Vince Lombardi said that only perfect practice makes perfect. That’s something that needs to be truly understood and appreciated. A lot of us know how it’s like to practice, but not every one of us is practising the right way.
Finding The Right Training Aids
I remember when I was intrigued by learning how to ride an electric unicycle. It was novel to me, and I viewed it as a challenge. I started learning it the only way I knew how to – by trying to ride it. I went to a flat, open area, and gave it my best. It was a tedious, tiresome process. I spent 20 minutes each time, every few days, just continually falling and feeling very frustrated. After over a week, I didn’t get much further along my learning journey.
The breakthrough came when I was walking back home one day. Suddenly, I realised that the corridor leading to my apartment was just wide enough for me with both my arms outstretched. It was a perfect place to learn how to ride an electric unicycle. It was almost like training wheels on a bicycle. Within the day, I was able to get my balance. After 2 more sessions, I was able to be very comfortable on an electric unicycle.
Good training aids can literally give you the boost needed to get you to the next level.
Finding The Right Coach
When I was younger, I didn’t see the value of teachers, instructors, and coaches because I felt like I could save lesson fees by learning things on my own. It was much later in my life before I realised that these people provide a very valuable service – teaching you the skills in the most effective manner so that you save time. It’s important because while you can find ways to get more time, you can’t buy more time.
When I decided to learn snowboarding, I went for lessons and made sure that I received good instruction by getting a good coach. It made a difference by accelerating the time it took me to learn snowboarding. Every time I practised, my coach could look at my form and technique, and give me immediate feedback on what and how to improve.
Lessons from a good teacher are not cheap, but they save you so much time figuring things out on your own.
Focusing On The Right Skills
After I had the basics of snowboarding mastered, I wanted to learn some more advanced snowboarding techniques – namely, carving. For a few days, I just snowboarded around, with the idea that more snowboarding would improve my carving.
However, it suddenly hit me that it didn’t make any sense. General snowboarding wouldn’t improve my carving. Actually doing carves would improve my carving. When I realised that, I stopped mindlessly snowboarding and started to focus on carving.
I started watching YouTube videos on how to carve. I asked for advice from people who could carve well. I actually attempted carves on my own. Gradually, all these efforts worked, and I could see improvements in my carving.
Breaking Down The Goal
In my fitness journey, I wanted to be able to perform muscle-ups. In order to do so, I worked with a fitness coach to break down the goal, and to come up with a progressive training plan in order to achieve my muscle-ups.
Since I couldn’t do a muscle-up at the start, I had to start from somewhere, which was a negative muscle-up. It’s an easier motion since you’re basically just doing it in reverse. I also did regular muscle-ups, but with the aid of a resistance band. The resistance band would then be swapped out for one with increasing difficulty.
Every step of the way, my fitness coach would be there to push me further on the reps that I was doing and also correct me on my form. After going through all the progressions, I was finally able to do a muscle-up.
Most goals that you have may seem daunting, but break it up into smaller chunks, and suddenly it seems much more manageable.
Stop Mindless Practicing
Anders Ericsson, a professor of Psychology at Florida State University, spent over 30 years in studying experts in different fields and finding out how they got to be so good at what they do. He found that the secret is deliberate practice.
Being more mindful when you practice allows you to spot the mistakes that you’re making and constantly think of ways to improve. If you aren’t mindful of this, then all that practice does is to reinforce the same errors that you’re making over and over again.
A lot of times, improving means you have to force yourself to do something unfamiliar, which means you have to actively choose to leave your comfort zone. Prod, experiment, challenge, read, ask, tinker, and do whatever it takes to deliberately improve.