If you ask anyone with any level of success to share their secret (and they’re convinced they have one), they’ll tell you what they did in the broadest of terms as if it could apply to anyone. In reality it doesn’t come down to what you do, necessarily, but to your attitude about your actions. The one common thread in every success story is perseverance, and that it was achieved by seeing every attempt as a step forward — as practice.
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“Practice is everything. This is often misquoted as Practice makes perfect.” ~ Periander
Everything you do is practice until it isn’t. If you look at each action any other way, you’re not only setting unreasonable expectations of yourself but you’re assuming you can predict an unpredictable outcome. Believing that a single project will equal success is too speculative. When a hit song tops the charts, a book becomes a bestseller and new web app grows to unimaginable heights of popularity, it’s easy to see that occurrence in an instant and ignore everything that preceded it. Everything is practice up until that moment the goal has been reached — the moment something works — and you can give your work another name.
“Success comes through rapidly fixing our mistakes rather than getting things right the first time.” ~ Tim Harford, author of Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure
When potty-training a child, there is a lot of practice involved. Listening to your body and going to the bathroom at the right time is a fairly simple thing once you’ve gotten the hang of it, but like anything new it takes practice. Whether you’re the trainer or the trainee, patience and practice are vital. We become so accustomed to the world by the time we’re grown, however, that we can manage to forget that even something familiar can take time and effort to do well. Sometimes you have to let the goal sit far off in the future and just do what you want to do for the sake of learning. Failure is OK, and even good under the right circumstances, but if your goal is to try and become better the outcome becomes irrelevant. There’s always something to learn from an experiment.
“In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.” ~ Yogi Berra
Where success comes from isn’t something anyone can tell you because nobody’s method takes who you are and what matters to you into account. What you can do is endlessly experiment, and a day should come when practice turns into expertise.