When I was a child, my parents signed me up for piano lessons. I had various opportunities to play in front of other people, but I was always stressed out by the idea that I might make a mistake or play the wrong note. When I did hit the wrong keys, my hands would start shaking and then I would make even more mistakes. The result was that I never wanted to play in front of anyone until I had mastered a song and could play it perfectly.
Many of us have experienced the phenomenon of feeling “under pressure” at certain times. For some of us that feeling came when the bases were loaded with two strikes, and we were at the plate. Or maybe the game was tied, and you were the receiver of a pass that could lead your team to victory. All of us have given speeches in school and had to stand in front of an audience – feeling under pressure.
During the last Winter Olympics I watched in awe as various gymnasts performed their routines under pressure on the pommel horse, parallel bars, and uneven bars. How did they perform so well? The answer is simple: they spent hours and hours practicing.
No one has ever accidentally won an Olympic medal. No one has ever mistakenly performed a solo musical number with excellence. Accidental excellence doesn’t exist. The concert pianist practices hours before making a flawless performance just as the Olympic diver has rehearsed her dive countless times before performing it in front of the world.
Here’s the point: if we want to be excellent in what we do, we have to be intentionally excellent.
I work in a church, and I have given probably several hundred messages in front of groups of people. If each message were the same, then I would be a pro at that one message. But each message is different, so that means I have to practice. If I want to be good at my craft, I have to be intentional about being good. I can’t stand in front of a group and expect to excel if I haven’t spent the time beforehand preparing. Even those people who are naturally gifted have to work hard to make the best use of their gifts.
So what is your craft? What is the one thing at which you want to be excellent? Is it something at work? Is it something you do recreationally? Remember that your excellence won’t come accidentally – it will come with intentionality.