Practice What You Perform Because Performing Is Practice PLUS Competition

“You aren’t going to step up when it’s game time, you’re just going to do what you’ve done in training.”

Put another way, if you want something you have never had, you have to do something you have never done.

Either one works and both are true.

This is why practice is so important. Doing something new is never easy but it is possible when the pressure is low. It takes a lot of mental energy to create the impossible in working memory and then to take the action to make it real. When the pressure is high, so much energy is directed towards dealing with that pressure that there are just not enough resources available to do the required mental work to perform an unrehearsed movement in a controlled way so as to predictably lead to a desired outcome.

The human brain is an amazing thing. It has the ability to create temporary neural networks to allow coordinated brain activity that can cause brand new and novel things to happen. If not for this capability, human progress would be very slow and individual development would seem like a crawl.

If we assume that most of what we do that allows our species to exist is genetically programmed, and that’s a fair assumption given how almost every member of our species operates the same way – digestion, walking, the experience of hunger, communication, etc…. – this doesn’t account for all of the new skills technological progress has made possible and created a need for. Typing as a skill didn’t exist for most of human history because and yet every human being can learn how to type. Scratching a record on a turntable is a skill that anyone can learn, yet it’s about 60 years old. Most of the games we play on smart phone didn’t exist 5 years ago, but we can learn them and become very proficient at them.

It does not seem to matter what the task is, human beings can learn it and some will get very good at it. Statistically speaking, there will be a normal distribution curve for everything that can be done with most people being average and a few people being remarkably good and remarkably bad at it.

I find this thought reassuring. Even if some new comes out tomorrow and I find myself to be an outlier in the very low capability realm, there will be something new in a couple of days that I can become good at. And a few days after that something will be invented that I will be exactly average at. The world remains interesting and there is always going to be a place in it for me.

The key to remaining relevant is being open to acquiring these new skills and to be willing to do what is required to learn them. The formula is simple. Practice, consistently, over time, while paying as much attention to what you are doing as you possibly can. It needs to be practice and not performance because performance is not just practice in front of people. Performance is a completely different skill. If you are not well versed in performing, practising in front of other people will just mean you are doing two things poorly. This is not the most effective way to get good at something.