'Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the LORD, not for men" Colossians 3:23
It's been famously stated that the only place success comes before work is in the dictionary. There's certainly a lot to be said for talent. However, the question is whether or not talent alone has been overrated?
Hard work is one of the key characteristics that separates champions from other individuals in their respective fields. Indeed, champions have peerless work ethics. That simply means they work harder than everybody else! Just reading the daily practice routines of the likes of Roger Federer and Allyson Felix is enough to tire you out. And the benefits of hard work don't only apply to athletic or team performances. They apply to virtually every field of endeavor. To quote Colin Powell, "There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure."
No player worked harder than legendary basketball great Michael Jordan. MJ was a gifted athlete who had the rare capacity to aspire to constantly upgrade his already remarkable talents and skills. When he first entered the NBA, MJ felt that his jump shot was not up to the high standards of the best players in the league. So, he spent his off seasons doing hundreds of jump shots each day until he mastered it.
MJ devoted tremendous amounts of time, energy, and effort to improving portions of his game that he felt were lacking, so he could more readily play through fatigue, pain, or illness. Former coach Phil Jackson said, "Michael was always trying to turn his weaknesses into strengths." MJ lifted weights to be able to handle bigger opponents in the low post. When he found out that teammate Scottie Pippin could dunk with his left hand, MJ learned to do it, too! And even though he was best known for his incredible offensive prowess, MJ became a perennial member of the NBA All Defensive First Team.
However, Michael Jordan realized, as did many other champions, that you have to not only work harder than everybody else, but also work smarter. So, how do you work smarter? One of the keys is to incorporate S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely) goals into your training routine. Another key is what is known as deliberate practice.
Practice is the act of rehearsing a behavior or activity over and over for the purpose of improving or mastering it. Champions practice and train longer and harder than they perform or play in the actual game. So, the game performance often becomes easier than the many long, grueling hours of practice!
Deliberate practice is a type of practice which, when successfully applied, leads to very high levels of performance. However, for deliberate practice to deliver the best results, the following factors must be present: 1) the activity must be frequently repeated; 2) feedback/coaching for improvement must be continuously provided; 3) the activity must be demanding; 4) the activity must be repeated at more challenging levels with the intention of mastering it.
The vital personal skills that champions learn from deliberate practice include: 1) planning (organizing work in a structured way); 2) concentration/ dedication (achieving a higher attention span); 3) repetition/ revision (developing a strong tendency to practice); and 4) study style/ self-reflection (acquiring the tendency to self-regulate learning.)
In addition, deliberate practice yields the following invaluable benefits: 1) the ability to anticipate better (because you have more experience); 2) the ability to see indicators that others may miss; and 3) greater confidence and creativity!
Champions also know that skill fades with non-use. If you don't use it, you lose it! So, they continue to train and deliberately practice on a regular basis to stay in shape, and keep their skills and abilities honed.
Training and deliberate practice can be a relentless, grueling grind, requiring long hours, strict discipline and frequent sacrifice. Chances are you are not always going to feel like doing it. However, as Proverbs 14:23 says, "All hard work brings profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty." And so we profit from any activity in proportion to the effort we put into it.
Remember, it is through grace (unmerited favor) that God has blessed each of us with our individual talents and gifts, including the remarkable gifts that many champions possess! For these gifts we should, certainly, be very grateful! What we do with our God-given gifts is our privilege. And it is, also, our responsibility. So, always strive to use your gifts wisely! And, definitely, don't forget to always give God the praise!
Finally, we can be encouraged that the hard work that we pour into achieving our goals is not only for our own personal fulfillment and satisfaction, but rather, also, for a larger goal - to the glory of God! "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven." Matthew 5:16
So, how do you practice and train to achieve your best possible performance in your field of endeavor? What do you view as your ultimate goal?
For more on hardwork and champions check out the following links:
A Gold Medal-Worthy Workout - Train Like Olympian Allyson Felix - Self
Usain Bolt Workout Routine and Diet Plan - Squidoo
A Comprehensive Roger Federer Training Routine - Optimum Tennis
LeBron James' Workout Routine - HubPages
Practice Makes Perfect - And Not Just for Jocks and Musicians - Wall Street Journal
Practice (Learning Method) - Wikipedia
Deliberate Practice and the Acquisition of Expert Performance - Ericcson, K.A., R.T. Krampe, et al, Rensselaer
The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acqusition of Expert Performance - Ericcson, K.A., R.T. Krampe, et al, Psychological Review (1993), American Psychological Association
Manny Pacquiao's Training Program - StrengthSpeedAgility
19 Bible Verses About Hard Work - OpenBible.info
Fellowship of Christian Athletes - FCA
Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else, Geoff Colvin
The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How, Daniel Coyle
Until next time,
Be All You Can Be!
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13
"In the Zone!" That's how champions are described when they are focused like a laser during competition or a performance. Indeed, focus is one of the key characteristics that champions share in common.
In this, our fifth post in the Championship Series, we examine the critical role that focus plays in the making of a champion.
Focus can best be defined as concentration. It involves directing attention to a specific point or task. Champions have the uncanny ability to tune out distracting "background noise" and focus exclusively on the task at hand. And that focus is sharpened even more when the task at hand is aligned with his/her overall vison/ purpose/ goals.
The champion's intense focus is so important because of the huge payoff it delivers. Focus leads to enhanced performance and better results, precisely when the stakes are the highest. Indeed, champions don't allow themselves to get sidetracked or distracted, particularly during critical times. They stay laser-focused and keep their eyes on the prize! (Case in point - Michael Jordan's performance peaked, especially, during NBA Playoff and Championship games!)
Champions possess the ability to "zone in" on what is most important at a particular point in time, while filtering out environmental factors that might cause distractions. And if they are temporarily distracted, they have the unique ability to refocus quickly.
This raises the following interesting question: "Can focus be managed or improved? And if so, how?"
Concentrating, paying attention for an extended period of time, can be managed by the average individual. Sports psychologists have long used a number of techniques and protocols that, among other things, help atheletes and others, to improve their focus. These techniques include goal setting, imagery, performance routines, and self-talk.
However, the following are a few basic tips for getting started on managing or improving focus:
1. Select your number one priority task and perform that first.
2. Once you select your task, stick with it until it's completed, even if you have to take periodic breaks in the process.
3. Eliminate as many distractions from your environment as possible (e.g., close unnecessary computer screens or programs if you are working online).
4. Reward yourself after completing a difficult task (e.g., your favorite tea, latte, or chocolate).
5. Practice interval training (e.g., the Pomodora technique) to increase the duration of your concentration.
Remember, researchers say it takes about 21 days to change any habit. So, give yourself time to see results.
People of faith understand the concept and importance of focus better than many. In the Biblical story where Peter was bidden by the LORD to join him on the water, Peter only began to falter and sink when he became distracted and took his focus off Jesus. Moral of this story - Keep your eyes focused on Christ in all your endeavors!
For more on the key trait of focus check out the following links:
How to Stay Focused to Complete Tasks - About.com
How to Get Organized and Concentrate on Your Work - WikiHow
Sport Psychology - Wikipedia
Duration of Pre-Performance Routines of Divers and Performance Outcomes - The Sport Journal
Competitive Greatness Defined
The Pomodoro Technique
51 Bible Verses About Staying Focused - OpenBible.info
How are you staying focused to achieve your goals?
Until next time,
Keep Your Eyes on the Prize!
Hi! I'm Kenneth Lillard, author, ordained minister, and motivational speaker. This blog is an expression of some of my thoughts and opinions. I'm glad you stopped by. Hope you'll share some of your comments while you're here. Be Blessed!