We often hear about somebody “rising to the occasion”. What we don’t hear often enough is about how they fall to the level of their practice.
It makes for a poetic story for somebody to wake up inspired on race day and perform much better than they do during practice. The newspapers will not report, “Michael Phelps fell to the level of his practice to set a world record”. It does not make for an attractive headline.
Dig a little deeper, though, and you’ll uncover Phelps’s practice – his rigid routine that starts the moment he wakes up, that determines what he eats, what he listens to and how he warms up (with the same warm-up routine for more than 13 years). Phelps visualized winning and enacted it to the greatest detail, including which foot he places on the platform and how he flaps his gigantic arms. By the time the race begins, Phelps has already won over and over again during his practice. In other words, with each of his 28 Olympic medals, Michael Phelps merely fell to the level of his practice.
We do not rise to the occasion. We fall to the level of our practice.