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Beating the Odds

Fighting Frustration

Yesterday I spent a pleasant hour helping two athletes work on their free throws.

We used the model for deliberate practice:

Conscious effort to improve.
Task is just outside your area of competence.
Many repetitions, with feedback.

I encouraged them to use their own feedback, namely, look where the ball went and make adjustments. And just to make it more real for me, I went through the same process.

It was a revelation. No matter how much you coach, you forget the feelings that creep into this process of deliberate practice. There is frustration and discouragement when things don’t progress as quickly as you would like.

This is where the hard work comes in. You must fight those feelings of frustration and discouragement, and instead try to make the next repetition as fresh and new as possible. The physical effort of shooting hundreds of free throws is nothing compared to the arduous task of staying positive.

Thomas Edison said, “Nearly every man who develops an idea works it up to the point where it looks impossible, and then he gets discouraged. That’s not the place to become discouraged.”

Edison has a profound insight here. You could argue that great achievers simply do a better job of fighting off frustration and discouragement than other people do.

There is a story in James Michener’s “Alaska” in which a gold prospector dug and dug and then, discouraged, stopped digging and sold his claim. You can guess what happened next. The new owner dug just a little deeper, and struck gold.

“Most people give up just when they’re about to achieve success,” said Ross Perot.

Anyone who can avoid doing that will strike gold.


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