According to Florida State University psychology professor and Peak author Anders Ericsson, there is one thing you need to do to become an expert at anything, whether it's playing a musical instrument or being an elite athlete. It's something he calls "deliberate practice," which, as he explains to Business Insider, means "stepping outside your comfort zone and trying activities beyond your current abilities."
A specialist in the science of peak performance, Ericsson roots his simple conclusion in multiple studies on expert spellers, world-class athletes, and memory champions, in which he was able to attribute their success to deliberate practice. According to Ericsson, with deliberate practice, even genetic characteristics like height, size, and cognitive ability can't hold a person back from reaching their peak success. To prove his point, he cites a British study in which higher IQ was linked to poorer chess skills in elite chess players.
"I've been spending now 30 years trying to look for kind of limits that would actually constrain some individuals from being successful in some domain," Ericsson tells Business Insider. "And I'm surprised that I've yet really to find such limits."
However, there are other psychologists and research proving otherwise. Research on thousands of studies published in 2016 found that deliberate practice was linked to differences between skilled athletes, but other factors like physical and psychological traits also played a role.
Whether or not you believe Ericsson's findings, it definitely couldn't hurt to step outside your comfort zone and practice doing the things you've yet to master, whether it's volunteering on new projects at work or trying out a new workout class at the gym. You can't become an expert at something without continuously working toward improving.