What is deliberate practice and why do you need to know how to do it? In this post, I will focus on why. In my next post, I will focus on how.

I was reminded of deliberate practice when I had a coaching session with a lawyer recently. The day before our coaching session she and a colleague had given an extremely important presentation to their client on a matter of great importance. Several of those attending the presentation were skeptical and raised challenging questions.

She described for me her preparation, which included anticipating the challenging questions and which included practicing in front of the mirror again and again and again, making mistakes and correcting what she was doing each time.

That is deep practice. I know, because when I was a young lawyer I practiced the same way–in front of the mirror, or later in front of my video camera.

Most lawyers I know do not practice client development activities at all, much less practice them deliberately. They don’t practice giving presentations. They don’t practice writing articles and blog posts. They don’t practice striking up a conversation at a networking event. They don’t practice meeting with potential clients.

Why should you practice any of these things? I like this Walt Disney quote:

I think it’s important to have a good hard failure when you’re young. I learned a lot out of that. Because it makes you kind of aware of what can happen to you. Because of it I’ve never had any fear in my whole life when we’ve been near collapse and all of that. I’ve never been afraid. I’ve never had the feeling I couldn’t walk out and get a job doing something.

I also like this Bobby Jones quote about golf:

I never learned anything from a match that I won.

Lawyers hate to fail. I know because I hated to fail. Yet, I failed more than one time and you will also. It is just less painful to fail while practicing, than failing when it really matters.

Tomorrow I will focus on how to deliberately practice. As a preview, there is a great book by Daniel Coyle titled: The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. I urge you to read the book, but for now I will share a very important quote with you.

Deep practice is built on a paradox: struggling in certain targeted ways— operating at the edges of your ability, where you make mistakes— makes you smarter. Or to put it a slightly different way, experiences where you’re forced to slow down, make errors, and correct them— as you would if you were walking up an ice-covered hill, slipping and stumbling as you go— end up making you swift and graceful without your realizing it.

Are you practicing? What are you practicing and how much time are you devoting to it? Tomorrow I will share with you some thoughts on how I might help you deliberately (deeply) practice.