Improvement: Why There’s Always Room For More

Have you ever heard of Sir Francis Galton? Thought not. Galton was a 19th Century philosopher who had some very particular views on talent and improvement. Specifically, he believed that we could train at something and improve, but eventually our natural talent would run out and we would hit a wall (Galton’s Wall), and at that point more training would be largely wasted.

For a long time, this was the prevailing wisdom for talent and improvement. Of course, we now know this to be bullsh*t. Nope, turns out we don’t actually have that excuse. Our raw talent doesn’t run out. We simply reach “satisfied”.  You see, there’s a reason why the Rolling Stones are still going strong. I listened to a Desert Island Discs interview with Keith Richards the other day. He said: “We still play because we still believe we can improve.” This sentiment is perfectly reflected in their classic hit (I can’t get no) Satisfaction. In his book, Moonwalking with Einstein, Joshua Fore (your uncle in the memory business) sums this satisfaction up as living on the “OK Plateau”. Put simply, it took a lot of effort to get to a satisfactory level, but now we’re here, we can just stick it out. Simply doing whatever that thing is won’t improve it. Let’s take typing. I type a fair amount every day. When I started out I was really crap at it, but I typed and typed and, over time, got to where I am today, which is acceptably-crap. Look, I’m certainly not good; I’m just, well, invisible. So even though I’m still doing it every day, I’ve not improved in years.

Does this mean I can’t? Of course not. It just means that if I want it badly enough, I need to decide to work for it. So far, this hasn’t been the case. However, if I’m willing to make an ACTIVE effort and accept the inevitable short-term mistakes, I can improve.

And so it is with this gig we call living.

Just doing it doesn’t make you better; it just means your life is still satisfactory. If you want it to improve, you need to become an active participant in improving it (as opposed to just living). Yet this is exactly what we fail to do. We mistake living for getting better at life, and I’m here to call you out on that right now. I don’t care who you are, or how old you are, there’s room for improvement. Whatever it is you think you’re great at, there’s more there for the taking. The decision is simply if you feel it’s worth the effort.

I can only speak for myself; however, the way I see it, if Mick Jagger thinks he has a bit more to learn, then I certainly have no excuse. On that note, I just bought myself a typing tutor app that needs some attention. No time like the present, eh?

Who is the writer?

Richard Mulholland is an entrepreneur, speaker and father. He owns Missing Link, a presentation company, and co-owns 21Tanks, a perspective innovation lab. You can read more of his ramblings on his website or follow him on Twitter at @RichMulholland.

For the best tips and tools for making 2018 your healthiest year yet, click on the following link.