Every now and then, I will either hear or see something that challenges my way of thinking. Last week I was listening to a sports radio show while driving to work. I do not remember the show nor who the analyst was that was talking during the segment, but he said something that stuck with me. He said that athletes don’t rise to the occasion. They tend to sink to the level of their training. This made me think. Why is it that the greatest athletes we know in any sport are also the ones who put in the most work behind the scenes? Why is it that elite soldiers seem to spend all of their time in training before going on a mission? It has been instilled into a lot of you that when the situation arises, you’re just going to rise to the occasion and conquer it. This isn’t necessarily the case. When the big moment or opportunity comes your way, you will fail if you’re not adequately prepared. Think about it. How many years of training must a sniper go through before he/she is able to take one shot on the battlefield as a sniper? How many years of schooling and practice must a surgeon have before he/she is qualified to perform an operation on their own? How many times do you think that athletes such as Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant practiced game winning shots before they started making game winning shots? Sometimes success and greatness present a false illusion that it can be obtained instantly. There’s only one way you’re going to be able to reach those levels in your life.
You have to put the work in when nobody’s looking. Anybody can practice and train hard when the coach is there. Anybody can study when you have the teacher in the room. But what do you do when nobody is looking? Do you just sit on the couch and watch tv? Do you choose to go out to clubs and bars? Or do you continue to stay on your grind. There is a reason that the greats will work on the smallest detail over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again until they get it right. Mastering your craft matters. It is better to find and work on weaknesses now. It is better now to make the necessary sacrifices and to correct them. When it’s showtime, you sink to the level of your training. Now you are better equipped for any and everything that will come your way. If you choose not to put the work in and just think you’re going to make it on talent alone, you’re sadly mistaken. You choosing to think that you’re always just going to show up and show out on the big day is going to be your downfall. You’re going to show up on that day and make a mistake that will cost your team a championship, cause you to lose a contract, or if it’s in the military it could be the difference between life and death. Make the sacrifices now and put the work in.
Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. Talent may allow you to rise to the occasion from time to time and you may be good at what you do. But hard work is what separates good from great. In the end, you will eventually sink to the level of your training. When the tough moments come and autopilot kicks in, that’s where your training takes over. The hours you spent working while the rest of the world was asleep is going to pay off. All of those extra hours in the gym and the weight room were for this very moment. The day to day grind when it seems as if you’re making baby steps gets tough. Keep your eyes on the prize. That work will not be in vain. One day you will rise, but only after you put the work in to make it happen.