There is an old saying that most if not all of us have heard many times, especially in athletics. It says, “Practice makes perfect”. Research traces the roots of this phrase back to the sixteenth century when it was “Use makes perfect”. The more contemporary use has been attested to John Adams, the second President of our United States, during the eighteenth century. Essentially, it articulates the message that the more you practice, the better your skills are.
In more recent times, variations of this saying have appeared modified and improved by the likes of the late, great football coach Vince Lombardi who added to the proverb by saying, “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.”
However you choose to read it, either the original or one of its modified versions, the fact remains that the more you do something, the better you’ll probably become at doing it.
Still, it is a truth that if you are practicing something incorrectly, all you are doing is perfecting how to do it the wrong way. This is the axiom that gave way to the perfect practice makes perfection.
All of us have a desire to do things well. I can’t think of anyone who would not. We just all want to do our best. And when we do things well, we are recognized as professional or perhaps even considered an expert in our field. So it just makes sense, if you’re going to do something, be prepared and do your best! Also, there is something to dispel. That is, if we are in agreement that while we all strive to do our best, we may not necessarily be the best. However, there is honor and satisfaction in knowing you did your best.
So, in order to always do your best, there is no getting around the fact that all of us must practice. And there are some steps that can help us in our quest to perfection.
Plan out your practices
Notice the plural, practices. Now I know that sometimes you simply may not have the time nor schedule to have more than one practice. I get that, especially for some recurring daily or weekly regimen. But when it comes to something you do more infrequently like a special speech or presentation, it’s always best to having at least a couple of practices before the event.
Make sure and schedule out your practices. Block out enough time to do a run through allowing for edits or changes or even interruptions that seem to come up. This can be the difference in ho hum or spectacular.
Ask a friend or family member to watch
I know how awkward this can be. I’ve had my share of critics and perhaps a friend cracking jokes or heckling that caused me more than enough heartburn. But if you’re serious about doing your best, talk to them beforehand and express how serious you are about wanting to do your best. Once done, ask them to listen attentively and when you’re finished, give you some constructive criticism. Someone close to you can be one of your best assets in preparation.
To reduce or minimize any nervousness you may have, establish an objective or goal in doing what you’re doing. Often when you have established a good reason for something, the task and process of doing it seems to be simplified and less awkward. Set your goals.
Having notes in front of you during a speech or presentation is good. But, if you have practiced enough, your notes at the time of the presentation should only be there for reference and not to read verbatim. Remember, you’ve already practiced and gotten all the bugs out.
The time for execution requires confidence. And confidence is built every time you do something. Remember, practice makes perfect, or, better still, perfect practice makes perfection. Think of execution as a part of your practice. When you have the thought that practice is simply a time for you to make mistakes, the actual time of the event seems so much larger. However, who you’ve practiced perfectly, you’ve already seen your audience and you’re prepared for perfection.