When trying something new, most people understand they are going to suck.
In order to get better, we have come to terms that consistent, dedicated practice is required. A popular rule of thumb is Malcom Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule. It takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become a master in a given domain, so it says.
Not all practice is created equal though, and there are many productivity experts that point this out. Nearly every piece on this topic references a famous quote from NFL-coach Vince Lombardi that reads, “Practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.”
My guess is you’ve heard this before and thought it good advice. Perhaps it even inspired you to try a new practice technique that propelled you out of a learning plateau.
While useful for true mastery, as a beginner it’s also important not to take this concept too far. In the same way that “the perfect can be the enemy of the good”, the pursuit of perfect practice can also become an impediment to helpful normal practice.
This became clear to me recently when I realized I was spending hours watching stretching videos to create the perfect mobility routine, instead of getting out on the mat and actually stretching, imperfect as it may be!
For a relative beginner like me, that sort of “imperfect” practice is what’s most important to building a useful foundation for more rapid progress later.
Sure, at some point a more refined approach will be necessary to reach more advanced levels. But that point is definitely not found in the first few weeks of a learning journey and probably not in even the first few months, either.
If you ever find yourself in the first few months of working on a new project or skill spending more time reading/listening/watching content on the subject than doing, my advice is to let it go, put your head down, and get to work.
To make this even more clear, let’s take the example of having the goal of running a marathon. Like most skills, running is a complex activity that can be broken down into components that can be worked on individually.
The truth is to get better at running, you can’t spend all your time only running. You must also work on related skills like core strength, lower body mobility, cardio vascular stamina, proper running form, and even learning about and buying proper running equipment.
And in the same way that you’ll struggle with running initially, the same pattern will manifest itself with each of the components. As a result, your practice will be anything but perfect. You’ll buy “the wrong” running shoes. You’ll overstretch your hamstrings instead of working on those tight psoas muscles in your hips which is the true limiting factor for your lack of mobility.
But over time you’ll learn what’s most effective and resonates with you. And from there — and only there — you can start striving to implement a highly-refined routine that will fast-track you to more and more success.
Til then, embrace the suck and ignore the inefficiency.