Often in this life we use words without truly thinking about what they mean. Today, as I was listening to a Tim Ferriss podcast with the legendary music producer Rick Rubin, I heard a definition of practice that I found incredibly insightful. It is so helpful to have a word I use, and think about all the time, stripped back to it's practicalities.
So what did Rick say. He said that practice is two things....
Practice is being willing to fail at things
This is essential. It's understanding that in order to learn something, anything, we need to go forward and we need to go backward. We can't learn what we need to learn in order to master something in one chunk. We need to build on our learning with experience after experience and some of those experiences need to be failures. Without falling off the bike we don't learn what we need to about balance.
We will fail. We need to fail. Failing is part of learning.
Practice is not expecting to just get it first go.
We need to have the right mindset in order to persist at our practice, and in order to practice well. This means not buying into the talent myth. This is about setting our expectations such that we stick at it and don't spiral into despondency. We need to avoid the mindset that says that if we were going to be able to do it that we should have gotten it already. Because it's not helpful and it's not true.
It's about believing that with persistence (and practice :)) we can learn just about anything.
To Rick's description I would add the following two things...
Practice is engaging in curiosity
Practice is not simply repetition. It is being curious about why one thing works and another thing doesn't. It is actively striving for greater understanding and for improvement.
Practice is in itself a practice
In order to be good at practice we need to practice. Practice getting over our falls, practice being curious, practice not setting our expectations too high based on where we are today.
Practice is about more than just the physical aspects of whatever we are trying to master. It is about learning to manage our heads while we do so.