We must practice before we play. Every great performance requires practice, practice, practice, whether by a pilot, a doctor, a salesperson, an athlete, a musician, or you and I endeavoring to live the lives we have imagined.
I had just entered the lounge in San Diego to await the departure of my flight. After a few minutes, I noticed that Joe Montana, the retired football legend, was seated quietly in the corner. I had always admired Montana as a quarterback throughout the years, and I wanted to thank him for the great performances he gave us while at Notre Dame and with the 49ers and the Chiefs. Primarily, I wanted to get his autograph for my brother Jeff. (Really, it was for Jeff, not for me. Honest!)
I approached him, introduced myself, and paid him the compliment I had intended. Then, after a brief conversation, which led to getting his autograph, I asked, “Joe, as a quarterback, how many hours would you spend weekly preparing for game day?”
“Between, viewing films, reviewing the playbook, and actual on-field practice,” he said, “I’d say forty to fifty hours per week.” Forty to fifty hours a week... for sixty minutes of game time? No wonder he was so good. What a ratio: 40–50 to 1. Here’s my question: What would happen if you increased your ratio of practice to performance? What if it were 10 to 1? 5 to 1? Even 3 to 1? Are you practicing (simulating the actual game) enough? Are you practicing more than you actually play? Most of us don’t do that.
We figure, hey, we’ll show up, do our thing, kibitz a little with our friends, abhor Mondays, live for Fridays, hope for the best, and we’ll be successful. Actually, that’s the language of the poor, not the prosperous. This attitude will not propel you to the top; instead, it will be an anchor on your soul and drag you to the depths.
To live the life you have imagined, you must practice every day, and only when you have mastered your craft will you be ready for the game. One other thing—and I learned this from Denis Waitley—it’s not practice that makes perfect: Only perfect practice makes perfect. A bad golf swing practiced regularly produces a bad golf swing. A perfect golf swing practiced regularly gets you closer to par. Not to engage in perfect practice sets you up to lose to the competition and afflicts you with mediocrity, complacency, adversity, and setbacks. To practice more than you play promises you at least three major benefits:
Constant Forward Progress
Simply put: The best way to go forward is not to retreat. You cannot afford to be stagnant. Constantly flowing water gathers no moss. It has no time to do so.
Constant Sharpening of Skills
To play at a higher level requires better execution than you are currently delivering. You cannot afford to enter the game just “hoping” to win. You must enter the game prepared to win.
Increased Confidence While Playing
The more you win, the greater your opportunity to develop a winning mindset, which sets you up to win again and again and again. Any salesman will tell you the best time to make the next sales call is on the heels of a successful sales call.