The Art of Practice
Practice. What does it mean to you to practice something? For me, it means that I'm never really done, and that there's always more I can push. I'm always just practicing. There are lots of jobs that exist in our society that are known as practices, like careers around practicing law or medicine. That makes sense to me, because their craft is always changing and updating with the latest cases or research. There is never an end point of their work being finished or complete--they are always practicers, always learning, always growing.
It's much like being a student. Being a student means is like being an amateur. You are expected to be a novice, and expected to look to others to learn--whether it's in text you read, or labs you perform, or professors you listen to. It's about questioning and digging deeper. When I was a student and I was studying for a test, I knew that I could always study a bit more. I could always push a little bit harder. I could always ask more questions, dig deeper, get more context.
As a software developer, I'm constantly practicing my craft. In fact, when I go back and look at my code that I wrote even just six months ago (when I think that I'm at the peak of my game), I can't help but laugh. The code often has glaring errors in it, or assumptions that are ridiculous. Did I really think it was something to be proud of? I end up re-writing my work often, and usually make it faster, better, and in half the lines I required back then. That's the magic of progress. The magic of practice.
Alternatively, have you ever gone back and read your early writing, like from middle or high school? It can be really comical and also really eye-opening to just how much you've grown as a writer. Or possibly as an artist with your work, or a musician with your music, and so on!
I can't help but feel when we humble ourselves in our craft, and when we realize that we're never masters, we are better for it. When we don't let our ego tell us that we're the best at everything, we can keep going further. Ego often stands in the way of progress. It prevents you from getting help when you need it (or even if you don't need it). It basically puts you in your own way, and blocks any meaningful progress. Ego tells us that we have nothing more to learn---and it's wrong.
If we believe in the principle of practice, then it opens the doors to growing, and to collaborating with others. I truly believe we do our best work when we work together. I know that's true for my company, Capparsa. Some of our best work is a result of a collaboration -- sometimes internally with our small team of three, and sometimes externally with our amazing customers. We always listen to feedback, and do our best to give thoughtful responses to it. That's not possible if we were egotistical and somehow thought we'd created the best thing ever. We know we haven't!
At the end of the day, the best we can do is practice. Practice and show up every day. Practice and know you are never done. Know that practice means doing your best work.
As you show up for your work, or your hobbies, or your family, or whatever it is that matters to you, ask yourself: are you someone who is practicing, or are you someone who thinks you know it all and have nothing more to learn? If you're the latter, challenge yourself to let go and have a beginner's mind. You might be surprised what you'll learn!