Everybody wants to become an expert in his or her field, but few want to endure the pain, the work, and the process that’s required for such an outcome.
But it’s in the process where almost all the work actually happens. It’s where the majority of your time will be spent if you intend to master anything.
Moments in the spotlight, accolades, and fame are fleeting. You might be big news for a week or month, and then everybody will be back to their lives. Public attention and admiration are a fickle currency, and to depend on them for our wellbeing and happiness, as Ryan Holiday once said to me, is “a recipe for profound disappointment.”
If your goal is mastery, whether you’re an author, musician, athlete, or speaker, you will practice far more than you perform.
The idea that practice matters so much was instilled into me at a very young age by my band director. There were two auditions for the Texas All-State Band: all region and all area. To prepare for those auditions, he said, you had to put in hundreds of hours of practice. The auditions, the concerts, and moments on stage were small fractions of a much larger process.
The only way I could succeed at this was to fall in love with practicing. It’s a lesson that was drilled into me over and over in the nine years I played the tuba.
A band might play 50 shows as part of a tour, but it might rehearse more than 500 times to prepare for those shows. Olympians practice for something that occurs once every four years, and in some cases, the competition doesn’t last more than a few minutes. And in any major league sport, the time spent on practice far exceeds the amount of time spent playing the actual game.
To prepare for writing one book, it took me writing 1,000 words a day and more than a million words over the course of five years. As I’ve said before on my blog, prolific writing is a practice. Like an athlete who trains to stay in shape for playing his sport, a routine of writing allows me to stay in shape for writing books.
One of my friends asked me what I was planning to do the morning of my book launch. I said, “I’m going to do what I do every day. I’m going to wake up and write 1,000 words. It’s business as usual.”
The decision to focus on the process instead of the prize is one of our greatest competitive advantages. We control the time, effort, and energy we will dedicate to our practice, and we control whether we outwork the people around us.
You will practice far more than you perform. Therefore, you should take it just as seriously as you take your performance.
This article was originally published on Medium. It has been republished here with permission.