How to do hard things with ease

Published on March 28, 2022

I write often and, full disclosure: just because I write about something, doesn’t mean I’ve mastered it. A distinction that I find extremely useful is that between practice and performance. 

Let me get a bit more specific: say you have a job interview coming up. Or a presentation. Maybe you’ve just started your business. 

The pressure is on. You feel you have to perform. Or else (insert here your deepest fears and worst case scenarios).

So you grind and grind and grind and beat yourself up. You criticise yourself. You throw yourself out there. You push and push. You’re scared but you do it anyway. You keep showing up and performing.

Then when things don’t work out as you’d hoped, you crash immediately. And maybe for good. 

You decide not to interview again and stay in the job you know and hate. 

You decide you’re just not made to run your own business and that you should just get a job again.

This is where the distinction between practice and performance is essential to know.

There are times when you can do something for the practice. Without being attached to the outcome. You can interview over and over and over again just to get good at it, or to have exposure to different types of interviews.

If you have your own business, you can practice talking about your offer. You can practice offering your services. All in the name of practice. In the name of getting good at it.

Then you can evaluate.

What worked? What didn’t? What would you do differently?

There will be times when you have to perform, yes. But actually, most of the times you can continue to think of it as practice. Because when you practice, you can experiment, change, take risks.

It’s a bit like playing tennis. Players spend hundreds of hours practicing one thing. Over and over again. Getting ready to perform. But when it comes to performance, remember there are so many other factors at play! Luck, weather, other people, your health - you name it. You cannot control for every variable.

So instead of putting yourself under pressure to perform, encourage yourself to practice.

Practice applying for jobs intentionally. Do something different when you apply. Take a risk. Send a video. Practice interviewing without making it mean anything about yourself if you don’t get that job.

Practice telling people about your new business and your amazing offer. Get comfortable doing it more and more. So that by the time you have to perform, you’ve gotten a lot better. And even then, remember that the success of your performance is not just down to you. But at least you have practiced to be as best as you can.

If you do things for practice, you don’t give up when the performance doesn’t work out as you wanted it to. You know it’s one performance, with many variables. And that there will be others. Your job is to keep practicing.

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