If you want to have a successful career, you have to become an expert in your field. The biggest challenge with establishing expertise is learning the right skills. I recently spoke to Tim Ferriss about the art of learning based on his research and experiences. Ferriss is a New York Times best-selling author, dubbed "The Superman of Silicon Valley" by Wired. His latest book is "The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life."
What are the common misconceptions of learning?
One of the bigger misconceptions about learning is that many skills take a lifetime to get world-class at, or 10,000 hours to become world-class at. If you want to be Tiger Woods at age 8, you're going to know you have the potential because you'll be drawing sketches of people hitting balls with different irons, which he was, instead of pirate ships.
But if you want to be the best in your circle of friends or in the top 5 percent in the U.S. population at golf, swimming, Spanish, Japanese, whatever it might be, I firmly believe that you can accomplish that in most cases in six months or less. To be functionally fluent in a language, for instance, you need about 1,200 words. If you really train someone well, they can acquire 200 to 300 words a day, which means that in a week they can acquire the vocabulary necessary to speak a language.
How do you become self-sufficient in your trade?
There was a lot I was doing in the digital world of computers, but I didn't have the ability to build things with my hands and I got really anxious. I felt like I had lost some really important part of my human-ness. Food became a way of becoming self-sufficient with my hands to regain manual literacy, which I think has been lost on our generation and certainly younger generations. Very few people can actually make things with their hands and do things with their hands.
What are the most important career-related skills?
I would break it down to three things: time management, written communication and negotiation. I think those three skills determine much of success in the modern professional world.
Dan Schawbel is a Gen Y career expert, the founder of Millennial Branding and the author of Me 2.0.