Remember running around as a kid, playing games of make-believe?

Sneaking around like a hobbit, trying not to wake the dragon. Fighting off an army of evil henchmen. Conjuring up a spell that was total overkill for the task at hand?

Good times.

Role-playing games, like Dungeons & Dragons or Shadowrun give you a set of rules for playing make-believe. Instead of arguing about whether I hit you or you dodged out of the way, we each have a certain number of dice to roll. Whoever rolls the greater number of successes win. Ties go to the defender.

Your character’s skill level determines how many dice you get to roll. A new character with a 3 in Agility and 2 in Locksmith would have five dice to roll to pick a lock. If you need five successes, you might have just a 3% chance of seeing what’s inside that safe. Adding just one more dice increases your odds to 10%. If you have 8 dice to roll, you’ve got a 36% chance of success. (I’m using a target of 4, for all you runners out there.)

So how do you get more dice to roll? Well, at the end of an adventure, the game master (the person running the story for all the players) awards you some number of experience points (XP) that you can use to improve your character’s skills and attributes. The number of XP awarded is going to depend on how much you were stretching yourself.

If your character was just phoning it in, you’d get some XP, but not much. But if you could show that your character was in there, hustling, pushing herself, doing things to stretch herself and grow, then the game master would reward you with more XP. The more XP, the faster you level up, the easier it is to crack into that Worthington 1000.

The process is the same for you, the player. Malcom Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule only applies to focused, intensive, deliberate practice. You’re not just phoning it in, you’re doing everything you can to get better. Otherwise, anyone who’s been on the job for five years would be a world-class expert.

There are three things you need to maximize your experience and level up faster:

  1. Do things you’ve never done before. This is almost the definition of growth. After five years, do you want to have five years of experience under your belt? Or do you want to have experienced the same year five times?
  2. Step out of your comfort zone. When you’re at level five, you know the answers to the level five questions. You have to start asking the level six questions if you want to learn the level six answers. That can be a tough challenge to face right there, because you have to ask questions that you don’t know the answers to.
  3. Act before you feel ready. You’re stepping out of your comfort zone and doing something you’ve never done before. Are you going to feel ready for it? Of course not! Embrace the feeling. It’s how you know you’re growing.

Your day-to-day activities might not be filled with high-stakes international exploits laden with espionage, intrigue, and high-octane car chases. Or maybe that’s your typical Tuesday morning.

Whatever your adventure is, you want to get better at it. You want to learn and be able to see the improvements. Be on the constant lookout for ways you can step up and level up.

Question: What will you do today that you’ve never done before? Share your thoughts in the comments, on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.