There’s a leap from having raw talent to doing something about it. That’s where repetition (aka practice) comes in. Raw talent will lead to incredible peak moments, but the practiced expert is going to win out in the long run. Natural brilliance is no match for strong skills developed deep and wide. It’s why the wily veterans are able to overcome the cocky upstarts so often.
When we look at practice in terms of training vs working out, we look at our experience of the activity in the moment and how it connects to what matters to us. Another way of thinking about it is repetition. Through a lens of repetition, we can see all the strikingly different ways we can be in the moment.
Repetition is a core component of practice. If we are doing something about our raw talent by practicing, we might assume there’s a simple relationship. Put in the reps. Get better. Turns out there’s more than one way reps help you get better. Some give you moderate payoffs. Others transform you and expand what was thought to be possible.
I see a four level model of the payoffs from repetition. I call it DEEP Mastery. In this series, we will explore how each level transforms repetition into different flavors of mastery. Level 1 is Discipline.
LEVEL 1 – REPETITION CREATES DISCIPLINE
Level 1 is counterintuitive, a bit of a paradox. We need discipline to do our repetitions. We can’t even start shaping our raw talent without it. It makes us show up and be focused toward completing the mission.
That’s not the discipline of Level 1. We need to flip it around to see discipline really driving us toward mastery.
Mastery emerges when we use repetition to build discipline.
When we repeat, we get bored. In that moment of boredom, one of our choices is to bail. I do that often with running. Only a few minutes into a run, I can’t wait for it to be over. That’s why I am not moving toward being a masterful runner.
Another choice is to keep practicing. If we make this choice, we expand our commitment to the goal. We build our capacity for discipline. We skew our reaction to boredom from quitting toward continuing, we can apply that discipline throughout our life.
“There are no traffic jams along the extra mile. – Roger Staubach (or Paula Abdul, depending on who you believe)
Your breaking point is where you set yourself apart. At the moment you’re bored or exhausted or out of ideas, being willing to go one more step gives you the edge.
I was confident at this year’s world championships. One important reason was that my team had put in reps. We had often chose to go more rounds of practice than we wanted, sometimes in laughably poor conditions. We knew what our performances felt like when we were physically and mentally exhausted. Great training for a mentally demanding world championship held in the thin, mountain air of Medellin, Colombia! It paid off. My team won, and I was rewarded with my 16th world championship title.
You know what repetitions look like when you’re fresh. Looking at it from the point of exhaustion is a different level of discipline.
Next time you have a choice to continue or bail, make a conscious choice. Another repetition may just create the discipline that takes you to your next victory.