"Don’t wish it were easier... wish you were better"
~ Jim Rohn
This past Sunday, the weather was a bit wet and dreary. It was a perfect afternoon to curl up with a good book and a warm mugful of hot chocolate and stay indoors.
After about 90 minutes of reading, I decided to put my book down and turn on the TV to see if there was any college basketball being televised that afternoon.
As I was flipping through the channels, I happened upon the start of an old movie, The Karate Kid.
Without getting too much into the plot of the movie (I’m fairly certain that most of you have already seen the movie), there are a sequence of scenes that I absolutely love.
The main character Daniel, as played by Ralph Macchio, has come to a quiet old Japanese neighbor Mr. Miyagi, as played by Pat Morita, to teach him the art of karate as a way to protect himself from his bully tormentors at school and in his neighborhood.
Mr. Miyagi agrees to become Daniel’s Karate teacher on the condition that Daniel does everything Mr. Miyagi tells him to do without question.
But instead of immediately teaching Daniel karate moves and techniques, Mr. Miyagi has Daniel complete several tedious chores including painting his mile-long fence, washing and waxing his dozen or so classic American cars, and sanding his wooden deck and walkway. Each task is to be performed in a particular way that Mr. Miyagi specifies. For example, the wax goes on the car in a circular motion with his left hand while the wax is rubbed off in a similar fashion with his right hand.
Wax on... wax off...
By the end of a month-long period, Daniel is tired of being Mr. Miyagi’s personal work slave and decides that it was time to quit before he ever gets started with the actual karate.
It is only after his confrontation with Mr. Miyagi does Daniel finally come to realize that all those chores specified by Mr. Miyagi were actually training Daniel by causing him to make repeated motions over and over and over again. Perfecting each stroke while building up the muscles (and muscle memory) needed to perform each action, quickly without thinking.
As boring as it might have seemed to young Daniel, these so-called chores were actually training him with the basic building blocks needed to master the complexities of karate.
Accomplished musicians know these techniques only too well. Concert performers have often repeatedly played musical scales tens of thousands of times prior to learning complicated music pieces.
Same thing applies to professional athletes who are at the pinnacle of their profession yet practice longer and harder than they ever have before in order continue to improve. It’s not uncommon for professional basketball players to shoot a thousand free-throws each day... boring as it may seem... just to prepare themselves physically and mentally for a game-time performance.
Recently, someone from my office went to a class to learn how to use Microsoft Excel. He spent two full days learning basic and intermediate skills from a teacher using a power point presentation in front of the class.
When he returned to the office a few days later, I asked him if he felt more competent when it came to using Excel spreadsheets.
He responded that although the class was informative, he really wasn’t given any hands-on training. All of the instruction came from the teacher’s lecture with the class following her with a workbook.
I responded by saying that I agreed that this probably wasn’t the best way to actually learn how to use Excel.
The best way to learn Excel is to actually sit down and use the program... repeating the same things over and over until you master the basic functions and then slowly adding new knowledge and skills to those things that you have already become proficient at.
This is how we get good at something.
We do it... we do it some more... and then we do it yet some more... until we can do it in our sleep.
This is the way we learned to read and write... learned our multiplication tables... learned how to play an instrument... and learned how to speak in a foreign language...
There is no magic pill that will impart knowledge and skills upon us... cramming simply doesn’t work over the long haul...
Learning comes from doing... not thinking about doing.
Once we become proficient, then we can expand our knowledge base by adding more and more to what we already know... at the same time... we need to remember to practice those things we already know so we don’t forget how to use them.
We need to not only absorb the knowledge but we also need to be able to access that knowledge when called upon.
Unlike the days of our forefathers and mothers, today we have an unlimited amount of knowledge within the palm of our hands. Knowledge aggregators like Google, Yelp, and Wikipedia have given us the ability to find vast amounts of information within seconds.
The truly successful person today and in the future will be able to take this information and use it to create something completely new and innovative.
Real knowledge will not come from simply acquiring the information (a skill that most 8 year-olds can do today), but rather knowing how to use the information once we have it.
...but here’s the rub...
Just because we’re competent today... we can’t afford to rest on our laurels... because there are two forces working simultaneously against us.
First... unless we continue to exercise the knowledge and skills that we currently know... we will ultimately lose the ability to recall it... use it or lose it...
If a musician were to only play their instrument once every five years... eventually they’ll lose the ability to play... it’s not like learning to ride a bike or learning to swim... we need to continue practicing what we already know just to keep our skills sharp.
Second... there are new pieces of information and knowledge becoming available to the world each and every moment of each day...
What worked 20 years ago won’t necessarily work today (especially if what you know is based on current technology)... we need to continue to push ourselves to continue to learn new skills and keep ourselves up-to-date with our base of knowledge.
The leaders and innovators of the future will not only know what to do... but have already spent countless amounts of time actually doing it... perfecting what they know and pushing the boundaries.
They will not only be smart... but they will be competent as well.
There is never a time to rest on our laurels... we must continue to refine what we know and push ahead to learn those things that we don’t.
Thank you for your support of OptiFuse where we try to work on the little things to ensure that we get the big things right...
Jim Kalb President
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