Habits - PFP Assignments

1. Healthy Habits - General
List below at least five habits that you believe contribute to making you a happier, healthier, more productive, or better person because you follow them.
 A habit is something you do “frequently” (some number of times every week), and something that you miss and that impacts you negatively (at least a little) if you don’t do it regularly. These can be anything from getting a certain number of hours of regular sleep, regular time with certain friends, a good diet (avoiding certain foods), a certain level of exercise, having a quiet study place, following a certain moral principle, whatever you have recognized a something that presently constitutes a healthy personal habit (1 list, 5+ items).
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2. Regularly or Occasionally Unhealthy Habits – General
List below at least five habits that in your judgment have been major or minor addictions for you at some point in the last ten years of your life.
 An addiction is a habit that negatively impacts your life on occasion. Addictions are not things that are healthy if you do them in moderation (like drinking small amounts of red wine, which probably extends your life) but things you sometimes or frequently “do to excess,” like getting seriously drunk and losing your weekends recovering, or spending large amounts of your money or your time on something with little personal value, usually because you can’t stop yourself. Of the major or minor ones you are willing to list, can you identify at least one that hasn’t been a problem in the last two years? How did you get beyond this addiction? Did you swap it for another one? Were you instead able to swap it for a healthier one (like chewing nic gum instead of smoking cigs)? Explain. (1 list, 5+ items, and 1+ paragraphs)
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3. Expert Performance – Background Reading
Skim each of the following:
Peak Performance: Why Records Fall, Daniel Goleman, New York Times, 11 Oct 1994 (3 pages)
A Star is Made, Dubner and Levitt, New York Times, 7 May 2006 (3 pages)
Are You an Expert?, Michael Mauboussin, Legg Mason CM, 8 Oct 2005 (11 pages)
No writing required for this item, just read and consider it.

4. Expertise Candidates – Current Thoughts
List one to three general subject areas (like game programming) AND one to three specific skillsets (like C sharp or Maya mastery) in which you have seriously considered developing true expertise. List no more than three subject areas and skillsets. (two lists, 1-3 items per list)
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5. Healthy Habits – Expertise
According to K. Anders Ericsson, Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance, 2006, deliberate and often solitary practice, more than any other single factor, is the gateway to true expertise. Not inherited or childhood-acquired talent, not IQ, not one’s peer group. Almost all experts begin their journey as ordinary people who learn how to “live” for long periods inside their chosen domain of expertise, spending enough hours in the appropriate skill-building activities that they gain the ability to outperform the vast majority of others with experience in that same field. Experts with socially useful skills can set their own salaries and working conditions, and take their pick of jobs and working environments. If you have become really good at what you do, are not egotistical and hard to work with, know how to market yourself, and have picked a field of expertise that has average-to-high value to society, you can write your own ticket in life.

To become a true expert in animation, game design, network engineering, network security, programming, technology management, video production, or any other technical field available at UAT mainly means putting in the hours, days, weeks, months, and years to become excellent in your specialization. Developing true expertise typically takes a minimum of ten years, or ten to twenty thousand hours of practice, in your discipline. Finding a way to devote this serious amount of time is the main obstacle to excellence, and it is a hurdle that fewer people can climb in our modern affluent, casual, media-saturated, distraction-rich culture. Most people are constantly being pulled by their peers (who may be jealous of and feel threatened by formidable expertise), their environment (which wants to turn you into a passive consumer, and where the average person’s job description may change every three years in some companies and industries) and sometimes even their families to become a “general purpose human,” someone with average—and typically low—skills in a number of areas but nothing truly exceptional in any single area.

Making the personal decision to develop truly superior and socially-useful expertise involves a number of reinforcing disciplines of mind and habit. Below are a few of the challenges you’ll face on your personal road to gaining expertise.
  1. You must develop sufficient foresight to discover a skillset that will be very likely to be directly valuable to your career for at least a decade after you have become an expert in the skill. It will take you about ten years to become a true expert, so we are talking about skills that should have at least twenty years of direct personal relevance, and much longer historical relevance if you use your expertise as a steppingstone to managerial or other capacities. In making your choice it helps to trust the judgment of other successful people as well as to trust your own judgment.
  2. You must get to know yourself well enough to discover what it is that you truly love. It is far easier to do the long, deliberate practice you’ll need if you have chosen something that has high personal value and reward.
  3. You must be able to find and value true mentorship of masters in your chosen discipline, so you can be inspired to rise well above being an average performer.
  4. You must be sufficiently self- and future- rather than environment-motivated to devote long hours to building your chosen skills over many other competing skills, and to maintain that priority in a complex, distracting world.
  5. You must know your current personality strengths well enough to be able to design practice regimens around those strengths, and to protect your practice against your weaknesses, which may include all the things that conspire to make your practice less frequent, intense, or effective.
  6. You must be able to tune your practice regimen as needed, while resisting the common trap of becoming a dilettante—someone who dabbles in many “interesting” skills but has no true expertise in any of them.
  7. You must be able to find and value the company of peers who have the same kind of serious dedication to their skillsets as you have to your own, or your practice very likely to be derailed by the non-expert approach to life of the average peer. Many people talk about becoming an expert. This is virtually meaningless, as the average person does not bind themselves by the words they say. A few people dream about it regularly. That’s a lot more meaningful, and is a gateway to action. The fewest take the small but steady steps every day to make their dream a reality.
  8. You must pick, or get help picking, increasingly difficult skillbuilding exercises and projects that allow you long periods of “flow” as you practice in your discipline. Projects that sustain flow will challenge you in some ways but let you to perform in a rapid, meditative state in other ways. They have “just the right” level of newness and familiarity to keep you engaged for long periods of time.

Thinking of each of these challenges, write three or more paragraphs on how you can find and develop true expertise, something that will involve practice for at least ten years, in some area, and specifically, what healthy habitsyou can develop that will allow you to “level up” all the way to mastery in your chosen field. (3+ paragraphs)
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Ready to start using this wiki page to record and think about your personal Habits? Go ahead and keep writing at the top of this page once you've finished these assignments. May you have a happy, peaceful and productive future!

Habits - Personal Futures Wiki - ExampleAll material on this wiki is open source, creative commons licensed. Feel free to use any portion of this with appropriate attribution to "University of Advancing Technology, Foresight Development curriculum."