What Jiu-Jitsu’s Teaching Me About Business And Life, Lesson #13: Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect, Perfect Practice Makes Perfect

beaten path

It is remarkable how easily and insensibly we fall into a particular route, and make a beaten path for ourselves (Henry David Thoreau, Walden)

Here is something that I am starting to see quite often in my Jiu-Jitsu journey: 1) I learn a technique; 2) I “practice” or “drill” the technique over and over until I can do it fluidly and without thinking; and  3) In the context of  a roll I am able to perform the technique.

Sounds like progress right….Maybe.

Why maybe?

Because if my form is off, even slightly, when I am practicing the technique (when I am drilling it into my subconscious), then I am actually doing myself harm.  I am actually instilling a bad habit, and when that habit is formed my attempts to utilize the technique in a roll will be ineffective. 

This is a powerful lesson that I learned from my Professor Josh Russell:

Practice doesn’t make perfect.  If I am practicing with the wrong technique I am actually hurting myself, and I will not get better.  Perfect practice makes perfect.  

It is remarkable how quickly we form habits that lead to unconscious behaviour, both good and bad.  We “make beaten paths for ourselves” very quickly.  I am seeing this in my Jiu-Jitsu.  I favour certain transitions over others.  I tend to look for the same submissions (largely because I am only competent in a limited few).  However, I can tell the areas where, even after less than one full year in training, I have “worn a beaten path” in imperfect technique.

It has often been stated that “unconscious competence” is at the heart of mastery.  That is, masters have the ability to perform exact execution of their technique without thinking.  In Martial Arts they have trained their mind and body so precisely that they are able to move in a fluid motion, responding exactly as needed in the context of a particular struggle.  Their movements are not only precise, but they are performed without “active thought”.  I believe this is because they have refined their skills through many years of “perfect practice”, where they are executing proper technique.

I am grateful when my technique gets constructively critiqued (which is frequently the case) because I don’t want to crystallize poor technique into habit, so that I become “unconsciously incompetent”.

I am far more interested in the slow path of perfect practice

There are so many ways that I can apply this to my business and my life.  I think it is wise for anyone to periodically take inventory of the “paths” that we have created in our business and personal life, such as our habits.  There may be certain actions that we are performing that actually aren’t helping us, but we perform them because of habit.  We have been “practising imperfectly”.

I can think of numerous applications of this principle, particularly to marketing.  Unless we precisely  track where our leads are coming from, and then only do activities that are vital, and effective in driving leads, we may actually be consistently doing things that don’t actually drive business, but we do them anyway because we think they do (and because it is a habit).  We are “practicing imperfectly”.  We would be wise to look at our leads, start tracking them, determine exactly where they are actually coming from, and then eliminate the actions that don’t actually yield results.  Eliminate the “imperfect practice”.

There are many other ways that this principle can be applied.  The key here is that in whatever we do, we only do the actions that are correct.  We seek to become precise in our practice.

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