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

Don’t Let Perfect Stand in Your Way

Good morning! It’s Friday Eve! I hope your day is off to a nice start.

There’s always been an inside joke in show business, where a man asked a New York taxi driver how to get to Carnegie Hall, and the driver responded, “Practice, practice, practice.” I guess if you’re just looking for a seat in the audience, all you have to do is get dressed and buy a ticket. But if you’d like to enjoy the view from the stage, it takes a little more work.

A lot of things we do every day have become second nature. From brushing our teeth in the morning to tying our shoes, driving to work, and even doing our job all day, we’ve done it all so many times it takes little or no conscious thought. Depending on your job, that may not be a problem. But when somebody is cooking a meal they expect me to eat, I expect them to open their eyes now and then.

It’s what we’ve come to refer to as “phoning it in” … going through the motions without really being in the moment. I’ve done comedy shows where I just didn’t feel like I was really on my game. I didn’t bomb, but I didn’t rock the house, either. And when the show was over, I really couldn’t remember any particular moment onstage. I was just on autopilot, and it showed in the audience’s response.

Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? You’re in a meeting at work, talking to a customer, giving a new employee some training, or even helping your kid with their homework, and you realize halfway through you’re just phoning it in? You know the subject matter so well, you don’t even have to think about it. But in not thinking, you never really do your best. It’s just good enough.

Practice can get you to that stage, but too much practice can result in a lackluster performance. You don’t miss any of the notes – you could do this in your sleep. But it can become so automated, you forget the most important part of the job – yourself. If all a person wanted was to hear perfect music, they could buy a CD. They pay for a live performance because they want the best of you.

In my business, we encourage newer folks to scrimmage. Everybody who knows football knows what it means to scrimmage. It’s a game the team plays against itself, where nobody wins or loses, and nobody keeps score. You simply practice. You run your plays, work out the kinks, find those opportunities for improvement, and just get really good at whatever at the game.

Through scrimmaging, you reach that point where you can read any situation and adapt on the spot, finding the opening you need to rush through to the goal line. And once you reach that point, you’re ready to do it for real. You’ve fine-tuned your game to the point that you’re unstoppable. Success is simply a matter of stepping onto the field.

The problem is, some of us get so good at scrimmaging, we never move beyond it. We just keep practicing. “As soon as I get really good at this one part, I’ll be ready!” There’s nothing wrong with that, if your goal was simply to practice forever. But if you ever intended to take what you’ve learned and put it into practice, you have to take that leap of faith and step into the game. The real game.

Practice teaches you new skills and gives you confidence. But sometimes, we need a little less confidence and a little more faith. Confidence says, “I’ve got this!” Faith says, “I can handle this.” There’s a difference. And the more confident we become, the more we’re apt to just phone it in. We don’t do it on purpose. It just happens.

When you’re trying to learn a new skill, practice until you’re no longer dangerous. There’s a reason teenagers have to practice driving so long before they’re allowed to do it alone. But once you reach that point, stop holding yourself back. For every situation you can practice, there are ten more you never considered. And the only way you’ll ever get good at them is just to get out there and do it.

Know enough to know what has to be done. Know how to do the job safely and with an acceptable level of expertise. Then stop practicing and get in the game. There’s a whole new world waiting for you if you just take that next step. Be a little scared. Step outside your comfort zone. Somewhere out there lies the answer to your dreams. Find it. And once you do, don’t let anything stand in your way.

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

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

What Do You Want To Be Good At?

Good morning, and happy Friday! I hope you’re gearing up for an awesome weekend.

Weekends are supposed to be about rest. That’s what the boss likes to tell us. “Go home and relax – I need you back in here Monday ready to roll.” Well, that would be great, except the boss isn’t married to my wife. She thinks Saturday and Sunday belong to her. And all those jobs I put off during the week because I was too tired from working … well, they’re not going away on their own.

Okay, I say that tongue-in-cheek. Partly because most of the jobs I have to do at home are of my own creation. I decided they need to be done, and I’m the one who picked this weekend to do it. Also, I like eating dinner that’s cooked by somebody else and, if I’ve learned one thing in life, it’s that you don’t pick on the cook before the meal.

Do you ever feel like life is just one job after another, and the work never really gets done? It’s like a boat with a slow leak. You grab a bucket and get all the water bailed out but sit there a while and it’ll fill right back up. I think most women know exactly how that feels. I can build a shed and I’m done with it. But cooking and cleaning are never really done. It just looks that way.

I attended a business conference in March, and something the speaker said really stood out. He said if there’s something you need to do on a repeated basis, get good at it. Because when you get good at it, you don’t have to work nearly as hard. It becomes second nature, and instead of just swinging at those fastballs, you begin to connect. After a while, you hit more than you miss. Nothing to it.

I think it’s that way with anything in life. The more you do something, the better you get. We’re all born with a set of natural talents, and no two people are alike. But just as you were able to learn your job and get good at it, you can learn anything you want and be better at it than you were in the beginning. After a while, you don’t even have to think about it. It just happens.

The question is, what do you want to be good at? Do you want to be good at your job? Do you want to be a good cook? Do you want to be a good parent? Do you want the best-looking lawn in the neighborhood? Do you want to be a good driver? Do you want to be the kind of person others look to for guidance?

You can be good at anything. Maybe not good enough to make a living at it – I’d love to be good at golf, but I’ll never be good enough to join the PGA tour. And that’s not my goal. I just want to be better than I was last time. I want to hit that one perfect drive, or a putt that curves perfectly into the hole. And just once, I’d like to get out of the sand with a single stroke. Is that too much to ask?

None of us can be great at everything. The key is figuring out those things we want to be great at, and those things we’d like to do well. I want to be great at my job. I want to be great at my business. But cleaning the basement is something where I’d be happy to just get the job done. I don’t even care if my approach is all that pretty – I just want the final result to be good.

Find the one thing in life that’s most important to you right now and get good at it. Odds are, there will be more than one, so pick a few. Just don’t try to do it all at once. And whatever you choose, practice it until it becomes second nature – something you could do with your eyes closed. Except driving. Keep your eyes open for that one.

The better we become at anything, the less effort it takes to achieve the desired results. And the more we do the things that intimidate us the most, the more comfortable they become. We may never come to love those tasks, and there may always be an element of reluctance. I don’t enjoy doing laundry, but I’m good at it. And that sure comes in handy on laundry day.

If there’s something you have to do over and over, get good at it. Whether it’s on the job, around the house, in family life or in building a better life, the better you are the easier it becomes. And the easier it becomes, the more likely you are to just dive in and get it done. Then you’ll have that much more time to do something nice for yourself.

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

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved