Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of the most famous scientists today. He hasn’t won any Nobel or made any breakthrough scientific discoveries. He isn’t famous for his science. He is famous for talking about science. For trying to bring science mainstream.
Tyson has written multiple best selling books. And hosted a few science shows. The US National Academy of Science gave him a medal for his role in exciting the public about the wonders of science.
When a journalist wants a science bite for their article, they call up Tyson – because they know he will give an eloquent answer that will be printable. Tyson has made multiple appearances on late night news TV shows. In fact, he was one of the most frequent guests for the shows Late Night with Jon Stewart as well as The Colbert report.
And so it was surprising when Neil deGrasse Tyson got mad at a podcaster when the podcaster praised him for being such a gifted communicator! Because communication wasn’t a gift for him. Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson has become one of the best communicators of science because he has worked harder at it than any other scientist ever has!
The secret behind Tyson giving awesome interviews
When Jon Stewart invited Tyson to come on his show for the first time, Tyson sat down to figure out what he could do to prepare and be the best guest the show had ever seen. He saw a few episodes of Jon Stewart to evaluate and deconstruct his style.
Tyson realized that Jon Stewart would often interrupt a guest to make a joke. And so he timed Stewart’s interruptions. He counted the number of words guests could get in before a joke. And he rehearsed so that he could make his point within 6 to 9 seconds – the average time when Stewart would interrupt!
Tyson also monitored how far back Stewart would go in current events. When he realized it was upto 3 days, Tyson scoured the news from 3 days to when he got on air with Jon Stewart. He was on point throughout the interview. And the audience loved it.
Because of which, Neil deGrasse Tyson was called on Jon Stewart’s show a record 14 times!
Deep preparation helps you win
Neil deGrasse Tyson wasn’t a naturally gifted communicator. He just prepares better than anyone else. It’s this deep preparation that has catapulted him to being one of the most famous scientists today.
Deep preparation is not the same as deep practice. Practice helps you improve your skills. But preparation helps you understand what you need to improve on. So how do you do deep preparation?
Just like Dr. Tyson does to prepare for his talk show interviews: he deconstructs and breaks down the anchor’s style. He asks what is needed to excel with this task. And breaks things down in detail.
It’s similar to what Leonardo Da Vinci did to become a perfectionist artist. Leonardo paid grave robbers to go and steal dead bodies for him. He would then dissect these bodies and draw their anatomies. Leonardo analyzed the size of different parts of the body and became a master of drawing muscles and bones. Because of which, his paintings looked more realistic than anything drawn till then.
Robert De Niro won an Oscar for his role in the Godfather II. But do you know that to prepare for that role, De Niro went and stayed in Sicily for three months? He completely immersed himself in the Italian culture to learn how to copy their mannerisms. He even learnt Italian and spoke with a Sicilian accent!
3. Consistent trial and error
Comedian Chris Rock won an Emmy for his standup special “Bring the Pain.” But not many people know about his painful preparation for his standup special.
Rock would go to a small comedy club called Stress Factory in New Brunswick, New Jersey unannounced. He would have a legal notepad in his hand with scribbled notes. And would try his jokes out on an audience of 40-50 people. Most of his jokes wouldn’t get any laughs. And people would boo him.
But he did this night in and night out. He might have visited the club between 40-50 times. And that’s how he ended up with one hours worth of material that got roaring laughter from folks. That’s how he won an Emmy and was called the funniest man in America!
What’s the downside to deep preparation?
Deep preparation takes an immense amount of time. If you try to deeply prepare for everything you do, you’ll end up with a lot of unfinished tasks. Case in point: Leonardo Da Vinci himself – who had a long list of unfinished pieces.
And so, to become a finisher, you’ve got to learn to say No. And learn to prioritize.
You should only do deep preparation for a very narrow skill set that matters to your becoming unique.
- Become so good that you can’t be ignored. Deeply prepare for your skillset and put in more time than anyone else ever has.