Pablo Casals was considered by many to be the greatest cellist ever

Pablo Casals was considered by many to be the greatest cellist ever. Known to practice many hours a day right up until his death at the age of 96, he was often asked, Why, since he was already such an accomplished master?

His response: “Because I think I’m making progress.”

In previous posts, we looked at 4 of the 5 principles of Full Contact Performance. Pablo Casals’ response illustrates the fifth principle—Practice.

We know that mastering anything takes lots of practice. Even if we happen to be blessed with exceptional talent in a particular area, it still takes diligent practice to fully realize that talent. Even more so if we don’t seem to be blessed with that natural talent.

As we become more aware of how our words, body and attention shape our interactions (Principle #1), we start to uncover new ways to enhance our collaborative performance. We begin noticing how our ever-present connection to the people around us can be harnessed for good, or ignored, which can lead to greater distance and polarization (Principle #2). This recognition reminds us that we, ourselves, are always at the center of our collaborative challenges—we’re never simply passive recipients of other people’s actions, but active participants (Principle #3). And underlying all that we notice and do is our intention—which is often far more important than any particular technique or formula we might apply in order to get others to “collaborate better.”

But all of this insight and understanding isn’t enough to magically transform our collaborative performance—especially when tensions are high. We need to 𝒆𝒎𝒃𝒐𝒅𝒚 these insights so that they’re readily available to us when we really need them. Otherwise, they’ll remain just insight and understanding.

Just like reading books about flying doesn’t make you a pilot, watching Youtube videos on brain surgery doesn’t make you a surgeon, and simply showing up on game day doesn’t make you a professional athlete, understanding collaboration isn’t the same as being good at it. Skills require practice.

To get better at organizational collaboration, you need more than workshops, posts (like this), or just a seat at the conference table. You need to practice with focus and feedback, ideally with support from your “training partners” (your colleagues) and a good coach or teacher. This is how we condition our nervous system for performance, even under pressure.

Getting better at collaborating with your colleagues at work isn’t as complicated as brain surgery or as physically demanding as being a pro athlete. But it does take practice, which is why it’s Full Contact Performance Principle #5.

If you’re interested in learning more about what and how to practice to transform your own collaborative performance, you can now pre-order my book, “Full Contact Performance,” on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or any other bookseller (the link is in the comment below).

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