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It is a well-known fact that no other field has as little hands-on practice as in the business environment. Before you start, on the side page, look at your calendar and write down how long you actually practiced a new skill or learned something to be more effective. If it wasn’t scheduled, it probably didn’t happen. Random practice produces random results.
It happens every day in all business fields. We are too caught up with other more “important” business activities. A clear example is sports figures, as these high-profile athletes are often difficult to train. But what makes a good athlete great? Is it coaching or talent?
When you are not practicing, remember that someone somewhere is practicing, and when you meet them, they will win. —Ed Macauley
The average professional athlete spends over 90% of their time practicing and maybe 10% playing. It would be incredible if the average entrepreneur spent even 5% of their time actively practicing. The only way to improve is to PRACTICE. period Without continuous and active practice, failure is your reward. Why would you expect anything different?
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Divergent Paths: Ron and Mike
In the late 90s and early 00s, Ron and Mike were incredibly gifted athletes who grew up together competing on the same tarmac in Queensbridge, New York. Kevin Jackson was an amateur trainer who started working with them. Mike quickly became a hard-nosed point guard. He bullied Ron during the games, even though he was a smaller player. Coach Jackson once said, “See how tough Ron is now? That’s because of Mike. Mike was the fuel for the fire.”
Both became fierce competitors, although Mike was the better shooter. Once, he beat Ron 32 to nothing, in a one-on-one match. From their early days, coaches and friends knew they both had the talent to become college standouts and, with the right training and practice, even reach professional player status. ‘NBA, but one was adaptable and one was not.
Mike started dating the wrong guys. Guys who would lead him to drugs and guns. He never played organized high school ball, because he dropped out. He tried to clean up for a short time and enrolled for a single season of junior college at Oklahoma, but was unable to make the transition to a team player. A point guard who never passes quickly becomes a major point of contention for the team. Mike quickly returned home to the projects, where street habits took over again.
Ron took a different path. He followed the advice of good friends and coaches. Although he was a very good offensive player, he developed his true talent on the defensive side of the court. He parlayed that work ethic into a successful team ethic in high school and later starred at St. Johns. He was drafted 16th overall by the Chicago Bulls in 1999.
In 2004, while playing for the Indiana Pacers, Ron Artest was voted Defensive Player of the Year. 2010 saw him win an NBA title as a starter for the Los Angeles Lakers. In the offseason, while Ron was in Indiana, he brought Mike in to help him get back in shape and possibly play overseas. Mike wanted the fast money, and while he had the talent, the drive was gone. He returned to New York. Instead of an NBA career, on March 14, 2010, Michael Chatfield was shot and killed in a drug deal gone bad.
Ron has long talked about the late Chatfield, who he grew up defending on the streets of Queens, as the toughest player he’s ever had to guard even when he was playing in the NBA. “The Queensbridge dancer/con/idol in the hood,” Ron said of Chatfield. “He was my No. 1.”
Ron and Mike’s story is not unique. There are many more examples that follow the same lines and endings. Here are some thoughts on how this applies in business environments:
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1. Selfishness is a bad counselor
Whether you are a manager or a front-line representative, if you are selfish, you will soon cause disputes everywhere, both internally and externally. Why help someone who takes and takes and never gives back? Communication quickly becomes shorter and less complete. Selfishness is a recipe for isolation and then failure.
2. The risk-benefit ratio
There is always a risk-benefit ratio. Looking for a quick payback without a job or long-term perspective will kill you. Coaching is only good if the player takes personal responsibility to turn it into positive action. Work like you have to make a difference today. Take risks as if you were responsible for others around you, living in your tomorrow.
3. Natural preparation needs peer practice
One of the best roles of solid preparation and practice is natural execution when others falter. Competitors will make mistakes in every sale. They will also slide into your delivery model. The real question is, are you ready to take advantage of it when the time comes?
Your opportunity is short-lived. You’ll miss opportunities to take advantage of competitors’ mistakes, because they can recover faster than you. They usually know when mistakes are made, so they can go into recovery mode at that point. As you begin to capitalize (get points) on a competitor over and over again, your odds of winning continue to increase. You may not win them all, but a 90% win rate like Tennis great Chrissie Evert, would be a legend.
The only way to seize opportunities when your competitors falter is through pre-event preparation. This means practicing with your peers to make sure your content and delivery are compelling. There is nothing worse than practicing and making a habit of mediocre or ineffective responses.
Lose the anxiety of fearing the unknown. Practice until you can perform the ideal responses naturally. Talent is a virtue, but by itself, it is worth little. Talent needs coaching, the right mindset, and continuous peer practice to achieve natural excellence every day.
Related: 4 Reasons Every Entrepreneur Should Have a Business Coach