How to break through mediocrity and become exceptional in your field

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Working your way to the top of your field can take years or even decades. And hard work alone isn't always enough.

So what can you do to become exceptional in your field?

A Quora user recently asked, "How can I break the walls of mediocrity?" Several respondents offered smart advice on improving your craft and standing out in your industry.

Here are our favorite takeaways.

Find your passion.

It's hard to be exceptional if you don't truly love what you're doing, and finding your passion may be easier than you'd imagine.

Ina Garten, for example, was advised to think about what she liked doing when she was 10. For her, it was cooking, and she went on to have an extraordinary career as a best-selling cookbook author and host of "Barefoot Contessa" on the Food Network.

Don't try to be perfect.

Striving to be great is one thing; striving to be perfect is unrealistic. Quora user Brandon Lee writes that improving should be the goal. "It's more of a simple realization that you can walk around the wall and get on with your business," he says.

Ask the right questions.

Quora user Gabriel Lewis says there are two problems with people who identify as mediocre: They haven't found their passion, and they have the wrong mindset about success. "It begins with finding the right questions, instead of looking for the right answers," he writes. "Start evaluating your life. Are you happy with it? Are you doing what you love?"

Get out of your comfort zone.

It's easy to develop a routine and settle into it, but taking risks can help you develop and grow.

"The key is this: Do the unknown, and you will never live a day of mediocrity," writes Quora user Michelle Chin.

Another user, Gary Leverich, echoed this sentiment: "Once you have extraordinary experiences, you'll never be ordinary again. Extraordinary experiences also open up extraordinary opportunities."

Identify your unique skills.

mastery robert greene

"If you can focus on discovering and utilizing the gifts you are born with, you can never, ever be mediocre," writes Dakota Lim.

Discovering your unique talents can be as simple as writing down all the things you're good at and what comes naturally, and then finding patterns in what you wrote.

Find resources that help you stay motivated.

Setting goals is a great first step in staying motivated, but it isn't always enough.

Some Quora users find inspiration from movies and books. Claudia Tamblay, for instance, suggests reading "Mastery" by Robert Greene, which offers practical tips on how to master your craft.

Phone apps can also be a source of motivation, Aisha Malhotra writes. She uses an app that provides her with "hope and motivation" via daily inspirational quotes.

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