"An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching." Mahatma Gandhi
As a young 7 year old boy, I started my first ski lesson. I remember how excited I was to get on the mountain and learn how to ski. A cold front moved in and my first day of skiing was extremely cold, windy, and fighting poor visibility. I also felt that putting long sticks under each foot was extremely unnatural and painfully difficult to control. Needless to say, I hated my first day on the mountain.
I distinctly remember believing that my emotional petition to my mother would surely free me of this huge mistake. Eleven more scheduled lessons quickly changed from an opportunity to a prison sentence. However, I had a serious problem to overcome, there was a rule in our house that once a commitment was made, we had to finish it! Regardless of the challenges or discomfort, we were required to finish what we started. While I knew this, surely this would qualify as an exception.
As I approached my mother, with tears, sore legs, cold red feet, and the kind of plea that any loving mother would support, I was meet with compassion but denied my request to quit. I could not believe it! What kind of caring, loving mother would force her son to submit to such torture?
Well, eleven weeks came and went, by the eleventh week you couldn’t pull me off the mountain. As I went through those eleven weeks, my skill level increased and a love for skiing grew. I will be forever grateful to a wise mother who did not allow me to succumb to the emotional and even physical frustration of learning and growth.
Gandhi wisely instructed: A principle is the expression of perfection, and as imperfect beings like us cannot practice perfection, we devise every moment limits of its compromise in practice.
The Cost of Shortcuts
I have seen an increase in the presentation of many clients around this concept of practice. I am reminded of the very popular clip of Allen Iverson, when he was being questioned or challenged about missing practice. His contention was that he was a franchise player, he showed up and played hard at games, so why would anyone give him grief about missing a few practices! After repeating the word practice 20 times in his short interview, his point of practice was made, but it also highlighted a theme we are facing in our culture today. Are there exceptions to being above the need to practice?
We see the painful symptoms of many who fail to see the value of practice. Many want to be considered partners in the work place without proving themselves through practice. Many want to be healthy without practicing habits of health. When sick, we want to take a pill or have a doctor fix us yet become upset when becoming healthy requires behavioral change--practice. Depression is 10 times the rate it was 5 decades ago, with the onset of depression formerly at age 29.5 to today being 14.5 years old.
While we are certainly trying to understand why, no clearly biological, economic, or social issues are emerging to the surface. It is believed by some behavioral scientist, that these changes in depression are the result of individuals pursuing competency and fulfillment in life, but trying to do so through shortcuts--not practice. Half efforts, practicing just some of the time to develop competencies are creating an epidemic of academic mediocrity, poor workplace production, and medical challenges in patient’s who are required to practice disease manage in order to support their own health.
Conversely, as we recently enjoyed the Olympics, we witnessed excellence in performance. As the interviews beautifully portrayed, sacrifice and practice over the course of years were shared. Practice, practice, practice...all in order to master a skill in the context of three minutes or less of performance. I am reminded of the old adage: "When you see a person at the top of the mountain, they didn't fall there."
It would seem that few life lessons are more relevant to remember and apply, regardless of age or condition...practice, practice, practice!
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