Watching talented people perform is a great joy. Not just the classical pianists, and violinists, and rock guitarists; but pretty much anyone who has honed their craft, art or sport to near perfection.
Ever watch an artist take brush to canvas and create a painting – from thin air – so breathtakingly beautiful you can hardly believe it?
How about a talented brick mason? Applying mortar to a brick in a fluid, almost musical rhythm, then placing, and tapping it with the butt of his trowel until it’s perfectly aligned. It’s an art.
We Give A Lot of Credit To Practice.
No one can deny that repetition is critical to mastering an art or skill. Nobody excels without a lot of practice. And, interestingly, it seems that now we’ve even assigned a magic number to practice.
10,000 hours of practice at anything and you’ll be one of the best!
In his best-selling book, Talent Is Overrated, Geoff Colvin explains that practice is far more important than natural talent. Obviously, some people may have abilities and attributes that give them a stronger start, but nothing replaces practice.
Colvin devotes several pages of his book to Jerry Rice, greatest receiver in NFL history. Rice was known for his incredible hustle, drive, and perseverance, and yet he spent very little of his time actually practicing the game of football.
Don’t misunderstand. Football is such a dangerous and grueling sport, most all players spend more time on other conditioning activities than they do playing the game. It’s just too demanding, and the risk of injury is too great.
But Jerry Rice took his conditioning and even his off-season workouts to a level that few other athletes attempt. Even more important, he used the weightlifter’s “isolate and intensify” concept to help him focus on the skills that made him an exceptional receiver.
Rice trained in ways that most players never consider.
For instance, we know that Rice was not the fastest receiver, but his skill at running patterns, evading defenders, jumping, and simply being able to hang on to the ball made him the best.
How did he develop these particular skills? He spent a lot of his time running through the woods. Running on these winding trails, while avoiding fallen limbs, stumps and snakes gave him the ability, strength and control to change direction almost instantly and without signaling his opponent.
His attention to uphill wind sprints gave him an explosive burst of acceleration when he needed it, and in the fourth quarter, when everyone else was worn out, he was able to draw on his near superhuman level of endurance.
While speed certainly matters to a receiver, Jerry Rice is our best evidence that it’s not the only, or even the most important skill needed in a receiver. He actually figured out what matters most and that’s what he spent his time practicing.
Jerry Rice’s take on practice deserves our attention. There’s a message here for us. Take some time today to think about all the things you do; your work, your hobbies, anywhere you use your skills, and see if there might be a more efficient way of practicing. Not just practicing, but practicing what’s most important.
And then get started, 10,000 hours is a long, long time.
After a superb performance, the violinist was told by an adoring fan, “I’d give my life to be able to play like that,” to which he responded, “I did.”