Winners' Wisdom
by Jim Stovall


We have heard it said a thousand times that “practice makes perfect.” As well-meaning as whoever told you this might have been, they were wrong. Practice does not make perfect. Practice makes consistent. Perfect practice makes perfect. Mediocre practice makes mediocrity.

One of the things sadly lacking in today’s professional business environment is training. What they call training is more often a partial transfer of information that rapidly forces the new person into overload.

I believe that the food service industry does a better job of training than most other sectors. How many times have you gone into a restaurant and you are approached by not one, but two waiters or waitresses? Then, they immediately inform you that one is training the other, or the new person is “mirroring” one of the experienced waitstaff. The management in the food service industry understands that nothing provides training like hands-on experience in real-life situations.

Some of the most successful coaches in sports understand this as well. They will try to do everything possible to simulate game conditions. They try to practice at the same time of day that the game will be played, and they often pipe in recorded crowd noise at the level that can be expected during the real game. They understand that it’s quite different to carry out a play well on a quiet, familiar court or playing field. It’s quite another thing to perform well under loud, confused, and unfamiliar conditions. Nothing takes the place of real-world experience.

If you are learning a new skill or profession, try to find these realistic conditions and turn them into learning experiences. If you are in charge of training others, create these simulations in ways that people can learn their new skills without risking poor performance. Back to our friends in the food service industry. It’s one thing to have a brand new waiter or waitress serving a valuable customer with an experienced waitstaff by their side to observe and step in if necessary. It’s quite another thing to risk a valued customer with someone who has had nothing but an employee’s manual to read and learn from.

As you go through your day today, find safe, realistic experiences to learn from and to teach those around you how to perform at the highest possible level.

When Life Defies Definition

Recently, I was having a wonderful conversation with a very special person in my life. We were discussing thoughts, feelings, and emotions. As I too often try to do, I was attempting to categorize concepts that defy definition. While I was verbally debating the relative merits of this particular emotion, asking, “Is it A or is it B?” she turned to me with great conviction and stated with certainty, “It is what it is.” As I was deciding whether that response merited laughing, crying, or hitting someone, the wisdom, beauty, and grace of the statement struck me.

We spend so much time, effort, and energy trying to define things that are beyond definition and, in doing so, we miss much of the magic in life. You can sit around for hours with the greatest team of biologists or botanists in the world defining, categorizing, and compartmentalizing plant life. Or you can simply let your senses absorb the beauty and majesty of one single rose.

Our society has been focused on defining problems instead of delivering solutions. You can overindulge yourself in diagnosis and, at the end of the day, you will have little more than the name of a problem. This is only important as it relates to discovering the solution.

I have met many great technical actors and musicians. They can go through the motions of the discipline necessary to create music or theatre, but they lack that certain indefinable spark that creates power and passion in a performance. They will be forever relegated to mediocrity. On the other hand, we have all been mesmerized by a flawed performance from a passionate performer. The magic is in the music, not in the notes on the page. The art is on the canvas, not contained within the various colors and hues of paint bottles. You can have the greatest technical education and suffer through the agonies of life created by an overabundance of knowledge but a lack of understanding and experience.

Classrooms, lectures, and textbooks can give you a marvelous framework to begin enjoying and experiencing life, but if you think those things in and of themselves are life, you will have a dry and bitter existence. If defining an emotion will help you to understand, communicate, or enjoy it, so be it. If not, just remember, “It is what it is.”

As you go through your day today, avoid debate and definition and enjoy the sights, smells, tastes, textures, love, and passion this world has to offer.

Knowledge and Wisdom

We have all definitely entered into the information age. We are constantly bombarded with more facts, figures, and assorted trivia. Whoever said information or knowledge is power was definitely wrong. Information is nothing more than a set of compiled facts. Only when you apply it in the form of wisdom does it become powerful.

The difference between knowledge and wisdom is often readily apparent on college campuses. Most universities are made up of a student body that is crammed full of assorted knowledge. But, as I’m sure you have experienced, wisdom or applied knowledge on college campuses is often sorely lacking.

Success comes not from knowledge but from wisdom. While I would be the first to agree that acquiring knowledge is important, I would hasten to add that applying knowledge in the form of wisdom is even more important. When we were all in school, they tested us to find out what we knew. What is even more important than how much you know is what you are doing about the things that you know.

Instead of spending all your time acquiring knowledge, you would be better served to invest some of your time toward applying the knowledge you have gained to your personal and professional life in the form of wisdom. Wisdom only comes through experience. Either experience of others or your own experience.

Most of us possess the knowledge that it takes to be successful, but few of us apply this knowledge in the form of wisdom in order to succeed. Common knowledge is ignored on a daily basis. We have known for years that “cigarettes cause cancer,” “seatbelts save lives,” “we should all vote,” “saving and investing is the key to our financial future,” and many, many more. In the final analysis, when we fail it is not from lack of knowledge. It is, instead, from lack of wisdom to apply the things we already know. We don’t fail because we don’t know what to do. We fail because we don’t do what we know.

As you go through your day today, continue to seek knowledge, but – more importantly – apply the things you have learned to your personal and professional life, and you will move ahead light years in a very short period of time.

The Prominence of Problems

What do Benjamin Franklin, Adolf Hitler, Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison, William Shakespeare, Osama bin Laden, and every other historical or famous person you have ever heard of have in common? Every famous or infamous person that has come to historical prominence is known for either solving or creating problems.

When you think of the people you know in your personal or professional circles, you probably think of them in terms of whether or not they solve or create problems. All human endeavor hinges on the simple task of solving or creating problems. Great ideas are nothing more or less than the solution to a problem. The greater the problem, the greater the idea that solves it.

Great businesses are nothing more than the solving of other people’s problems. Successful enterprises continue to grow and thrive based on how well and to what extent they solve problems. Income is based on the extent of the problem that you solve and how well you solve it.

A garbage collector solves a real problem. If you don’t think so, just let them miss your house for a few weeks, and the problem will become readily apparent. Brain surgeons solve a quite different problem. You can learn to be a garbage collector in a few weeks, and in order to be a brain surgeon you must invest many years. The problem that a brain surgeon solves is, quite literally, life and death; therefore, a good brain surgeon will earn many multiples of the income of a garbage collector.

We have been trained since we were children to avoid problems. We have also been trained to honor and respect people who, down through the years, have solved problems. These two ideas are at odds with one another. In order to be successful, we cannot avoid problems. We must get out in front of the herd, find the problems, and solve them – not only for ourselves but for everyone else.

Remember, your friends, your family, and history itself will not remember you for the problems you avoid. It will remember you for either the problems you create or those you solve, making the world a better place to live.

As you go through your day today, look upon problems not as an obstacle to avoid but as an opportunity to harvest. You will improve your life and the lives of many people around you.

Today’s the day!

Jim Stovall is the president of Narrative Television Network, as well as a published author, columnist, and motivational speaker. He may be reached at 5840 South Memorial Drive, Suite 312, Tulsa, OK 74145-9082, or by e-mail at . Visit for additional information.

Many more articles in Personal Development in The CEO Refresher Archives


Copyright 2004 by Jim Stovall. All rights reserved.

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