A Brief Guide to Practice, Part 1

This is the first of a three-part series on practice. Part 2 and Part 3 coming in the next weeks.

We have more access to knowledge than at almost any other point in human history and yet we rarely put this knowledge to good use. We buy countless books on Amazon, and then don’t read them. We read more about politics than we do about making ourselves better. And we spend more time scrolling through Facebook “Liking” stuff than actually practicing connecting. Every day we acquire more information and yet very little of that knowledge actually changes who we are.

The reality is that while knowledge can make us interesting, practice is what makes us extraordinary. And the problem is that we never practice.

Not Me, Toku! I Totally Practice

At this point you’re probably thinking, “But Toku, I totally practice. I mean,what do I do all day? I make choices in my business. I create new systems for my team, I come up with creative ideas for our campaigns, and I manage the relationships with our key clients.”

Except this isn’t really practicing—it’s doing.

I recently got to speak with the head of Red Bull’s Human Potential coaching team and he said to me point blank, “CEOs never practice.”

World-class snowboarders work with coaches to identify flaws in their form and with personal trainers to strengthen weak muscles. World-class quarterbacks study hours of game film of their opponents and run drills with their teams before the game.

And if you’re like 99% of the rest of us you don’t do these things. You work, sure—and yes, sometimes you get better through trial and error. But this isn’t practice, at least not the kind that yields extraordinary results.

Why You Don’t Practice

Here’s a few of the reasons we don’t practice:

We’re Lazy Practice demands our full attention and sweat. We’re great at stressing about our last deal, our hiring choices, and our next set of highly ambitious goals, because these challenges are familiar. Engaging in practice asks us to move beyond the challenges we know and find new uncomfortable ways of pushing ourselves. And since we’d rather solve the same problem over and over again we stick to our lazy busyness instead of stepping into the area of truly extraordinary change.

We’re Vain Practice requires humility. It requires that we find the places we’re falling short and work to make them better. We often pretend we want to do this and talk about it, but our actions reveal that we’d much rather stick to what we know than humble ourselves by stepping to our edge.

That’s why we ramble on at meetings, add value to situations where it’s not needed, and create problems for ourselves to solve.

We Don’t Like Pain Practice is painful, not just because it requires focus and commitment, but because practice invites us into a space of vulnerability. Once you’ve achieved success it’s too easy to stay in the safe armor of your brilliance and stature. It takes true courage to step outside and see how you can push yourself to be better.

Why You Should Practice

No One Else Is It doesn’t matter what field you’re in—from music management to digital marketing—most people in your field don’t practice. Your competitors are working all the time, hoping to get better by just doing more stuff. And sometimes they get lucky and they improve.

But what if you could create your own luck?

I work in the highly competitive field of coaching and yet almost no coach I know practices in a deliberate way. They don’t get feedback from their colleagues, they don’t analyze their own sessions, and they don’t work to identify or eliminate their weaknesses.

As a coach I’ve committed to making every session I do a practice session. I’ve been developing tools of practice where I can give myself feedback and get feedback from other coaches. And I’ve begun studying the styles and techniques of the world’s best coaches and trying to figure out what makes them so great.

I’m doing this first because I want to give my clients the best coaching possible, but I’m also doing it so I can beat out my competition. If 99% of coaches do any regular practice how much better can I become in a year if I practice for an hour a day? What about in 5 years?

If no one in your field practices, then what will happen if you do? How much better can you be than those around you? How much can you grow and how much more powerfully can you serve?

You’ll Enjoy Your Life More One thing I learned while living at the monastery is that you can enjoy whatever you’re doing if you do it wholeheartedly. I experienced more joy washing dishes and weeding gardens during my time in those simple halls all because I was fully engaged.

Your life is no different. Taking on a practice mindset invites you back into what made you so inspired to begin with. When you were nothing, when you were determined, when you were on the hunt for success. Better yet, it gets you ahead of the curve, so you can enjoy the total engagement without the external pressure you feel when you have to improve by force instead of by choice.

You Can Do Anything No one who you admire in your field got there without practice. I used to think my friend and writing mentor Leo Babauta was a naturally talented writer, until I found out that he was a newspaper reporter and speech writer for a decade before he started his blog. I used to think my coaching mentor, Rich Litvin, had a natural talent for coaching, until I realized he was a teacher for almost a decade. And as a teacher he often coached the students in his class.

Countless studies have shown that talent is a myth. I know it feels counter-intuitive—it seems like we see people all the time who have a natural ability in some area or another. But if you look more closely you’ll find that ability usually has to do with practice.

Talent can give us a head start in the beginning, but practice wins out in the end. So if there’s an area you want to improve in, you can get better, in fact drastically so IF you’re willing to work hard, be vulnerable, and let go of your ego.

Next Week: How to Practice

This week we talked about the “why” of practice – next week’s post digs into the “how”. I’m excited to share it with you!