Imagine a guy named Gerald Thomas Jackson IV walking in off the street unprepared for a rehearsal that involves performing a scene from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. After 2 minutes, the director screams, “Cut, cut CUT, what on earth was that?”
Thomas shrugs, utterly defeated.
Then the director asks, “Thomas, how many years have you been a practicing Shakespearian actor?”
Thomas replies ruefully, “Actually, this is my first attempt at Shakespeare. I’ve always wanted to be an actor and figured if I was going to make it, I had to be A NATURAL and naturally, if I was a natural, Shakespeare would come naturally to me.”
The director grins and says, “Well, there’s your problem son. You expect your abilities to come naturally without any effort on your part. Let me tell you from spending the last FORTY YEARS PRACTICING–first acting, then directing–Shakespeare, that ability comes much more naturally when you nourish it with hard work.
Even though, Gerald Thomas Jackson IV came straight out of my imagination, I can definitely relate to parts of his story. Can you?
Speaking of Hamlet, one of the most well known lines of the play is “To be, or not to be, that is the question…”
In that spirit, I pose this for you to ponder:
“To practice, or not to practice, that is the question.”
“To wonder if practice makes better, or to wonder if it simply is a waste of time, that is the question.”
As I type this, I have the distinct sensation that the ghost of Shakespeare is rolling his eyes. Spooky! Hopefully, he’s not right behind me.
If you are anything like me, you are quite quick to assume that you are not good at a new activity simply because you don’t seem to have any natural talent when you first attempt it.
BUT could it be that, just maybe, natural talent is developed with practice?
I wrote this three line poem in support of that idea. It might have been a haiku had chosen to spend MORE TIME PRACTICING writing haikus. But I haven’t, so it’s simply a three line poem…
Wee Ones Love Practice
None of us are born with a ton of talent.
We are born unable to crawl
or use the toilet.
We can’t be prodigies at everything we try but how will we know how much we can learn and how good we can become until we INVEST TIME in practicing it?
Of course, I worry, “WHAT IF I practice and fail and it’s all just a humiliating waste of time?”
I spent so much of my life sitting on the sidelines, smug in the belief that I wasn’t wasting it by practicing, pointlessly, the things I couldn’t possibly be any good at.
You know what happened? I got bored and my butt got sore from all that sitting.
So my intention has become to practice the things I WANT to do, even if I don’t have a lot of confidence that I will be any good at them.
Basically, I want to kindly remind the voice inside my head that says, “You can’t do that,” that in fact, I CAN INDEED DO THAT with practice.
I’m beginning to put this desire into action.
For example, for the vast majority of my life, I’ve considered it an iron clad truth that I simply am not good at memorizing lines and repeating them back.
However, this fall an idea I was excited about came along. Chris Taylor, the genius who does so many things in my business–short of speaking with a speech impediment–listened to the idea and he and I decided it would be best realized in video form. A high quality video of me explaining the power of taking your next, imperfect best, micro step.
We realized that to achieve this goal, we had the opportunity not only to write out a script but for me to practice it and memorize the lines the IMPERFECT BEST I COULD.
I ended up practicing for hours in the weeks before we filmed. My favorite moment of practice occurred while reciting the script during a massage. Who says practice can’t be relaxing!
When we finally filmed, we filmed countless takes. Even though I was well practiced, the whole experience was still a TREMENDOUS amount of work for both Chris and I. I can’t imagine how much more work it would have been had I neglected to practice my lines.
Chris and I were ultimately successful, discovering joy in the work as neither of us expected or felt entitled to get the video perfect on the first or twentieth attempt. We allowed ourselves to persevere by not placing the pressure on ourselves that Gerald Thomas Jackson IV put on himself to PROVE what an off-the-charts genius Shakespearian actor he was on the first try.
So, I ask us to ponder again:
Are we going fill our days with the reasons we believe we can’t do the things we want to do because, like Thomas, we aren’t naturals?
How would it feel instead to practice our goals and dreams, hour by hour and day by day and through a courageous dedication to the process until we discover the people we are capable of developing into?
Incidentally, the subject of the video Chris and I worked so hard on is “practicing your goals and dreams.”
It premieres this Friday, February 7th
JASON FREEMAN is a Professional Speaker and the proud owner of a Speech Impediment. He is also the author of “Awkwardly Awesome: Embracing My Imperfect Best” and a Perseverance Coach.
He excites and encourages his audience to break through the barriers of their own limitations using a method he created, called “doing your Imperfect Best ™”.
His Imperfect TEDx Talk can be viewed here.