Opinion: Practice makes perfect

Commentary by Terry Anker

“How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” inquired a visitor to New York City looking for the famed music venue. “Practice, practice, practice” said the man on the street, misunderstanding her need for geographic coordinates from a cartographer rather than work-ethic advice from a smart aleck. Still, he made a good point.

If we ever hope to move from audience to stage, hard work is key. Sure, talent figures in. And sure, we might get lucky and have an uncle in show business who is willing to help by introducing us to some folks. Certainly, accomplishment requires a bit of aptitude – and a connected relative can’t hurt. But for most of us, the overwhelming majority of us, in fact, success demands hard work.

So, if practice is the undisputed linchpin required to get us from a spot in the balcony to one at center stage, why do so few of us think about it? As youngsters, we practiced everything. Even now, our kids and grandkids have “practices” of a limitless sort – sports, music and languages, to name a few. But as adults, we might call what we do a practice (medical and legal, among others), but seldom do we commit to two hours after a day’s work to improve our game. It makes some sense. Practice leads to mastery. Most of us don’t continue to work on the multiplication tables we learned as kids. We studied, practiced and mastered. Done.

But, aren’t there things that we’ve yet to master? Aren’t there things in our lives that would benefit from a bit more practice? Famed tutor to Alexander the Great, Aristotle, said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.” If this is solid coaching to someone who came to be known as “The Great,” isn’t it good enough for us?

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