No. 395

Several years ago I remember hearing the late Earl Nightingale make the statement, "You can do anything you really want to do, if you are willing to practice." He went on to say; "You can learn to juggle six eggs while standing on one leg in a hammock, if you really want to do it." This explains why I am not any better at golf than I am. While I enjoy playing the game, it's not a passion for me, and therefore I don't spend the necessary practice time to get really good. On weekends, my wife and I usually spend some time watching a golf tournament on television and we marvel at how good these guys and gals have become. The answer, of course, is that these people are professional and in most cases started playing when they were very young and have spent untold hours practicing their craft or sport.
Before I leave this subject, you don't have to be a professional to be good at golf, you just have to have a passion for it. The other day I saw a story about Frank Grieko, a WWII veteran who had made 11 holes in one on courses that ranged from the East coast to the West coast. The amazing thing about Frank's feat is that he only had one arm. I've never made a hole-in-one and I have two arms and this probably applies to most recreational golfers like me. Again, the word is passion. If we have a passion for something, the odds are good that we will spend the necessary practice time to get really good at it.
You may not have an interest in golf, but what I'm talking about is really a principle that applies to all the other activities that fill our days. I don't know how many truly gifted piano players have said to me, "I'm so grateful that my mother made me practice the piano when I was growing up." You could add other things like singing, dancing, speaking, acting, painting and writing. However to be really good at these things requires more than developing a skill. To excel in these activities requires some natural talent. Ralph Waldo Emerson, the American Poet and Philosopher once said, "Talent is the power and courage to make a new road to new and better goals."
At this point you may be saying to yourself, what does this have to do with me? It does not have anything to do with you unless you want to use this wonderful principle to become a more successful human being. The principle is WE BECOME PROFICIENT AT WHAT WE PRACTICE. Here I'm going to make a statement that you may disagree with. To achieve outstanding success, most people spend too much time practicing the wrong things. For example, many young people in school spend a disproportionate amount of time thinking about and practicing one or more sports. For the most part, that's what they have on their brain.
This is not to say they should not enjoy sports or even have a passion for it, but it should be understood that these students spend way too much time on activities that will not help them achieve success over the long haul. If you doubt what I am saying is true, just consider this fact. According to the NCAA there are over 300,000 students in America who participate in college athletics in one or more sports. Yet over 95% of these students will have a career in something other than the sport they play. This is certainly not to discount the fact that sports teaches some valuable character traits that will be useful later on. They learn discipline, teamwork, persistence and many other valuable lessons that will be of value when they enter the world of work.
These character traits will be more useful however, when combined with an outstanding academic record. As I've said many times, the key is balance. Young people should enjoy sports and play them, but they should not bet the farm on having a career in sports because the odds are about 100,000 to one that it won't happen. The real question then becomes, who is going to influence them? In many cases it's those parents who are trying to relive their own lives through their children and unfortunately it's the children who are left holding the bag.
Whether it's your life or someone else that you can influence, here is another important aspect of the principle, WE BECOME PROFICIENT AT WHAT WE PRACTICE. It is really a two edged sword. It not only works and has a tremendous influence over our lives as it relates to developing a talent or skill, but it also applies to our life values, as well. For example, if we begin to practice lying, we will get good at lying. If we practice cheating, stealing, falsifying, and forging, we will get good at these, too. This is a very simple yet powerful principle. Hope you will use it wisely to achieve greater success. (Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)