My son Jack is continuing a family tradition that goes back to his great-grandfather when he shows steers at our county fair. For friends of mine that aren’t familiar with a steer show, its one part West Minster Dog Show, one part body building contest, three parts beauty pageant for cows. It’s a big deal in our family and Jack takes it very seriously.

There are a lot of lessons to be learned showing livestock at a country fair, but the one that stands out more than any other, is the need for practice. Showing livestock is no different from any other competitive venture: champions are built in practice. Here’s how to make the most of it:

Practice Must Be Consistent

It’s not enough for Jack to polish up on skills before a show. He has to be consistent with his practice in order for it to pay off when it matters.

For Jack, this means practicing every day. For some this might be too frequently. The point is, practice must be consistent. Create a schedule and stick to it. Practice alone won’t make a champion, but consistent practice is step in the right direction.

Practice Must Be Deliberate

I hate the phrase “practice makes perfect” because practice does not make perfect. Practice, I’ve learned from a lot of coaches, makes permanent. Perfect practice makes perfect. 

When Jack is practicing with his steer, we do as much as we can to recreate the show ring and the conditions of the show. He’s deliberately working in practice to get all of the details right so that everything comes together during the show.

When I’m working with my speaking clients, this is huge. If the person is going to be using a lectern, we practice with a lectern. We practice in the same clothes, under as many of the same conditions as we can make happen. Practice won’t make perfect, but deliberate practice makes perfection possible.

Practice Must Be Coached

First, I believe that just about all practice is a good thing. I say just about all, because if we’re practicing the right things wrong, our performance will never be successful. But who can self-correct?

I watch Jack with his steer and we have a lot of arguments because he feels like he’s doing one thing and I’m seeing him do another. Without coaching, who can tell if we’re practicing the right things in the right way? This is the true value of coaching; immediate feedback in practice that drives higher performance.

There are few things I enjoy as much as watching Jack show steers. Our entire family has made it our hobby and we enjoy it together. But it doesn’t come natural to him. He has to work really hard t turn a great performance on show day, but he does it. Show day champions are built in practice but it requires consistency, deliberateness and coaching. Combine these crucial elements with a will to win, victory is inevitable.

 

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