the school because it will take them two years to finish one grade. So when they started doing the math, they realized they would graduate from high school at 24 25.

Nick Velasquez: So those people have actually say look, this is not for me. There were others that just have. Problems concentrating in regular schools, or it was annoying for them to have lectures. So when they had a system like theirs, they just discovered that it was just a matter of the learning method that was not working for them.

Nick Velasquez: And then they raced through the location. So it would really vary from person to person, for me, like when I went to university and had to sit on lectures when soul slow I almost couldn't get used to it anymore. When you started on your own, you were so focused. And I could understand why teachers would be teaching the same thing that was in the textbook.

Nick Velasquez: It's like, why do I need to do this twice?

Srini: I would imagine the way that you were, educated in high school probably made college very easy for you because I think that the way that we're typically taught to learn in high school is to memorize and regurgitate.

Srini: I, I only know this because I've been spending a lot of time in digging into sancha Aaron's book, how to take smart notes. And what I realized now is you look back at something like college. And, I had this experience at Berkeley where I was a great student in high school because in high school, It's actually not that hard to get good grades.

Srini: All you have to do is show up, do what the teacher says, memorize information, regurgitate it on a test, but you get to college and you actually have to understand what the hell it's about. So I'll give you an example. I go into economics class, right? And you learn, laws of supply and demand. You go through problem sets, with your TA, but then when you get to an exam, That information is presented in a context that you've never seen it before.

Srini: And it's a real test of whether you understood or whether you memorized. So I'd imagine for you having been taught that way. College must've been easy, but given that, if you were tasked with redesigning the education system, either here in the United States, or, even in Columbia that the standard education system, not the way that you were educated, what changes would you make to change education so that it leads to better outcomes for students?

Nick Velasquez: Are different things. And I remember watching this this talk from Sierra Ken Robinson's when he's talking about redesigning the educational system, because it is still based on very much the industrial age of kind of an assembly line type of thing, where you put together people based on age, other than anything else in my school, we were different people in the same classroom, learning different things from different ages.

Nick Velasquez: Studying different subjects. It didn't matter because you were in your own world. So that was good. And the thing that I would change the most, I think is the ratio between men right now in the school system is just one teacher and they're giving a lecture and that's the end of it. I think that for proper education, you do need some guidance.

Nick Velasquez: You need some tutoring, you need someone in a smaller groups. I wouldn't know how to design those. But I think I don't think that the industrial system of just putting 30, 40 people in the classroom and having someone give a lecture works, it just doesn't learning is very different than that.

Srini: Well, w why do you think that it has sustained for as long as you have, if there's so much evidence that it doesn't work and it's not ideal,

Nick Velasquez: it's hard to make changes at that scale. People resist that you have a system. Outside, I'd say this, that we really averse to change, especially when things work regardless how inefficiently, so it works inefficiently, but somehow it works.

Nick Velasquez: It does get some medication to people basically get education. Then if we look back two centuries ago, we're better off than we were then in terms of education, especially before the masses. So the fact that it somehow is not entirely broken. That's what makes it harder for someone to say this needs to be completely rethought of.

Nick Velasquez: So I think that's, what's holding it back that to a degree it does serve.

Srini: So one thing I wonder about is cultural narratives around education. So in India, the cultural narrative around education is this is the ticket to everything. This is your key to success. This is your key to a good life. You go become a doctor, lawyer engineer, and you won't ever have to worry about having a good life.

Srini: That's basically what I jokingly call the Indian parent motivational speech. And I wonder, what is the cultural narrative overall about education in a country like Columbia? What are the things that you were taught and what is the general public taught about the value of education in a country like Colombia?

Nick Velasquez: It was the same. So the idea is you have to go to school, you have to then go to college and then get a specialization or a masters, and then maybe you'll get a job. So the difference with Columbia is that the unemployment was so high that I. You would sit in a cabin, the person driving the cab would be a surgeon.

Nick Velasquez: And it just happened that there wasn't any more work. So you would try to push it even more on your education side, to hope for an entry-level job, having master's degrees or PhDs. So everyone thought that was the only way. I think only now that you have this gig economy and more entrepreneurship and the idea of building your own enterprise, that things are changing.

Nick Velasquez: But when I was in college and when I was in high school, that was the idea is you go to school, you get good grades, you go to college, same thing, and then hopefully you get a job, but it wasn't a certain thing. It wasn't like in the states back in the fifties or so when you were guaranteed a job of.

Srini: Yeah. So I know this from having lived in Brazil for six months and having a, a couple of friends who happen to be from Columbia, the gap between the rich and the poor in countries in south America is significant. It's not even like it is here because I remember in. When somebody was considered rich, their parents basically owned a percentage of the country.

Srini: It was like my parents export coffee and that's the exporting coffee is the side hustle, for a rich person in Brazil or Columbia. And then they have some other business that makes millions. And of course, it's wait a minute, you guys export like three-fourths of the world's coffee. That's not a side hustle.

Srini: And so I wonder what. Impact does that income gap between, the wealthy and the poor, particularly when it's so extreme, end up having on how people are socialized, how they're educated and then you know, what their life outcomes end up being

Nick Velasquez: over sentiment. So I remember I grew up in a nicer part of town and my parents were.

Nick Velasquez: And I remember with my brother, we wanted to go train wrestling and jujitsu. We wanted to do mixed martial arts, but there wasn't mixed martial arts back then. So we were trying to train all these different things and combine it on our own and the place where you would train those things. There was only like one place which was around soccer stadium and people from all over the city will be training there on, for the most part, those leagues were made up of people like from poor neighborhoods or middle class who were trying to make it reasonable.

Nick Velasquez: And they would hate us. They saw it in our face that we, they didn't have it as rough as them, and they wouldn't want to train with us. And it's not like we would lie about which part of the city we lived in. And I think you'd see it just think the way we spoke or the way we looked, it was something about us that, we didn't have it as rough as them.

Nick Velasquez: So there was this for some mentors, the rich or we're well off, I'm saying when I wasn't in school, many times I'll be ashamed of bringing my friends home. Our parents' homes and was really nice. And you had this guilt and this stigma associated with the whole country's suffering, everyone's starving and you're pretty well off.

Nick Velasquez: So I think I grew up with that thing, but that's also why, like later in life, I've never had an interest for luxuries because that was not the way we wanted to live. We didn't want to show off anything within one to own expensive things. It was just our house. That was nice. Everything else was just.

Srini: Yeah.

Srini: Talk to me about your post college post high school trajectory that has led to where you're at today and to, to writing this book.

Nick Velasquez: Yeah, so always been fascinated by learning and I take on hobbies all the time, but I was frustrated by how difficult it was moving from knowledge into skill.

Nick Velasquez: So one thing is knowing about something, knowing about a subject and a different thing is knowing how to do it. So you can know. Painting theory, but not really know how to paint anything. So that was the itch that begun is I want to learn all this things, but it's so frustrating because it takes so long.

Nick Velasquez: And I started researching different books on learning and how we learn, how to learn. And my idea was to try to find a book that I eventually wrote which is I couldn't find it that way. So the story goes, I started researching on learning science, how we learn, how to learn. And I wanted to put together a manual for the rest of my life.

Nick Velasquez: Something that I could get back to all the time. It's oh, I'm learning to play a new instrument or I'm learning this other thing. Let's go back to my manual and see what our steps and how I should approach this. And after a couple of years of research, I figured, what, if I'm going to do all this work, I might as well solve this problem for other people and turn it into a.

Nick Velasquez: But I know the amount of work that was ahead of me putting together a book. I don't know if I would have done it. Yeah, it's something. Yeah.

Srini: Oh I read the book. It's incredibly detailed and I remember thinking, how the hell are we going to actually cover all of this in one interview? So my thought was that what we could do is to basically run this framework that you've created for mastering any skill through one skill.

Srini: And since you brought up a musical instrument, let's use a musical instrument. As an example, I played the tuba for nine years and it's funny because I see some of this in the way that I actually love. It just was never deconstructed in this way. I didn't have a formal framework. So let's actually take the skill of learning a musical instrument.

Srini: Let's just say somebody who's listening to this wants to play the guitar. You break this up into, several different Concepts in terms of, the various things we need to understand in terms of principles of learning myths and misconceptions. And then you go into the stages of learning.

Srini: Let's start first with the myths and misconceptions. And I think the two that I want to actually start with are the left brain versus right brain and the learning styles. Yes.

Nick Velasquez: All right. So that's something that's gone in through. Or idea of how we learn and it's just being popularized for long enough, but it's not necessarily accurate.

Nick Velasquez: So the idea of the you're a left brain learner or left right. Brain learner or left brain learner. So we use both sides of the brain for almost everything. Yes, one side specializes in one thing, but pretty much when we were learning where you're seeing the entire brain. So what I criticized there in those minutes, Is the sales pitch of look, you need to know what's your dominant hemisphere.

Nick Velasquez: And then use that in your learning. No, there are all the things that are way more important than the way we learn and how effectively we are as learners and that. So it's been proven on psychological research that it's just not really accurate that we learn from one side of the brain or the other.

Nick Velasquez: We use the, all of our brains for almost everything. The.

Srini: Yeah. So then we bring up learning styles. I think that we have this idea that, some people learn better, auditorially, some people learn better visually. But I think that you also deconstruct that as a myth, why do we have this myth to begin with?

Nick Velasquez: It began as some teachers because all of this comes from experiencing classroom and not from rigorous research. So at one point they. Some people think the educational realm began to develop this concept of oh, I think some of my students learn this way and some others learn that way. And then it became very popular.

Nick Velasquez: So the arc system, like yes, visual, auditory, kinesthetic. And, but when they run research, something more organized to try to either prove or disprove those theories. Like most of the studies show that wasn't the case. We do have preferences in the way we live. But it doesn't mean that our preferences are the most effective method for us.

Nick Velasquez: So there are all the things such as previous knowledge and or interesting, the subject that play a more significant role than order learning style. But yet some people like to listen to audio books, other people like to read, but it doesn't mean that the way you prefer to do it is the way that's best for you.

Nick Velasquez: So for the most part, we're all visual and we processed. Way more than an auditory or kinesthetic.

Srini: Yeah. So I think the one other myths and misconceptions piece that really intrigued me was this idea of you either have it or you don't. And I think this is where I want to actually do a bit of a deeper dive because in some cases I think that's true, right?

Srini: You and I are not going to play NBA basketball. Correct. I don't know what, I don't know what your athletic skills are. Mine are definitely not on that caliber. No matter, no matter whether I read everything in your book and put this all to work, there's no way in hell I'm ever going to play in the NBA.

Srini: And so I think that I want to understand, one is understanding that distinction of, okay, you either have it or you don't, but in some cases you don't.

Nick Velasquez: Okay. And

Srini: how do you end up being honest with yourself about the cases where you don't.

Nick Velasquez: All right, so let's take this apart because this is a great.

Nick Velasquez: So for starters, let's go with something. One thing is being the best in the world. Another one is being among the best. Another thing is being your best. So to be the very best in the world, let's say the very best swimmer that ever lived. You need a combination of genetics and coaching and having been born in the right place at the right time and all these other things.

Nick Velasquez: And you also need a lot of hard work. So you need a lot of things going on for you to be the very best in the world now to be among the best. That's one level down, but we have to remember that Michael Phelps, wasn't the entire swimming team for the U S there were other really good swimmers there too, that were in the very best in the world, but they're still pretty good.

Nick Velasquez: And then for you to be your best, you don't need anything else. You don't need jeans on your side. You don't need luck. You need hard work, basically. That's for you to be your best. Now your best might not make you a. In the top class of the world. So in the case of the MBA, like maybe your best will not get you through the MBA, but it will be your best.

Nick Velasquez: And also basketball skills can be learned and mastered by anyone. Now, if you don't have the height, yes, you don't have that competitive advantage that will get you into the NBA, but you could master basketball at any height. So these skills of basketball are completely unrelated to health. Totally. The actual skills.

Nick Velasquez: And now if basketball had high divisions, like for example, fighting sports, have weight divisions for obvious physical differences. Then we would have short players in all positions and being the very best in the world is just that they will belong to different categories. There'll be like the under six foot or lead, like the under five, five, or you'll be a master and you'll be in the NBA, but for that division.

Nick Velasquez: So it just happened that we made up baskets. And is imperfect. And every sport that we create is imperfect and it gives advantages to certain people to have certain physical attributes. Now on the mental side of it, yes, some people have the equivalent of what height is for basketball and we can't deny that.

Nick Velasquez: And that brings them to be the very best if they also put in the hard work. But master itself doesn't mean you're the very best in the world. It means you've mastered a skill and that's within anyone's room.

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Srini: Yeah, absolutely. Let's actually get into this learning framework. Like I said, I think it would be incredibly difficult to deconstruct the entire thing from start to finish. But you break this down into sort of explore, understanding. Memorize practice bridge, performance feedback, and then, getting into sort of overcoming challenges and mastery.

Srini: And I realized trying to cover all of this. And one interview would be damn near impossible because of how deep this rabbit hole goes. But let's just take, like I said, the skill of a musical instrument and deconstruct it through your framework. So if you, for example, we're going to learn how to play the guitar or somebody's listening to this, wanted to learn how to play the game.

Srini: Had never picked up the instrument in their life, how would they begin? And how would they get to the point where they have some level of proficiency with it?

Nick Velasquez: Sure. So the first step that I lay on the books explore, and this is the idea of looking behind the glamour of the finished product, the performance.

Nick Velasquez: So maybe you saw your favorite musician in a concert, your favorite guitar player, and he thought I want to learn how to play guitar. You have to remember that you're looking at the performance, which is a very small part of what it involves in playing. There is thousands of hours of practice, mostly solely target practice, repeating scales and going through court progressions and things like that.

Nick Velasquez: So the first step is looking behind that curtain and see what it really entails to learn, to play the guitar. Because if you do want to play guitar, you also want to learn how to play guitar and want to practice the guitar, which is sometimes not as fun. I've played guitar and it's. It was tough to sit down every day and go through your scales and go through your exercises.

Nick Velasquez: And sometimes you, you think, or you would wish that it would be just playing on stage and does not how it is. So another example, just before we move on to the next step. Many people that want to take on writing and they imagine going into a cabin in the mountains and just having the worst flow through that for the paper.

Nick Velasquez: They're like, no, man, okay. You got to look a little bit into it before you commit that this is what you want to do because the art of writing is actually rewriting and editing and it feels like you're solving a puzzle. That's fighting you. So we need to see behind that curtain and realize what really entails.

Nick Velasquez: Then make the decision. Is this really what I want to pursue? Do I really enjoy how this is practice, how it was done the day to day activity behind the scale? So that's the first thing. Now let's go. Imagine that you're going to learn how to play a song and we'll go through the model and we'll go through it.

Nick Velasquez: But let's say you're going to learn how to play a song. And your teacher is saying look, here are the courts. So you're going from a to. The D to C. Okay. So the first thing is understanding what you're going to be doing. You're going a to D to C like, all so those articles I'm going to do, and now you have to memorize that part because understanding is not the same as memorizing.

Nick Velasquez: That's why we can read a book, understand everything that it says. And then don't remember what the lessons, a couple of days later, understandings about making sense of information, but it's not internal. So for you to make use of information, then you have to internalize it by memorizing. What you need to do is okay, so the chord progression is going to be a, B, C, perfect.

Nick Velasquez: Now we sit down and you start practicing those changes. So you're going from one core to the next and then back you can think of one piece at a time, and that's the practice side of it, where you're working each piece of this song, for example, or a scale until you feel you have it mostly.

Nick Velasquez: Now going from practice to performance is too big of a step, like going from maybe practicing those cores. And those changes to then playing the song live that's way too much of a jump. So we need an extra step in between, which is called bridging. This is a sort of simulation. So what you could do is once you practice the song enough and you have it down, then you can playing alongside the actual song.

Nick Velasquez: So you can play on the song and you start playing it on top of it. Pretending like you're performing. So this is a way to prepare you for the real thing. And then the last step is perform that's when you get to play the song for your own enjoyment and for all the people watching or any other scenario.

Nick Velasquez: So in performance, you're not really learning, you're just executing what you learn, how to do through the understanding memorizing practice bridging. So that's kinda the process in a nutshell. And then you apply that every single thing. You first understand what you need to do. Then you start memorizing those pieces.

Nick Velasquez: As you take them into practice, then you practice. Once you have it down, you start simulating or bridging this idea of like, how would this be used in performance? And then finally you execute. But when you think about it going a little bit back, if you were doing, I put it in the book and example, budget, Jitsu move the first thing you learn, what are the moves you need to do?

Nick Velasquez: You memorize them, then you practice them. Then you practice with a partner which would be the bridging or simulation. And finally you go on a fight. So that's how the learning process goes or everything.

Srini: So within each one of these phases, you also basically offered strategies and principles for each one, right?

Srini: Yes. And a couple of the things that I want to do is first go into, principles of memory where make this distinction between a couple of different types of memory. Like you talk about the difference between declaring. Procedural memory recognition versus recall. And then, these ideas of association, chunking emotion, attention, repetition, domain, specific memory, and content versus location.

Srini: Can you summarize that for us, which I realize I'm asking you to summarize, 60 pages in a, a soundbite,

Nick Velasquez: so let's focus on two things. One is the recognition versus re. If you meet someone at a party, the person says name, and then you see this person again, maybe a week later and you recognize their face, but you can't remember name.

Nick Velasquez: So what's happening while you're recognizing the face, because you're running an input through a database you have in your mind. So as you see a face or have I seen this face before and then your mind for, yes, I have seen it before. I recognize it. But what happens with the name? You're not seeing the name anywhere within that.

Nick Velasquez: So it's much harder to bring back from memory, which is the recall. So that's the idea of sometimes we think we're studying when we just review things that we've studied before we go through a book like, oh yeah, I remember this. I remember that. No, you're recognizing the information, but you only know that you memorize it when you can recall it without any aid.

Nick Velasquez: So for example, if I sit down with someone and I start explaining all the lessons in the latest book, So you'll realize that's a sort of testing and testing enforces or memory, and also let us know what really stuck and what didn't. So if I started recalling those lessons and I'm teaching them to someone else, they're like, oh, I know where my gaps are.

Nick Velasquez: I know where I need to go back. And I know what it's really committed to memory and memory is so important because we have to remember that mastery or developing any skill doesn't happen outside of us. It happens on the inside. Let's say that you read a book on first day. I knew understood everything about it.

Nick Velasquez: But then someone on the street needs first aid and it doesn't serve youth who remember where to book is on your bookshelf or what page you're supposed to review. You need the actual knowledge in that moment. So that's why memory is important. And we can't just be with our guides on the books the whole time next to us, we need to be committing information and knowledge to memories.

Srini: Yeah. So you have a couple of different strategies for memory, which are retrieval, spaced, repetition, and elaborate memories. Let's talk about retrieval and elaborate memory is space repetition, I think is something that we've talked about before on the show. And mnemonics, I think are fairly straightforward.

Srini: Most of us really understand those.

Nick Velasquez: Yes. So practice, which REBBL is what I was explaining is a way of testing your knowledge, but this could be. Teaching to someone else that's a form of practice recalling, or you being, you sitting down on your own and trying to remember the lessons of something you studied.

Nick Velasquez: Another way to do it, let's say for people who love reading, you can write questions next to a page. Let's say if you're reading the biography from Napoleon, just to say anything, and then you write down, like when was the bottle of water? So then you go through the book and you see this questions.

Nick Velasquez: They're like, oh, okay. Do I remember this information or do I not? So it's a very personalized way of testing. So we know that's the best strategy to memorize is testing your knowledge because in the testing, you're putting effort to remember which strengthens the memory. And even if you get a wrong.

Nick Velasquez: By the time you get the answer wrong, and then you read the right one, then you remember what it is. And now it's going to be stuck in your mind. Like for example, one of the few things that I learned that I remember from college is one question I got wrong in an exam is I couldn't remember it. I failed that question.

Nick Velasquez: And then when I got the exam back, it never went away. So it's the, one of the only things that I remember from college. That's how strong it is. So that's why so valuable to the testing. It shows where the gaps are. It forces you to recall that force, you put behind it, the effort you put, it strengthens the memory that it stick and the ones that didn't stick.

Nick Velasquez: Once you go back and do learn the part that you got wrong, it's going to have a stronger encoding in your mind.

Srini: Now let's talk about practice. You make this very clear distinction between practice and repetition and it's funny, cause I know this as a writer, right? Is anybody can write a thousand words a day of just complete crap.

Srini: And I know because I do that every day, but that's not where the real work happens. It's like you said, and editing and rewriting and thinking about the things that I've written. And so you make this distinction between practice versus repetition. Can you explain that in, tell us why people confuse.

Nick Velasquez: Sure. So let's use the playing guitar example. Let's say that you already know how to play a song, and then you were committing one hour practice, a day to playing guitar. And for that hour, are you the only thing you do explain the same song. You already know how to play now that's repetition. You're just repeating something you already know on is not going to make you any better after a certain point.

Nick Velasquez: So practice to be meaningful, you have to be striving to be. To improve. So let's say if you're playing a solo you'll be putting the metronome at a far faster speed to push your limits. So you can play much faster. Now that's rock. This is forcing you to step out of your comfort zone to grow, which is very different from repetition, which is doing the same thing over and over.

Nick Velasquez: So many for many people that take on a sport like a weekend sport and. Golf balls all day. If you're not trying to improve, you're just repeating what you're doing. And in fact, you're solidifying a lot of the mistakes. So practice involves that. You're breaking your back comfort zone you have, and trying to improve little pieces that's in this case of your swing instead of just hitting bowls without any conscious effort.

Nick Velasquez: So that's why it's so different. Someone could be hitting those balls for years at a time and not get any better, just like the way we've been driving for years. And we don't drive. Then at a certain point to learn, at some point we just said this is good enough. And we just been repeating what we know.

Nick Velasquez: So it's the same thing with any, this.

Srini: I think that makes a perfect segue to talking about the role of feedback in getting better at something. And I think that, you make two distinctions, which I think are really important here. One is, feedback based on process versus outcome and the importance of taking feedback seriously, but not personally.

Srini: And, I think that the first is what I want to do. The series not personal. I think that's a huge issue for a lot of creative people.

Nick Velasquez: Yes. A hundred percent. Let's say you write another book and to use your best book is the best pros you've ever wrote. It's well organized. Everything's great about it, but then the public doesn't like it.

Nick Velasquez: So one thing is the process, the quality of the process. And another thing is the quality of the outcomes. And not because it's not the most popular work you do. It means that you did wrong. It was like you made your best work. It's just that it didn't happen. This same popularity as the other ones, but that's beyond your control.

Nick Velasquez: And the way this affects us in sports is let's say a hockey team played the best hockey they've ever played, but they lost something happened. It could be some something out of luck, but then if they lose and then they take that loss of saying, Hey, we need to redesign the way we're playing. Cause we lost.

Nick Velasquez: And that's all that matters. No, you played the best hockey of you've ever played. You're doing it right. You just happen to have a loss, but that doesn't mean you have to rework everything you've been doing great. And also sometimes losing means you're pushing your limits. So if I'm into tennis and I'm playing the best, then he's ever, but then I'm playing much better players.

Nick Velasquez: I'm going to be losing. So that's outcome feedback. But the fact that I lost doesn't mean that I'm not getting better. It's just, I need to separate the two, the way I played and then the outcome of the match they're different. And we need to look at both of them. The full picture.

Srini: Yeah. So naturally I think that the thing that follows from that is if you do anything for a long enough period, you're eventually going to hit challenges.

Srini: And you talked about setbacks. I think that, we've had a lot of discussions on the show about overcoming setbacks. I think the thing that struck me most was hitting plateaus. How do you actually make use of that time when you hit a plateau and how do you get past it?

Nick Velasquez: So I thought that there are different kinds of planets.

Nick Velasquez: One of them is the let's call it. The I'm not trying hard enough, any more plateau. So sometimes we plateau because we're not pushing ourselves anymore. And this happens a lot in, let's say bodybuilding, which I'm a fan of too. So I train every day and sometimes I'll go weeks without adding more weight.

Nick Velasquez: And I could say that's up lotto because, but I'm not forcing myself. I know I'm not giving it my. So isn't that really a plateau in the sense that your skills got stuck is just that you're not trying hard enough anymore. And that's why you're not improving. You get comfortable, you got complacent, but that's one type of plateau.

Nick Velasquez: Another type of plateau that I talk about is the the tools plateau. So if you're into photography, there's only so much you can do with a cell phone. Like at one point you have to upgrade your tools or youth to develop other parts of the skills. I cannot raise a like a 500 CC motorcycle and expect you to get really good at it.

Nick Velasquez: At one point I need more power. I need to keep pushing myself and it's not a, it's not an excuse to go buy more expensive stuff, but sometimes what we use, like we've outgrown it and then we have to move on. So that's another type of platform. A third type of platform is the. The technique plateau.

Nick Velasquez: So maybe you're doing something wrong, something in your technique is off. And let's go back to the example of bodybuilding. So maybe you plateaued on your deadlift. Maybe there's something wrong in your technique. And at that point, you need to engage someone to help you. You need the help of a coach, or you have to film yourself, or you have to really study what you're doing.

Nick Velasquez: To find if there were any glitches in your technique. So let's take an example of like target woods who redesigned his swing so many times and he did it because he thought he could be better. So he felt his current swing at that point was holding him back and that's why he had to change it. So that's the technique plateau, and that's the hardest thing to get past it.

Nick Velasquez: And then the last one is the real plateau, which is every time we level up or mind does need a time to consolidate that new newly gained territory. Before we can level up again, because in the first level up, we're still clumsy on that higher level. We're still making a couple of mistakes.

Nick Velasquez: Sometimes we get a ride, sometimes we don't. So our mind is solidifying and occupying that territory we conquered before we can move on to conquer higher. So those are the types of plateaus and thus how you deal with them.

Srini: Okay. So that takes us, I think, from the fact that you we've now learned a skill, how do you go from skill and proficiency to mask?

Nick Velasquez: All right. So here's the, what I like to think about it. The gods of mastery, the mine of human sacrifice, and it can't come from anyone else. But you thing is that if you find your calling, it's a sacrifice you're willingly make. So mastery doesn't happen by chance. I've never heard of anyone that like, Hey, I just became a master just suddenly or just out of chance.

Nick Velasquez: It is a decision. It is a committed. You're putting the work every single day. It becomes such a big part of your life. And you would think that for some people is easy to do, but it's not. I talk about the sane bolt and how difficult it was for him to go to train every day. And he says, it's harsh.

Nick Velasquez: You wake up and you're going to be pushing yourself on. That's not enjoyable. And sometimes you wake up and you say, I don't want to go. It's going to be so hard, but you have. And you would never imagine you saying bolt saying things like that, you see it running and smiling and doing his poses, anything.

Nick Velasquez: Oh, man, that guy just really loves running. Yeah. He loves running, but it's also tough for him and it's also torturing and that's the path that we need to take and thinking on this idea of the mindset of a champion to become one. So medals and trophies and all that is only the recognition of mastery, but it's not mastery itself mastery using the processes.

Nick Velasquez: Doing the work in committing yourself to a scale and making it part of your life, which is also very satisfying, or hobbies on things that we do can become more lifetime companions. But if we do want to take it to that level, there is sacrifice and there is commitment and we can't avoid it.

Nick Velasquez: There is no shortcut I've never read or heard of anyone that I, in any shortcut into mastery, it takes grueling and grueling hours and a level of commitment that would include.

Srini: Yeah, absolutely. Wow. This has been fascinating. I have one final question for you, which is how we finish all of our interviews at the unmistakable creative.

Srini: What do you think it is that makes somebody or something unmistakable?

Nick Velasquez: I would say it reminds me of the quote from nature. He loved to do the philosopher. He used to write this a lot and think about it a lot, becoming who you are. So we add so much all this stuff into our way of thinking to our way of expressing.

Nick Velasquez: We leave so many borrowed dreams on is when we really become who we are that were unmistakable.

Srini: Amazing. I can't thank you enough for taking the time to join us and share your story wisdom and insights with our listeners. Where can people find out more about you at your work your book and everything else?

Nick Velasquez: The book is gold learning, improve master, and you can find that anywhere books are sold because Amazon will be the easiest place for the learning of master. And then to reach out to me or social media and stuff like that. I guess the easiest place would be my blog, unlimited mastery.com. And I have all the links through the social media and everything else.

Nick Velasquez: So yeah, for anyone listening in, reach out, if you have any questions or just want to say hi Thank you. All right.

Srini: And for all of you listening, we will wrap the show with that.

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Nick Velasquez

Nick Velasquez

NICK VELASQUEZ is a passionate learner and devoted student of mastery. He’s the author of the popular blog UnlimitedMastery.com, where he writes about learning science, peak performance, creativity, and mastering skills. His writing has been featured in outlets such as Forbes, TIME, Entrepreneur, and Thrive Global. Nick speaks multiple languages and spends his time between Tokyo and Montréal.