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.
When offering advice, I try really hard to actually give advice that's suited for the person I'm giving it to. I make an extra effort to do this, because I know that I have a tendency to think that my way is the best way for everyone, and to just advocate my way of doing things. But that effort to tailor advice goes out the window when I'm giving suggestions on where to travel to. My answer is almost always Japan.
I was thinking about this a couple days ago, as I found myself recommending Japan for the billionth time, and I realized that there are some interesting properties of Japan that make it a really ideal place to travel to, especially for people who want something more than a typical vacation, but don't know where to go.
1. It's Extraordinarily Interesting
Of all the places I've been, Japan is one of the most interesting. What makes Japan so interesting is that it's very different from anywhere else, mostly because it's so resistant to direct outside influence. If some external trend or business makes it to Japan, it doesn't arrive unscathed; it's first transformed into a thoroughly Japanese experience.