Sunday, April 14, 2013

Why don't people practice?

In the middle ages, craftsmen learned for many years before they became masters of a craft.  It's likely that by the time they did become masters, the habits of practice and improvement were so deeply ingrained that they continued.  Our most famous writers and artists have also continued to work to get better throughout the whole of their careers.  Do you know this quote, attributed to Michelangelo at 87 years of age?

Somewhere, the idea that we should practice to get better got lost along the way. Continuing education came to mean sitting in a room while someone did their best to make an entertaining presentation of techniques and ideas, almost all of which would be forgotten or abandoned within weeks (or hours). We came to accept that if we were being paid we should already be our best: practicing would somehow suggest that what we had been selling to that point was not our best.  Who wants to go into surgery with a surgeon who is still learning?

I do.

Everywhere I go, I want to interact with people who love what they do enough to want to do it better. I want to surround myself with people who say that "good is a terrific starting point." I want to learn from people who are determined to learn every day that they breathe. Does that make me unusual? I think it makes me an artist.

It makes me a teacher.

Sometimes I teach neurolinguistic programming. Sometimes I teach literature. Sometimes I teach storytelling. Sometimes I teach influence and communication. Always I teach people the skills of precision, practice and patience. This is much harder to sell than it should be. There are many times each day when each of us wants to be more clear about what is desirable, when each of us wants to know how to solve or avoid a problem, when each of us wants the willpower to stick with something until we like our results. Precision. Practice. Patience.

What are you learning?

Given the choice, I will always choose to work with people who have an answer to that question. They are the people who know that their best can be very good without being good enough. They are curious about how much they can improve, how much new information they can integrate, how much more effective they can become. They value every gift that practice has given them enough to honour those gifts with more practice. I love to connect with wonderfully accomplished people who say

I am still learning.

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