“I mean, listen, we’re talking about practice, not a game, not a game, not a game, we talking about practice. Not a game. Not, not … Not the game that I go out there and die for and play every game like it’s my last. Not the game, but we’re talking about practice, man. I mean, how silly is that? … And we talking about practice. I know I supposed to be there. I know I’m supposed to lead by example… I know that… And I’m not.. I’m not shoving it aside, you know, like it don’t mean anything. I know it’s important, I do. I honestly do…But…We’re talking about practice. We’re talking about practice. We ain’t talking about the game. We’re talking about practice, man. When you come to the arena, and you see me play, you see me play don’t you? You’ve seen me give everything I’ve got, right? But we’re talking about practice right now. We talking about practice.” Allen Iverson
The other day when I was in the middle of a presentation on communication skills, I had a moment when I stopped and realized that I had gotten pretty darn good at this. Now I know I’m not supposed to say that and I don’t mean it in an arrogant, or conceited way, just that I thought that I was a pretty good speaker, but over the course of the last year, I’ve seen a tremendous improvement. For a moment, I sort of wondered why and then it came to me; Practice, Man. Over the course of the last year, I have spent a significant amount of time on the road presenting seminars on leadership and communication skills. I was doing it because it paid well and because I truly love the work, even if I hate the travel. It never occurred to me when I signed up, that it would turn into my time in Hamburg.

All You Need Is Love…and Practice, Man

In his groundbreaking book on human performance, Malcolm Gladwell recounts that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill. He mentions some all-time greats and their pursuit of greatness but one of the best is the story of the Beatles before they were famous. When we think of the Beatles, we think of genius and talent. We don’t often think of practice, man, but it was practice that made them. About 12,000 hours of it to be exact. Between 1960 and 1964, the Beatles played live shows in Hamburg, Germany for 8 hours a day. They were constantly on stage. They played their music, the music of their heroes and whatever was popular at the time. It was a period of uninterrupted practiced that led to mastery of their skills. Only after they had mastered those basic skills was their genius revealed.

Iverson Vs. Jordan

I’ve been very blessed in my lifetime to have seen of the greatest athletes of all time in their primes. We’re seeing it with Lebron right now and before him, I saw Allen Iverson and I saw Michael Jordan. It might seem believable, but the most talented basketball player I’ve seen was the former. The best basketball player I’ve ever seen was the latter. Allen Iverson was marked for greatness from the beginning. He could shoot unlike anyone else. He could handle the ball and he could jump. He was so good as a college player that he became the first Georgetown Hoya to leave college early to enter the draft. He was amazing and he was fun to watch. He was without question, a better ball handler than Jordan. He was quicker and he was a better shooter. He had everything for him to be the greatest of all time. But he’s not. Don’t misunderstand me, Michael Jordan was a gifted athlete. Some people love to tell the story of him being cut his freshman season but that was about attitude. It was never about talent. What made him the greatest to ever lace up his sneakers was his practice habits. He was notoriously hard on teammates. he expected them to work as hard as he did but that was impossible. Always the first one in and the last one out, he was always on the court improving his game. When his quickness slipped, he developed a jump shot. When the league changed, he lifted weights. He did in practice everything he needed to do to be the greatest. And he is. The difference between them was practice, man. As seen in the quote at the top of the post, Iverson wasn’t really into it.

The Take-Away

This has been long and I hope you find it worth it. I know a lot of people who are incredibly talented and who are also incredibly frustrated because their talent is yet to take off. If what I’m describing sounds like you, have you been practicing? I used to complain all of the time that I wasn’t getting noticed. When I look back now, I was talented but average. Speaking a couple of times a month, while better than nothing, wasn’t cutting it. I needed stage time to develop my craft. If you want results and want to be great, start looking now Find opportunities to master what you love. Look for the chance to Practice, Man.]]>

This is a true story. I haven’t even changed the names to protect the guilty.  If you’ve poked around this blog at all, you’ve noticed that discipline is a big subject for me. In just about every post, I will somehow allude to the fact that discipline separates winners from losers. I’m a big believer in not neglecting the small daily disciplines that add up to big successes. I’m constantly telling people to sweat the small stuff.  I’m also a big believer in hard work. I even wrote a post about how my generation watched their parents preach work/life balance to the point that they forgot to work. It’s a pretty big high horse I’ve been riding around on and that’s why for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why the hell I was stuck. I, Mr. Discipline, was being lazy. I, Mr. Sweat The Small Stuff, was neglecting all of the little things that I knew were easy to do. I was embarrassed, I was ashamed, and I was depressed. 

How Could This Happen?

While I was still showing up for work every day, it had been a long time since I had been showing up in my life. It was kind of a fog and I slowly moving through it, making all kinds of good excuses, and I was good at it. In fact, I am a world class excuse maker. I blamed the fact that they fair ended. I blamed the fact that I didn’t like summer. I blamed the fact that no one was reading my blog. I blamed my diet. (There’s actually something to this one, but that’s another story.) I was blaming everyone and everything except for some reason, I couldn’t blame myself.  Let me add at this point that the two things that I despise the most are weakness and laziness. I despise them the most when I see them in myself and for the month of August, it was on full display. I wasn’t eating well. I was weak. I wasn’t going to the gym. I was lazy. I wasn’t developing content, reading, working on myself or for myself. I was being lazy and weak. 

The Big Mo

Just recently, after a really enlightening coaching call where I was called out on all of my bullshit, I was hit with a startling realization; I’m not dealing with a laziness problem, I’m dealing with a momentum problem.  If you know me at all, what you’ve read above is probably pretty surprising. I’m known for my work ethic. I’m known for my discipline. I’m known for having only one speed; wide open. I don’t take days off. I don’t take breaks and I don’t cheat on my diet. I’m pretty much an all or nothing sort of person. Moderation has never really worked well for me. And this is my problem. I’m not good at taking a break before I need it. I keep going until I’m burned out and then the laziness and weakness that I despise so much creep back in and steal my resolve. I haven’t had the discipline to rest and it’s killed my progress.   As long as I’m rolling, it’s pretty easy to keep me moving. I enjoy working and I enjoy the process. I actually enjoy the discipline. It’s once I stop, that getting me moving again become a task of monumental proportion. One day off becomes three. Three days turn into a week and then I’ve wasted an entire month making excuses. The frustrating part of all of this is that it could have been avoided if I had just forced myself to slow down. Not stop, but slow down before I needed all of my efforts again. I didn’t but wish like hell now that I had. 

What This Means

This is a longer, more personal than normal post. I’m writing it because of this realization that a really good coach helped me hit upon has lessons applicable to almost anyone. Building virtually anything is a game of momentum. It’s so much easier to keep going than it is to start over from a dead stop. In the future, I’m going to be more mindful of when I just need to slow down and find the strength that I know I have to find the discipline to rest. ]]>