4.4: Proceed Forward – Improves Your Skills

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Practice violine“How many hours must a flight student fly before he can solo?” I asked my flight-instructor brother.

“Around 17 hours of training and he or she must make at least 50 take-offs and landings.”

In other words, you do not learn how to fly by reading books and hanging out at the airport talking to pilots. Yes, there are books to read and tests to take, but you will never be handed the control of an airplane until you are fully trained and skilled at flying it yourself.

When I was a kid there were what we called Beatnik jokes. One of them went like this: A visitor to New York City looking for directions asked a Beatnik who was sitting on a street corner playing his guitar, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”

“Practice man,” he answered, “You gotta practice!”

A basketball buddy of mine who is now in his mid-fifties has a deadly three-point shot. I asked him how he developed such accuracy from such a distance. He told me that when he was in high school in rural Iowa he had a basketball hoop installed on the side of the family barn. “I made myself shoot and make 100 baskets from the three-point line every night before the sun went down.” Then he added, “And I would count only the shots that were swishers.”

Malcoml Gladwell, in his book Outliers, observed that it takes ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in almost any particular field. He arrived at this conclusion by studying the lives of extremely successful people.

He tells the story of a team of psychologists in Berlin, Germany who, in the early 1990s, studied the practice of violin students in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Each of the subjects was asked, “Over the course of your entire career, ever since you first picked up the violin, how many hours have you practiced?”

The answers were revealing. All of the violinists had begun playing at roughly five years of age with similar practice times. But as they grew older, things changed. At age eight, practice times began to deviate and by age twenty, the elite performers had averaged more than 10,000 hours of practice each, while the less able performers had only 4,000 hours of practice.

What do you want to be good at; I mean, really good at? What do you want to be so good at that you can do it with great confidence? Whatever it is, realize this: it will take training, preparation, practice and more practice.

Our problem is we want it NOW. We want to have confidence NOW. We want to be highly skilled NOW! We want to be an expert NOW! Problem is training, preparation and practice takes time, effort and lonely hours.

Muhmmad Ali, one of the greatest boxers of all time, summarized it well when he said, “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”

You want to be good, really good at something, right? Then proceed forward and improve your skills. With some coaching and lots of practice you too can live the rest of your life as a champion!

©2015 Ronald D. Ross

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