By: Jonathan Massey
This week’s blog comes from the book Resilience by Eric Greitens. I was recommended the book by one of my good friends about a year ago. While I was rereading it, I came across this little tidbit of really good information that I had previously missed:
“When most people practice, they think of themselves as practicing how to do something. What if, instead, you think of yourself as learning how to practice something? If you learn how to do something – change a tire, pour concrete, make macaroni and cheese – then you’ve learned how to do one thing. If you learn how to practice, then you have learned how to learn anything.
“It is only through practice that we attain excellence in any endeavor. And perhaps the greatest skill we can learn is the skill practice itself.”
– Eric Greitens.
What a crazy concept, right? But it makes absolutely perfect sense to me. If we learn how to practice extremely well, there isn’t anything we can’t become, so I am going to share with you a few things that I have learned on how to improve your practices.
Spending a little bit of time each day reflecting on how practice or your day went is one of the easiest ways to improve your practices. It is as simple as going through a predetermined check list and grading it…My arm felt like this today…I give myself a B- on my command work today… I struggled with this today… Here’s how I am going to improve upon it tomorrow. The very best person I’ve seen do this is Barry Zito. He was a dedicated journalist, constantly writing things down about the way his arm felt on certain drills. He had a binder full of notes that he would refer to a dozen times during a training session. I think if you asked him, he would say that journaling helped him have a 15-year big league career.
2. Find a model
Success leaves clues. Quit trying to reinvent the wheel. I’m not saying you must emulate a pitcher exactly, but I guarantee you there is a big leaguer out there that you resemble. It is important to pick the right model, i.e. someone who has been healthy for a number of years and that has been consistent in putting up good numbers year in and year out. I always recommend Hall of Famers if you can find one. They are Hall of Famers for a reason.
3. Get comfortable being uncomfortable
It’s no secret that growth occurs along the edge. If you want to maximize your talents, you have to learn to push yourself to the edge of your comfort zone and beyond. An old Chinese proverb, “Fall down 7 times, stand up 8.” When you get to the edge or go beyond your comfort zone, things will go wrong, and you will experience failure. This is simply part of the process, and if you are afraid of failure, then you will never truly reach the level of success of which you were capable.
4. Surround yourself with the right people.
If you want to change the results you are getting, one of the quickest way to do that is to simply change who you are around on a regular basis. You want to be a millionaire? Hang out with millionaires. You want learn a new language? Go immerse yourself in it. I was very fortunate that when I moved home in 2012, to train full time, there were guys like Mike Boyden, Cody Springer, Eric Binder and Trevor Bauer around. These guys are some of the most passionate guys that I’ve ever been around. They truly pushed me beyond my capabilities by demanding the very best from me day in and day out. I thank God every day that I met guys like this, and consider them my best friends because even to this day I know they have high expectations from me, as I do of them, and on days that my motivation is lacking a little I remember that they expect my best every day.
5. Precision in your work
This one is probably the most overlooked of the five tips. Simply put, most guys believe that by just doing the drills they are going to get better, as if simply doing the drills was the key to success. If that were the case, we would have a lot more than 221 guys hitting 90 mph. One of my favorite Coach Wolforth analogies is when he asks if one can become a better pianist by simply banging the keys for an hour a day. Obviously the answer is no, you are simply getting better at banging the keys. Yet that is exactly what “getting your reps in” is, banging the keys on the piano. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard Coach Wolforth say “the drill in and of itself is unremarkable, it is about how well you are doing the drill.” Are you throwing the ball north, or are you trying to hit a very specific spot? Are you constantly missing the target in the same direction, or are you consistently making adjustments? The more precise you are with your activity, the more you will get out of it
These are just a few ways that you can enhance your practice, and if you are looking for a good book to read, I highly recommend Resilience by Eric Greitens.