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Practice for Greatness

Firewood next to glowing ashes from a recent campfire

I recently finished the book “Chop Wood Carry Water” by Joshua Medcalf. In this book Medcalf tells the story of a young man named John who wants to be a samurai archer. John travels to the school and resides there for ten years. Through these years he learns important lessons, one of which is how a seemingly small change in foot placement can significantly shift the trajectory of an arrow, even at a short distance of seven feet.

Focusing on the small details of our craft isn’t the sexy or attention-getting activity that we want it to be. And these drills, the practice, the learning and growing far from the spotlight make us better at what we do. In fact, they help us become great.

And this is one of the questions to ask ourselves: do I want to be great? It seems like a weird question, and yet we must ask ourselves this question regularly. I remember when I was in college I was an “A-” student. In my junior and senior (times two) years, I did enough work to get an “A-” usually because the work involved to get three more percentage points for the “A” wasn’t worth it to me. I’d much rather be doing something else.

An “A-” is very good, but it’s not great. I knew I could do better, but I wasn’t willing to put in the work, thus short-changing myself in the process. Is there something spurring you on to greatness? Are you being invited to be at the top of your profession and continue to get better?

If so, put in the work!

Identify the handful of activities that will make you great and do them every day if necessary. Get a support system around you to encourage you when you don’t feel like doing the task required. Have a mentor, a coach, and a spiritual guide to help you through. In reality, the point of being “great” isn’t about the end result. It’s about the person you become in the process. As we chop wood and carry water, we become people who are disciplined, intentional, and consistent. Traits this world sorely needs.

Question to ponder:

  • What one thing do I need to do (start doing or do more of) consistently to help me reach my full potential?

Stay curious friends!

Make sure you’re listening to season one of the Dream Big Authentic Leadership podcast, found on Apple, Google, Spotify, and Stitcher.

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