Winning is a Process to Task Mastery

August 23, 2023

I donated a basketball shooting machine to a school.

The machine captures shots into a cone-shaped net. It funnels the balls back to the shooter. The machine is a tool for getting in reps. If the shooter sets the machine for free throws at a three-second tempo, she can rep-out 100 free throws in five minutes.

Amazing Basketball Shooting Machine – The Gun – Free Throw Shooting

Some parents think free throws are made if they yell at their kids from the stands, “Take your time.” “Make it.” “Come on Susie, we’re counting on you.” Or worst of all, “Stop missing your free throws!”

If being yelled at got results, then I would hire someone to yell at my employees:



Better yet, I could have had someone yell at me during my three Professional Engineer’s exams.



Passing an exam does not happen because one is being yelled at. Likewise for free throws made. Tests are passed and shots made if the task was mastered weeks before the game.

My girls won lots of spelling bees. That was the result of a process we began two months before each bee. Our process was to lock in 10 words over 30 minutes each weeknight for eight weeks. By test day they had mastered the 400 listed words. It was low hanging fruit.

I had participated in 900 hours of full-contact football practices and games before I made a significant contribution to my team.

For my first Dynamics exam I dedicated 36 hours to repping out problems. It totaled some 100 disparate problems practiced multiple times each.

There are 2,000 hours of boot camp before a recruit becomes a Marine.

During the first year of my engineering startup named Tower Engineering Professionals I worked 361 calendar days. I averaged 2,550 productive hours annually for the first decade. Most of us know of Malcom Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule to achieve task mastery. I met Gladwell’s 10,000-hour benchmark during TEP’s fourth year. Not coincidentally it coincided with TEP becoming stabilized and profitable.

My point is that winning is a process to task mastery. Mastery requires hundreds or even thousands of reps. It is more work than people realize and more than most are willing to do.

For my girls’ free throws, I liked them to get 2,500 shots in the weeks before the season began. My goal was 50% free throws made in the first game.

Following is a process for free throw task mastery by the season opener:


  1. At the first practice a player steps to the line while her teammates continue group training at another basket.


  1. With the use of the machine the player reps 100 free throws in five minutes.


  1. That player returns to her group training to be replaced by the next teammate.


  1. The process totals 50 minutes for 10 players yet merely five minutes away from group training for any given player.


  1. Repeat this process five practices per week for five weeks prior to the first game. That makes for 2,500 free throws per player going into the season opener. (It can be 5,000 reps for the dedicated baller who schedules a second five-minute session after practice.)


  1. Continue the process for every practice, for every season. After four years in a high school program, team free throws will rain buckets. Despite the yelling parents.


  1. If you want a state championship, then leave the machine up all day. Have each player perform another 100-rep-five-minute session between classes. Perhaps she puts in her 100 free throws every morning before school, after school or during lunch. It’s only five minute per player per day…

…but requires years. That’s the process of winning.

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