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Practice Makes Perfect

Did I miss the boat on this phrase? "Practice" is difficult to perform. I think that's the point. Nothing worth having is ever going to be easy. There is a price.

Whether it's dancing with the stars, playing the piano, meeting a business deadline, keeping a commitment with your child, or an appointment with the gym, practice makes perfect. Honesty, integrity, trustworthiness, happiness, and relationships can be accomplished with practice. But knowing this doesn't make it easier to do.

Remember the relationship genius, Stephen Covey: "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People? He said, "it's hard to talk yourself out of something you behaved yourself into." And he taught about the Law of the Farm, habits of daily discipline vs. the Law of School, where students party all semester and then cram the night before finals.

Law of the Farm (Covey, 1994)

"One of the best ways to understand how extrinsic realities govern is to consider the Law of the Farm. In agriculture, we can easily see and agree that natural laws and principles govern the work and determine the harvest. But in social and corporate cultures, we somehow think we can dismiss natural processes, cheat the system, and still win the day. And there's a great deal of evidence that seems to support that belief.

For example, did you ever "cram" in school -- goof off during the semester, then spend all night before the big test trying to cram a semester's worth of learning into your head?

Stephen: I'm ashamed to admit it, but I crammed my way through undergraduate school, thinking I was really clever. I learned to psych out the system, to figure out what the teacher wanted. "How does she grade? Mostly on lectures? Great! I don't have to worry about reading the textbook. What about this other class? We have to read the book? Okay, where are the Cliff Notes so I can get a quick summary instead? I wanted the grade, but I didn't want it to crimp my lifestyle. . .Then I got into graduate work, a different league altogether. I spent my first three months trying to cram to make up for four years of undergraduate cramming, and I wound up in the hospital with ulcerated colitis. I was trying to force the natural processes, and I found out that, long term, you simply can't do it. I spent years trying to compensate for the foolishness of getting myself into a value system that was not tied to principles at all."

Can you imagine "cramming" on the farm? Can you imagine forgetting to plant in the spring, flaking out all summer, and hitting it hard in the fall--ripping the soil up, throwing in the seeds, watering, cultivating--and expecting to get a bountiful harvest overnight?

Cramming doesn't work in a natural system. That's the fundamental difference between a social and natural system. A social system is based on values; a natural system is based on principles. In the short term, cramming may appear to work in a social system. You can go for the "quick fixes" and techniques with apparent success. But in the long run they just don't work."

When examining my life struggles with being a participant of both principles of the harvest and cramming, I often compare myself with my beautiful and talented daughters. Children are mirror images of our lives:

  1. One daughter sees something in life that she wants to be or do and sets out to work to make it happen. This involves degrees, learning, practicing, discipline, studying, building skills, finding mentors, and working hard to achieve. She knows she can accomplish anything because she is willing to pay the price. She will practice until she makes it happen. She intrinsically lives "The Law of the Farm" in business and family.

  2. The other daughter thinks about doing or being something and is immediately able to excel. Long-term, she becomes bored and unchallenged. At 16, she went to work for Dairy Queen and was offered a management position by the end of the week. This happens in everything she sets out to accomplish, as she is quickly bored with the world of finance and business because they do not challenge her. But raising six children does. She excels in the daily tasks of motherhood. She pays the price.

I am fascinated by how both my daughters approach and live life. They excel in living by the Law of the Farm/Harvest. How do they know that? I have some of their qualities--but I seem to still live the cramming program. This is not a fun way to be. It's hard on this old lady. Why do I persist in such behaviors? I still over-commit and

hate to practice.

The problem with not practicing until the night before is very stressful. As a Naturopath, I know these actions blow out our adrenals and our liver. Doing this often can cause irreparable damage to health. Also, forming a habit of cramming can cause significant problems in business and relationships. We will drop the ball more often than not.


Playing the piano: I have a baby grand piano that I love to play "at" and have envisioned playing for relaxation in my golden years. OOPS, I'm in my golden years already. YIKES! I'm behind schedule. I never reach the level of skill necessary to really enjoy playing well because I won't practice. It's not a conscious thing--it's just a stubborn, intrinsic refusal. I always want to do something else.

I've bribed, tricked, goaded, rewarded, ridiculed, and punished myself to practice, to no avail. Even moving the piano to the middle of the room, so I had to climb over it to get out the door, didn't work. I just climbed around it--without regret. In a few days, I hardly notice it in the room.

Life has taught me many things, especially: This time will pass, no matter what. I can use this time to practice or do this task so that thirty days from now, I will have this degree, certificate, or skill done. Or I can not do it and be exactly where I am today. If my TO DO LIST contains a task that never gets done, it's probably a good idea to remove it and stop feeling bad about it. It's a clue that it just isn't that important to me.

If you are enjoying the process or journey, it's your dream. If you are enduring it, desperate for the result, it's probably just a wish--or someone else's dream. Walk away from what doesn't work and work towards what does. Life is short.. Make every day count.

It's a Jungle Out There

PS Watch "Groundhog Day." Phil became great with playing the piano. He proved PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT and changed his personality and built skills. I wish I could play the piano (tongue in cheek). NOT.

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Anthony Smart
Anthony Smart
Nov 02, 2021

Very refreshing view of life.

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