We’re regularly told that we should focus on our strengths and let others deal with those things we’re not good at. So we take that advice and delegate that which we’re not good at.

The problem here is that so often we train ourselves to equate anything ‘hard’ with something we’re not good at. We lose the determination to keep going in the face of setbacks and we delegate away a task, or drop it, because it was not effortless at first try.

Practice even what seems impossible.

The left hand is useless at almost everything, for lack of practice. But it guides the reins better than the right. From practice. – Meditations

What is practice?

The 10,000-hour rule was popularized by Malcolm Gladwell. He says that 10,000 hours of practice on any one thing makes you a master of it. But according to those that did the original research, Gladwell cites, it’s not just some magic number of 10,000 hours. The type of practice matters.

Aimless practice is of little use, even if you do 20,000 hours. Sure, you’ll improve, but you’ll never become a master. You need more than aimless practice, you need to be deliberate with what you practice.

3 keys to deliberate practice

Great…you say. Simple practice isn’t enough now — I need to be deliberate with my practice. Now the goal went from getting 10,000 hours to getting 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.

[Tweet “Aimless practice is of little use; deliberate practice will make you a master.”]

It’s not as hard as you think though. Here are three keys to making your practice deliberate. If you’re an athlete and have a coach then you’ll see that much of your work with a good coach falls directly into deliberate practice.


Deliberate practice starts with a plan. When you’re a good athlete you don’t just go out and ride your bike for fun and sometimes do hills, sometimes do sprints…you have a program you follow to maximize your training. In fact a good training plan can mean you train less in a week.

As a business owner that means you schedule time for self-improvement. You look at the areas your business is weak and plan to go to conferences or work with coaches to help you improve the weak areas of your business.

Projects don’t succeed without a plan, so why do you think your business will?


Deliberate practice isn’t easy. It pushes you past what you’re comfortable with. Again, athletes are used to this. You don’t become a faster runner by always slowly jogging. You do hill repeats and sprints and sometimes you run so hard you feel like you’re going to fall over after the intervals. It’s in this struggle and hard work that you become faster.

With your business if you’re not doing things that make you feel uncomfortable, it’s likely not hard practice. If you’re a developer then it’s taking on projects that push your technical skills.

If you’re sitting back comfortably in your business, you’re likely not doing the hard work it’s going to take to get to the next level. So find something hard and do it.

Get someone to push you

I’m lazy by default. Sure I’ll get up and go for a run in the mountains, but when it gets hard I’ll slow down. My best time on a local mountain run ever was with my wife. See, she’s a runner and has been for a long time. I’m quick when it’s really steep but when it’s only sort of steep and rolling she’s way faster. All through the bottom part of that run she pushed me to keep going harder, and with that push I cut 20 minutes off my time on the run. That’s 20 minutes over 10km. For those that don’t run, that’s a huge gain. A gain I’ve never been able to match again.

That’s the power of someone pushing you.

If you don’t have a coach to push you in your business it’s unlikely that you’re growing like you should be. You’re likely taking the easy way out — I know I do it.

A good coach will tell you when you’re taking the easy way out and they’ll hold you accountable to doing the hard work. It’s in that hard work that you’ll see your business grow.

We’re looking at the end of the year so now’s a great time to get a plan for deliberate practice in place. If you’re looking for a coach, I can help.

photo credit: nickdm cc