Lombardi again, but let me try to put a new wrinkle on it. You can practice all day long, but if you don’t really know what you’re doing, no matter how much talent you have, you’re only perfecting an error.
Look at the great athletes and musicians. There are no walk-ons at the Super Bowl or Carnegie Hall… or in corporate boardrooms, for that matter. The level of performance in those exalted places is only partially a reflection of talent. There are two other qualities that are indispensable in making to the top: expert coaching and iron determination. Let’s start with coaching. Only we’ll call it teaching.
A teacher is not there just to acquaint you with the tools of your trade; a teacher is a tool of your trade, no matter what the trade is. You never stop needing teachers. The great musicians never stop taking lessons, never stop trying to improve. Arthur Rubinstein used to say that if he missed a day of practice, he noticed it in the quality of his performance. If he missed two days, the critics noticed. And if he missed three days, the audience noticed.
Whatever it is you do, you can be better at it if you just keep on learning. I certainly have not mastered the art of making envelopes, selling envelopes, or developing new envelopes.
The minute I persuade myself that I have, that I have learned all there is to learn about the subject and can relax, that’s the moment my competition will find a way to do any or all of the above better than I can and will hand me my head. The annals of business are filled with stories of companies that thought they had it made and could milk their enterprises as cash cows without having to bother about improving their products or service. It’s amazing how fast they found their markets disappearing.
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