Daniel Coyle’s book, The Talent Code, is one of the best books I’ve read in the last couple of years. He explores “talent hotbeds”, places that produce a disproportionate amount of talented people in various fields—sports, the arts, and academics. And he comes up with key factors that separate the best from all others.

His follow-up book, The Little Book of Talent, condenses the lessons he learned about talent into very direct, transferable and applicable insights.

And this is the key insight:

“If I had to sum up the difference between people in the talent hotbeds and people everywhere else in one sentence, it would be this:

People in the hotbeds have a different
relationship with practicing.

Many of us view practice as necessary drudgery, the equivalent of being forced to eat your vegetables, far less important or interesting than the big game or the big performance. But in the talent hotbeds I visited, practice was the big game, the center of their world, the main focus of their daily lives. This approach succeeds because over time, practice is transformative, if it’s the right kind of practice. Deep practice.

The key to deep practice is to reach. This means to stretch yourself slightly beyond your current ability, spending time in the zone of difficulty called the sweet spot. It means embracing the power of repetition, so the action becomes fast and automatic. It means creating a practice space that enables you to reach and repeat, stay engaged, and improve your skills over time.”

Everything changes when you see practice as not just a means to an end, but a worthy end in itself.

This applies to all of life, actually. Every moment is a chance to practice intention and focus and mindfulness.

Practice, then, is not merely preparation for something else, but is rather the act of honoring the only place your life ever is—here and now.