Random Thoughts

Practice Makes Experts

Practice Makes Experts

“Nothing can help the person who does not practice.” I read that in a Forbes article about public speaking tips. It made me stop and think about how easy it is to look at someone you admire and think they are a natural at something. The truth is that they worked very hard to be so awe-inspiring.

While it’s likely that highly talented people possess genetic factors that play an important role in their successes, training is necessary to become an expert. And with any kind of training, practice is key to honing one’s craft.

My first full-time job after college was as a high school teacher. I had some practice during my schooling, but not enough to make me a true expert on the subject matter, and not enough to confidently manage classrooms of 28 different personalities 5 times a day. And then, there I was on day one, alone, responsible for over 100 students a day, and running the show. 

I’ll never forget how quickly I noticed that my first period public speaking class really got the short end of the stick. Each day they were my test subjects for the day’s lesson, which always went better the other times I would perform it later that day. So, I started to rehearse my new lessons the night before. That practice helped. 

When I got my first graphic design job many years ago, I didn’t know the software like I really should have for the position I landed. I had to create my own projects and practice every night to quickly get myself up to the level the position required. 

I used to be a very good pianist. I could sight read almost any song, and enjoyed playing at parties where people wanted to sing. After a decade of little to no practice, I get frustrated every time I sit down at the piano. I can’t play anywhere near like I used to. Three weeks ago, I vowed to change that. I’m now practicing a couple hours a week and I’m slowly working back to the musician I was ten years ago. All it’s taking is a little practice.  

And even though I’ve taught public speaking to high school and college students, coached executives through high stakes presentations, and presented more workshops and agency pitches than I can count, I still practice my presentations over and over — until I know that I’m ready. 

And knowing when I’m ready has taken practice, too.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash
No More New Year’s Resolutions

Resolutions, Change, and the Next 10 Years

Those of you who know me personally know that I am typically quite thoughtful in my decision-making. I like to spend time thinking through the options in order to make the best decisions I can for all parties involved. However, sometimes my problem is that I want to move too fast once I make a decision. I get excited because I know what I’m doing is right, so I want to get it done right away! That doesn’t always work. 

As I look back on the past two decades, I’ve made a lot of big decisions. And for the most part they’ve been good ones. But the ones that I was more thoughtful and methodical about implementing were the most successful. 

That’s one of the reasons I gave up New Years’ resolutions many years ago. If I want to make change happen in my personal or professional life and I want it to be successful, I know it will take time. It will also take dedication, accountability, and flexibility. It may even take a failure or two before I get it right. Or you know what, I might fail completely. And that’s okay, too. Risk is always part of meaningful change.

What important change will you make this year, or in the next decade? If you’re passionate about it and honest with yourself about the time and effort it needs to be successful, I know you’ll make it happen.

Happy holidays to you and yours! May they be filled with kindness, laughter, love, and warmth.

Photo by Karl Fredrickson on Unsplash
Invest in yourself. Do it today.

Don’t Throw Away Your Shot

I always tell people that it’s amazing what you can accomplish by devoting 15 to 20 minutes per day to something that matters to you. That’s how I started most of the things that have defined my career, including Imbue.

The title of this post is inspired by the musical Hamilton, which I recently saw in New York City. The music, the lyrics, the acting, and the visual experience of the show are so masterfully intertwined that you can’t help but be enthralled with it all. I kept thinking about the time and talent it took to create it. Yet, it had to start somewhere. 

Early in the show, Alexander Hamilton sings a rousing song called My Shot. The lyrics begin with Hamilton passionately repeating the phrase, “I am not throwing away my shot” and the song ends with the cast driving home the point that you need to rise up and take a shot, your shot — the one only you can take. It made me think of my own experience and the rewards that have come from taking risks, sharing my unique perspective openly and honestly, and generally taking responsibility for (and control of) my future. 

Don’t throw away your shot, and even more importantly, don’t limit yourself to just one. Start tomorrow and make time to invest in yourself, your ideas, and your passions. Do it every day. The payoff may not come quickly, but I assure you the time spent will be worth it. 

Parents are a Model of Leadership

Parents and Leaders

I was recently asked a simple question by a colleague: “Who do you admire?”

Wow, what a loaded question. I admire many, many people—they are mentors, good friends, and talented colleagues. I also admire several artists, musicians, writers, athletes, and educators. The people I admire most are those I find talented, honest, kind, and giving. I also admire people who have the courage to lead, whether they are the type that does it quietly or the kind that enjoys the spotlight.

But when I think about who I admire most, it’s probably parents. I don’t have children myself, but when I look at parents today and consider the magnitude of the task of raising children in a world that seems to be moving faster than they can possibly keep up with, I have to give them kudos for being the leaders that they are.

Parents love through the times when those they lead are the most unlovable, guide their children to do what’s right even when it’s not easy, and sacrifice their needs for the health and success of the family. They show up every day, teach and train, troubleshoot, motivate, and lead by example. 

A good business leader shares a lot of traits with a good parent, don’t you think?

And while there are some essential things that make a good parent, everyone finds their own unique way to perform the role. Just like the best leaders.

Photo by Kelli McClintock on Unsplash

Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication

I love shopping with Zappos. They make it easy and fun to shop with them, and very easy to return things (which is important when I buy shoes because I have oddball-sized feet).

And their packaging sends me messages that make me want to give them more business.

“Build open and honest relationships with communication.”

Agreed.

Face to Face Lunch Meeting

When You Need Clarity, Have Lunch

A few weeks ago I had lunch with a colleague, who is also a friend. It happened to be on a day when I was feeling a bit frustrated over a few things, but I was trying to stay positive so our lunch would be fun (like it usually is when we get together).

She could tell something wasn’t right with me, and she opened the door to let me air my frustrations. I did (but reluctantly because I didn’t want to be a downer)—and then she felt comfortable doing the same. 

The result was that we had a brutally honest conversation with each other, which helped us be brutally honest with ourselves. In less than an hour, we both walked away with more clarity on the issues we both faced, ideas for finding potential solutions, and a positive outlook that was energizing. 

If you haven’t done it in a while, get away from your desk and have lunch with a trusted friend, colleague, or mentor. I highly recommend it.

Photo by Sander Dalhuisen on Unsplash
Social Media and Real Life

Social Media Sparkle

Life is amazing. It’s also messy.

Social media connects us in wonderful ways that make keeping up, touching base, sharing, and meeting new people fast and convenient. It also often portrays the lives of others with a glistening cleanliness that isn’t reality. 

Don’t try to compete. Just be you, and work on being the best you that you can be. And be proud of that whether someone “likes” it or not.

Photo by Sandrachile. on Unsplash
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