Posted by: mrpeatie | August 5, 2008

Practice with a Purpose

How you practice is how you will perform.

In my previous post I talked about the importance of consistently practicing and getting better at whatever it is you choose to spend your time on. But it’s important to make the most of that time practicing.

I stress this lesson to my karate students frequently because it’s an important lesson, especially when it comes to self defense. We do our best to motivate our students to throw every kick, punch, and block with meaning and purpose as if it were the only technique they would get to defend themselves from an attacker. Unfortunately, not every student gets this lesson, especially the younger students. They continue to listlessly go through the motions each class. I try to explain that if they ever have to use their karate outside the dojo to defend themselves, they won’t magically be able to pull off a powerful punch or kick. They will throw the technique exactly how they practice it in the dojo.

This mentality has many applications outside the dojo. Some other examples I’ve come across.

Public Speaking
If you are going to be giving a speech or presentation at work, reading over your material the night before while the TV is on isn’t going to cut it. Not if you want to do well. Turn off all noises, get a stopwatch and time yourself as you give your presentation in front of a mirror exactly the way you want to do it for real. It sounds cheesy, but the mirror thing works. It’s the only way you can see how you move and fidget when speaking and you can adjust accordingly. Just about everyone has some sort of nervous tick that can be distracting to the audience. Try to find yours and cut it out. Pay attention to your volume and rate of speech as well. Most people talk waaaaaaaay too fast so SLOW DOWN.

Timing yourself is important too as you may be restricted with time requirements when you present for real. Knowing how long or short your speech is before hand can allow you to add or remove content as needed. It really sucks having to cram in the last few minutes of a presentation or finishing way to early. 

Tiger's the man

Tiger's the man

Professional athletes are professionals because of all the hard work and effort the put in behind the scenes when they practice. Some of them are just naturally blessed with the physical abilities to excel at their sport (think Tiger Woods, Michael Phelps, Sidney Crosby, Roger Federer), but they wouldn’t be superstars without countless hours practicing.

A great example is golf. Golfers can put in an insane amount of hours on the range or putting green. The problem they face is that it’s difficult to duplicate the pressure golfers feel in the heat of competition on the practice range. That pressure can negatively affect a golf swing, especially delicate putts. What golfers do a lot when they practice is establish pre-shot routines. They go through a mental check list of sorts before each shot and to the EXACT SAME THING almost every time. When the pressure is on late in a tournament, they’ll be nervous for sure, but that routine they’ve practiced thousands of times puts their body almost on autopilot and it makes the nerves easier to control.

If you are going to take the time to practice and get better at something, don’t mindlessly go through the motions. Work hard and develop good habits so that you always practice with a purpose.



  1. I’d like to think this always works but i’ve found no matter how much I practice running, I’m still slow. I’m pretty sure I could never outrun an attacker. I guess there should be some other moral in the story that if you really suck at one thing you might want to figure out other things you might be good at. But otherwise, this was an awesome post.

  2. Are you running to be fast or are you running to increase your endurance? You may not be faster, but I bet you can run farther now then when you started running a lot.

  3. […] last point Jay made on this subject was to practice. You should have your answer to this and many other popular interview question ready to go before […]

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