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Deliberate Practice

True Hard Work

W.C. Fields once starred in a short comedy called “The Dentist.” At one point, with his patient on the ground, and with his extractor firmly locked onto her tooth, Fields pauses to fan himself.

In that one comic gesture, Fields forgets who’s really doing the hard work.

It’s the same way in the gym. People can easily fool themselves about how hard they are working. They think that just because they’re sweating, they are actually accomplishing something. It’ s not necessarily so.

There are three ways to truly work hard.

First, you can do more than is expected. If the coach tells you to do 10 pushups, you do 20.

Second, you can do the task better than expected. Those 20 pushups don’t mean anything unless they’re done correctly. It’s just the opposite. If they’re done in a sloppy way, then a lot of time and energy has just gone into doing something wrong.

Third, you can do the right things. Too often, coaches select the wrong activities, ones that won’t bring improvement. In that case, it doesn’t matter how well you do the drill; it’s still the wrong drill. For instance, baseball and softball coaches invest lots of time in hitting balls off a tee. Will swinging a stationary object help athletes learn to track a ball that’s in motion?

It’s great if you’re doing things right. But are you doing the right things?

Unless you’re doing the right thing in the right way, and doing this all the time, then you’re just like W.C. Fields in “The Dentist.” You just think you’re working hard.


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