The MuchSmarter Blog

"Dudes Who Love to Work": Julius Randle and how Peak Performers Approach Practice

Tom Schecter
May 26, 2021

A lot of us grow up thinking of practice, or homework, or studying, as something we have to do. It’s the thing we have to finish before dinner, or before video games, or before whatever other fun stuff there is that we ‘get’ to do after we’re done.

For those of us who play sports, practice is the thing we ‘have’ to do to get ready for games, which we ‘get’ to play if we’ve practiced hard enough.

For those of us who play musical instruments or do theater, rehearsal is that thing we ‘have’ to do to be ready to ‘get’ to play on stage.

It’s the 'annoying' preparation for the fun thing we actually like doing. It’s the thing we ‘have’ to do to be good enough to play.

And that’s one way of looking at it. But what if we decided to approach practice as an opportunity—as something we ‘get’ to do?

In honor of the NBA Playoffs starting this week (and in honor of my Knicks being part of them for the first time in what feels like a million years…), I’m going to pull my main example out of today’s news feed from ESPN.
How Julius Randle became a 'Thibs Guy' and an MVP Candidate for the Knicks
It’s an article about the NBA’s newly-crowned Most Improved Player, Knicks forward Julius Randle, and how he embraced the uncompromising coaching style of his new head coach and raised his game to a level almost nobody could have imagined when the season began.

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau has made a reputation for himself as a coach who demands more from his players in practice than almost any other coach in the league. Players from his time with the Chicago Bulls, including 2014 Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah, pull no punches about his approach. 

Says Noah: “Ha!...There’s nothing easy about playing for Thibs. I don’t even know what else to say. That’s just the answer. The answer’s no...He’s a guy who [gets] the most out of you. And some people look at that and say he overdid it, but that’s what it takes to win in this league.” 

Randle’s willingness to push himself in practice has led him to his best-ever statistical season, and helped him become the leader of a truly shocking success story in sports, a Knicks team that was expected to be in last place in their division but instead won enough games to earn home-court advantage for their first playoff series in eight years. 

The quote that stands out to me, though, is from Randle himself:

"I want to get better, I want to improve. I want to be coached. Those are the type of guys that have really thrived under [Thibodeau]...dudes who love to work."

Read that last bit again: “Dudes who love to work.” 

Why is that so important? Because it shows that for peak performers, practice doesn’t feel like a thing you’re ‘required’ to do. If you treat it like an opportunity — if you treat practicing for the SAT, or the ACT, or whatever finals you’re gearing up for, like a thing you ‘get’ to do instead of ‘have’ to do — you’ll have a better chance of making the most out of your abilities. 

In short…Dude or not, become someone who loves to work.

Until next time!

- Tom

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