There is a thread amongst the elite performers in every field of life. Whether it's the business, academic or athletic world, the very top performers share common traits.
These commonalities can be tough to spot. It may be easier for us to focus on what's different. How one person seems to be heavily reliant on being organised yet another seems to have a more instinctive approach.
However, underneath there are common threads that these people all share. One such area is the commitment to deliberate practice.
You don't get to the top in any field without paying your dues. Without putting the work in, without making mistakes along the way and learning lessons from those mistakes.
Every single elite performer started from a place very far removed from elite. A commitment to the path of improvement got them to where they are. A commitment to practice supported this improvement path.
Practice, not a sexy word. Not a word that's easy to wrap lots of marketing around. So much easier for the ad men to make empty promises of overnight success, 4-minute abs, 5-minute MBAs etc. etc. We all know the snake oil pitch well by now. We've all heard it and fallen for it often enough.
What Makes the Elite the Elite?
Deliberate practice is where the gold is mined. It's what turns beginner to intermediate and intermediate to advanced.
Roger Federer didn't become the most successful tennis player of all time by neglecting his practice. To this day, he maintains a practice routine that would leave most of us dizzy with exhaustion just reading about it.
Jimi Hendrix wasn't born playing guitar like he did on Voodoo Chile. He practiced relentlessly until he knew where to find every note on the fretboard.
Robert De Niro didn't become Robert De Niro by avoiding practicing his craft. He makes it look so natural because he paid his dues and practiced his art. A total commitment to the work, to the process of playing the character as well as he can.
Total Immersion in the Process
These people all immersed themselves in their practice to the point that learned behaviors became part of who they are. The practice provided a foundation for them to work from and to work on. Hours spent trying to perfect the tiniest of nuances. Totally absorbed in the process of improvement.
We celebrate these and other individuals at the top of their craft for many reasons. They make the hard look easy, they make what we think is impossible possible.
What anyone at the top of their game understands is that there is a power in deliberate practice. That's where champions are made.
Practice involves making sacrifices.
Practice means using the power of positive constraints.
Practice means focusing on the process not necessarily the outcome.
Practice gives us purpose, it gives us structure, it gives us something to fall back on when we lose our way. It gives us routine.
Embrace the power of deliberate practice, be the best you can be in your own field of endeavor.