“I mean, listen, we’re talking about practice, not a game, not a game, not a game, we talking about practice. Not a game. Not, not … Not the game that I go out there and die for and play every game like it’s my last. Not the game, but we’re talking about practice, man. I mean, how silly is that? … And we talking about practice. I know I supposed to be there. I know I’m supposed to lead by example… I know that… And I’m not.. I’m not shoving it aside, you know, like it don’t mean anything. I know it’s important, I do. I honestly do…But…We’re talking about practice. We’re talking about practice. We ain’t talking about the game. We’re talking about practice, man. When you come to the arena, and you see me play, you see me play don’t you? You’ve seen me give everything I’ve got, right? But we’re talking about practice right now. We talking about practice.” Allen Iverson

The other day when I was in the middle of a presentation on communication skills, I had a moment when I stopped and realized that I had gotten pretty darn good at this. Now I know I’m not supposed to say that and I don’t mean it in an arrogant, or conceited way, just that I thought that I was a pretty good speaker, but over the course of the last year, I’ve seen a tremendous improvement. For a moment, I sort of wondered why and then it came to me; Practice, Man.

Over the course of the last year, I have spent a significant amount of time on the road presenting seminars on leadership and communication skills. I was doing it because it paid well and because I truly love the work, even if I hate the travel. It never occurred to me when I signed up, that it would turn into my time in Hamburg.

All You Need Is Love…and Practice, Man

In his groundbreaking book on human performance, Malcolm Gladwell recounts that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill. He mentions some all-time greats and their pursuit of greatness but one of the best is the story of the Beatles before they were famous. When we think of the Beatles, we think of genius and talent. We don’t often think of practice, man, but it was practice that made them. About 12,000 hours of it to be exact.

Between 1960 and 1964, the Beatles played live shows in Hamburg, Germany for 8 hours a day. They were constantly on stage. They played their music, the music of their heroes and whatever was popular at the time. It was a period of uninterrupted practiced that led to mastery of their skills. Only after they had mastered those basic skills was their genius revealed.

Iverson Vs. Jordan

I’ve been very blessed in my lifetime to have seen of the greatest athletes of all time in their primes. We’re seeing it with Lebron right now and before him, I saw Allen Iverson and I saw Michael Jordan. It might seem believable, but the most talented basketball player I’ve seen was the former. The best basketball player I’ve ever seen was the latter.

Allen Iverson was marked for greatness from the beginning. He could shoot unlike anyone else. He could handle the ball and he could jump. He was so good as a college player that he became the first Georgetown Hoya to leave college early to enter the draft. He was amazing and he was fun to watch. He was without question, a better ball handler than Jordan. He was quicker and he was a better shooter. He had everything for him to be the greatest of all time. But he’s not.

Don’t misunderstand me, Michael Jordan was a gifted athlete. Some people love to tell the story of him being cut his freshman season but that was about attitude. It was never about talent. What made him the greatest to ever lace up his sneakers was his practice habits. He was notoriously hard on teammates. he expected them to work as hard as he did but that was impossible. Always the first one in and the last one out, he was always on the court improving his game. When his quickness slipped, he developed a jump shot. When the league changed, he lifted weights. He did in practice everything he needed to do to be the greatest. And he is.

The difference between them was practice, man. As seen in the quote at the top of the post, Iverson wasn’t really into it.

The Take-Away

This has been long and I hope you find it worth it. I know a lot of people who are incredibly talented and who are also incredibly frustrated because their talent is yet to take off. If what I’m describing sounds like you, have you been practicing? I used to complain all of the time that I wasn’t getting noticed. When I look back now, I was talented but average. Speaking a couple of times a month, while better than nothing, wasn’t cutting it. I needed stage time to develop my craft. If you want results and want to be great, start looking now Find opportunities to master what you love. Look for the chance to Practice, Man.

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