Practicing It So Much That When The Moment Comes, It Just Happens

Practicing It So Much That When The Moment Comes, It Just Happens

On Chris Williamson’s Modern Wisdom YouTube show with Tim Kennedy, a Special Forces master sergeant and author, Kennedy was recounting the extensive training of special forces. In the fog of war there is no time to think when bullets start flying. It’s all reaction. He details the many micro movements of firing a weapon during a fire fight, emptying the weapon and reloading – all within seconds. It’s not a strategic – “I now need to do this” – kind of thing. It’s something you’ve practiced tens of thousands of times. So much that when the moment comes, it just happens.

It just happens.

He said you practice it so much, that when the moment comes, it just happens!

But first, it’s a slow, arduous journey of working hard.

Everything is hard, until it’s easy. Everything is slow, until it’s fast. 

This is why most things remain hard to many people. They don’t put in the work.

It’s why we remain broke, fat and miserable, too. And why too many of us lack faith, gratitude and compassion.

Because it’s hard work. It’s not couch potato work!

Some weeks ago I mentioned to Lisa Norris, my co-host on the Grow Great podcast (a podcast about city government leadership) that every high-performer I’ve ever known pursues the hard stuff. They’re not complacent. They’re all strategic in learning more, growing and adding to their arsenal. I remarked,

“Everything is hard, until it’s easy and high-performer are always chasing the hard stuff.”

Practice doesn’t make perfect, but perfect practice does. That’s what we’ve heard for decades. It’s absurd though because it presupposes that our work ought to be perfect in practice (when it doesn’t matter as much). However, if the saying speaks to the process of practice being perfect (our willingness to put in the work by doing what we must in order to improve), then it’s not absurd at all.

When I heard Tim Kennedy’s response I went back to notes I’d been making to myself about preparation (practice). I’m a lifelong fan of preparation. This – and all my podcasts – depict my fandom. I use a broadcast workflow because I’d rather prepare in advance of recording instead of just winging it, then fixing it all in editing after-the-fact. Besides, preparation is where I’ve found my confidence can be greatly enhanced. And I hate not feeling confident.

What is confidence? Where does it come from? Where do we have it?

Long ago I concluded that my confidence isn’t singular. There are a few different types of confidence in my life.

First, there’s confidence in God. I’ll call it a spiritual confidence. It’s based on belief, faith and conviction. It’s not an internal faith in myself, but rather it’s my inner confidence in something and someone else – something much higher and more powerful than myself. My spiritual confidence is based only on the Bible because it’s the only standard I have to inform me about God. Any other confidence based on feelings or intuitions or urges would come from me, not the Bible. That makes them susceptible to being mere delusions so I won’t base my spiritual confidence on such things.

Second, there’s confidence in others. This is an external confidence based on my belief and trust in others. It may be based on past history or expected future. I’m confident that our family will help influence my five grandchildren to be successful adults, able to navigate their lives well. Ages 16 to 8, it’s yet to be proven, but I have confidence in our family and in these children. Maybe it’s an optimism based on the work we’re putting in to help train them all. But it’s not entirely based on the adults in the family. None of these 5 children have shown an unwillingness to be compliant to learn and improve.

My confidence in others is based on past behaviors and on my expectations of their capabilities. It’s not an absolute though because I’m not in control of what they do. I’m not confident they’ll please me because that’s not my expectation. I expect them to improve and grow because I care about them being their best.

Third, I have confidence in myself. It’s not absolute or complete. Sometimes it’s spotty. More so than I’d like.

My confidence in myself is mostly born from preparation…practice. In areas where I fail to focus, I struggle. Appropriately.

Permit me to veer to where I lack confidence and why.

The federal government is’t my savior. I already have a Savior who is divine so there’s no point in looking for one that’s not. I know many people look at the federal government, and to a lesser degree state and local governments, to rescue them from whatever ails them. I don’t. It’s a conscious choice all of us make.

It’s problematic to put confidence where it doesn’t belong because fundamentally it’s delusional. It’s belief in something that isn’t worthy of that belief. It’s unreasonable and unrealistic expectation that something will happen, which will never happen. The cavalry of government isn’t coming to save us. They work vigorously to make us believe though. They desperately want and need our confidence to be placed in them. “Trust us. We know what’s best. Just leave this business to us.” We hear those kinds of messages from local municipalities all the way to Washington, DC. It’s a global epidemic as governments are in full-blown self-preservation mode growing bigger and bigger.

…I hope we have once again reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited. There’s a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: As government expands, liberty contracts.”          – Ronald Reagan

Self-preservation motivates those in power to remain in power. Fear contributes to the process. It works like a charm. A snake charmer! 😀

I only digress to point out that everybody can put their confidence where they choose. This is merely my admission of my own choices. You make those you feel are best for you. I’m on record that I’m a capitalist who enjoys the power of a free and open market. Yes, I support competition and oppose monopolies. There’s nothing free about the latter. I know markets make winners and losers of us all. If I bring insufficient value, I won’t survive as a business. If I bring high value, I will. Besides, I’m fond of knowing how I’m doing. Keeping score is a great thing when it comes to business and enterprise. It’s a terrible thing when it comes to interpersonal relationships.

In the race to bet on oneself or to bet on government, I’d much prefer to bet on myself. I view government as I view leadership. It’s a focus on others and doing for others what they can’t do for themselves. So while I need government and as a Christian, I pray for governments, I don’t put my confidence in them – beyond trusting them to pick up my trash, make sure my water works (and is clean), make sure my toilets flush, make sure my electricity continues to work, make sure my safety is reasonably preserved, etc. I can’t do those things for myself.

1 Timothy 2:1–4
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Romans 13:1
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.

Who is working for whom? It’s fundamental to the conversation about confidence and being prepared. Who is serving whom?

Being in service to myself to put in the necessary work to become better isn’t selfish. It’s right. Everybody benefits.

As I grow and improve as a person I can better influence those around me. I can make better decisions. Take better actions. Benefit myself and all around me. It can’t be helped IF I practice with intensity to insure that when moments come, I’m fully prepared to do the right thing. Not without thinking, but because I already made up my mind. Because I pre-thought it by putting in the work.

That’s the point.

Putting in the work in advance. That’s the practice.

Putting in the work long enough to endure the hard…until it gets easier. Then continuing it long enough until it becomes easy.


Advancing it up a notch (or three) to make it hard again…until it gets easier.

For me, it’s the drive to always make it better. It’s also the dissatisfaction that it’s good enough. Not to the point where my discontentment is crippling (or anywhere close to that), but to the point where I’m continually driven to improve it. It’s a restlessness with complacency.

For me, it’s not a restlessness with calmness or quiet. I’ve seen that in the lives of others, people who are just perpetual motion machines. Such folks tend to not get nearly enough done though. They log a bunch of miles, but without actually going anywhere. This often mistake movement with progress.

It rarely just happens for them. I know because I hear how hard they work, how much they’re hustling, how fast they’re working and how busy they are. “I’ve gotta run,” they repeat. Years later, it’s the same thing. These poor folks are stuck in Ground Hog Day living a life on constant REPEAT. That’s not progress. That’s not growing confidence. That’s not practicing so when the moments comes “it just happens.”

It’s also exhausting. And I’m only a spectator to their frenzy, but it whips me.

In place of that…what if the effort were focused? Intentional. Purposeful. Strategic.

What if our “practice” was driven with forethought aimed at an ideal outcome?

And here’s a big one: what if our practice was at something we couldn’t wait to do over and over again because we desperately wanted to master it?

And what if we mastered it and we still felt like we could advance in it?

How good could you become at such a thing?

There’s only one way to find out. Do it. Give it a go. Keep on giving it a go. Make sure that talent is your limitation, not aimed effort.

I know I have limited skills that will prevent me from achieving more, but I have no way of knowing those limitations if I don’t practice diligently to improve.

There are naturally gifted athletes who make it to the professional ranks. There are less gifted people who also make it to the pros. It would seem you can make it to the professional leagues of sports by being naturally talented, but you also have to put in the work to practice your sport. The extraordinary athletes, those world-class performers, combine both. Then along comes that person who has visibly natural ability that makes them superior, but something goes awry. Maybe it’s addiction. Maybe it’s poor behavior. Maybe it’s lack of desire, or lack of work ethic. And their career, which could have been spectacular, fizzles. Because something got in the way of putting in the practice. Discipline to stay the course. Missing.

It’s hard to discipline yourself. It’s hard to do the hard thing. Procrastination is easy. “I don’t feel like it right now,” is a phrase I’ve said too often. As a result, many things have gone undone. Either completely or for longer than necessary.

Not right now.

And when the moment comes, that’s the answer we get back to the thing we most wish would happen in that moment…

Not right now.

How’s that working out for you?

Really well.

It’s efficient. Reliable. Ridiculously predictable.

Galatians 6

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. 

You didn’t know that was in the Bible? Yep, that’s where mankind got that wisdom – you reap what you sow. What goes ’round comes ’round. God ordained it.

Nature proves it. Plant tomatoes and you get tomatoes, not okra. Or cucumbers. Everything after its kind. God ordained that, too.

What are you practicing? Why?

If you practice self-indulgence, then that’s what you’ll reap. The consequences of a self-indulgent life.

If you practice self-discipline, then that’s what you’ll reap. The benefits of temperance, self-control.

I wish it were an all the time, everything deal, but for me – it’s not. Sometimes I’m self-indulgent. Other times, I’m self-disciplined. My goal is to lean away from self-indulgence and lean toward wisdom through self-discipline. Restraint from the things I should not do and embracing the things I should – that’s what I ought to do. Ought to.

“Mean to don’t pick no cotton” is a Southern saying that means saying you intend to do something is different from actually doing it.

“All hat and no cattle” is an idiom that means someone is full of big talk but lacks action, power, or substance.

I’m too often guilty of that. Like right now.

I’ve got a list of things I need to do. A long list that isn’t getting any shorter because I’m not knocking things off that list.

The Yellow Studio 4.0 took weeks longer because I’d stare at the work required and say, “Not now.” But when I dove in and began to do the work it was rewarding to see it come together. The feeling afterward was positive, uplifting. The feeling after I made excuses was guilt. Uplifting or guilt? That’s an easier choice than doing the work or putting it off.

Homer Simpson’s philosophy continues to grow in many of our lives. “Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?”

Well, the answer is choose regret and guilt or choose achievement and confidence. Laziness or achievement?

But there’s something else about that line uttered by the Special Forces guy…”

you practice it so much, that when the moment comes, it just happens!

In that world of warfare, there are moments that come. Pivotal, life and death moments.

As I kept thinking about this line and how truthful I believe it to be, I also realized that in our lives – we ordinary folks who aren’t in mortal combat – our achievements are comprised of lots of moments. Some of them micro moments. Some not so micro. More often than not, moments that don’t seem so consequential – not like a fire fight in war. More like, a moment where I decide to not eat that ice cream sandwich and go for a 20-minute walk instead. Moments where I decide not to buy that shiny little object, but to set that money aside in a high yield savings account. Or an S&P500 low cost index fund. And it’s the cumulative impact of all these choices that define my life.





It’s a moment of hugging my wife. Or refraining from hugging her.

It’s a moment of putting my phone away so I can be more present as I sit across from her at a restaurant table. Or at home. Or not.

It’s a moment of squirreling away that $100 I find myself with, or blowing it on something frivolous.

It’s a moment of thinking the worst of somebody, or thinking there may be a plausible explanation for their behavior in this moment.

It’s the compounding effect of all my choices and decisions and how they add up to create a definition. Not a defining moment, but a defining life.

I’ve talked about that chart of a penny doubled every day for 30 days. It’s worth bringing up again, but it’s how our lives work in areas beyond money.

LTW compounding a penny


We make choices that seem insignificant. Good choices. Bad choices. The compounding works the same. Cumulative bad choices take a toll that’s far heavier than we think in real time. Cumulative good choices pay off in a far grander way than we realize in the moment. Good can take time. Bad tends to take less time.

By day 27 a person who opted for the penny doubled is thinking, “I made a horrible choice. Only 3 days left and I’m over $300,00 shy of what I could have had if I’d taken the million bucks.” But look at those last 3 days. In a single day he’d have made up the difference plus an additional $342K. The next day, he’s over 2.6x times the single million dollars. And by day 30, he’s got almost $5.4 million instead of just one million.

It’s these moments that define us. These moments of decision and action. Or indecision and inaction.

It doesn’t mean the line is any less valid or accurate. I think it very much is – we put in the work, we predetermine what we’re going to do, we practice doing it, and we keep on doing it over and over so when bigger moments come, it happens. Because all along the way those smaller moments have been happening. Our preparation has increased our confidence. Our confidence has built our resilience. Our resilience has prepared us for the things that could go wrong so we can counter punch them.

It’s the difference in a life well lived or a life wasted. For combat soldiers, it’s life or death. I could argue it’s true for us, too. All of us.

Randy Cantrell

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