Practice–It’s that simple
(and that hard).
I mentioned in my previous post that I’m working to learn more about freelancing and online business in the effort to at least generate a part-time, secondary income working from home. I also mentioned, not for the first time, how much I love to write.
So, last night I applied for work as a transcriber with some online transcription company. The application process consisted of a brief test designed evaluate the applicant’s command of the English language. I thought for sure I blew it clean out of the water. Then, I got the results today and “my number of errors was outside their allowable margin for error.” I *gasp* failed!
After traversing several phases of self-talk (failure, doubt, it’s-not-me-it’s-them, etc.), I set my ego aside and decided I must need more practice. Weekly isn’t enough. I have enough ideas, I need to practice daily.
So, whatever it is you want to learn, and whatever level of skill you currently have, if you want to get better, practice. The more you practice, the more you’ll learn and the better you’ll get.
Daily–Make time to make it a habit.
As an abstract concept I think we all know practice, especially daily practice, is what it takes to learn and improve anything we want to do well.
Personally, however, I’ve never really had the patience. I want to do something well and I’m a perfectionist, so when I can’t master it in whatever length of time my amateur brain imagines is reasonable, I quit.
To me, daily practice has always been an abstract concept of self improvement. I was either good at something or I wasn’t, period.
Until I made a daily habit of something simple and completely unrelated to anything I wanted to do.
I was among thousands of people who regularly lie to their dental hygienists. She’d ask if I was flossing and I’d reply, “Probably not as often as I should.” Translation: never (or, at best, rarely).
Then, she told me that my family history and personal dental hygiene may put me at higher risk of periodontal disease, so I made a commitment to daily flossing.
Having rarely flossed in the past, naturally I wasn’t very good at it. I used a massive amount of floss and it seemed tedious and time consuming. Not to mention, I had to make the conscious decision every day to take the time and struggle through it.
Then one day, without warning, I realized it wasn’t so bad. It didn’t take as much time, I didn’t use as much floss and I was much more effective at it. I also no longer had to remember to floss, it was just something I did.
That simple task took daily practice from an abstract idea to something practical that I could apply to any task at which I wanted to improve.
I also learned something else about daily practice. You improve without noticing you’re improving. Just like our hair grows and our bodies age, you don’t notice the change until the change is significant. You start out not doing so well and you continue thinking you’re not doing so well until one day, you realize you’re actually good. Then you continue at being good for a while until one day, you realize you’re great. So on and so forth.
Patience–With your progress and with yourself.
You’re not going to be very good on the first day and you’re not going to see immediate results. The most important thing is to remember that’s okay.
If you want to paint, it’s okay if it’s not a masterpiece. Don’t quit.
If you want to run, it’s okay if you have to rest. Don’t quit.
If you want to be creative, it’s okay if ideas come slow. Don’t quit.
If you want to be anything, it’s okay if you fail. Don’t quit.
It won’t happen overnight, in a day, a week, a month or even a year. But if you want to change, if you want to improve, you have to work. You have to keep practicing.
Let go of fear. Let go of comparison. Let go of anyone’s standards other than your own. Learn what you love and do what you love, because you love it. Accept mistakes as part of the process, as part of your process.
I’m sure for a lot of people this is a “Well, DUH!” post. But, I’m also sure there are a lot of people in the world just like me. Who quit before even giving themselves a chance. Who give up because they think they’re not good enough or it’s too hard or they’ll never make it. Frankly, I’m tired of quitting. I’m doing this.