Size Doesn’t Matter

Here’s a picture for you—seventeen sweaty, liver-spotted old men trundling into a gang shower at 11:00 in the morning—just thinking about it and I’m reaching for the nausea meds! You could use that picture to make your kids behave—“eat your broccoli or I’ll show you the picture of the old men again!” Now that would have totally worked on me!

Well, in truth, twice a week during the winter this less than uplifting scene passes before my eyes  and I am, as matter of fact, often part of the action—the time honored, towel snapping ritual known as the post hockey shower.

Yes boys and girls, even at my advanced age, I still play hockey. “Geezer Hockey,” as my grandson calls it, brings us old guys together to skate, shoot, pass, talk about our various ailments and operations (sort of an organ recital if you like), and lie to each other about how good we once were and how good we would’ve been  if we had only chosen different parents!

My parents—they’re responsible for  my being vertically challenged, having a weak chin and a  waist that expands exponentially with each passing year! If only I had chosen better parents I would have been square jawed, taller, better looking and wired at birth for success—I would have all the natural gifts and talents needed to become a world class athlete, a top rated CEO, an incredible musician, an outstanding scholar, a financial genius or maybe, just maybe, Ed Stelmach! ( I’m only kidding abut that last one!)

But we don’t get to choose our parents. However, I  do know many people who wish it were so– folks who cling to the notion that if they only had better DNA, their genetically determined talent and targeted gifts would have guaranteed fame and riches and the world would be their oyster!

Well sorry folks, it just doesn’t work that way–the bad news is that we really don’t have any natural talents or gifts—they simply do not exist. We are not born with a natural gift or predisposition for a particular job or role.

The good news is that lack of natural talent or a genetic gift matters not at all. At the end of the day, research into greatness tells us that we can make ourselves great. The bad news is that it takes an enormous amount of experience and practice –experience and practice that can be both demanding and painful.

“Hmmmm” might say—“that describes my life perfectly—demanding and painful. Look,  I already work hard, have lots of experience and practice. So why am I not great?”

Well, according to the research, it’s the way we work and how we practice that makes the difference. The best people in any field; athletes, musicians, writers, investors, are those who engage in what is know as “deliberate practice”—practice aimed at achieving beyond current competence and is characterized by high levels of repetition, attention to feedback on results, and consistency—practicing the same amount every day, seven days a week. In the end, more deliberate practice equals better performance and tons of it brings great performance.

“Makes sense for athletes and others” you might say, “but how does this fit with day to day performance at work—mine and those with whom I work? I mean, what’s to practice—I come in and do my job—in fact I do it pretty well—so what’s the point?”

Well, from both operational/tactical and strategic perspectives, there are many elements of business that lend themselves to deliberate practice—think managing performance, negotiation, decision making, problem solving, making presentations, interpreting financial statements—the list is practically endless. Think about what you are already doing and then change the way you come at those things. Instead of working simply to get things done, set a goal to get better at each thing that you do. Anything that you do, from the most basic task to the most complex, is improvable.

So how do you make this happen for you or those with whom you work? Well, as the guy on television says, “That’s worth a talk.” If you’re interested, give me a call or drop me a note.

In the meantime, here are a couple of things to think about—Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, Calgary Flames forward Curtis Glencross was not good enough to play triple A hockey, and look what happened to Tiger when he stopped practicing (or maybe he was simply trying to get really good at something else!).

Speaking of golf, I think you might enjoy this.

Also, if you have a minute, check out my book Don’t Die With your Helmet On at

Have a great day–Dr Tom

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