My brother Jim lives in California and is an avid surfer. He’s also 62 years old. One day we were talking on the phone and he said, “I was driving to the beach yesterday morning and it was still dark. I was thinking, ‘Why am I doing this?’”
“You’re doing it so you can have a lively old age,” I suggested.
He laughed and said, “You know I surf better now than I did thirty years ago.” I pointed out that he’d also been disciplined about keeping at it. “I still love it,” he said, then added, “You’ve got to ride more waves. It all goes in the bank.”
So what do you want to be better at doing thirty (or ten) years from now? Whatever your answer is, the time to start working on it is right now. In his wonderful little book, Mastery, George Leonard says, “We tend to assume that mastery requires a special ticket available only to those born with exceptional abilities. But mastery isn’t reserved for the supertalented or even those who are fortunate enough to have gotten an early start. It’s available to anyone who is willing to get on the path and stay on it—regardless of age, sex or previous experience.”
We live in a time of instant results and instant gratification—not a culture that’s conducive to taking on a project and sticking with it for years. This quick results attitude aborts many wonderful ideas. Kids seem to understand the power of practice better than their elders. After all, they’re learning everything from the ground up, but oo many adults are not as willing to invest the time and effort. What a shame. Practice has other rewards besides ultimate mastery.
Recently I wrote about John Higgins, the reluctant Compelling Storytelling attendee, and I mentioned that he’d begun a daily writing practice. Here’s what he wrote to me after I pointed that out.
Thank you for writing that I had started a “writing practice.” I had not thought of writing as I do my work with visually impaired people as “a practice” and now I do which gives makes it a bigger priority and much more real in my mind.
A practice. A writing practice. A daily commitment to the discipline of writing.
I have always loved how “practice” means too that we never stop learning and never have all the answers but we continue to practice our skills.
I take it one step further and remind myself to practice the process and not perfection. This keeps me from freezing up and resisting out of fear of failure because I learned that if I could not do something perfectly I would not do it at all. Took me years to become aware I was a perfectionist that way.
So, I practice. And, I have a writing practice.
Damn, I like the sound of that!
My first teacher told me, “You only have to practice on the days that you eat.” ~ Hilary Hahn
One of the nice bonuses of living in Las Vegas is reading Steven Kalas’ Human Matters column in the Sunday paper. Today’s piece is called Those Pursuing a Calling Serve as Inspiration to Others. Take a look for yourself.