We’ve all seen Allen Iverson’s practice rant, but actually we should talk about practice. Practice is important precisely because it’s not a game.
Practice is how new players come up to speed and how established players try new things without the distraction of risk. It’s when the team can work on skills they don’t use every game but still have to keep sharp. Do you think James, Curry, Durant, Griffin and all the other great players of the NBA are good because they just show up to the games? Of course not. They practice all the time, whether on the court, in the gym or by studying the game at home. They know the competition is practicing just as hard and they can’t afford to fall behind.
You can practice in business too, and you should, for all the same reasons. Maybe you already use role-play in training for personnel who deal directly with the public. That’s important. But there are other things you can do that maybe you don’t even think of as practice.
Yes, read up on your industry whenever you can, but don’t stop there. Read books, articles and text on motivation, history, business, even fiction–whatever keeps your mind sharp and helps keep you going.
Keep abreast of the products, services, trends, and competitors in your field. Especially keep up with relevant technological developments—even if you have IT people to handle the details for you, available technology is changing all the time and you need to be able to make informed decisions about the options your business has.
Sure, you may not have to defend a 6’9” Power Forward in your job, but you do need to feel good and have energy. Not to mention, showing up to a client’s office looking completely out of shape doesn’t make a great impression.
- Talk to people
Ask questions of people both in and outside of your business. Share your ideas, too, but spend more time listening than talking. Find a mentor, if at all possible—even if you think you already know the ropes, you still have more to learn. If you can’t get someone to agree to mentor you, you can still find a teacher. Even if they don’t know they’re your teacher, even if they’re someone you’ve never actually met, you can still learn a lot if you pay attention.
- Talk to yourself
You need to practice speaking. For example, practice your elevator speech or sales pitch if you use those. You don’t have to memorize speeches as you don’t want to sound like a robot, just be prepared to speak well. It’s why public speaking classes exist in all levels of education. You can do this at home or in your office. Use a recorder (like the record function on a smart-phone) to see how you’re doing.
- Try stuff
Pitch your ideas to friends, colleagues, people who have no idea who you are, anybody so long as failure isn’t going to matter much. That way you can learn what works and what doesn’t and then apply what you learn when it counts. Trying and failing and trying again is how you grow.
Practice is about what you do when no one is looking, how you keep yourself sharp when no one is keeping score. But even when it counts, you can still practice. Players learn as they play, even in the most crucial moments. So don’t be overly afraid to lose; taking risks is how you win, and if you happen to lose, learn from it and move on.
There. As Iverson said, we’re talking about practice, not a game. Practice! And if you want to grow, you should go practice right now…