“Practice makes perfect” is not true.  You have to add one word: “Perfect practice makes perfect.”

I wish that I had coined that phrase, but I didn’t.  Legendary pro football coach Vince Lombardi did.  I also like the quote attributed to the virtuoso violinist Jascha Heifetz: “If I don’t practice one day, I know it. Two days, the critics know it. Three days, the public knows it.”

There are no walk-ons at the Super Bowl or Carnegie Hall, or, for that matter, when it comes to the survival of your company.  Athletics and performing arts aren’t perfect metaphors for business, but they’re not bad. In all three, talent will only take you so far. From that point on, it’s a question of determination and learned skill.

I’ve had numerous coaches help me develop whatever natural talent I have, from public speaking to running marathons to dancing and many others.  I’m not embarrassed to ask  for coaching when it comes to business decisions, either. After learning from the experts and practicing until it became second nature, I felt like I was “in the zone” more often than not. The “zone” is that magical place where performance seems inspired and effortless.

You, your business and your employees can also get in the zone–that place where you are making the right calls as leaders, sales people, quality control, marketing, the works.   Concentrate on doing the things that give you the best chance.  

  • Commit to excellence.  You must want to be the best.  Good enough doesn’t hack it.   People who want to get into the zone crave coaching and embrace practice.  They don’t whine about tough competition. They look for it.
  • Work hard.  You must be willing to put in the effort and make the necessary sacrifices.  The greatest athletes are the hardest workers.
  • Build true confidence.  True confidence is not the same as swagger. It’s a combination of mental and physical skills learned from practicing the right concepts.  Confidence enables you to perform to the best of your abilities because you know what works and what doesn’t.
  • Concentration.  If you have total concentration, you will have total control of yourself.  Great athletes maintain their poise and concentration whether they are on the verge of victory or when they’re staring defeat in the face. The same is true in business. It’s always just about the best execution, no matter what.
  •  Be physically at your peak.  Fatigue makes fools of us all.  It robs you of your skills and your judgment, and it blinds you to creative solutions.  It’s the best-conditioned athlete, not the most talented, who generally wins when the going gets tough.
  • Thrive on pressure.  To be a champion, you have to learn to handle stress and pressure.  But if you’ve prepared mentally and physically, you don’t have to worry.

Whatever it is you do, you have keep practicing the skills and concepts that got you where you are.  The annals of business are filled with stories of companies that thought they had it made and could milk their enterprises without having to bother about improving their products or services.  It’s amazing how fast they found their markets disappearing.

Mackay’s Moral:  All the world’s a stage, and most of us need more rehearsals.