What makes great people so great? Great companies so great?

It’s their mastery and innovation of their basics…the fundamentals of their activity.

Let me illustrate the importance of basics by calling upon several world-class musicians I know. I will not mention their names. One is now an independent musician entertaining audiences on a solo basis; the other, a conductor of a philharmonic orchestra at a very large city.

What makes those musicians so much better than thousands of other musicians? Practise and tweaking of their basics.

The importance of improving upon basics was amplified for me when my good friend, the solo musician, happened to complain during one of our casual chats about how much he “hated” doing his scales. “What?”, I asked. “You are STILL doing scales after all these years?!” He explained how it was a necessity to try to continuously improve upon his scales to help continuously improve his art. His scales were his basics. He has been doing this for decades and will continue to do so.

That made me think about the other musician, and how, as children, he was interrupted from our playing, every evening, by the voice of his mother echoing throughout the neighborhood calling him to come in to practice the piano. He would complain, “I hate practising the piano” as he broke off our play time. Yet, he dutifully marched straight home to put in at least an hour of solid practise each evening. He was building his basics, his fundamental skills, and to this day he keeps on tweaking them.

Both musicians constantly practised at trying to get better…and they became better. Both spend hours every day pushing their basics to the limits and trying to go beyond.

Underlying any success is a set of basics that have to be practised and IMPROVED. This is no secret. This fundamental principle can be found everywhere if we just take a moment to reflect upon it. The tennis player practises and pushes his or her basics. The martial artist. The soccer or football player. The basketball or hockey player. The marathoner. You name the activity and at the heart of those who achieve greatness is that one simple, fundamental principle of practise and trying to improve upon the basics during each practise session.

Imagine how powerful it can be to apply this principle to a skill you already have, or to your corporation’s already-great business model, or to your corporation’s proven-successful value proposition.

Whether at the larger corporate level or at the more personal individual level, greatness starts with your mastery and improvement of your basics, your fundamentals. That takes practise and constant monitoring to not only master but to also ensure compatibility with changing conditions internally and externally.

Do you practise your basics often enough and with an eye to innovating upon those basics to make them continuously better? That’s how greatness is achieved.