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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Want High Performance? Do What Jacob Does

I was recently visiting Kansas City and watching my 5 year old grandson, Jacob, play baseball (with 7 year olds) when a line drive was hit up the middle and Jacob leaped to his left, became parallel with the ground and made an amazing catch.  The entire parent crowd on both sides let out an audible 'wow'.

After the catch, many parents came by Jacob's father and expressed their amazement at the catch.  'Such talent', 'I can't believe he caught  that', etc.

But what I knew was that Jacob had made that catch hundreds of times before.  The year before (when he was four), at Jacob's insistence, I had spent an hour throwing balls that required him to dive in order to catch them.  I knew that for years Jacob has been making the throws, the catches and the plays that the other parents and coaches were dazzled by.   And that it was less about talent, though he has that in abundance, and more about practice.  Even at 5, there is no baseball game, no soccer game, no basketball game that will present Jacob with a situation where its his first rodeo.

He has pitched 100's of baseball games (not pitches, games).  He has scored a thousand goals.  It is what he does.  He has separated himself from his peers based on his practice.  Oh, by the way, did I mention that he is always the smallest player on the field?  Makes no difference.

There is no substitute for experience.  Not talent, not intuitive insight, not knowledge from a book.

And there is no substitute for practice.  Your 'n' count for the number of times you've tested it, done it, researched it is almost everything.

It comes down to what you have done . . .over and over again.  Ask Larry Bird and yes, Micheal Jordan.  Both legendary men of practice.

What's the great old quote?  'Wisdom comes from experience and experience comes from bad decisions.'  You betcha.

Are you talking?  Talk from experience.  Note your practice and decide if you should open you mouth.

Are you defining yourself professionally?  Please do it from what you've done.  Then seek to get as much practice at the things which give you energy and joy.

Malcolm Gladwell famously refers to an old study we had been referring to for years.  As I remember it, its purpose was to find the predictors of professional success for Julliard violin students.  After identifying and testing a myriad of variables, it was found that practice was the clearest and most dependable predictor.  Those students who practiced some 6,000 hours became members of an orchestra; those who practice 8,000 hours might become the concert master (head the violin section); those who practiced 10,000 hours could have a solo career.

So the math for high performance is:  do what Jacob does.  You find the thing that gives you energy and joy and then you do it as many times as your resources and opportunities will allow you to do it. 

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