Focus Without Practice Leads To Failure

I was reading a blog post by  J Michael Dolan (post listed below) where he is admiring the Olympic athletes and their intense focus on that one task to the point it drives out everything else. And he’s right, it is a beautiful thing to watch. And he’s right, that same focus would serve us well in our companies. And I immediately relate that to my own business as a motivational speaker. Focus is very important, and if you spread it out into too many areas, you won’t really focus on anything. That’s why I am laser focused on my craft – the art of speaking. That is what I am selling. It is my art. It is my product. It is what people are buying from me. When the economy tanked and affected our industry, and I watched speakers begin to drown, I focused on one thing – getting better. And I still focus on getting better. Every day.

When we watch the Olympic diver standing there on that board, shutting out the rest of the world, we are watching them focus – thinking to ourselves that we want that kind of focus. But something to remember is that this is the moment for that athlete when he has left his head. This is the moment when all his body parts work on auto pilot in the same way they have been for thousands of hours. Yes, you are watching talent. Yes, he is working in that moment. But the thinking is over.

My father, who once played football, said that when you walk out onto the field for a game, the time for thinking is over. The time for thinking was yesterday at practice. And the day before. And the day before. The thousands of moments you spent thinking and practicing. Over and over and over and over. To get better. And better. And better. And to push yourself further and further. So that on game day – you just fly. In fact, if you think too much it will affect your game. On game day the time for thinking is over, and the time for putting your head into that place where the rest of the world disappears and you soar.

I know that feeling. And I strive for that feeling. And I will always remember that the feeling won’t come without the thousands of hours spent practicing for that one moment. And when I look around at the world, I see a lot of people skipping the practice and shooting straight for the moment. Show me a master musician, athlete, sculptor, writer, and I will show you the hours of sweat and tears they put into their craft. Show me a CEO, an award-winning brand, a company that crushes the competition, and I will show you the hours of sweat and tears they put into their craft. Show me someone who has lost a hundred pounds, and I will show you a thousand moments of determination.

Technology may have advanced to the point where we can do things faster, get answers quicker, reach more people than ever before. But nothing will give you a shortcut over practice. You want the competitive edge over your competition. Practice. You want to be THE BEST in your business? Practice. You want to hit it out of the park every time you hit that stage? Practice. Performing over and over is not practice. And shame on you if you are using that job as your practice time. Practice is running drills. It’s being the one who is still practicing your jump shot in a dark gym when everybody else has gone home. Sure, maybe you have talent and don’t have to work as hard. That’s great. But eventually they will pass you. And you will regret the fact that you coasted. And I’m not sure you will ever be able to catch up.

Focus without practice leads to failure – or even worse, being mediocre.

Michael’s Blog Post:




Motivational Speaker Kelly Swanson - called one of North Carolina's funniest women by Our State Magazine. Kelly lifts the spirits of audiences from coast-to-coast using humor, storytelling, and lives of the characters from Prides Hollow - Kelly's make believe small town. This unique approach to motivational speaking allows Kelly to break through communications barriers and connect directly to the audience's imagination.
Her powerful stories and wacky wit will make you laugh, remind you that you matter, show you how to see beyond your obstacles, and teach you how to stand up and stick out in a crowded market.
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  1. And if you doubt Kelly, read Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell.  Or read the Inner Game of Golf by Timothy Gallwey.  Or ANY of the Inner Games books by Gallwey.  Good stuff, Kelly!

  2. Your dad’s words obviously served you well, Kelly!  You are an inspiration to me to put in the hours and hours of practice it will take to make me the speaker I know I can be.  

  3. Focus is key and you reminded me of something that I have to work at daily. So many wonderful ways to go, but only when I choose one, practice, practice, practice will I grow to the next level. Wonderful blog, Kelly.

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