Practice, Practice, Practice

Good morning, and happy Friday! I hope your day is off to a nice start.

I read an article a few days ago that suggested if you want to make positive changes in your life, you should strive to be at the top one percent in something. In fact, the writer went on to say that it doesn’t even matter what you decide to be good at – just be in the top one percent of anything. Okay, I found that to be just a little intriguing.

Let’s set aside the familiar discussions of top one percent, which normally relate to income and wealth. In the US last year, the top one percent earned a total of 13.4 percent of the nation’s total wages, about $718,000. I guess I could live on that. But this isn’t about income. It’s about finding something you want to be good at and being your absolute best.

We’ve all heard the story of a tourist who asked a New York taxi driver how to get to Carnegie Square, and the driver responded, “Practice, practice, practice.” Or the football fan who showed up at the Cleveland Browns stadium and the ticket agent asked, “Are you here to watch or play?” Sorry, I had to throw that in. Being from southern Ohio, there’s a bit of a rivalry.

But the point is pretty much the same. If you want to get out of the spectator seats and onto the main stage, there are two ways to do it. Dedicate yourself to becoming the very best at whatever it is you want to do or look for something where everyone else is performing like a rank amateur. Both will get you closer to the big game. But only one will carry you through life to bigger and better things.

We’ve all worked with people who try to get ahead by making others around them look incompetent. They take on all the “important” work and leave everyone else to do the menial tasks, beating their chest in front of the boss the whole time. But what does it say about you if you’re the best of the inept? Wouldn’t it mean more to shine brightly among a sea of stars?

Practice, practice, practice. Very few things in life come naturally, with no practice involved. If you don’t believe me, watch a baby try to master the most basic human skill of walking. It takes skill, determination, and practice. Sure, it becomes second-nature after a while. And most of us are pretty good at it.

But is it more impressive to run a relay race with hurdles, or walk in circles around a baby who’s just learning to crawl? Being a good walker doesn’t put you in the top one percent. It puts you in the top ninety-nine percent. And if you strut around in front of a room full of people in wheelchairs, it just makes you a jerk.

If you want to really stand out, be good at something where others have an equal chance. And if you find yourself surrounded by people who aren’t quite as good as you are, help them become better. Hang around a group of comedians after a show, and you won’t hear much in the way of gossip. They’re too busy congratulating one another on a solid performance and offering suggestions.

When I had the opportunity to headline a show and bring my own opening acts, I always looked for people who were as strong as I was, or even stronger. Nobody wants to hear someone after the show say, “You were pretty good, but those other guys sucked.” Putting the strongest acts in front of me made me work that much harder to deliver my very best. And everybody benefitted as a result.

And how do you get good? Practice, practice, practice. You don’t get to Carnegie Hall by practicing once or twice a year. You don’t get there by practicing once or twice a month, or even a couple of times every week. You get there by practicing every single day, without fail. No breaks, no excuses. You make the commitment and stick to it.

Do you want to be a better leader? Maybe a stronger employee, a better parent, a more loving spouse, a better woodworker, or more successful in business? Then practice. Do it every day until it becomes part of who you are. Build on your strengths, and work on your weaknesses. And surround yourself with people who are better at it than you are today. Watch them. Learn from them.

It’s easy to rise above a room full of people who are sitting down. Instead, find a room full of people who are where you want to be, and make a commitment to be among the best of them. No matter what it is, you can do it. None of them got where they are by natural talent alone. It’s only when their talent becomes their passion that they rise to the top. And you can, too. All you have to do is practice.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2020 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

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