Practice Makes Careers

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(By Bob McCurdy) With the NCAA basketball tourney on many of our minds today, it’s only appropriate to reflect upon the role “practice” played in getting these teams to where they are. How important is practice? It is impossible to become champions or world-class in anything without it. Is there any skill under the sun that doesn’t require practice to attain, refine, and retain?

The best are the best for a reason. Peak performers appreciate the purity of the pursuit to become that which they’re capable of becoming and this requires practice. Practice enables those with lesser God-given abilities to out-perform those with more. I always loved this quote, not sure where it came from, “People asked why I practiced so much. The answer was simple: I was not going to allow somebody with twice as much natural ability be better than me.”

The best thing about practice is that it’s within our complete control.
Do you set enough time aside for “practice”? With the hectic pace we all keep it is not easy, but it has never been easy. Ironically many in business give short shrift to practice the longer they’ve been in business, but our professional competency is either growing or regressing, never staying the same. Stop working out for a week and you notice it the next time in the gym. Stop practicing your profession and the next time you give an important presentation you’ll not only notice it, but your boss and the people to whom you’re presenting will notice as well. Nothing takes the place of practicing-drilling-rehearsing, no matter what the experience level.

Check out the following regarding ex-L.A. Laker great Kobe Bryant and his practice regimen.

Former Laker head coach Byron Scott: “I heard the ball bouncing. No lights were on. Practice was at about 11, it was probably about 9 a.m. And I go out to the court and I look, and there’s Kobe. He’s out there shooting in the dark. I said, iThis kid is gonna be great.’”

Trainer/Team USA:
“The night before the first scrimmage it was about 3:30 a.m. when I hear my cell ring. It was Kobe.”
“Just wondering if you could help me out with some conditioning work.”
“It took me about twenty minutes to get my gear. When I arrived at the practice floor I saw Kobe. Alone. He was drenched in sweat as if he had just taken a swim. It wasn’t even 5 a.m.”

Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat:
“We’re in Las Vegas and we all come down for team breakfast and Kobe comes in with ice on his knees. He’s got sweat drenched through his workout gear. And I’m like, ‘It’s 8 o’clock in the morning, man. Where in the hell is he coming from?'”

Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat:
“Everybody else just woke up… We’re all yawning, and he’s already three hours and a full workout into his day.”

Can you ever imagine a postgame interview with coaches Izzo, Belichick, Krzyzewski, or Saban play out like the following?

Reporter: “Coach it was a tough loss tonight. What could you take away from this evening’s game that you could work on in practice next week?”
Coach: “Well, you know we don’t really practice a lot as the players are not big fans of it. Practice is hard.”
Reporter: “Coach, that’s funny.”
Coach: “Not trying to be. We’ve got a lot going on with travel, classes; finding the time to practice is not as easy as it used to be. We’re busy.”
Reporter: “Coach, I know you’re looking to bounce back next week. I’m just looking for some insight as to what the team will focus on next week to improve.”
Coach: “Here’s the deal, practice gets old. It’s boring and tedious. Anyway, it’s not about practice, we just need to play harder. It’s not like the old days. I can’t work these guys too hard. Times have changed, you know Millennials.”
Now let’s hear from two masters from the arts. Spanish composer-cellist Pablo Casals was asked by a reporter; “Mr. Casals, you are ninety-five years old & the greatest cellist that ever lived. Why do you still practice six hours a day?” Casals’s replied; “Because I think I’m making progress!”

Jascha Heifetz, who many consider to be the greatest violinist of all time, was quoted as saying, “If I don’t practice for one day I know it. If I don’t practice two days the critics know it. If I don’t practice three days the audience knows it.”

There are dozens of things to be “practiced”: digital (both understanding it and presenting it), Tapscan, explaining and understanding attribution, mastering an elevator pitch, presentation skills, overcoming frequently voiced objections, the list is endless. Which is great as it means practice can never become boring.

Remember, to become who you want to become, means you must do what must be done, and that, like it or not, includes practice. If what Aristotle said 2,000 years ago is true, “We are what we repeatedly do,” then doing things “again” makes sense because “again” is by definition, “practice.” And practice leads to improvement, which always leads to good things.

Bob McCurdy is Vice President of Sales for the Beasley Media Group and can be reached at bob.mccurdy@bbgi.com.

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