Practice, Visualize, Play

It’s that time again.

I’m reflecting on my life once more, and asking myself what are the biggest insights I’ve ever had.

I can think of one right now. The power of visualization is what separates an average life from an exceptional one.

On Memorial Day my seven year old granddaughter performed a remarkable act for the family.

She took a glass, tipped it upside down on a table and used it as a drum. She then proceeded to sing a song, hitting the top of the glass, then hitting the table, then clapping her hands in unison with the words of the song. Each time she repeated it, she would speed up, finally looking up and repeating it without looking at what she was doing.

Afterwards, she said it took a lot of practice to do that. She added that after practicing it she would do it in her head.

That little girl has uncovered the mechanics of what will separate her good performances from her great performances.

Greatness comes from practicing an act, then repeating the act in your mind over and over again, and then performing the act in front of people.


There is a consistent theme that great chess players and athletes recount on what allows them to be so accomplished. It almost always, no- always, is “practice.” With basketball legend Bobby Knight adding this, “perfect practice makes perfect.”

Actor and comedian Steve Martin, early in life took up banjo playing. Within a few short years he became a great player. When asked how he was able to do it, he said, “I would tape a musician playing a song on the banjo, then I would slow it way down when I played it back, and rehearse the song, until I could play it. Then I would speed the recording up, and practice until I got it. Eventually I played it at full speed.”


With that example everyone can be good at something.

Really, at the end of the day, no matter how you explain or describe it, PRACTICE is a profound truth.


Whatever you are practicing, you need to take it to the next step. You need to visualize your task when you are not practicing it.

You need to visualize your performance under every possible condition.

You need to do this when you are resting. You need to do this when you go to bed. You need to do this with every detail of the activity you are practicing. You need to bring your practice into line with your visualizing. That takes mental focus.

If you’re lucky, you may also have dreams about it.

Doing It For Real

Whatever it is you are practicing and visualizing, you have to put it to the test.

You have to get out there and perform or play in front of people. You need real life testing.

And you have to continue doing it, win or lose.

Eventually a moment will come when the playing field and the players, or the audience, or whatever, will be altered. In other words the world will move in slow motion, and you will see what’s going on before it happens. And you will execute at some great level. It will come with ease.

There will come a time when there will be no one present who will have practiced more, or visualized more intently, or played it out more actively than you have. When that moment arrives, your time to perform an act of greatness will happen.

Until that time, you will feel you are grinding it out. You will feel as if you will never be anything else but a journeyman. But that will change when you least expect it.

Facing Problems

This formula is easily described when talking about chess, sports and entertainment, but not so easily done when applying it to the everyday stresses of life

About ten years ago, maybe even more, my wife and I agreed that rather than scaling down and making life simpler, we would embrace greater complexity in order to keep life interesting.

What a dumb thought. Life never gets simpler. It always gets more complex, and it’s hell trying to develop the talents to manage it.

But, I decided to work on it using the same formula that I’ve shared above.

One, I started learning everything I could about problem solving. I read articles. I observed people who were known for their patience and calm during periods of stress. I practiced being non- judgmental during flair ups. I practiced controlling my emotions and not getting mad or upset when challenges arose.

Next, I visualized different scenarios about how a particular problem might be solved. I also would visualize how I would behave when trying to solve the problem. I anticipate how others will act. I think about what is the simplest and most efficient way of stating the problem and suggesting solutions to the problem. I see myself remaining calm at all times. I visualized myself not losing my temper and maintaining my composure.

Last, when big problems came I faced it as I had practiced and visualized it.

I wish I could report that I succeeded every time. But, like sports, you don’t always succeed.

On the other hand, there are times when it really succeeds. There have been those times where I have witnessed the resolution of a problem working out so well that it seems that everyone fell into place and moved in unison.

The High Moments Of Our Lives

Practice, visualize, play.

What makes this formula so unique?

Humans come less developed and programmed than any other animal. All animals come the way they are going to be. Humans have to develop the way they are going to be.

Humans have discovered that the way to develop is to practice doing things. We become humans by practicing being human

After that we have brains that are capable of imagination. We are able to project ourselves into a state beyond what we are performing, acting or behaving at.

As we continue on this way, we are able to go beyond ourselves in real life. This is called progress – human progress.