How Practice Makes Perfect



The first year that I played baseball for my high school team, I remember that the coached always preached that “prefect practice makes perfect,” but how can you be perfect right off the bat?  That is the trick here my friends, unless you get very lucky, odds are that you won’t be perfect at something right away.  So let’s take a look here and see if we can figure out a way that works for you!

First Things First

Change lies ahead, but through effort you can turn change into a habit!

When it comes to learning and practicing a new skill you have to understand that there will be a lot of work and time involved.  All too often in today’s world of instant gratification people think that they can waltz right into a new skill, but that is not the case.  You need to commit yourself to learning and practicing in order to grow.

So you realize by now what this means?  That’s right, you have to deal with change!  Something that makes us all a little uncomfortable, but that is how change works.  It gets us outside of our comfort zone and into new unexplored areas of life.  However, as you practice more, that “change” can become part of your comfortable area.

So now that I have you rattled with all of these things that you are going to deal with, are you ready to get to work?  Remember, if you want to grow and live a full life, these are all things that you will have to learn how to deal with.  Now let’s take a look at how this all works together.

Aristotle Said It Well

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

The great Greek Philosopher Aristotle once said, “We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”  What he is getting at here is that if we want to become better at something to the point that we are excellent or perfect about it, that we have to incorporate it into our lives as a habit.

A simple example of this from my life would be my math skills.  When I was in school and actively used and practiced math all of the time I was great at it.  I was often the undefeated champion of math games in my younger years and carried that through to high school before I slowly began to back away from it all.

Now a day I am approaching my 40th birthday and while I use some math for work and play, it is not much.  You could say that I am not really practicing and using it anymore, so can you guess how good my skills are now?  No longer can I fire out the answer in the blink of an eye, I have to sit hard and think about it.

As you can see without math being a habit in my life, my ability to use it effectively has grown rusty at best and if I really need to use it I need to break out the oil!  While the skill has not been totally lost to me, my overall effectiveness with it has dropped considerably.

Where to Start?

Article: The Importance of Learning From Mistakes
Article: The Importance of Learning from Mistakes

Well my friend, I have three words to get you started – trial and error.  That’s right, before we can get good at doing anything we have to start at the beginning and that is attempting to do whatever it is and then learning from our mistakes.  The key to remember here is that you will make mistakes and it will take time and effort to learn from and reduce them.

The next thing to understand is that before you ever have any feelings of true confidence in anything that you will have to take actions on it first.  This is explained beautifully in the book, The Confidence Gap, where the author goes on to explain how and why the actions of confidence will always precede the feelings of it

Now you can understand a little better that when it comes to getting started, that you first and foremost just have to start doing whatever it is that you want to do.  From there you will sometimes succeed and sometimes fail, but both are just the building blocks that you need to learn from to create a solid foundation for the skill.

Practice Makes Perfect

Each time we practice and work on a new skill, we are adding pieces to the puzzle.

With all of the above in mind, it is now time to practice, practice, practice!!!  Each time that you work on the skill that you are developing you are adding little pieces to the puzzle.  The what did and what didn’t work dive down into your mind as experience, and the more of it you have the more complete your picture becomes.

With that clarity comes the opportunity to really refine the skill.  Each time that you practice you are bettering your odds of doing said skill correctly.  The more that you practice and can do the skill correctly, the better the odds are of being able to do it when needed.  With a lot of physical skills, you will often hear the words muscle memory and this is exactly what you are building for yourself.

A good example to help showcase all of this would be if you were to look at some of the NFL’s all-time greatest players.  Virtually every one of them all have one thing in common, they worked for it.  Jerry Rice would be an excellent player to look at.  He worked on his craft every day of his career and did so much harder and longer than others, thus why he is now considered one of the best WR’s of all time.

We Are Not Computers

I can’t just download how to ride a bike.  I need to work at it and practice it.

Often these days you will hear the comparison that the human mind is a lot like a computer, however I don’t think that is the case.  I can’t just download a program that teaches me a new skill, though that would be great.  I can’t just set perimeters up and expect my body to follow them either.

The human mind works off of its experience and life history.  This is why practicing and working on the skills that are the most important to you is vital.  We need to get all of the experience that we can, as the more of it that we have the better our chances are of doing what we want to do.

This is why all of the above information is so important.  We need set ourselves up for success and understand the process of improvement.  Knowing that it will take time and effort, that you will and need to make mistakes, and that you have to be consistent with your efforts, all plays a role in how practice makes perfect.

Share Your Story

Do you have a perspective or story that you can share with us to help understand the concepts here better?  Do you still have questions about the process?  Either way, please leave a comment down below and do your part in helping make the world a better place for all.

If you enjoyed this article, here are several others that I have written that tie into this subject very well:

Thanks for stopping by and I hope to see you back again someday!

James W D

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12 Replies to “How Practice Makes Perfect”

  1. Practice makes perfect. Totally agree with this. Too many people do not understand delayed gratification or have totally no patience on it. In everything we do, most of the time are spent working on fundamentals, laying proper foundation for more advanced learning and skills. It has to be continuous learning and stepping out of comfort zone for us to have any chance of perfecting any skills.

    • Very true Kenny. You have to put in the time to be able to reap the benefits, at least on a consistent basis. Sure there are times you can get lucky, but you have to get that foundation down with the fundamentals in order to ratchet up those success rates.

  2. This is so true! I’ve read that the brain creates neuro pathways as you repeat an action and that’s how something becomes habit or second nature. Learning a new song on the piano, I may start out struggling with it, but eventually my fingers just seem to know where to go without me having to think much about it. You have to do it regularly for it to work though.

    • Jill you are correct. When we start working on a new skill, it takes time for the brain to build and establish all of the new pathways needed to perform. This is much easier when we are young and slowly gets harder as we age. However, the more you keep at it the easier it gets.

  3. James,
    I love this post, it is so true. I wanted to be fit and started walking. The thing was that I couldn’t walk as far as I wanted to without getting extremely tired. So I just started slow and then increased my time 5 to 10 minutes every 1 to 2 weeks. Finally i was walking an hour at time for about 3 miles. I also started running. This would have never been possible without first starting to take those first steps for a short period of time.

    Great article!

    • Getting started and doing something up to our own expectations can be hard. That is why making a commitment to your values and project or skill that you want to work on is so important. We are constantly building on our experiences and improving ourselves, as long as we don’t sabotage ourselves!

      I know what you mean with the exercising. I tried jogging a year or two ago and at first I was so out of breath at the end I thought I was going to croak. A couple weeks into it though and I was cruising along with much better breath control and felt great afterwards.

  4. I’ve always heard the phrase “Practice makes perfect” and I found it to be true. Just like you said, you can’t just download a skill and be perfect with it like a computer. You have to keep doing it in order to get things right. It’ll be rare that you get it right the first time so by doing it multiple times you learn from your mistakes and get better and better as you go.

    Just like my writing. I just made a website 2 months ago and I remember my writing was horrible. I’m not a writer at all but after writing a few posts I’ve been more and more comfortable and as people give feedback I improve on things and learn what I can do better. I’m definitely not perfect at it but the key is I’m getting closer and closer each time I write so the more I write the more perfect I get. Great article!

    • I can relate with you Andy. Back in my school days my writing was, well, horrible. English was by far the worst of all of my classes and I managed to just squeak by every year. It wasn’t because of a lack of intelligence on my side either as I was in the gifted program through out these times as well.

      When I first started writing for my websites, it was not much better. However, now that I am two years into it, I have found that my writing skills have increased tremendously. I get compliments a lot more frequently than complaints or criticisms. All because I just kept at it and kept practicing it and doing it. With each time that I did I earned more experience and that all builds on itself.

  5. Yeaa Consistent and committed practice definately gives results saw it with my guitar.
    At time we dont feel like putting in the effort but sticking with it is necessary.

    • I can certainly understand that, especially with an instrument. But like you said, sticking with it can make a huge difference. Even in writing this article I was busy all week long and it kept getting pushed to the side. However, I stuck with it and kept coming back to it until it was done. Commitment plays a huge role!

  6. Love this, James! I can see all this working for me, now, as I’m writing every day for my websites…all the writing is inspiring me to write even more and each thing I write seems to go a little bit deeper and seems a little bit better. And, it’s becoming a habit that I can’t shake. If I’m sitting idle for more than 5 minutes, my mind starts writing on it’s own inside my head. ha ha It sounds funny, but it’s true, that habit I’m forming is becoming addictive, so when I need a “fix”, my mind takes over and fills that need to write.

    • Barb, First thanks for stopping back by and commenting, much appreciated.

      You are very right, as you work on it and go through the change phase and create that new habit, it can just take on a life of it’s own. Next thing you know it will be like you have been using your new skill for your whole life.

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