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Practicing Your Craft

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.

What Am I Doing That's Hard?

It's funny, this natural inclination we have for things to be easy. Everyone wants to work really hard, not for its own sake, but only so that they can stop working hard and go live on a beach. They're willing to suffer through the ordeal of dating to find that perfect soulmate so that they can coast for the rest of their lives. I used to think like this, too, but over time have developed a new way of looking at things. Now I want to do hard things only so that I can do even harder things later. I don't want it easy.

At least once a day I marvel at how I got to be alive. I look at the dashboard of my motorcycle and the stripes lining the road, and I think, "how totally insane is it that I get to see these things right now, that I get to be on a motorcycle and operate it and live in a place where someone has striped the road for my safety?" Seriously, tiny little things like that are huge. It is ridiculous that I'm alive and that life is as incredible as it is. I mean, we could all be amoebas. There's more of them than there are of us.

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