Last Fall I stopped by one of our local parks for a quick run. Very few people run at this park so it’s a great place to focus and put in a couple of really good miles. The temperature was pushing 60. As I was making my way around my first mile, I crossed paths with another runner drenched in sweat and headed in the opposite direction. We gave each other the obligatory runner wave and kept going. We passed each again on my second lap. I didn’t see him on my third lap and assumed that he had finished his workout and headed home.
The last quarter mile of the park trail runs parallel to a football field and concession stand. As I headed into this straightaway I noticed a fireman making his way up a steel staircase at the back of one of the two story concession stands. He was dressed in full gear from head to toe, wearing his helmet, fireproof jacket and pants. The only item he wasn’t wearing was his oxygen tank. I began surveying the park for smoke or some sign of fire but saw nothing. I then thought maybe someone had suffered a heart attack or that their had been an accident, but I didn’t see a fire truck or ambulance either. I kept running and watched as the mystery fireman turned around and made his way back down the two story staircase. When he reached the bottom he turned and went right back up and that’s when I noticed his running shoes. I continued to get closer and closer and the entire time I watched this guy go up and down this staircase in cadence. Just as I came to the foot of the staircase he turned and headed down and I realized that it was the runner I had passed twice on the running trail. This guy, who had put in at least 2 miles that I knew of and probably more, was now jogging up and down this two story staircase in nearly full gear.
I had a coach in high school that used to say,
Practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect
In school I shrugged that statement off as motivational mumbo jumbo, but I think I’ve come to realize what he meant.
It’s one thing to practice swinging a bat; it’s another to practice with someone pitching to you. It’s one thing to practice a speech or sermon; it’s another to practice out loud or on video to understand how you sound and where you need to improve. It’s one thing to practice your lines; it’s another to practice them in character.
When we prepare with the end in mind we prepare differently than if we are just going through the motions. For some this end may be the audience, the goal of the game or the action you want to motivate other to take.
When I train for a race I train with a time goal in mind. When we plan an event at our church we plan with the end result of that event in mind. When I discipline my children I discipline them with the changed behavior in mind.
The mystery fireman got it. He was preparing for the day when he would have to run up a staircase to save someone in a burning building. He was preparing for what it would feel like and what it would take to make it up a staircase dressed in his protective, but heavy and hot clothing. He was preparing his muscles and his mind to accept what it would feel like to make that climb.
What do you need to practice perfectly? Do you prepare with the end in mind?