I begin today by sharing a passage from David Beckham’s autobiography “Both Feet on the Ground.” I first read this book shortly after it was released. I was taken by Beckham’s description of a particular goal and this passage has stayed with me. He describes this as his favorite goal in a Manchester United shirt:
“We got a free-kick on the edge of the Real (Madrid) penalty area. If I’d been picking and choosing, I might have wanted to be a yard or two further out. The closer you are to goal, the quicker you need to get the ball up and then down again to beat both the wall and the keeper. I’d practiced it tens of thousands of times on my own on a training field after everyone else had gone home. Teaching my foot, my leg, the rest of my body how it felt when I got it right. And learning how to make it right more and more often.”
It is accepted that Beckham is a talented soccer player but it’s interesting to understand what he has done to develop his skill to an elite level. He talks about his training and practicing. He likes practice as much as he likes games. And a particular free-kick he has practiced “tens of thousand of times on my own on a training field after everyone else has gone home.” He mentions others like Eric Cantona who was the super star of Manchester United when David came into the team. He talks of the way Cantona’s practices. Talent is not enough to lift you to the top.
Lance Armstrong in his books “It’s not About the Bike:My Journey Back to Life” and the follow up “Every Second Counts” you read about the incredible drive he has as he pushes himself to be absolutely certain in his own mind that he has endured more than any other rider and because he has endured beyond what any of them have he will prevail. Hills the others have climbed once to know the hill, Armstrong does twice. In weather conditions that would cause others to quit training he soldiers on.
I recently read about Dr. K. Anders Ericsson’s 10,000-Hour Rule. Ericsson is a professor of Psychology at Florida State University and one of the world’s leading researchers on expertise. He asserts that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to achieve extraordinary performance in almost anything. This is based on 20 hours per week for 50 weeks per year for 10 years. This rule is examined in Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers:The Story of Success.” When reading about this I thought back to this passage from Beckham’s book. The learning from this concept is that talent alone will not get one there. What are you doing after everyone else has gone home?