The Art of Doing

Can you imagine being called a superachiever? Capes and lightning bolts immediately came to my mind when I heard the term. However, the authors do not shy away from bestowing this title to a myriad of interesting people featured in this book. I soon discovered that the moniker fits and the 36 people we meet in this book have indeed accomplished some completely superachievements.

The authors’ focus is, as the subtitle states, “How superachievers do what they do and how they do it so well”. How could you not want to find out more after a statement like that? And so began my ritual of reading one chapter a night.

I first flipped to the story about Mark Frauenfelder, founder and editor of ‘Boing, boing’, a blog of epic proportions. I chose to start here because the topic is high on my interest list, applicable to what I do and because the book is structured in a way that allowed me to. Rather than the traditional chronological chapter approach, this book compiles the stories of 36 different people into a short story format. You can simply pick up the book and turn to whatever person/story might be most intriguing to you at that moment and dive in.

The Art of Doing is written by wife and husband duo Camille Sweeney and Josh Gosfield. This creative couple put together a list of highly successful people that they wanted to learn what made them so successful. The compilation of people on the list covers a crazy range of occupations, status, age and field of expertise. It is this eclectic mix of people that makes the book all the more fascinating. I mean, you can read about an 11 year old girl who sailed around the world, a big game hunter, a rock star, a dog whisperer, or a cannabis cultivation expert —all in one book!

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

Life will pass you by if you don’t start 'doing'

"Okay, this is how life is. Now, how should it be? And go out and make that happen."
- Constance Rice (civil rights lawyer and activist), as quoted in The Art of Doing, page 97

Although many paths can lead to success it is usually the one that requires the most ‘doing’ that will be most successful.

So many of these outstanding people spend oodles of time focusing on their longer term goal, but it is the day-to-day act of ‘doing’ that they are fiercely committed to. They may have tried various routes to get to the acting stage or to step across a high-wire suspended between New York’s World Trade Centre Towers, but always central to their method was this unrelenting dedication to do whatever it takes “to overcome the day-to-day struggle for achievement.”

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Stop Trying So Hard

"The best way to write a bestseller is not to try to write a bestseller. Write the book that you want to read."
- Stephen J. Dubner (author of "Freakonomics"), as quoted in The Art of Doing, page 262

I loved this quote as it really made me step back and assess whether I was trying too hard on some of my projects. Whether we are an aspiring author or a corporate executive, I believe a tell tale sign that we are trying too hard is that we begin to lose the joy of whatever it is we are doing. And as we lose the joy, success quickly marches the other way. More than one of these superachieving people referred to finding or creating that thing that doesn’t exist yet, but that YOU wish did. If you are completely jazzed by something and can’t seem to go through a day without acting on it, then it won’t feel like you are trying but rather ‘doing’.

One of baseball’s favorite, iconic player Yogi Berra talks about “playing loose and having fun.” He came to realize that, for him, when he was playing ball he couldn’t think and hit the ball at the same time. Over analyzing or trying too hard can remove what can magically happen when you let go and allow it to happen naturally.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Prepare, prepare, prepare

"Make practice a dress rehearsal. You can’t just go walk out into the woods with a weapon and hope for something to happen. You have to prepare."
- Chad Schearer (host of TV’s “Shoot Straight”, as quoted in The Art of Doing, page 142

Martina Navratilova, the tennis legend whose record-breaking career spanned four decades, says that during practice she will try to get as close as possible to the whole feeling of a match, “the feeling and emotion of a racket in my hand, the physical stroke of hitting a ball, so when I played a match I didn’t have to create a physical and mental edge. I just had to recall it.” Clearly pretending is more than just a child’s game.

Most of the people highlighted in the book speak of deliberate, intentional preparation. Ken Jennings, game show winner with earnings of $3.6 million and the longest running Jeopardy contestant, would actually set up his living room to resemble the show’s stage. He even created a makeshift buzzer from his toddler’s Fisher-Price ring-stack toy. It would be when he turned on Jeopardy that he began his preparation for the real thing as he played along with the show calling out the answers to his TV set.  It may sound crazy, but it is hard to argue with the results.

Throughout the book are many captivating stories. Often, as I skipped around from chapter to chapter, I would be inspired by what I read. In fact, my ‘spidey’ senses tingled from reading about how many of these people encountered day-to-day struggles, just like you and I, and yet were able to find their own individual artistry to channel super achievements. Capes not required.

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Barb Brittain-Marshall

ABOUT Barb Brittain-Marshall

Barb Brittain-Marshall is addicted to reading. Seriously, it has become a bit of a problem. Stacks of books clutter her home. She fears an intervention is close at hand...
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