Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Practice makes...

Two complimentary ideas have been swirling around the dark corridors of my brain over the last several months, each initiated by the reading of several thoughtful articles. In the last week they merged into a unified, applicable concept, which I will attempt to express in as direct a way as I can.

The first article was written several years ago by Geoff Colvin in Fortune magazine. It dealt with the idea that deliberate practice and hard work are the real keys to achieving greatness in a chosen pursuit, rather than "natural" talent. Colvin has recently published a book entitled Talent is Overrated (which I haven't read yet) that elaborates on this idea. The essential takeaway for me was the premise that with enough practice and hard work, I could achieve at least some measure of success or "greatness" in virtually anything I wanted to be great in. It is also clear that my practice must be deliberate, meaning that I must find a way to measure improvement in whatever it is I am doing.

Perhaps the most sobering idea Colvin writes about is what is referred to as the "10,000 hour rule." Malcom Gladwell also wrote about this in his recent book Outliers. Simply stated, those that have achieved greatness in their chosen pursuits (Tiger Woods, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, etc.) have all had at least one thing in common: They spent at least 10,000 hours in practice, and continue to deliberately practice even after they have supposedly reached a so-called state of greatness.

Hence my "Get great at" list is of necessity very small:
  • Becoming a disciple of Christ
  • Becoming a better husband
  • Becoming a great dad
  • Becoming a great son and brother
  • Becoming a great writer
  • Becoming a great teacher
  • Becoming a great speaker
  • Becoming a great runner
Although there are many other areas that I am interested in learning more about, this certainly will provide a lifetime and more of effort.

The second and more powerful idea (because it's a gospel principle) is the idea of personal consecration, which actually ties in quite well with the idea above. In fact, I think it is the Lord's way of both magnifying and accelerating the process of becoming truly great. I was first introduced to this phrase by Elder Maxwell in a talk he gave several years ago entitled "Consecrate Thy Performance." Very simply, the idea is to "consecrate" or offer our performance to the Lord in whatever we do. By so doing, we in essence are returning to Him the only thing we truly possess, namely our personal wills.

We at that same moment then open a door to truly unlimited opportunity and growth, because we are no longer doing whatever it is we are doing for ourselves. More recently, I read an article in the Ensign by Elder Stephen B. Oveson entitled "Personal Consecration." He builds on the concept taught by Elder Maxwell and shares several personal and poignant examples of real-life personal consecration.

In summary, personal consecration amplifies and accelerates the benefits of deliberate practice and hard work, leading to a life of high-adventure and ever-expanding capacity. I'll let Elder Maxwell do what he did so well as a conclusion:

"Finally, this should sober us with sweetness: God does not begin by asking us about our ability, but only about our availability, and if we then prove our dependability, he will increase our capability!"

As for me, I have lots of practice to get to...


  1. i am totall with on this concept. almost every thing i have tried to do, i have in the beginning been advised to try some other avenue because as my advisor pointed out. i had little or no tallent in my attepted endevour. i would also point out critical advice needs even less tallent than attenpting any thing.... practice rules i really needed your blog today thanks...

  2. I needed your blog too. Thanks Scott. I have many big dreams and no talent in most of the areas but alas I can see now that anything is possible. Right! By the way I definately think you have mastered the Teaching goal - check that one off. Every blog I've read of yours has taught me so much. Thank-you Scott - I love that you're my brother. HOw lucky!

  3. hey i really like your treefort poem....

  4. This is magnificent. It has been lovely to talk these things over with you, but I also benefit from the way you put these things in writing. Synergy baby! I love the poem.