Malcolm Gladwell says you need 10,000 hours of practice before mastery can be achieved. Allen Iverson may be, pound for pound and inch for inch, a top 5 NBA all-time great.
One of them believed in practice. The other didn’t. Who would you say is more successful?
While Iverson may have earned more during his NBA career than Gladwell will over a lifetime (…maybe); the stress, lack of discipline, and disregard for sustainable living has turned Iverson from a very rich man into a guy who can’t quit basketball because he has absolutely nothing else.
But it’s not just a lack of practice that did Iverson in, it’s that he didn’t believe in the principles that practicing stood for. We don’t only practice to improve our skills, we practice to know how to maintain our energy, when to break from established rules, and to make flying in formation over or under a bridge look easy.
Want to be good at something? Do it every day, if even for 20 minutes. Ask any accomplished runner, writer, coder, artist or businessperson how many days they take completely off from even thinking about their profession and I’m betting few will admit to any. While this doesn’t mean every day must be spent working — in fact, too much focus is a bad thing, too — but the highest achievers manage to connect everything they do to what they do.
Two+ screens, WiFi everywhere and easily thumbing through multiple browser tabs gives most of us a sense of accomplishment that’s horribly false. Could you imagine a distance runner alternating between sprints, weight lifting, easy running and track drills every few minutes? He’d be lucky to stay upright for 10 minutes doing that, and our multitasking digital and analog lives aren’t much better. Finish what you’re doing, then move on.
Successful business models always preach about the need for feedback; check out Agile methodology examples of feedback loops. In order to make sure you’re even practicing the right stuff, regular feedback is a necessity. Author Peter Bregman discusses this in his latest book, claiming that 18 minutes a day is all you need to stay the course.
Iverson may have given basketball fans plenty of highlights, but if we’re talking a lifetime, I’m going to go with Gladwell’s 10,000 hour theory. Happy practicing!