“I didn’t fail the test. I just found 100 ways to do it wrong.” –Benjamin Franklin
Today’s wisdom message is a throwback to a saying which will be forever relevant, no matter what world-changing technology comes out or how cultural norms may shift: practice makes perfect. Growing up, I mostly heard this adage in the context of playing sports or trying to perfect a specific talent. Anyone with children remembers well that learning the ABC’s or writing letters required repetition after repetition. But, we should broaden our application of “practice,” as it truly crosses all boundaries. In the context of this blog, it equally pertains to our personal well-being, our family life, and our career.
Perhaps one of my proudest moments came at the end of my freshman year of college. It was here that some very hard practice had paid off in full. It all started at the beginning of the second semester. It was time for Comm 101: the presentation class. From the time I was little, little, I hated any kind of a spotlight, even being in a group on stage as part of a school play was frightening. I’m talking instant tears. I had a real dilemma on my hands, as I had earned a 4.0 GPA during my first semester, and had set a goal for myself to finish the year in perfect standing. Problem was, at age 19, I reverted back to that fearful little girl when the attention turned in my direction: so much so that during the first day of class, the tears welled up in my eyes at the thought of doing the ridiculously easy “tell the class about yourself” exercise.
After that first class, I decided right then and there that I needed to do something drastic. (And no, it wasn’t to run away and change my major). I was going to have to practice, practice, practice. Not only did I need to practice the components of a good presentation outline and flow, but I needed to practice the delivery . . . over, and over, and over. And that’s what I did. For each and every assignment, I drafted my speech and rehearsed it time and again, out loud in my dorm room. It took hours. But guess what? When it came time to give my first speech, I was so well prepared, I could have delivered the speech in my sleep. It has been well over 10 years since that course, but I will always remember earning a 100% on my persuasion speech, to which the teacher wrote on my paper: “I don’t think I’ve ever given this grade.” Needless to say, I reached my goal of ending the year with that 4.0 GPA.
Coming out of Comm 101, I became a very strong presenter, but I also gained so much more. This experience taught me that preparation results in stronger skills, but perhaps more importantly, it builds confidence. If you haven’t experienced this already, take my word for it that when you combine preparation, strong fundamental skills, and confidence – you are going to be pretty unstoppable. Set your sights high, because you will be able to achieve whatever you set your mind to.
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/Stuart Miles
Let’s apply this important adage to the biggest challenge we face right now in our lives. What areas of your life do you wish to improve upon? Think beyond sports, playing a musical instrument, or writing those letters over & over like when we were growing up. Think about your biggest “wish fors” like improving your diet, improving your marriage, or having better work/life balance. Perhaps you can practice keeping a food journal to get a better handle on what you eat every day. Or you could practice checking email only after a solid hour has been put in on your biggest project at work. Or maybe you could practice telling your spouse one thing you appreciate about him or her each day. Here’s the kicker: it’s going to take practice. It’s not something that we can do for a day or two and expect real improvement. Remember, the saying is “practice, practice, practice,” not “once or twice and then you’ve got it.” To see improvement, it will take some time, some commitment, and some fumbles. But each and every time you practice, the more skills you will grow, the more confidence you will gain, and the closer and closer your goals are to becoming reality.
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