The ability to do something on demand, whenever it is needed or desired is the ability to actually perform the task in a useful and practical manner. The ability to produce excellent results on command is the difference between performance during practice and performance during the real thing.
There is a difference between being able to deliver a speech in front of a bathroom mirror and speaking in front of hundreds or thousands of people. There is a difference between being able to make basketball shots in practice without an opponent and being able to score with the clock winding down and a defender charging at you. There is a difference between being able to perform a procedure in a simulation center and being able to do it on an unstable patient while the rest of the room watches. There is a difference between being able to be kind to others when everything is good, when a full night’s sleep, a warm environment, and plenty of food are present, and being able to be kind no matter what the environment and no matter how tired or cold or hungry one may be.
Being reliable, someone upon whom others are able to count on, requires the ability to perform on-demand. Being someone who can be trusted to make good decisions requires that one be able to make these decisions both under the best of circumstances, as well as the worst conditions, for it is under the worst conditions that these decisions matter the most.
Performing on-demand is the skill that is amassed during training. Performing an action again, and again, and again in practice provides the basis for being able to produce a result on demand. Repeating three-point shots is critical to being able to make the basket when the game is on the line. However, shots in practice must be taken with both the mental and physical pretense of preparing for the critical moment. That is, both mentally and physically one should be constantly playing iterations of real game scenarios during practice. From the presence of a defender to the feel of the court, even to the noise of the crowd, the more realistic the practice, the better the preparation for the game. Most practice facilities have basketball hoops which are framed against a wall whereas nearly every large arena has free-standing hoops, that is, there is no wall behind the hoop. This optical illusion can often cause good shooters to underestimate the distance to the basket resulting in missed shots. Thus practice shots must be taken in game-like conditions whenever possible and recalibrated in the real venue or as close to it as possible.
There is a difference between being able to tie sutures at a desk and being able to tie them with gloves on, working with a patient who may or may not be cooperative or sober. There is a difference between being able to answer kindly to another seated in one’s optimal environment and in the pressure cooker of a high-stress environment. Having the muscle memory for a kind and calm response is the same as having the muscle memory to throw a stitch as both are learned, and when learned, the muscle memory becomes natural and frees one up to focus on the larger picture.
With practice, there is gained a joy, a freedom in the performance. With muscle memory and practice, one is allowed the luxury of freeing up the mental space and bandwidth to perform higher-order tasks, to begin thinking several moves ahead.
As the saying goes,
“An amateur practices until they can do it right, professionals practice until they can’t get it wrong.”
Performance under pressure is performance on demand.