How many times have you heard practice makes perfect?
When I was younger I took piano lessons. My mother would make me sit down at the piano and practice. I would go through the lessons, trying my best. I never stopped to work on the trouble spots. I would just plod through the songs to get to the end. Then I could proclaim to my mother that I had practiced. After all, I played the songs. When it came time for my lesson the songs sounded pretty much like they had all week during practice, not very good.
Later in High School I was in the marching band. We spent hours upon hours practicing our half time shows. Instead of going from beginning to end. We would line up and try 8 bars. Then back up and do it again, and again, and again. It seemed to be never ending. All the while our teacher would say things like "if you have never done it right during practice you won't magically be better on Friday night."
Later in life I was lamenting that I never got any good at the piano so I started taking lessons again. This time I had a better sense of what it was going to take to get any good. I knew that I needed to take practice seriously. I knew that it was going to take time. Even though I knew, I still hadn't learned.
I found myself making mistakes and moving on without fixing them. Even though I was putting in lots of time, I wasn't making much progress. During my lessons, the mistakes would surface and my teacher would stop me and have me play the phrase 3 times perfectly in a row before I could go on. In doing this, I began to learn that by just going through the songs without fixing the mistakes I was essentially practicing the mistakes. If I continued to practice the mistakes, I would always play the mistakes. I had to practice playing the song correctly or I would never play it correctly.
This morning as I was listening to an audio book I heard the author explain: "Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect, Vince Lombardi." Yes! This is what I have been learning over the last few years of piano lessons. This is what my marching band teacher was trying to teach, but it wasn't sinking in.
Perfect practice is what is needed. We practice to get it right. And then we do it again, and again, and again. We do it right so many times, that we no longer need to think about it. It then becomes a part of us and we can move on to bigger and better things.
So, next time you hear that practice makes perfect, remember that it is how you practice that makes it perfect.