A man carrying a violin walks up to a police officer in New York City and asks, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”
The police officer looks at the violin and responds, “Practice man, practice!”
Psychologist Anders Ericsson conducted a study in the early 1990’s to determine what separated good musicians from excellent musicians. He looked at the lead chairs in the world’s greatest symphonies and what he discovered was astonishing…and very encouraging. Like their fellow musicians, the lead chairs had been playing from an early age, possessed the highest quality of instruments, and had studied at the most prestigious music academies. The only difference was that the lead chairs had practiced more. Each had racked up at least ten thousand hours while the second and third chairs had put in considerably fewer hours. It seems that the real difference that separated the outstanding from the elite or even the good from the great, was simply more practice.
It can’t be that easy—can it?
Yes and no. You have to practice the right thing, the right way, at the right time. Bad practice won’t make you great. It cannot simply be time spent, but time invested well. The problem is that the world seems to only want the short cut—the technique—the trick—for getting the results without having to spend the time to acquire the skills. What’s disheartening is that we have trained our young people to want the instant success without the effort that greatness requires. Partly because we want to make life as easy as we can for our kids, which in the long run is actually making life harder, and partly because we’ve modeled this in our own behavior. We want to lose weight, have a great marriage, get a great job, make really good money—and we want to do it with the least amount of effort.
Unfortunately, that’s not how it works regardless of how much we wish it did.
So ask yourself, what do you really want? Great family, great schools, great school climates, to be a great leader, to make a difference, to have safer schools? These only come with practice. There is no short cut around the fact that you and I, our families and schools, will have to practice if we want to occupy that lead chair.