How Commitment Can Make You 400% Better

In 1997, a bunch of 7 and 8 year old kids (157 of them to be exact) were starting to learn how to play a musical instrument. Before their first actual lesson, a researcher named Dr Gary Macpherson asked them a simple question:

“How long do you think you’ll play this instrument?”

It turns out most kids, after a little prompting, have some idea of how long they’ll end up playing. Their answers were bucketed into:

  • Till the end of elementary school (aka low commitment)
  • Till the end of high school (aka medium commitment) or
  • For the rest of my life (aka high commitment).

They were asked to track how long they practiced each week. After 9 months, their performance was evaluated. As to be expected, the kids that practiced 20 mins a week (low) scored lower than kids that practiced 45 mins a week (medium). Medium practice kids scored lower than kids that practiced 90 mins a week (high).

Yes – practice makes better. The more interesting thing is that AT EVERY LEVEL, the kids who had higher commitment to their instrument scored higher than those with lower. When you combine high commitment with high practice, the results are astonishing.

At 90 mins of practice, the high commitment group scored 35 vs the low commitment group’s 8.

That’s over a 400% improvement.

Want to learn more? Read The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle. (Affiliate link). It’s an amazing book.

I remember committing to gymnastics at a pretty young age. I decided when I was probably around 10 that I was going to be doing gymnastics for a looong time. And I was not good at first – I rarely won events and medaled infrequently all through elementary and middle school.  But I loved being in the gym and I worked hard.

Then I got to high school and won my first state championship, made the jr national team and ultimately finished 4th in the nation for the under 18 age group my senior year. There were plenty of kids who beat me when I was younger, but I out-committed and out-trained them all.

How strong is your commitment?

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Jason Shen

Jason is a tech entrepreneur and advocate for Asian American men. He's written extensively and spoken all over the world about how individuals and organizations develop their competitive advantage. Follow him at @jasonshen.

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