- Posted by Kevin
- On 14th March 2019
I often hear the question “what was your favourite subject at school?” In response to which people light up with array of answers; Maths, English, P.E. Music, etc. All great subjects…for some.
When I’m asked that question, I answer slightly differently. In actual fact, if I had a favourite subject at school at all, it would have been: Truancy. If Truancy was an Olympic sport, I would have been a Gold medallist! 😊 I could slip through the net for weeks on end. Truth is, I found big adventures to be had outside school.
So instead of being in a classroom I would spend my days, meeting TV stars at Granada Studios, hanging around the set of Coronation Street (living the dream!) or watching a high-profile case court case. If I was particularly flush, I would treat myself to trip to Bell Vue Amusement Park. Growing up in Manchester had its highlights. But…the stand out moments in my truancy days were always spent in the company of a football legend, George Best.
Back in the early 70’s George, alongside Manchester City’s Mike Summerbee, owned a boutique on Bridge Street, Manchester. I figured that if I hung around the area long enough, I might be lucky enough to bump into one of my football idols.
One day, after a couple of hours in the area and with no sign of George, I decided to go into the café across the road to get a drink. The café was packed, but just as I got my drink a table suddenly became available. So, I’m sat alone at a four-seater table in a packed café when, all of a sudden, the door opens and in walks my hero: George Best. Things got even more exciting when, having got himself a drink, he asked if he could have a seat at my table…. Result! 😊
Over the coming months, I spent plenty of time in that café and whenever George popped in, he always made a point of coming over and saying hello and, occasionally, when he had time he would sit down for a chat. One day he asked me how my skills were in the football department. I remember saying to him that I was okay, but I didn’t have the natural talent that he possessed. The reply I got wasn’t expected and has always stuck with me as a lesson for everybody in life.
George said, he didn’t know if he had this thing called ‘natural talent,’ what he did know was that from a very early age he had a passion for playing with a football. Every waking minute he would look for the opportunity to practice his skills. (As a quick aside here, the etymology of the word passion comes from the Latin meaning ‘to suffer for.’) George didn’t do the things other kids would do; watching tv, hanging around with his mates, chasing girls (not yet anyway), he just practiced football.
So why am I telling this? It’s not to brag about my opportunist meetings with my boyhood hero, it’s to spread the wisdom that George gave me that day.
In my role as a Business Coach, I hear business owners and their teams using phrases like, “I’m not very good at…” (you can insert here whatever task you like; marketing, sales, leadership, the numbers, time management, conflict etc.) I always follow up a statement like this with the question, “So tell me, what’s your practice routine for getting better at that?” This is always followed by blank stares and, “What do you mean?”
What I mean is this: as a business owner you have to ask yourself, “How vital is it to the business that you get better at … (whatever it is that you claim to be ‘not very good at?’)” If it is vital, where is the space in your diary that represents the time you have set aside for practising and getting better at it? There is rarely a slot in the diary.
The challenge for most of us is that when we look at people who are successful in the field or subject they need to get better at, there is sometimes a presumption that they were born with natural talent for doing it. Of course, that is never the truth. The truth is that they have put in the hard yards and practised in order to get better.
So, let me ask you this: if there is one skill that if you were to get world class at, would transform your business and therefore your life, what is your practice routine for it? What are you doing on a day to day basis to improve? When are you setting aside time to get better? What are you saying ‘yes’ to that is preventing you having the time you need and forcing you to say ‘no’ to practice time?
Is it time to give up the excuses and go for it?
Another reason I am telling this story now is that in my own imperfect world, I am being pushed and cajoled into joining the video revolution, having content on ‘YouTube’, doing ‘Facebook live’ etc. Well, I have a great face for radio and when in front of a camera, the ums & errs, the forgetting my lines, the negative voice that says that I’m just not good at this kind of thing all kick in for me too, trying to convince me that this isn’t for me, that I’m just not naturally good at being on screen.
Yet, if I commit to getting in front of a camera every day, for 30 minutes a day, give myself an honest critique of what I liked best and what I could do better next time, so that my video challenges will start to dissolve. It might not be easy, but if it matters enough to my business, I, just like George, have to put the hard yards in and practise until I become good enough to be ‘a natural.’ If the etymology of the word ‘passion’ derives from suffering, perhaps we all need to be willing to put in the practice, to make the sacrifice required, to do what it takes to become good at whatever our businesses need us to be.