I remembering reading in some book-- maybe it was Mastery by George Leonard-- that experienced doctors generally aren't better than brand new doctors. The implication, the book explained, was that practice by itself wasn't enough for improvement. To actually get better, you need a specific type of practice: the kind of practice where you're actually consciously trying to improve.
That idea stuck with me. When you think about it, practice isn't really any different than just doing something and deciding it's practice. Practicing the violin is the same as just standing there and playing the violin. At the same time, this means that everything we doing throughout our normal days could be considered practice. But is it the kind of practice that hones our skills?
When I first had this idea, I decided that everything I did would be practice, and that I would always try to make sure that it was the practice that makes me better at things. When I ride my motorcycle, for example, I consciously try to make smoother shifts every time I ride. When I write a post, I try to write it better than I would have last week. Even when I slice bananas for my sandwiches, I try to make the slices more uniform each time.
Some of these improvements, like writing, are important. Others, like my enviable banana slicing abilities, are useless. That's not the point, though. If you practice practicing even the little things, when you start some new important thing you'll be trained to practice it in such a way that you'll get better at it.
Like so many other important things, it's a habit. Hard at first, easy and beneficial later. An unexpected side benefit of this habit is that it makes even mundane things interesting. Slicing a banana isn't very exciting, but challenging yourself to make the slices the same size engages you and makes it a bit more interesting. Riding my motorcycle to pick up my mail isn't much of an adventure, but it becomes a game when each shift is an opportunity to change gears perfectly smoothly.
Life's short. There are only so many activities we can fit into each day, but beyond that there's only so much engagement we can fit into each activity. Why not maximize that?
Heading off to Alaska by motorcycle tomorrow. Should be some cool pictures and posts coming from that when I'm done.
WOW, that was a short and MIND-BLOWING post! its taking the kaizen approach to a whole new level of mindfulness. i love it. even now, i am conscious about writing a comment which provides actual value to this blog post.
in fact, this has inspired me to use this technique as a ridiculously easy, and fun method of accelerated learning. i jsut recently got into accelerated learning, and i have been a conscious self-educator for the past 3 years, and the first 2 were haphazard and scattered through many different topics. but i have learned to hone my focus, and am still doing so, and this small technique has been instantly added to my toolbox. i found your blog through zenhabits and i look forward to more excellent posts like these.
Thanks, again a very good post inquiring into practice. What occurs to me is that as I am taking on practicing quite a bit lately - writing, for one, but more important, practicing being cause, practicing listening from a new place and so on...what George Leonard identified was what I call intention - if I don't bring intention (that I am a creator creating something), it is ordinary and exists inside of the world occurring out there, my only access being to describe it. When I am practicing being creator, I own that I caused it all and I am causing practicing intentionally. BTW - I met George Leonard a few times years ago when I lived in San Francisco and did some work with an Aikido pupil of his whose name escapes me right now.
Find those a the top of a mountain (have a dream...even if it is just slicing a banana more consistently), see how they got there and emulate ~An ambition and effort to equal, excel or surpass another (or yourself); to compete or rival with some degree of success, especially through imitation.
this is one of the bests post here!
but about Leonard (in Mastery), don't forget about the idea of stagnation. "learn to love the stagnation, the present moment" is one the best lessons i've ever learned. if you don't read the book yet, you should!
Thanks Tynan. This was pretty insightful. I've always been aware of the fact that I'm consciously trying to improve, no matter what I do. The thought that some people perhaps never use this approach was somehow quite surprising though.
Great post, I've been trying to make improving (on everything) a habit myself. I've gotten much better at noticing connections between seemingly unrelated subjects as a bonus!
I like it, reminds me of a quote, "There is a difference between 20 years experience and 1 years experience 20 times."
nice one. dan millman, in his book way of the peaceful warrior, refers to the fact that we can see life as having 'no ordinary moments' - even when cutting a banana, or brushing our teeth, it's important to do it with as much joy and attention as if we were flying a plane or performing surgery. nothing is unimportant, nothing is more important. the art of practise includes enjoying every single moment of every day, no matter what it is we're doing.
I was sitting around this weekend thinking about practice. I had just read an article that said that to get good at something one had to spend ten years practicing. Studies show that practicing is the one strong predictor of success in nearly any field.
Then I thought, "what am I practicing?". I'm practicing eating healthy. That's good. I'm practicing rapping. Good too. After a nice long pat on the back I thought of a more important question. What am I not practicing?
I realized that every time I practice a bad habit, I'm enforcing it and making it harder to break. I guess that's obvious, but for some reason it hit me like a ton of bricks. I see myself, down the road, being someone who keeps his living space really clean, pays bills as soon as they come in, gets ready fast in the morning, and doesn't procrastinate. Every day I continue to not do those things I'm making it harder to start doing them.
I'm thrilled that Tynan is coming to you with two things -- first, he's offering a breakthrough session through GiveGetWin. It's geared around doing more of the kind of excellent work you want to do, becoming more internally focused with your emotions, having a more enjoyable life, building great habits, and producing a lot of value in the process. There's five spots, so check it out now.
Second, we have this wonderful tour-de-force interview: it starts by covering how Tynan made the shift from unfocused to focused, how to derive internal enjoyment from things, useful actionable exercises you can do right now, Tynan's method and mindset for producing creative work consistently, how to set up great habits and an excellent mental and physical work environment, and how to make blogging work and similar endeavors work for you.
Total Focus; Total Enjoyment by Tynan, as told to Sebastian Marshall
When I turned 30 and I had a minor freak out… I thought, "I'll be 40 in not long, and then 50… there's things I want to do in my life, and they're not happening at this pace."
Before that, I had a general idea of things I wanted to do and have in my life, but I went about in an unstructured way. It was good in a lot of ways. It made be a broad process, but not much depth.