The Lost Art of Practice

When we are kids, we are constantly forced to practice things before we actually get the chance to perform.

Think about it, you spend hours and hours doing homework and practice problems to prepare for a one hour test.

In sports, you spend at least ten hours practicing for one to two hours of actual playing. If you want to be really good, you may practice upwards of twenty to thirty hours each week for that one hour performance.

If you are a musician, the same thing applies. You take lessons and practice your instrument for months building up to a recital.

If you are in the school musicals or plays, you spend months rehearsing for your few performances.

The list goes on and on. For any level of performance, there must be hours and hours of practice for a moment to perform. That is what makes a great performer.

Why do we think it would be any different when we become adults and get a job? Each day we are expected to perform for at least eight hours sometimes even more each day, but when do we practice?

If you look at the most elite teams and groups in the world (think special force military or elite sports teams), they drill relentlessly so that when the moment of truth comes, they know they will be ready to handle it.

In the corporate world, training is often an after thought. I can guarantee, companies aren’t spending 80% of their time training and practicing so that their employees are prepared to perform during the other 20%.

Why did we all of a sudden forget the need to practice? If your job is to sell, a sales call is your performance. How many hours of practice have you put into that one opportunity? If your job is to write, how many hours have you spent practicing different writing styles and studying other great writers for that one piece?

When we feel the pressure and time crunch to perform, the first thing that goes out the door is the training and practice employees need to perform at the highest level. Practice and training is never more important than in those exact moments.

With proper training, employees will have the confidence needed to perform the necessary tasks under pressure. They will be motivated to perform because they have spent so much time practicing they will be ready to get out their and show everyone what they have done.

If you want to separate yourself from your competitors, revamp practice and make sure you are practicing with a purpose. It is widely known that John Wooden, arguably the greatest college basketball coach of all time scripted out all of his practices for the year in advance and stuck to them meticulously. He knew what it would take to build a champion and he practiced it every day.

Build your plan based on the best practices you are aware of, train your employees relentlessly and give them opportunities to continue their training on their own. Then when the time comes when your backs are against the wall, you will be able to count on your team to come through.

Andrew is the CEO of Play Present and a Behavioral Researcher in the Stanford Behavior Design Lab. His focus is on creating programs to help people change behaviors and patterns so they can move from surviving to thriving. Through his firm Play Present, he creates programs and products that help people unlock their true potential and reach levels they didn’t believe possible. You can find more at