Jan 23, 2015

Practice Makes Perfect.

When was the last time you practiced something? I mean really practiced? Focused so much and worked so hard that your head hurt? In my life I have had opportunities to practice the piano. Practice my singing. Practice gymnastics. Practice math. Practice running track. Practice sewing. Practice being nice to my siblings. Notice I said that I " have had opportunities" to practice, not that I did practice.

Why do we have to practice? I read once in a Malcolm Gladwell book....I am pretty sure it was in his book Outliers....that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. Lots of times we think that people who are really good at something were just born with that skill but Malcolm argues that is not the case. They are good because they have practiced and practiced.I confess, I believe Malcolm.It does not mean I immediately made a chart and bought 10,000 star stickers....but I believe it. It makes sense. People who achieve usually work hard for it.

I can not remember when I started playing the piano. I just know that by the time I was 12 years old I was able accompany. I loved playing the piano and I feel like I played a lot. But I should have practiced more. My problem was I never spent my time practicing new things. You see when I sat down at the piano I wanted to play something perfectly that I already knew. I did not want to be bothered with having to stop, break it down, and play it over and over. Since I am in full on confessing mode, I have to tell you, I always wanted my piano teacher to play the song for me once because if I heard it I could usually pick it up faster. He caught onto my evilness and before I knew it he would not play for me how it was supposed to go and expected me to...gasp...practice.....and even bigger gasp....figure it out.

I tried gymnastics.....I ran track until high school....I took voice lessons....I learned to sew. But as I list these things I am realizing I always learned everything just enough to get by. I never was willing to practice enough to be exceptional at something. And I always wanted to be good at something fairly quickly and if I was not I gave up. Do not worry I am smarter now :)  I have noticed that people who really excel at something are people who practice. So if that is indeed true then I can declare to you that I am really good at talking on the phone. I am really good at making breakfast for dinner. I am really good at road trips. And I am excellent at buying Reeses :)

I always wanted to make rolls well. So I asked my dear friend Laurie for her husbands famous roll recipe and I started trying to make them. I was deeply afraid of yeast when I started. But I kept at it and then one Thanksgiving a friend asked me to bring all the rolls for a fairly large gathering of people. I made 8 cookie sheets of rolls. All that practice. And guess what? The practice paid off. I can make rolls with my eyes closed now :)

I used to be afraid of driving in the snow. Because I never had done it. Then we moved somewhere where I HAD to drive in the snow....no choice. And as I ....practiced....I became more confident and now I know how to drive in the snow and I am not afraid to do it. Not my favorite thing to do but I can do it.

Why am I thinking about practicing? Well let me tell you. The other day I was having a conversation with a dear friend and I was telling her how awful I am at this dating thing. I really am bad at it. She said lots of fabulous things to me through the course of our conversation but one thing that I have been thinking about was when she said something about practicing. What? Are you sure? 10,000 hours of dating if I want to be good at it? Maybe I will just be a sorta-good dater :)

I have been trying to think about the times in my life now when I really honestly have practiced hard for something. When I play the piano for someone who is singing or when I am asked to play a piano solo I practice hard....now that I am older :) I go over and over each measure. I mark up my pages with tons of writing. I talk out loud to myself. I focus so hard my head hurts when I am done practicing. It is hard but it is so rewarding when I can play that piece effortlessly and without fear of messing up. I can play it like it is a part of me. I wish I would have understood this when I was taking piano lessons when I was a kid.

I think about how hard I studied and practiced to pass my commercial drivers tests. I wrote the school bus pre trip instructions over and over again. I recited the steps in my mind. I worked so hard my head hurt....again. But it was so rewarding when I did it. I passed all the tests. And not only passed but passed with good scores.

I could not write about practicing and not write about watching my Amanda when she was learning how to walk. She was so cute. She would slowly and carefully walk a certain distance and then very carefully and slowly she would turn herself around and then walk back to her starting point.Then she would carefully and slowly turn herself around again. And back and forth she would go. None of my other kids practiced walking like Amanda did. She was so methodical.

I remember watching Madeline teach herself to ride a bike. So diligent, and focused, up and down the street in Lawrence, Kansas. Close enough to the curb to set her foot on it if necessary. Never giving up. I really admired that. And then when she was done learning she realized that riding a bike is no fun if you do not have a friend to bike with so she grabbed her sister Miriam and taught her....practice,practice, practice.

So here I am,46 years old and dating again. I am having to practice reminding myself I am an amazing person. I am having to practice telling myself to just be myself. I am having to practice realizing I am not perfect and it is okay. I am having to practice being okay with being short....yes, you can practice this :) So hopefully the practice will pay off and someone will see through it all and just simply love me.

I love what I am learning as I struggle along through all these new experiences. I am focusing so hard and practicing so hard. It is so strange to be fully aware of what you are doing wrong and want with all your might to stop it and yet have to practice it and practice it. I wanted to progress and learn and
 grow. I need to remind myself of that. Yes, I am frustrated that I can not be good at something the first time even though I know no one is. Yes,I am frustrated that I am going to fail and make a fool of myself as I learn. But I got this...I am sure of it. Or at least that is what I am practicing saying :)

“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.” 

― Aristotle,


Camie said...

Can you help me with my 12 year old who also wants to be good at everything the first time, and doesn't like to practice?? It is starting to be hard in piano, school, and other areas where things are hard at first. Help!! I love this blog--your practice will pay off!!

Jennifer said...

Oh I can try to help my friend Camie. I wish I had had some conversations at that age about failing and realized that it was okay to fail and that failing was actually a good thing. It is totally not fair to say this but I do wish my parents had made me practice but there does come a point as a parent that you have to decide if it is worth the fight. And pick your battles :)I wish I had had some more opportunities to realize how good it felt to work hard at something and then succeed.

Piano music that really interested me or was of interest to my peers really helped because then I could play pieces everyone had heard and that was cool :) Not sure if any of this helps.....

Camie said...

thank you for the long-distance parenting help!! i do think it is good to teach her it is okay, and sometimes good to fail. yikes--this parenting thing is scary the first time in every stage!

The Metzgers said...

You are AMAZING!!