One of the things Malcolm Gladwell discovered after researching outstanding achievers for his book Outliers is, “What we call talent is really the desire to practice.” He’s not the first person to point that out.

Three years ago, Tiger Woods told the audience of 60 Minutes that he’d been working with a coach to change his game and hadn’t mastered it yet, but said, “I am willing to lose in order to get better.” Then there’s my all-time favorite observation from Mick Jagger who said, “You’ve got to sing everyday so you can build up to being like, you know, absolutely brilliant.”

The willingness to sing every day in order to get better is as important to entrepreneurial success as it is to selling out concerts or winning golf trophies. Yet many adults recoil at the thought of practice, thinking that it leads to boredom. That’s only true if what we’re practicing doesn’t come from our passion.

What may also not be obvious is that we’re all practicing daily and whatever we practice most is what we master. We can excel at stinginess or generosity, originality or mediocrity, boredom or adventure. It’s just a matter of where we’re putting in our time and effort.

I’ve been thinking about the power of repetition since many of the people who ordered copies of the updated

Making a Living Without a Job
had already read the original version. I decided to send an advance reading copy to Sandy Dempsey, who I knew was intimately acquainted with the book, to see what she thought. She sent an e-mail after she’d read about 50 pages raving about the changes. Then she wrote this review in her
Dreaming Cafe mailing.

I’ve had a sneak peak at the newly revised Making a Living Without a Job: Winning Ways for Creating Work That You Love by Barbara Winter and it is going to knock your socks off. I am blown away and even though I have read the original numerous times, the new edition has so many new stories, ideas and resources to inspire, my head is spinning.

I even thought about sending a copy to the President. He could use it as a blueprint to empower and inspire the nation – a nation that was founded on the entrepreneurial spirit.

In reality this book should be mandatory reading in every high school and college and every adult education program This book could change your life!!

Needless to say, Sandy’s review knocked my socks off and I was immensely grateful.

I also realize, of course, that someone who reads this book before they begin their joyfully jobless journey will notice very different things than they would a year or two after opening their business. To paraphrase Clifton Fadiman, “When you reread a book and find more in it it’s not because there’s more in the book. It’s because there’s more in you.”

While we’ve all heard that practice makes perfect, that’s not quite true. Practice makes permanent, but we can only get better if we’re paying attention while we do it. Then we begin to notice where our practice is leading us. We discover only weeks after starting a yoga practice that we can turn our heads farther when backing up the car. Or we find that our fifth media interview is smoother than our first. Sometimes we see that we’re farther along than we thought and sometimes it shows us we need to practice more diligently.

Are you willing?

Like many people, I became a fan of Malcolm Gladwell after reading The Tipping Point. Not only did I find his ideas fascinating (and applicable to the Joyfully Jobless life), but his storytelling made the book fun to read. So when I saw an article in Time magazine about his new book, Outliers, I eagerly read it to learn about his latest exploration.

This new book looks at extraordinary success. Gladwell contends that talent and, even, genius aren’t enough. Instead, he cites what he calls the 10,000-Hour Rule which says that great achievement is most often the result of constant practice––about 20 hours/week for 10 years, to be exact.

Can you imagine devoting yourself to something that passionately? Would you do it for free? Many people won’t, of course, and consequently will never actualize their full potential. 

The ones who are willing to put in the practice often dazzle us once we learn about them. I was reminded of that when I read a recent edition of Valerie Young’s Changing Course e-zine. She had this little quote from Rachel Ray tucked away at the end of the mailing:  I did 30 Minute Meals for five years on local television, and I earned nothing the first two years. Then I earned $50 a segment. I spent more than that on gas and groceries, but I really enjoyed making the show and I loved going to a viewer’s house each week. I knew I enjoyed it, so I stuck with it even though it cost me.

When I first decided that I wanted public speaking to be part of my business, I made it my policy to accept every invitation that came my way–whether money was attached to it or not. I knew that the only way to polish my speaking skills was in front of other people. And if someone was giving me the opportunity to practice with a live audience, I was going to take it. I even found a volunteer gig as a backstage tour guide at the Guthrie Theater, which gave me additional speaking practice.

Eventually, I began to get calls where I was asked, “What is your speaking fee?” That’s when I turned pro. (That’s not quite accurate; in my own mind, I had turned pro right from the start. It just took a lot of free talks for it turn it into a reality.)

In Phil Laut’s nifty little book, Money is My Friend, he says, “An easy way to create an abundance of clients is to give away your service at the beginning until you have more clients than you can handle or until people force you to accept money. If you don’t like your business well enough to give away your services, this may be an indication that you are in the wrong business. When you have an abundance of clients, it is a good idea to continue to give away a portion of your services, even if you have to refuse the money.”

Think of it as an investment. Think of it as sweat equity. Think of it as the unsung road to success. By all means, think seriously about what you would do for free.

I think the best investment that you can make it to start a business that is so much fun that you don’t care if you go broke. With this approach, you can be certain of success. ~ Phil Laut