Purposeful practice…

…requires less work and more play – IF you really want to master something and sustain improvement.

Kitty just shared an article about an 11-year old mastering the cello.    Like most kids, this boy loves to play and hates to work.   When something becomes drudgery, your mind wanders elsewhere, you go through the motions and you can’t wait for it to be over so you can go PLAY.  The boy discovered mastering “the art of practicing is finding a process for repetition without boredom.”

In Colorodo this week, Toto blogged about one of his secrets for embracing life as an ongoing work-in-process – it’s the same principle.   Keep it fun.   Mix it up.   The same old same old may be familiar but when grooved it’s not groovy anymore.   When I fall into the same routines my “Rue-tines” become “rut-tines.”    When you’re in a rut you stop growing because your brain is disengaged.

In Peak, Ericsson talks about how Olympic swimmer Natalie Coughlin got out of her rut just doing laps.  “For much of her early swimming career she would pass the time she spent swimming laps by daydreaming… Stroke, stroke, stroke, stroke, stroke, stroke, over and over again for hours on end; it’s hard not to get bored and just zone out, letting your mind wander far outside the pool.”   The breakthrough came when “instead of letting her mind wander, she could be focusing on her technique, trying to make each stroke as close to perfect as possible.  In particular, she could be working on sharpening her mental representations of her stroke — figuring out exactly how her body feels during a ‘perfect’ stroke.  Once she had a clear idea of what that ideal stroke felt like, she could notice when she deviated from that ideal – perhaps when she was tired or when she was approaching a turn – and then work on ways to minimize those deviations and keep her strokes as close to ideal as possible.   From then on, Coughlin made a point of staying engaged in what she was doing, using the time spent swimming laps to improve her form.  It was only when she began doing this that she started to see improvement in her times, and the more she focused on her form in her training, the more success she had in her meets.”

No wonder you learned the most when you were just growing into a kindergartner.   Playing with my 6-year old granddaughter this weekend, I was reminded how much fun life is when you approach it through the eyes of a little kid.   Unless you don’t LET them, little kids make games of EVERYthing – even when they are helping with chores or putting their shoes on.

Ha.   Dream and Do requires a little imagination.   A little imagination will free you from the mundane of Dread and Do.    How do you talk to yourself?   Do you LET yourself have fun in the lab?  on the mat?  getting ready for a sales call?  preparing for a meeting?   writing the same old same old weekly report?   Are you getting better, or are you dying slow death?

Let yourself PLAY today.   As you do so, you will push yourself to be GREAT today.  Don’t lose a day — you don’t have many days to lose.   Like Ted Williams, who every day swung 100 deliberate practice swings even in hotel rooms, perfect your craft.

“Practice doesn’t make perfect.  Perfect practice makes perfect.”   – Vince Lombardi

Together We Improve.





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