“Practice? We’re talking about practice, man.” If you are a sports fan, you probably know that the quote was from former star NBA basketball player, Allen Iverson. Iverson was questioned about his practice habits by a reporter during the 2001 season, in which he was named Most Valuable Player. Iverson was questioned about his work habits during his team’s practices.
He added, “We’re talking about practice. We ain’t talking about the game. We’re talking about practice, man. When you come to the arena, and you see me play, you see me play don’t you? You’ve seen me give everything I’ve got, right? But we’re talking about practice right now.”
But Allen Iverson knew that practice was important, even if he was not a fan of it. He later said, “When you are not practicing, someone else is getting better.” And practice is important, and not just in sports.
It has been said that it takes ten years or 10,000 hours of practice, training, and work in a certain area in order to become proficient in that field. That area could be your job, sports, the arts, a hobby, or other activities, like personal and spiritual growth. It’s going to take time and effort to become proficient, and, let’s face it, most of us don’t want to spend the time, or make the effort that it takes.
For example, probably the best rock and roll band of all time, the Beatles. The band had talent, and was at the right place at the right time in order to be in a position to succeed. But they were not the “overnight sensation” in 1964 that many thought. In his excellent book, “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell profiles the Beatles, among others, that succeeded because of determination and practice. Lots of practice.
Paul McCartney and John Lennon had been playing music together since 1957. In 1960, they were invited to Hamburg, Germany, to play in some clubs in the seedy part of that city. They became so popular that they often ended up playing eight hours a day, seven days a week! The band made five trips to Hamburg between 1960 and 1962, for over 270 days, most always playing in clubs for over five hours a night. Overall, it is estimated that the Beatles performed over 1200 times by the time they landed in New York City on February 7, 1964. That’s a lot of practice and hard work before becoming an “overnight sensation.”
In his book, Gladwell also profiles computer giants, Bill Joy of Sun Microsystems and Bill Gates of Microsoft. In both cases while in high school, these technology pioneers spent hours and hours in computer labs learning systems and code. In “Outliers,” Gladwell quotes Gates concerning his early high school years. Gates states, “It was my obsession. I skipped athletics. I went up there at night. We were programming on weekends. It would be a rare week that we wouldn’t get twenty or thirty hours in.” That’s while he was in high school!
Were John, Paul, George and Ringo more musically talented that you and I? Are Bill Joy and Bill Gates that much smarter than you or I? Maybe, maybe not. Author Angela Duckworth, in her book, “Grit,” states a simple formula for success. It is, talent x effort = skill. Then, skill x effort = achievement. Yes, it takes talent. But it takes effort to mold that talent into a skill. Then it takes more effort to use that skill in order to achieve a goal. Notice, that according to her formula, it takes twice as much effort as talent and skill in order to really achieve.
When we see others gain success, we are often tempted to give credit to their natural talents. When we fail to be sucessful, it’s easy for us to say that we just weren’t born with the ability and talent to do so. But maybe we have just as much natural talent as they. We may be just as naturally intelligent as they are. We just didn’t make the effort it took to achieve. Maybe we just didn’t put in the hours, and we just didn’t practice enough. And, yes, Allen Iverson, we are talking about practice.
Reach Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org