Practice won’t make you perfect, but it will make you better.
They call it “the circle of fear”—”they” being the Eagles, one of the top five best-selling musical acts in American history. In fact, their album “Greatest Hits 1971-1975,” is the best-selling album in American history. For years their audience has continued to want more of them and their music.
So what does the circle of fear have to do with being a world-famous band? One word: practice. You might have seen the circle of fear in action when Sixty Minutes profiled the Eagles. It’s when the four musicians, with their guitars, arrange their chairs in a tight circle. With knees and guitars almost touching, they practice the complex harmonies that have made them famous. They sing them over and over and over and over until they get them right.
Why is it called the circle of fear? Because, as band founder Glen Frey explains, “There’s nowhere to hide. You like to kinda come out here and see that everybody’s got it and we’re all, you know, singing the right things.”
“And to do that it’s repetition. You have to do it over and over and over,” the band’s bassist, Timothy Schmidt, added.
I think the Eagles would agree with the premise that it takes practice to become a remarkable performer in any area. Practice won’t make you perfect, but it will definitely make you better. In fact, there are few people who are at the top of their game—whether it’s music, sports, business, parenting, or charity—who haven’t spent years honing their skills and practicing their craft.
And here’s something you’ve probably figured out: The Eagles’ circle of fear is really about how to profit from practice.
Did your boss ask you to start this workday spending some time practicing your job? (I’m guessing “No.”)
Did you make time this morning to practice the skills upon which your livelihood (and your potential encores) depends? (Between getting the kids off to school, battling traffic, and the pile of papers on your desk—again I’m guessing “No.”)
Let’s face it: “Practice” conjures up images of artists, athletes, and actors—not people in the workaday world. So where does that leave the rest of us? Very few people in the world of work practice. The closest they come is a kind of “practice in process”—hoping that the more they do their job, the better they’ll get. And, if they’re lucky, practice in process does help more than it hurts.
But if we’re going to become remarkable performers we’re going to have to learn a different way to practice. Instead of just practicing in process, we need to learn to practice “prior to performing.”
Ask any artist, athlete, or actor: Practice is the key to remarkable performance. Without it, your performing days—not to mention your encores—may be numbered.
Look for more tomorrow.