You Play the Game the Way You Practice

I still remember the early Thursday evening when my hockey coach pulled me aside and said, “Mike, if you want to score goals and someday become a captain, remember this:  You will play the game the way you practice.  Make the practice harder and the game will go easier.  You will not play any better in the game on Saturday night than the level of commitment you put into tonight’s practice. I was just 8 years old at the time and now almost 40 years later, the impact of what he said on the ice has made an indelible impression like few things I’ve learned from anyone, anywhere.

The reason it made such an impression is because that principle holds true today in any environment where hard work pays off, whether in school, business, family, and many other situations.  Think about it: like any habit, after a while, changing your paradigm, habits and standard of acceptance is not hard.  Change is gradual and the ability to make consistent and realistic progress is very likely.

This is exactly how I trained for the Antarctic 100k ultra marathon.  When I signed up for this, I had never run more than a marathon.  The 100k was two and a half times that distance, or 62.1 miles.  After running the Antarctic marathon a year prior, and running several marathons during the year leading up to the 100k, the marathon distance seemed like a long training run, well within reach at a moments notice.  I then ran two 50km (31 miles) within a week, and I knew I was ready for the 100km distance.

I had also conditioned myself mentally, as most of my training runs were inside a commercial freezer.  The distance between the frozen walls that I had to work with was only 59 feet.  I had to go back and forth, and back and forth for hours to accumulate distance.  Most people could not believe that I could withstand the boredom of just going back and forth in such a small space for as many as 8 and 10 hours.  What I told myself was, “Mike, you will play the game the way you practice.  Make the practice harder and the game will go easier.”  I thought if I could withstand the monotony of just going back and forth, with no scenery, no music, and no other distractions or people, how much easier would it be when I got into the real thing.

That’s exactly what happened, as the marathon in Antarctica took me 7 hrs, but seemed like 7 minutes; the 100km took me 17 hours and seemed like 17 minutes.  How could this be?  Because I made the practice harder and the game did go easier.  Difficulty and hard work are relative.  If you change your definition of each through consistent training where you make the practice harder, you will have an easier time in the real situation.

If you are a sales person, who has to push hard and make difficult things happen everyday, think about how this mindset can help you to consistently work harder.  Think about how it can impact your level of endurance and ability to stay in the game for the long run.  After all, isn’t sales the ultimate “white collar marathon?”

I welcome your comments, questions and feedback.

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About Antarctic Mike

I work with organizations who want their people to be fired up, fully engaged, and focused on growing the business, not merely maintaining it. I'm an avid adventure athlete, having completed marathons and ultra marathons in some of the world's most challenging conditions including the Canadian Arctic, Mount Washington, Siberia and Antarctica. What I've learned through Antarctic history, including preparing for my own Antarctic expeditions, has taught me significant business and sales principles that I now present in my speaking programs.

2 thoughts on “You Play the Game the Way You Practice

  1. Great advice from your hockey coach at the age of 8! What a game changing / life changing lesson to absorb at such an early age.
    I’ll pass that on to my kids and to my team members. Thanks!

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