Lebron James is arguably the best basketball player on the planet. It would be easy for him to play to his strengths. But in 2014, he added a new element to practice. A one-on-one contest where buckets only counted if you shot off the wrong foot and with the wrong hand. James was minimizing a weak point in his game. Shooting off the wrong hand and foot combo would never come as natural to him as his dominant side, but making this a focus of practice allowed him to be just competent enough in case he was put in that situation in a game. He gave himself a shot.
We have a tendency to play to our strengths and hide or ignore our weaknesses. It’s not much fun practicing public speaking if you despise it, or working on grammar if it’s the bane of your existence. Practicing at what we are good at is a lot easier to do. It comes naturally and we’re reinforced by success. It feels good to succeed.
Practicing at something we aren’t good at brings the opposite feelings. Frustration, annoyance, and anger. With each shot we miss or math problem we get wrong, negative emotions grow. Our inner dialogue turns sour and thoughts of quitting arise. We’re pushed towards taking the easy route, giving up and going back to practicing something we’re good at.
Our weaknesses provide an opportunity. That feeling of discomfort isn’t something to shy away from, it’s a signal to explore it deeper. It highlights that there is an opportunity to address something we might not be the best at. As we age and gain expertise it’s tempting to follow the easy path, be who we are, and play to our strengths. But growth lies in getting to know discomfort. Whether that’s shooting with wrong hand, discussing topics with friends that might not come naturally, or practicing our craft in a novel way. Take a lesson from Lebron. Lean into your weakness, add some constraints that force you to work on it, and get comfortable being uncomfortable.