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Deliberate Practice

Thomas Jefferson’s 24 Hours

Thomas Jefferson, principal author of the Declaration of Independence, once said, “Determine never to be idle. It is wonderful how much may be done if we are always doing.”

Such words are not surprising considering that Jefferson himself was always doing: He gained distinction as a horticulturist, statesman, architect, archaeologist, paleontologist, inventor, and founder of the University of Virginia.

How can you gain distinction at something?

First, understand that you and Jefferson have one thing in common: 24 hours in a day. H. Jackson Brown, author of “Life’s Little Instruction Book,” said, “”Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”

Second, you need to approach this precious time with a roadmap. Before each practice, you must know where you are, where you want to be, and how to get there. Let’s take a closer look at the second item: Where you want to be.

Before each practice session, ask yourself, “What absolutely MUST be accomplished before we leave?

As an example, suppose you’re a baseball coach who is going to teach bunting today. Some coaches go to the field, explain the skill, give some demonstration, let each player try it a few times, and then call it a day.

The good coach wants more. He, too, will explain the skill and give a demonstration. But he also has some yardsticks to measure whether the time has been well-spent.

Do the players know the verbal and visual keys necessary to grasp the skill? Have they had repetitions AND feedback on their performance?

To put it another way, if you are going to work on bunting today, then by the end of the practice the players better know the basics of bunting. And if they don’t it’s not THEIR FAULT. It is the fault of the instructor.

I do not like the phrase, “We’ll GO OVER bunting.” Even those words convey a sense of casualness. I prefer the phrase, “We’ll REVIEW bunting.” The word review carries a meaning of study.

If you’re going to invest any amount of time in a skill, then make sure by the end of the day you have made noticeable progress.


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