Why We Should Practice As Adults
When was the last time you practiced something? How long has it been since you repeated a task, over and over again, so that you could get better at it?
Want to listen? There's an audio version below
On a recent mastermind call, I brought up this concept of practicing with the group. We each have businesses and we all want to get better at our craft. But, I wondered how often we actually sit down and practice so that we can improve our skills.
I found a lot of value in that discussion, and I thought I'd share some of those thoughts with you.
Why We Should Practice As Adults
“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.
– Bruce Lee
Practicing As Kids
I've got a young nephew who was recently learning to write. Specifically, around Christmas time, he asked Santa for a dinosaur and a train.
But in reality, he didn't ask for anything. He scribbled on a piece of paper, and my sister told us what he was trying to write.
As kids, we had to practice everything. We had to practice putting food in our mouths. We had to practice walking and talking. We had to practice writing out our letters. We were terrible at everything, so we had to practice everything.
As adults, we can look back and know that practicing is a requirement for advancement.
Practicing to Get Better
As we get a little older and realize that practicing, while required to get better, sucks. Even though it's necessary, practicing is boring, repetitive, and often no fun.
However, practicing is necessary to get better. But remember, practice does not make perfect; practice makes permanent. What we do while practicing, mistakes and all, is what we do out in the real world.
But, we practice to get better. We do repetitive tasks to develop muscle memory and instincts, and to reduce the time it takes to act. We do drills that seem stupid at the moment not realizing how they'll help us in the big game.
Athletes practice free throws at the gym so they can perform out on the court. Soldiers practice drills on base so they know what to do in a firefight.
Practice is preparation. Not only do we practice to get better, but we practice when the pressure is low so we're prepared when the pressure (and expectation) is high.
Practicing as Adults
But how often do we practice as adults?
Now, this is the meat of our discussion on the mastermind call. The topic was introduced in relation to creating landing pages. One member didn't want to (or, rather, wanted to create a perfect page the first time), and another member said he could do it in his sleep.
Why are these two people so different?
While I've changed the details of this story a slight bit to protect some identities and to help convey the lesson, the difference is practice.
One person was willing to put in the work and develop a new skill, and the other was not.
As an adult, when was the last time you practiced something?
I know, for me personally, that I don't even think about practicing. I just… do stuff. Either I expect to be good at it or I just… well, I don't do it. As an adult, I rarely think to myself, “I could be really good at XYZ, but I'll have to practice at it.”
Am I alone in this?
I don't think I am. After discussing it with my clients, I think my behavior is typical adult behavior. We either stick to what we know or we try something for a few minutes and quit if we can't do it.
Seth Godin Says “Ship It”
Ya, I'm familiar with the concept, and I know what Godin says. And, for the most part, for most of us most of the time, he's right.
We need to stop trying to be perfect and put our work out into the world. We need to get over our fear of imperfection. And, we must learn to recognize the symptoms of analysis paralysis so we can avoid it.
And here's where things got really interesting…
One member echoed something you might've heard before. They advocated that we should “ship it” because, in their words, “something is better than nothing.”
I responded with, “Is it?”
We only get one chance to give a first impression. We only have one shot to win the big game. We often only get one interview to land the job. We often get one chance to give a successful pitch to sign a new client.
So, is it worth putting out something mediocre if it will not be the representation of ourselves and our work that we want out in the world?
While I understand the need to “hit send,” to “ship it,” and to get started before we know how it'll turn out, I also understand the expectations our customers have when we “ship” them something we made.
And to tie it all together…
As kids, we try everything to see what we're good at. Or at least that's what our parents tell us. As adults, when we try something new, if we're not immediately good, we quit and move on.
What if our lack of practice, or our unwillingness to practice, is keeping us from becoming great at something new?
The Learning Curve
Most things in life have a learning curve. For example, WordPress, as a content management system, has a fairly steep learning curve. WordPress is hard to learn, but once you learn it, it's all gravy.
Designing landing pages is also simple, but only after you've put in the work, learned how to use the tools, and done it a few times.
Almost everything worth doing is difficult. And, if you're going to do something, you might as well do it, well, well.
If we approach every new challenge with an “I'll never be good at this” mentality, we're much less likely to practice at it.
Practicing for Mastery
Finally, the last member of the mastermind group chimed in with some excellent words of wisdom. He said,
“My son is a musician. And I look at what he's capable of now versus when he started. He practices probably 2-3 hours a day. And, he still has work to do. Even if you got to ‘100%,' you'd still have further to go.”
When we're younger, we practice to survive. As we get older, we practice to improve (and because our parents make us). As adults, we rarely practice anything. But masters of their craft practice continuously.
Mastery takes practice. To get good at anything, we've got to put in the work and develop (sometimes new) skills. Perfection is an illusion, but is “good enough” good enough?