Tenacity at the table: Three lessons for mastering anything

It is brilliant in its simplicity.

A year’s worth of dedication, captured in a single five-minute video. By now you’ve probably seen the viral YouTube sensation that is Sam Priestley.

His charge was mastery.

His medium, dedication.

His obsession, table tennis

Sam is the guy who dedicated the better part of an entire year to mastering ping pong and videotaped the entire thing. He then posted his 365-day odyssey to YouTube in a single five minute video that shows one second per day of his quest.

His amazing video and results have some takeaways for the rest of us.


This is the obvious one. Here is a guy who set a goal and doggedly pursued it. You may disagree with his goal, or find this all a waste of time, but Priestley took his quest seriously. And not only that, but he doubled-down by adding accountability via video.

No doubt from time to time this all got pretty old, and he could have easily quit. But Priestley is a guy who does what he said he’d do and the sheer fact that he was making this video probably helped him stay true to his vision. Goals and plans are great, when combined with accountability they actually get done.

Lesson: Find accountability. Make it cost you something to quit on your goal

A Strong Focus on Details

You want to get good at ping pong, you have to play a lot of ping pong. That seems reasonable, but that is only partly correct. The video shows not only games, but hours of drills. It combines both with leg exercises and overall fitness.

There is more to table tennis than there seems, and focusing on the details of those other things (speed, agility, footwork) is important. You’ll note how Priestley holds his non-paddle arm. I know nothing about table tennis strategy, but it’s clear this is a detail that a coach has told him is important and Sam is working hard to implement that detail.

Lesson: Break your goal into pieces and focus on the details of each of them.


Goals and dogged determination are important, but it also helps to keep your healthy obsession from consuming your life. You’ll notice that this video starts with a title slide that says “1 second (almost) every day”. I think this is an important detail.

What does the parenthetical “(almost)” mean?

Maybe it means that he didn’t use video from each day in the YouTube post, but I like to think it means he may have missed a few days along the way.

It is understandable if true.  This guy was as dedicated as anyone, but sometimes life gets in the way and stuff comes up. That’s fine, but the key was that those lapses never stretched into two days in a row or a week.

Backsliding is your enemy, recognizing when it may emerge is key to reaching your goals.

Lesson: Take setbacks in stride, get in gear and don’t let them snowball into failures.

Three simple lessons that you can use the next 365 days applying.

What have you always dreamed of?  What is stopping you?

Posted by

Christian. Father. Hawkeye. Male pattern baldness survivor.

One thought on “Tenacity at the table: Three lessons for mastering anything

  1. I guess this means that I am on my way to mastering parenthood because I spend time every day with that discipline.

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