When we were children, we often took up some hobby or sport. Maybe it was piano playing, or tennis, or gymnastics. Inevitably, our coach or teacher tried to encourage us with these words: “practice makes perfect”.
This cliché probably sounded nice at the time, but it doesn’t ring true.
Perfection is Not the Goal
The idea of being “perfect” is quite lofty, but alas, an unattainable goal. Nobody achieves perfection. The real name of the game is perfecting yourself, but honestly, that notion is also very tough to relate to and frustrating to accomplish. For many people, the idea of becoming “perfect” in any way brings all kinds of self-doubt, anxiety, and pressure to perform. The quest for perfection introduces too many mental obstacles.
Believe it or not, the idea of “permanence” is much easier to work with.
Permanent Implies “This Is It”
Think about the idea of permanence. What words does it bring to mind? Solid? Everlasting? Sturdy? Unchangeable? These are concepts we can realistically relate to. Deep inside, we yearn for a state of permanence, of security, of stability, of something we can count on. Once something reaches a state of permanence, we know it will remain that way, for better or for worse.
Good Practice, Bad Practice
Once we start practicing something, we realize the compound effect of our activity. Toss a ball a certain way, and we will toss it that way again unless we change the way we throw it. The same goes for playing notes on a piano, performing surgery, and talking to clients. The entire world of human activity consists of people doing things the way they have been doing them because that’s how we’ve trained ourselves. The phrase “creatures of habit” is an understatement!
The Importance of Working Hard AND Working Right
People who have reached legendary levels of achievement understand this process. In every field of human endeavor, the masters strove to get it right every time.
An inspiring example is that of Ben Feldman. He was the Babe Ruth of the life insurance business. He literally changed the industry by raising the standards of sales and production. Nobody worked harder than he did at the sales process. He did all the behind-the-scenes research so he would know exactly what buttons to push in new prospects. He knew that regardless of his phenomenal reputation, each new client had to be won over. He would practice over and over and over again what he would say to them. He knew that when he finally booked the sales appointment, his presentation had to be natural and yet right-on. And it could only be that way by preparing for it the right way.
If he fell short, he understood that it was only because he had practiced insufficiently in the time leading up to the meeting.
The Only Way to “Win”
Does proper practice guarantee the desired results every time? Of course not. Not even Ben Feldman got the sale every day. But practicing right gives you two important benefits. First of all, it tilts the odds that the end result will indeed be what you want it to be. Clearly, the odds are against you getting what you want if you train incorrectly!
But more than that, practice gives you a feeling of contentment and accomplishment in spite of the results. There is a sense of satisfaction and enjoyment in a performance that is the product of thorough preparation. Whether you win or lose, you can say of the experience, “that was good!” And by the way, this is not an ego trip. It’s an appreciation of beauty, even a sense of wonder, of how the world can be when you try to put it all together after diligent and excellent practice.
So go forth and practice the right way, in whatever you do. Make the right way the permanent way.
Have you built a habit of practice into your life? If not, do you know where to start? I’d love to hear your thoughts!