Joke: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”
Punchline: “Practice, practice, practice.”
Credit: attributed to everyone from Gene Kelly to Jack Benny and any number of people before and since.
The origin of the joke will take you down many a winding path.
The principle, however, will lead you straight to success.
Whether you are a musician, cook, seamstress, athlete, artist, gardener, writer, builder, it takes time to learn your craft and perfect it, and don’t forget the energy invested in fighting off fear of failure.
Practice: action done many times over for skill; skill gained by experience; to make a custom of; to follow, observe, or use day after day.
Practice is also the foundation of life skills, such as love, patience, wisdom, tenacity—attributes that must also be [see definition] ‘gained by experience,’ and ‘used day after day.’
How do we go about practicing the qualities we need to navigate successfully through life’s challenges, when the time comes to “perform”?
Remember those finger exercises you had to practice over and over when you took piano lessons? Or the vocal exercises you sang for choir? Or math flashcards: ‘pluses, minuses, times, and divided-by’s.’ Batting practice, dribbling. Think back on your own forms of practice for various childhood/teenage activities.
Nothing is learned without drilling.
The hard part about drills of any kind is you most often work on them when you are alone. You might have a coach or a teacher take you through your paces. But eventually, you have go home and keep working alone with nobody cheering you on.
This is not unlike men like Moses, alone in the desert; David, alone with the sheep; Daniel, alone in the lion’s den; Paul, alone in prison.
Genesis 32: 24. And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
Isaiah 51:2 Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him.
Generally, nobody watches you practice, but remember: in your lonely hours, dark times when you’re working your way through an unsolvable problem, God is there.
Romans 5: 3-5. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience experience; and experience hope. And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts.
Part of the discipline of learning a skill and performing it successfully is keeping your eyes on the person teaching, leading, conducting, coaching you.
For the sake of clarity, let’s use music as an example, specifically an orchestra. But the metaphor works in any sphere.
During practice and performance, all members of the orchestra must keep their eyes on the conductor and the score. Chaos would result if they:
Look at each other. “I wonder how he’s doing with this movement.” Keep your eyes fixed on The Conductor.
Hebrews 12: 2. Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.
Look at the audience. “I wonder if they like what we’re doing.”
II Corinthians 10:12. For we dare not compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
Look at their own preferences. “Why does percussion always have to be in the back? I think I’ll move up there with the violins.”
Proverbs 16:9. A man’s heart deviseth his way, but the Lord directeth his steps.
In order to practice and perform well, we must be devoted to the person teaching and leading us.
I Peter 1:8 Whom having not seen ye love, in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
Spurgeon wrote: When a person is dear, everything connected with him becomes dear for his sake. Thus, so precious is the person of the Lord Jesus in the estimation of all true believers, that everything about him they consider to be inestimable beyond all price. But if there be one name sweeter than another in the believer’s ear, it is the name of Jesus.
Devotion to Jesus will keep you practicing, moving forward with that project you need to complete or that trait you need to acquire…even when you’re alone, even when you’re distracted by disappointment or discouragement.
It’s too late to practice when it’s time to perform.