How To Build a Skill

Developing skills efficiently can be summarised by:

  1. Setting a skill-related goal
  2. Creating an appropriate program
  3. Training
  4. Gathering feedback
  5. Training with criticisms in mind
  6. Repeating step 3 to 5 until the goal has been achieved

Set a goal

Self-development books and coaches have diluted the importance of goal setting. Regardless, it remains an important part of the skill development process.

A goal needs to be specific and the number of goals kept to a minimum. An inverse relationship exists between the number of goals set and the likelihood of success. The greater the number the lesser the chance of the desired result.

Sample – Perform a 30 second free standing handstand.

Devise a program

Ask yourself, do you have the knowledge to create a targeted program and have you had success with self-programming in the past?

Even if you answered the above questions with a robust ‘yes’, oftentimes finding an expert to provide you with a program is the best option. Their unbiased approach means they are unlikely to skimp on the drills you might leave out due to indifference. Furthermore, ideally they have mastered the skill you’re looking to develop and have a road map to get there.


The cornerstones of an optimal training protocol are consistency, mindfulness, quality-centred and progression. Keeping these four factors in mind, while enjoying the process, to create a conducive training environment.

Gather feedback

Be critical of your efforts. When performing a movement, ask yourself – how does this feel? What went wrong with that last rep? What went right?

In addition to internal feedback, film yourself and collect objective data.

While self-feedback is valuable and will account for the majority of feedback received, asking others for their assessment is important too. If possible, ask a wide number of sources from experts who can pick apart your form and provide constructive ways to improve it, to the layman who can provide an unbiased perspective.


Return to training and work on the areas requiring attention. Include specific drills if necessary.

Rinse and repeat

Continue to train, collect feedback and make adjustments until you reach your goal. The process is simple but far from easy. A lack of consistent feedback is a common stumbling block. Without this cog, its analogous to sailing a ship without paying heed to the compass. You’ll make it to land eventually, though it’s unlikely to be your target destination!

Matt Perryman used the example of treating the body as a garden, making small tweaks and adjustments based on what you feel. The same parallels can be drawn to skill development.

You start with a vacant plot of land with an idea of how you want your future garden to look (setting a goal).

Next, the landscaper creates a blueprint (creating an appropriate program).

Then you begin to work the land – sowing seeds, removing weeds and rotten tree trunks (training).

As you progress, you take stock of the garden and make comparisons to your blueprint. You ask others for their opinions too (gather feedback).

With feedback in mind, you make tweaks to the garden, continuing to move towards completion (training with criticisms in mind).

After a period of time with consistent application and patience, your dream garden comes to fruition (skill developed).

What are your thoughts on the process outlined above? Are any steps missing? Leave your thoughts below.


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