To be good at something I feel that you first need to learn the fundamental aspects of that something. As an example let's use basketball, although this can be applied to almost anything. So to be a good basketball player first you must learn the fundamentals of the game. Once you have a solid comprehension of the fundamentals I feel you are well on your way to being good. The next step is to actually practice, and by practicing you slowly begin to make progress. The more you practice the better you become.
To be considered GREAT, I feel you need to not only have a solid foundation of the fundamental aspects that govern whatever you are striving to be great at, but you also need to have an added degree of focus. This focus involves a higher degree of practice. You also must begin to find people who are already great or even greatest and begin to emulate them. I remember as a kid I began trying to play like my favorite basketball players, as well as my older brother. I would see him (or them) do different moves and then start practicing them. Gatorade didn't chose to use "I Wanna Be Like Mike" as their marketing campaign for no reason you know? Thats also why people wear "WWJD" wristbands as well. Trying to emulate Jesus is never a bad thing.
Even applying this to web design, I am always looking at the people who I feel are great or even greatest and then I try to emulate them not as people, but as designers.
I think to get to the greatest category it comes down to your level of commitment, focus, and most importantly the details. The majority of guys you see in professional sports or the Olympics eat, sleep, and drink their sport. Just look at how hard Michael Phelps trains for example:
"Bowman actually started training Michael Phelps when the Phelps was still 11 years old. He pushed Phelps to swim at least 50 miles each week. According to him, kids at that age, is able to increase the size of their hearts and lungs in ways that no longer possible later on. The larger the heart and lungs, the bigger the aerobic engine. Phelps has been training almost 5 hours a day and 7 days a week without any rest day. Bowman admitted that he has trained the star to the extent that Phelps has little time or energy left at the end of the day for anything except to eat, sleep or occasionally watch the television. Phelps has to swim on his birthdays and Christmas too. He probably has missed some of the things he should have enjoyed at his age, but he has probably gained much than what he has missed. By the way, Bowman was a college swimmer before he became coach and he has a degree in child psychology. That helps, I guess.The thing to be worried about when you are looking to be in the greatest category to me, is you really need to think about your priorities in life. In all reality the only things I want to be greatest in are being a father, & a husband. When you chose something like a vocation to be greatest in, you really are sacrificing a lot of other aspects of your life in order to become greatest. Most insanely successful individuals go through countless divorces, and have poor relationships with their children and family. It's all due to the amount of focus and commitment you have to have to reach the level of greatest.
If your vocation, sport, or hobby is that important to you, then I suppose it is all worth it. To me I would much rather be considered the GREATEST dad, or the GREATEST husband. So to do so, I believe I have to stay focused on what it is that makes a person the greatest dad, or husband.
That is why I am more than happy with simply being great at designing websites, or basketball for that matter (if I can even be considered great that is). I am not saying that ALL people who are in this greatest category don't have great relationships with their families. I'm also just not confident that you can truly be greatest at more than one thing. Perhaps this only applies to me, and my capacities.
I do feel like in regards to web design I am at that stage where I am constantly trying to analyze what makes other web designers great. I have also changed the way I look at the world in general. When I go to the grocery store I am constantly looking at package designs, posters, and displays for different aesthetic aspects, and how effective they are. When I drive down the road I pay close attention to each and every billboard, as I sit in the mall while Hannah is playing I sit and stare at the Dillards logo and get irritated by the poor kerning of the letters. When I watch TV I pay very close attention to most commercials and the little details involved such as the fonts used, colors, music, camera angles, cinematography, and more. Similar things happen to me when I watch a movie, even my basketball watching experience has changed since I now over analyze the graphics on the screen. How they display the score and other statistics throughout the game. I flip through magazines not only to read the articles, but also to enjoy the layout and graphical elements of the magazine in general. I try to figure out what type of grid was used in the design of the magazine. There are countless other ways that my attempts to become a better designer has changed the entire way I see and interact with the world. Like I said, that to me is the only way to become great at it.
I am also constantly looking at web galleries, and almost stalking each and every web designer I feel are some of the best in the world. I visit their blogs on almost a daily basis. I subscribe to different design related magazines and do my best to read them from cover to cover.
I just hope I never allow myself to focus more on design, or basketball than I do my daughter, soon to arrive son, and wife. I think back to my youth, and how I did similar things in regards to basketball. My junior year I began shooting at least 100 three pointers a day, as well as 50 free throws. If I would of known what I know now, I probably would of gone the extreme route of Michael Phelps, because at that time in my life basketball and being successful was almost everything to me. At least I told myself that, I didn't have the focus and work ethic to quite back it up. I think many times people want to be great so bad, but don't want to actually put in the work necessary to obtain it. Mostly because they see someone that is already at that level, and don't pay close enough attention to see what that person actually did to get to that point. They just see their fame, money, & talent and covet it.
What are your thoughts?