Key Point: a winning professional football team puts in 40 hours of practice for a 2 hour game, including going over every possible scenario. Renowned symphony orchestras follow a similar pattern. Great speakers do the same. If you want to be great at anything you need to practice with purpose over and over until you can be fully and consciously competent.
A CEO friend runs a company where a year’s business relationship and contract hinges on about 24 hours of intense activity. He supports inventory services for tier one companies. The “moment of truth,” including all his company brand promises, is focused on this intense period of time. The company delivers or not, all in a real time basis. The only way to stay sane and ensure success is to purposefully practice all the way up to “game time.” This includes covering every situation where something could go wrong and having a contingency. Everything is a process (to get desired results) and the process is everything. People who complain about process like to rely on blind chance (good luck). But even the greatest poker players follow a reliable, practiced process.
- Determine what competencies you want to purposefully practice.
- Define your “moment of truth” (i.e. where your competencies are exposed and tested)?
- Practice, practice, practice doing it right. Develop contingencies.
- Then, practice more.
Purposeful Practice in The Triangle,
Key Point: Pablo Casals, the renowned cellist, practiced his cello three hours every day. One day when the revered Casals was near the end of his life (at age 93), and well after he had achieved world wide acclaim, a neighbor asked him why he still practiced so much. Casals responded, “I believe I’m beginning to notice some improvement.”
Julius Barnes in his beautifully written 2011 Man Booker Prize-winning book, The Sense of an Ending, captures the feelings of the retired protagonist who laments, “Later in life, you think you expect a bit of a rest don’t you? You think you deserve it. Anyway, I did. But then you begin to understand the reward of merit is not life’s business.”
- Resolve to purposefully practice the elements of the Character Triangle every day: consciously practice being a better listener, practice using STP, do one kind act with intention every day, and take on one thing you’re avoiding each week (build your own practice plan).
- Recognize that “sharpening the saw” never ends. It also means that to go forward one has to sometimes make a mistake. It feels like going backward but often is the foundation for new growth. Persevere; accept and go forward, one step every day.
- Make practice part of your life, not a part in your life.
Starting to notice improvement in The Triangle,
When you purposefully practice, it means you are focused on your goal. Accomplished artists, athletes and professionals intensely work on achieving their goals, to be better at their crafts. We need to think of behaving the same way at work and in other parts of our lives. Some people believe that when you practice purposefully you also naturally attract, or become attracted to, people and resources that accelerate your development. The metaphorical music finds you as much as you make music.
Practice does not make perfect but it makes better.
So what if we applied this practice idea to the Character Triangle? Here are simple examples of what we could do:
Self-Accountability: every day practice taking action on one thing you would have avoided previously. Make that phone call; write that note. Every day do one thing and keep track of what you’ve done.
Respect: every day ask one person for their input that you normally wouldn’t have. Then really listen to what they have to say. Note it.
Abundance: every day look for an opportunity to give freely (kindness comes to mind as an example). Do it proactively. Open a door. Help someone carry something. Look for an opportunity to give, and journal your action.
In all three examples above you are acting with purpose; you’re practicing!
Character Move: for 30 consecutive days journal what you do in each of these three areas, observe how you feel, and how others react to you. Let me know the impact.
Practice, practice, practice in the Triangle,
I read Gruen’s book Water for Elephants a few years ago and enjoyed it. I recently saw the movie. What struck me as I watched it on the big screen was the beginning, which of course started at the end. The central character was at the final stage of his long life; the “circus” was a literal metaphor for life. One day, for some of us much sooner than later, we will be standing at the end looking back at our working lives. Our journey will have its ups and downs of course but what can we do now to prepare for the time when we look back over our journey? Here is what I deeply believe in:
- If we do what we are good at and practice it to get even better; we will have a better chance at happiness at work.
- If we also do what we like to most of the time; then we will take our working lives to an even higher plane.
- If we add the ingredients of doing #1 and #2 while giving superb value to what others need most of the time, including our team mates, clients and customers, then we will likely achieve a great sense of gratification.
When we can intersect these three things, and keep turning the wheel to be amazing, we will be happy to stand at the end thinking about our metaphorical circus with contentment. It won’t be perfect. It won’t be easy. And, of course, I deeply believe the Character Triangle values will give you that character to excel.
Character Move: don’t let the world wash over us while we feel stuck getting a pay check. We can find a way to balance our talent with what we like and provide value. Yes we have obligations but that doesn’t mean we can’t find that recipe. Start to work on a plan now.
Do you really know what your good at and what you like to do? What are you practicing to get better at? How do you connect this activity into giving value? and into being amazing?
Start at the end to get to the beginning! Imagine standing there at the end. You are 70 yrs old. What did you spend time doing over the last 50 years? How do you feel?
Water that elephant in the triangle,