I caught a bit of ESPN this morning and saw a player from the UCONN women’s team practicing free-throws. My mind quickly leapt to the stories of Larry Bird (hey I’m from New England) practicing 500 free-throws before school each day, then to Michael Jordan’s legendary practice habits. While his physical gifts helped propel him to being perhaps the greatest player of all time, it was his work ethic during practice…his practice ethic that made him better than everyone else.
We’re all familiar with the value of a strong work ethic and we know successful folks who appear to possess a strong work ethic. What if we discover that the people who we most admire for their success and apparent work ethic actually possess a strong practice ethic? The people I know and have worked with spend tons of time at the free-throw line, shooting hundred of baskets working on the fundamentals, doing the stuff that others might find boring. They spend time mastering the simplest aspects of the game enabling them to recognize and make the difficult moves more easily.
What does that look like?
This is one of my favorite questions to ask. I love to ask it when I’m working with other people. It helps me to take my conceptual understanding to a more meaningful place where I can begin to see something in action, actually working.
It leaves me wondering; What does a practice ethic look like in business? If you are going to be at the top of your game in your work life, in running your business, in working for a company, in running a non-profit and trying to change the world: What does practice look like?
I was having a conversation with my friend and business partner, Joe Sorge yesterday. He talks about being able to ‘work on your business instead of in your business’. Having only worked with Joe for a short time now and having had the opportunity to visit his restaurants in Milwaukee, it is clear that Joe works on his business. Joe has a great practice ethic.
For Joe, practice looks like learning, extrapolating and repurposing. It’s looks like reading; industry magazines, blogs by Chris Brogan, Seth Godin, John Jantsch and others. It’s about reading the Harvard Business Review and books by Scott Belsky (Affiliate Link) to glean ideas and repurposing them for his own business. It’s about engaging people from other industries and thought leaders. It “looks like” asking questions and contributing to the conversation.
What good is practice if you don’t play the game?
It’s also about action. It’s about asking ‘So what would that look like if we did that at AJBombers, or Swig, or Water Buffalo?’ Putting all of these ideas into action, testing and experimenting is the important part of ‘Then What?’. Chris Brogan’s Blog Topics is also a great example of years of practice in idea generation and the craft of writing, put into action. At over 425 subscribers, it seems like a pretty good game.
Success clearly isn’t coming from just a strong work ethic, it’s coming from a strong Practice Ethic. So, what does practice look like for you? Are you spending enough time shooting free-throws?