I love watching people who are at the top of their game. Whether it be the type of performance readily seen (such as sports, preaching, musical performing, acting, or public speaking), or those which can best be known by observing the finished product (such as architecture, great writing, and painting), people who rise to such levels of greatness have a tendency to "make it look easy."
Looks, however, can be deceiving. No one can really perform "that well" without thousands of hours of unseen practice. No one is "gifted" as much as we sometimes wish to think in our efforts to comfort ourselves why we aren't that good. Certainly people have areas of gifting. Certainly there are different levels of endownments given to each one of us in different areas. But there is still a difference even among those equipped with similar inate ability - and that difference is preparation.
It never ceases to amaze me the lengths to which people will go in order to avoid preparation. Given relatively equal abilities, the more prepared person will win nearly every time. I don't know about you, but I think I can almost always tell when someone is "winging it." This always makes me wonder. Why wouldn't someone choose to give an endeavor all they've got? Why wouldn't they prepare? Is their heart not in it? Are they just lazy? It may be they simply haven't been convinced that preparation is a competitive advantage.
Jerry Rice, the most decorated wide receiver in pro football history was famous for his hours of prepartion and grueling workouts, even into his forties!
"Sweetness" Walter Payton said he gained his advantage in his offseason training and by running up and down a sand dune near his house.
Stephen King wrote that he forces himself to follow a rigid writing routine every day and won't leave his desk until he's written at least 2500 words.
Throughout his remarkable business career, Sam Walton was famous for walking through competitor's stores in search of even little ideas that could be copied and improved upon, and was known for digesting reams of data prior to his legendary Saturday morning operations meetings.
John Wooden pre-scripted every single minute of every practice in every season of his coaching career.
Napoleaon would sleep a mere three hours a night, utilizing the rest of the "quiet hours" to pour over maps and battlefield reports so that he would be the most informed commander on the battlefield.
One of my favorite quotes is by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:
"The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward through the night"
In what area of life are you striving for excellence?
Would a court of law be able to convict you of that fact by observing your preparation?
Take time today to consider what more you can do to prepare, so you can blossom into the professional you were meant to be.
Remember, the best make it look easy, but it's not. Excellence is always hard, and it is forged on the anvil of preparation.
Now get to work.