The little “Extra” that Turns Ordinary into “Extraordinary”

By: Martin Grunburg

In the prior post I shared an amazing story about preparation related to tennis great Rod Laver. In fact, I learned of the story from a participant in my presentation to the San Diego Entrepreneurs’ group.

As I presented the info I recall myself saying, “I can’t believe it took me 47 years to learn that The 3 P’s are the key to the competitive edge and performing optimally, particularly under pressure.”

However, here’s what I didn’t say:

I’ve also come to realize The 3 P’s are what separate the all-time greats from the greats. In fact, I want you to imagine that we are going to match up two individuals: one with great talent vs. another who has “good/average talent.” Who do you think will win?

In the short term it’s likely that the great talent will win almost every time. However, over the long haul – that is, the long, long, long haul – incredibly, it will be the average talent who comes to embody an exceptional work ethic (that is, The 3 P’s) who will ultimately prevail.

If all other factors were equal, The 3 P’s would become the difference maker. The performer who plans, prepares and practices the best and the most – who has developed the habits of the 3 P’s – will ultimately be the winner.

This is worth reiterating, particularly if you have children who are budding/aspiring athletes or performers. If we were to match up average talent with the benefits of the 3 P’s versus great talent, great talent ultimately loses, and here’s why . . .

The average talent will develop a strong work ethic – the habits of hard work (planning, preparing and practicing), and these individuals will continue to improve. Improvement will become an ongoing ambition.

And, through continued efforts, the average talent’s concentration and focus will also improve. The practical use of energy will become refined, whereas the top-talent/performer who doesn’t develop the habits of hard work (planning, preparing and practicing) will begin to stagnate; over time the performances will plateau.

Examples of this proving itself out in professional sports are nearly infinite. Whatever the endeavor, we can find admittedly average talents who’ve developed superior work habits (applying The 3 P’s) who transform themselves into extraordinary performers.
In sports, they become known as Hall-of-Famers.

Jerry Rice was an overall 16th pick in the draft who held scouts at bay with his reportedly “slow” 4.7 40-yard dash speed. Today the Hall-of Famer has attained more records than I can recite here, including being the NFL’s all-time leader for receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. The best part, though, is Rice may best be known for his OFF-SEASON workout routine. His preparation and practicing habits have become so legendary that NFL players sought him out to take part in his routine.

Tom Brady: “Brady was a lightly regarded prospect coming out of college, and was selected by the New England Patriots in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL draft.” The 6th round! He remained a backup quarterback to Drew Bledsoe, but it was his planning, preparing and practice habits that had him ready when opportunity knocked, and he was able seize the moment.

Michael Jordan: You might not think of MJ as an “average talent,” but he was certainly NOT extraordinary. In fact, it was when he failed to make the varsity team as a sophomore that he was spurred on to “train rigorously.

Drew Brees: He only received offers from two colleges, Purdue and Kentucky, but became a Super Bowl champion and nine-time Pro Bowler. Todd Durkin, owner of Fitness Quest 10 had this to say: “Drew Brees, his concentration and focus are amazing, and he works extremely hard. He’s not the biggest guy or the fastest guy . . . Last season he threw for over 5,000 yards. That’s crazy! He’s only the second quarterback to ever do that, and he came back here with a new purpose. He’s not finished; he’s as hungry as ever.”

Peyton Manning: “… there were better, more natural athletes at the position. You may recall that Ryan Leaf was identified to be far more athletic and had a better quarterback rating, yet for those who understand the demands of professional sports and performing under pressure, it was an easy decision by the Indianapolis Colts. Here a New York Times article reflects on the situation and why the Colts chose the way they did. (Note “habits” of preparation.)

“In Mr. Manning, a member of a family that qualifies as pro football aristocracy, the team believed it had a master of control and poise. Mr. Leaf was the stronger athlete in many respects, but he turned out to have a 10-cent emotional quotient to go with his million-dollar arm. He was hot-tempered and at times lackadaisical in his training habits.

Steph Curry: In a league dominated by men over 6’ 5” – and with many upwards of 6’ 9” – Curry at 6’ 3” wasn’t the most athletic, and didn’t fit the prototypical basketball body. However, it’s unanimous that what separates Steph from nearly every other player in the league are his work habits. Steph plans, prepares and practices harder, and his success is no accident. A prior post links to a video with nearly an identical title “Success is no accident”. (note video is at the bottom of this post)

There truly is no shortage of examples; I didn’t even mention Russel Wilson, Alex Smith, Wes Welker – I could go on and on.

The theme remains consistent: The highly rated talent almost always (as a byproduct of being a super-talent) develops a poor work ethic. Whereas, just to compete, the “average” and “good” athlete – the underdog, the player who develops a chip on his or her shoulder, who has something to prove –  continuously challenges himself or herself. They push their own bounds and channel their energy toward constant improvement.

So, if that little “extra,” as the saying goes, is what takes the ordinary and makes them “extra-ordinary,” well it’s worth knowing what that “little” extra means… what it really is – and to be specific, it’s The 3 P’s.

Planning, Preparing and Practicing.

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