Practice Makes Permanent

Tom and I recently picked up pickleball as our new physical activity of choice. The rules are easy. The pace is moderate and the equipment minimal.  And even beginners can get a great workout. After just a few rounds, I felt I was getting pretty good until… I saw them. The four young men who took the court next to me. They were clearly experts. They made mistakes, but they were fast, skilled, and competitive. They’d been playing for years. They’d had lots and lots and lots of practice.

You’ve heard that practice makes perfect. I disagree. Rarely is anything we do absolutely perfect. But practice can make new skills permanent and sticky.

At LionSpeak, we coach on a variety of communication skills:

  • Courageous conversations
  • Vision alignment
  • Accountability and management level conversations including growth conferences
  • Telephone skills (incoming, outgoing, and call center management)
  • Sales, case presentation, and financial conversations
  • Executive speaking skills
  • Training, adult learning, and meeting facilitation

You could participate in one of our workshops, read our articles and books, attend a lecture, listen to a podcast interview or one of our audio training programs, or even receive customized virtual or live coaching… but nothing becomes permanent until you practice.

Research shows that we must engage in a new activity a minimum of six times before it moves the information from short-term memory to long-term memory. Knowing this is helpful in pushing yourself and in giving yourself a break.

If we want to get better at something and make it natural and doable with more ease, then we must practice. Also, while we’re working up to the fifth, sixth, or even tenth time doing it, we should cut ourselves some slack. Practice is what makes new skills permanent and while the goal is not perfection, it will take that many times for it to become anywhere close to natural or automatic.

This week, identify one skill that you would like to master. Consider working diligently to clock your first six efforts before judging your performance too harshly. If you want to make permanent change and improvement, practice and keep practicing, and pat yourself on the back a little along the way.

“Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.”
~ Malcolm Gladwell