• Fitness Is Practice, The Influence Ecology Newsletter, Transactional Competence, Transactionalism

Fitness Is Practice

John Patterson, Co-Founder and CEO, Influence Ecology, Transactionalism, Transactional Competence
Influence Ecology Co-Founder and CEO John Patterson
Influence Ecology Co-Founder and Chairman Kirkland Tibbels, Transactionalism, Transactional Competence
Influence Ecology Co-Founder and Chairman Kirkland Tibbels

Fitness Is Practice

by John Patterson and Kirkland Tibbels
The Influence Ecology Newsletter August 2019

For competence, knowing requires doing and fitness requires practice.

We would never consider that we know how to swim or are fit to swim until we get in the water. Yet, in our experience, many people claim to know things they have never themselves done, practiced, or applied. Often, we claim to know a topic we’ve merely read in a book or seen online. In fact, our collective wisdom allows us to share in a kind of knowledge illusion[1], where we all think we know more than we actually do and rarely inventory how little we truly understand.

Throughout this study, we have introduced principles that are immediately applicable. The intuitive student will quickly begin to see their life through the lens of ubiquitous transactions; that in fact, they are always transacting to satisfy their aims, and so is everyone else. To further their understanding, an ambitious student might begin to consciously practice making invitations, offers, or requests to gain compliance. Perhaps they’ll attempt to tailor these exchanges to differing personalities or deliberately hold their tongue to lower their perceived cost. They may practice listening for the narratives of the transaction cycle or how they might move the transaction on to the next exchange. Maybe they’ll begin to knowingly accept, decline, or counter requests from others or perhaps apply a weapon of influence in an email to speed the result. However, some will wait to be instructed on how specifically to apply these principles. Perhaps they are naïve about the activity of knowing or the fitness that practice brings.

Through action, we validate and modify our assumptions. Through deliberate practice, we develop our fitness.

Deliberate practice shapes the experience that in turn acclimates the perception of new opportunities. Simply put, you do not and cannot see the same tennis ball serve as someone who has deliberately practiced the ability and expertise to return thousands of serves.

You cannot see what they see; you cannot do what they do; you cannot respond as they respond. Your view of the same tennis ball . . . well, isn’t the same. If you seek to develop your fitness in tennis, you need not only the feedback that measurement provides, you also need someone qualified to see what you cannot see or do.

This requires an ability to embrace your naïveté: the freedom and eagerness to acknowledge when your current knowledge or fitness is insufficient for your aims.

Fitness is the quality of being suitable to fulfill a particular role, task, or transaction: an organism’s ability to survive, reproduce, and thrive in a particular environment, condition, or transaction. We each have varying degrees of fitness for certain tasks or roles. For example, you may be fit for training another person, but unfit to train a room of 300 people. Similarly, you may be fit in the role of a team manager, but not yet fit for a role as the department director. Your fitness is not merely a product of your longevity, confidence, or belief in your ability, but that through practice, you have developed your fitness to thrive in a particular role, task, or transaction—in the environment where it occurs. The natural, social, or built environment is an integral aspect of our fitness, and in the examples above the environment is a primary driver of differing levels of fitness.

Your fitness is easily discernable if you choose to run a marathon and can’t yet run a mile but may be less easy to recognize when your eagerness to satisfy your ambitious aims outpaces your fitness for them.

Through deliberate practice, we develop our fitness.

A practice is an intentional action or activity taken for the production and embodiment of specialized ability, expertise, and knowledge. It is the repeated performance or systematic application, exercise, or use of an idea or method as opposed to theories about such an application or use. Practices are built in service of traversing the distance between you and your aims. Practices are objective, based on accurate thinking, and are measurable.

The recent Gladwellian phrase of “putting in your 10,000 hours” refers to this aspect of this discourse on practice: the notion that “talent” and specialized ability, expertise, and knowledge are as much a function of the environment as they are practice—a lot of deliberate practice.

Deliberate practice shapes the experience that in turn shapes the perception of new opportunities. Simply put, you do not and cannot see the same tennis ball serve as someone who has deliberately practiced the ability and expertise to return thousands of serves.

Deliberate practice shapes what you can see or do observe. What you can see or do observe shapes the opportunity to take advantage of the resources and offers that don’t yet occur to you; in fact, these aren’t on your radar until you have the ability, expertise, or knowledge to observe them.

Deliberate practice is characterized by five essential and necessary elements:

  1. Designed specifically to improve performance
  2. Repeated a lot
  3. Feedback is continuously available
  4. Highly demanding mentally, and
  5. Not much fun

If it seems a bit depressing that the most important thing you can do to improve performance is no fun—take consolation in this fact: It must be so. If the activities that lead to greatness were easy and fun, then everyone would do them and they would not distinguish the best from the rest. The reality that deliberate practice is hard can even be seen as good news. It means that most people wonʼt do it. So your willingness to do it will distinguish you all the more.[2]

—Geoff Colvin


[1] Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach, The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone, (New York: Riverhead Books, 2017).

[2] Geoff Colvin, Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else (New York: Portfolio Publishing, 2010).

Influence Ecology is the leading business education in Transactional Competence™. Our specialized study helps ambitious professionals construct transactions that accelerate results. Our practical and rigorous study programs help you face the behaviors, practices, and naïveté that keep you from satisfying your work, career, and financial aims.

Having published the only comprehensive text on the subject, Transactionalism: An Historical and Interpretive Study by Trevor J. Phillips, Co-Founder Kirkland Tibbels has authored more than 500 papers on the subject, study, and discipline of transactional competence and is a sought-after lecturer at universities, major corporations, and civic organizations around the world. 

Influence Ecology’s curriculum includes conferences, webinars, online tools, podcasts, and mentorship utilized by men and women in over seventy countries across the globe. Our membership includes an international assembly of accomplished professionals, faculty, and peers from a variety of countries, industries, and cultures.

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2019-08-19T22:31:35+00:00