Practice Does Not Make Perfect: Challenging Conventional Wisdom

Those who know me know that I genuinely enjoy challenging conventional wisdom, which is often too traditional and rarely wise. If we look deeper at some of the most famous aphorisms of today and the past, we see that they are more dangerous than helpful. 

Challenging conventional wisdom
Practice Does Not Make Perfect

Take, for example, the notion that “slow and steady wins the race” and all its possible implications. As you think about those implications, notice how poor and destructive this seemingly intelligent piece of advice is without expansion and context. 

The truth is that regardless of how steadily one might move, slow never wins a race. Even if we consider the need to finish what we start – indubitably good advice about commitment and dedication – the saying promotes a dangerous disregard for the necessary sense of urgency in many types of progress. 

I’ve never known fast and steady to be a losing strategy. 

An apple a day will not keep the doctor away if you’re not sleeping well and following a healthy diet and exercise routine. You can likely think of several more silly and almost useless nuggets of “insight” people love to throw around to appear perspicacious. 

Why Conventional Wisdom Endures

These proverbs are much older than we know, and one reason they survive time is how they make people feel. 

People love to feel important. Science shows us that the attention we receive from others has powerful neurological and psychological effects, and these seemingly wise pieces can pack a tremendous punch when thrown at the right audience. 

Who doesn’t want to feel like they provide life-changing advice in a short, easy-to-say sentence? 

It’s also fair to say that these adages were originally devised to help direct our thinking and learning by emphasizing specific points. However, they are too often excuses to bypass thinking altogether. They are readily available feel-good strategies that validate our human need for attention. 

Practice Does Not Make Perfect

Likely one of the most pervasive and damaging of all the popular sayings out there, this one ignores the need for proper direction in practice. 

Practising anything wrongly will ensure that you remember it and continue to do it incorrectly. 

A post by one of the accounts I follow on Instagram, LA Gold Gymnastics, points out the need for intentionality in practice. The post elegantly mentions the necessity of being deliberate in our actions and mental states when practising our skills. It reminds us that we need to “practice the right things, the right way, FOR AS LONG AS IT TAKES.”

And respectful of their content, I’ll let the post do the talking. 

Give them a follow if you’re interested in positive and effective coaching strategies. 

Thank you for reading.

Coach José

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