Practice Perfect Yields Insights to Getting Better

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Practice PerfectMy earliest memory of playing the piano involved sitting at a giant instrument, my hands on the keyboard and a meter-stick (instead of a yard stick) placed across my hands.  My daily practice included running all the way through a series of scales without dropping the meter-stick.

I did this for at least an hour a day running through circles of scales; majors, minors, sevenths; over and over and over again.  I was four.

This is how you learned to play the piano in Europe.  In fact, the standard is to learn one hand – slowly.  Learn the other hand – slowly.  Then put the two hands together – again – slowly.  Then find the sections that need extra attention.  Deconstruct these sections and repeat – slowly.  The focus of the practice is for the highly difficult and technical piece to come off as musical and effortless.

They say I was good.  But I haven’t played in nearly thirty years and today, I cannot play a note.  I didn’t have the talent for it – but I was good because I practiced.  I practiced between two and four hours a day for over sixteen years.  And when I stopped practicing.  I stopped playing.

The Practice of Business

The universe must be trying to tell us something because many of the new books coming out are focused on this principle of practice, commitment and craftsmanship.  Inside of three months this concept has come up in So Good They Can’t Ignore You and The Commitment Engine and now Practice Perfect.

Add to that the thoughts and ideas from Malcolm Gladwell’s rule of 10,000 hours and Atul Gawande’s Checklist Manifesto and you’ll start to see a clear pattern emerge around the idea of digging deep and getting really good at a process.

I received a review copy of Practice Perfect: 42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better and thought about dismissing it because it seems like it’s more a book about education and learning.  Then, as I got deeper into the book, I realized that the more important message in the book was about learning new things and how to learn new things.

Ultimately, the acquisition of this learning is what allows a business to set itself apart from the competition and create a more powerful experience for the customer.  Of course, it didn’t hurt that the authors had quite a long list of testimonials from writers and thinkers whose work I admire such as Daniel Pink and Jim Kouzes.

We’re familiar with doctors and lawyers and psychologists using the term “practice” to define their business.  Yet, we don’t do the same for business people.  Practice Perfect will have you looking at what skills it takes to run your business and help you hone in on the ones that drive your business to a higher level of performance.

Has Practice Gone Out Of Style?

In our fast paced world with so many things that used to take hours, days and weeks being accomplished in miliseconds, the idea of practice has somehow gone out of style.  Practice Perfect is an engaging book that will have you looking at practice differently and if you’re like me, you might even begin to start enjoying the process of actually mastering some of the skills you pride yourself on.

There Is A Process For Practice

I think the reason so many of us don’t practice is because we really don’t know how.  Save for my piano experience, I don’t remember being taught how to learn or practice.  I remember having information thrown at me and it was up to me to somehow manage and drive my brain toward performance.

If this sounds like your experience as well, then you will want to get your hands on Practice Perfect.  Inside these pages, you’ll find a process for practice that you can easily incorporate into your life.  Not only that, you’ll be entertained by the quality of writing – so there really is no downside.

There are seven main sections to the book that guide you through the process and idea of practice.  Overall there are forty two practice rules that the authors discuss.  At first, you’ll wonder how in the world you’re going to incorporate forty two rules into your life?  Practice – of course.

Here is just a broad overview of the general process:

  • Encode success: Engineer your practice so that the right actions are encoded in your mental circuitry to become habit.
  • Practice the 20%: Practice the most impactful 20% of the behaviors required to accomplish your goal.
  • Replace purpose with objective: Measure what you’ll be able to do once you’ve mastered the goal
  • Isolate skills: Identify each technique as an important building block.

I would recommend that you read the book front to back.  You’ll find the beginning chapters are more mental in nature, the middle get more into the nitty gritty and the end chapters guide you through the process of maintenance.

This Book Isn’t For Everyone

On the one hand, anyone can benefit from this book.  This book isn’t written for managers or students or business owners, per se.  It was written for people who are committed to success and who realize that practice is an important component of getting there, but who aren’t exactly sure HOW to practice.  If that sounds like you – then this is a must read.

Kudos To The Authors

The authors; Doug Lemov (@TeachLikeAChamp), Aerica Woolway (@UncommonSchools) and Katie Yezzi are all educators.  Doug is the author of Teach Like a Champion and was a managing director at Uncommon Schools.  Erica Woolway is the Chief Academic Officer at Uncommon Schools and Katie Yezzi is the founding principle of Troy Prep School.

They’ve written a book that is engaging and easy to read and follow.  If you like reading Malcolm Gladwell and Daniel Pink, you will enjoy this book.  It’s well written, contains relevant stories and will inspire you to practice and up your game.

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Ivana Taylor Ivana Taylor is the Book Editor for Small Business Trends. She is responsible for directing the site’s book review program and manages the team of professional book reviewers. She also spearheads the annual Small Business Book Awards. Ivana publishes DIYMarketers, where she shares daily do-it-yourself marketing tips, and is co-author of "Excel for Marketing Managers."