The Elegance of Practice

For most of my childhood, a plastic kitchen timer sat on top of our living room piano. Every day after school, my sisters and I took turns carefully setting the timer for exactly thirty minutes. While two of us hung out in the basement watching The Brady Bunch and devouring handfuls of Honeycomb cereal right out of the box, the third would practice the pieces our piano teacher, Mrs. Hicks, assigned us that week.

None of us became great pianists, but we did learn the value of practice. In our case, practice didn’t make perfect, but rather practice made progress. Whether it was sports, hobbies or schoolwork, we understood any endeavor required a commitment of time and effort. I’m grateful our parents instilled in us the elegance of practice.

We like to believe extraordinary athletes, musicians and artists possess a natural talent that makes it easy for them. Musician Kenny G said, “I practice my saxophone three hours a day. I’m not saying I’m particularly special, but if you do something three hours a day for forty years, you get pretty good at it.”

Recently, nearly five million people watched Serena Williams play what was billed as the last match of her amazing 27-year tennis career. At the height of her success, the winner of 23 Grand Slam titles said, “Luck has nothing to do with it, I have spent many, many hours, countless hours, on the court working for my one moment in time not knowing when it would come.”

In American English, the word practice is used as a verb and a noun. As a noun, we might establish a practice of exercise, yoga or meditation. Interestingly, in Australian and British English, practise is the verb and practice is the noun. For example, one would practise free-throws but go to basketball practice.

As a retired couple, my husband and I find ourselves spending hours a day at opposite ends of the house practicing our individual hobbies. We chuckle at the thought of being artists, but while I sit at my laptop hammering thoughts into words and sentences, Mike is at his workbench cutting, grinding and soldering stained glass. We both know the only way to get better at our craft is practice.

My dad was a dentist for almost fifty years. When people asked him if he was still practicing, he’d always say, “Yep, and some day I’m gonna get the hang of it!” It was a dad joke that drove home the connection between practice and success. He would have liked this quote by Stephen King, “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.” §

“Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good.
It’s the thing you do that makes you good.”
~ Malcolm Gladwell

4 thoughts on “The Elegance of Practice

  1. Dear Alicia, your wise post reminded me of Will Durant’s quote “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Have a wonderful week, Noe ♥

    Liked by 1 person

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