The Main Ingredient of a Brilliant Performance

What do you think the main ingredient of a brilliant performance is? The performance here could be a presentation, an exam, a piece of writing, or something else. What do you think the key is that can make or break it?

The answer, I believe, is preparation. Preparation is what makes the difference between great and mediocre performances. Eric Buttterworth put it well:

Behind every brilliant performance there were countless hours of practice and preparation.

You might think that some people are a “natural” at what they do. But guess what? There is no such thing as a “natural” when it comes to high-level performance. Their seemingly effortless performance comes from good old-fashioned hard work.

I was reminded of this principle when I read an article about Fabiano Caruana, a rising chess player who is now ranked second in the world.

Caruana is earning a reputation as the most prepared player of his era — a man who studies everything and forgets nothing.

“Hundreds of games are played each day all around the world,” he noted. “And a lot of them are important. They’re all available online, but you have to put in the time to look at them all. And you need to analyze, find new trends, keep trying to find new ideas to use against specific opponents.”

These resources are available for everyone, but only a few people “put in the time to look at them all.” Furthermore, Caruana doesn’t just “look” at them; he “analyzes, finds new trends, and keeps trying to find new ideas.” That’s a lot of work.

It’s worth it though. Caruana had just recorded an impressive victory in the strongest ever chess tournament. He won his first seven games in a row, something that’s virtually unheard of in high-level chess.

Another example of this principle at work is Steve Jobs. He rehearsed for many hours for days on end before taking the stage to deliver his famous keynotes. He looked natural and spontaneous on stage, but that’s because he already went through the grueling preparation beforehand.

Whatever it is you do, there is no shortcut to a brilliant performance. Your preparation is key. If you prepare well, you will reap the rewards of an outstanding performance.

Photo by Barbara Willi


  1. I think I found this post at the perfect time in my life. Work gets you everywhere, but it’s amazing to see how many people are willing to complain at the lack of things coming their way, and saying they’ve done so much… but have yet to see anything come from it. You nailed this right on the head. It’s effort, it’s the willingness to prepare, no matter how hard the practice, to reap the ultimate rewards for the effort. 🙂

  2. Practice does indeed make perfect doesn’t it? Practicing something is work too, I recall many painful nights of making my parents listening to me butcher the violin until I ended up sitting in first chair, and seeing them beaming in the audience. Practice does ensure you can go anywhere, and BE anything.

  3. When I’ve gone to conferences and the presenters were really well known experts, I often found the presentation disappointing. Even though they had the knowledge, their preparation wasn’t there and so it often became rambling and incomplete. Same thing with lectures. I often spent so much time preparing lectures & slides but it was the only way to give a quality class to my students. No short cut for hard work

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