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Practice Makes Perfect...At All Ages

 Why do we tend to forget as we get older that we need time and practice to master a new skill just like children do?  Maybe it's because when we're younger we are constantly learning but then after awhile we think we've got it all figured out.  Or maybe it is that we fall into comfortable ruts of what we know.  We stick to safe things.  We are terrified of failing or looking silly.  But all change, growth, and learning requires some discomfort...some facing of the unknown and pushing through mis-steps and challenges.  It's actually what gives us the growth and sense of accomplishment we're after.

I like this article from the Harvard Business Review "Going from Suck to Non-Suck as a Public Speaker" ; 1.) Because I want to be a better public speaker and it gives me hope that I'll reach the level I aspire to, but also, 2.) Because it is a reminder that everyone you see that is really good at something didn't start out that way.  They went from "Suck to Non-Suck" just like you will.  It takes persistence.  It takes training, time and most importantly consistent PRACTICE. And please remember to have fun with the process!  It's the journey that creates what you're after and that will build what you need to carry you through the long haul, so enjoy and be present for it.  Besides, fear and negativity pretty much kill innovation, creativity and our ability to learn.  So whether you are trying to become a better public speaker or leader, training for your first 5K run or want to learn a new language (ah-hem, also a personal challenge with a certain language -not pointing fingers here - German!)...it takes time.  We must remind ourselves of this when we get frustrated with our attempts at gaining a new skill or obtaining a higher mastery level of one we already have.  The adage "practice makes perfect" still applies...well at least "practice makes mastery", I've stopped looking for "perfect". 

I had someone ask me for help recently with a social business event they had coming up.  They admire how at ease I am in networking/social business situations and wanted to know how I do it.  I immediately went into Coach & Mentor mode, and shared what I know.  Later though I had to laugh because it occurred to me how terribly uncomfortable I was early on in my career when my naturally introverted self first started doing those sorts of things.  So we even tend to forget how we have gone from "Suck to Non-Suck" with things we are now good at.  We must be patient with ourselves.  With training and practice, practice, practice...mastery of whatever skill you want to learn or get better at will happen.  

I was reading the updated eBook "IT Management - 101" by Mike Sisco and there is a part where he talks about the natural personality traits of people that have made a career in IT.  He sums up our general mentality and approach to things with:

"Let's do it!  

Let's do it now!  

Do it my way!  

I don't want to talk about it!" 

This made me literally laugh out loud because this does in fact pretty much sum it up for me and many of the people I know.  There are some great things about this mentality, it just needs to be tempered with patience and doing some of the work that we find tedious (like gathering really good business requirements before building anything and completing documentation...you know who I'm talking to IT folks :-).  These are the same things we need to master new skills...especially ones that you may feel particularly uncomfortable with, like public speaking is for me.  Because before you know it, with enough patience, practice and persistence you WILL go from suck to non-suck.  You will have to remind yourself just how tough it was at first one day.

Is there a skill you want to learn or improve on, but have put it on the back burner because it frustrates or scares you?  A New Year's Resolution perhaps that's started to lose its shiny appeal?  What can you do to dust that aspiration off and give it a go now?  How can you set yourself up for success?  Write down your goal, keep it where you can see it, do something every day towards it and you WILL go from suck to non-suck in this area.

And if you are in IT, I recommend checking out "IT Management 101".  Mike offers it for free and even if you've been managing for years it's a good reminder of the basics.  Sometimes we all need to ground ourselves with a back to the basics refresher.  I always learn something new when I do this with an open mind, armed with the experience I've gained and lessons I've learned to see known principles with a new perspective.  Download a free copy of the book here.

Now...I'm off to practice my German and Public Speaking skills!  Have a great day!