I’ve always believed no experience in life is ‘bad experience’, in absolute terms. Even bad or unfortunate experiences. There is always something you can take away from it. Something you can learn. Something that would add value to your life in the future or possibly now, however small it may be.
I also believe that life is too short to try to get your experience with everything ‘first-hand’. It is better to learn from the experience of others. Seek appropriate coaches. Relevant mentors. If you’re lucky enough to. You could certainly cut the learning curve by a significant amount in anything you set out to accomplish. You don’t have all the time in the world. You could save time. Save your life for more important choices.
Save – you, perhaps?
When my daughter, Olivia, was old enough to hold a colour pencil in her hand she enjoyed drawing on paper, cardboard. Everything really. Scribbling everywhere and anywhere, with no structure.
No boundaries. No beginning, no end. In her young brain, she thought she was doing it – right. That’s all she knew, with regards to colouring, at that point in time.
One day, I decided I would get her to colour in pictures a little bit better. To change her perception of what she thought she was doing right. I felt I had to teach her the ‘basics’ of colouring. But, what was the basics of colouring?
I thought about the final output (a coloured-in picture) and what colouring was made up of. It was obvious. It was an accumulation of closely set straight lines. So, that was it: a straight line. I had to teach my daughter how to:
1. draw a straight line
2. become better at drawing a straight line
I mentioned this to my wife, and she had some reservations about what I wanted to achieve. I sat down at the table like I normally do with my children and said “Olivia, I would like you to focus on one thing only today, when we draw”.
She said “what dad?”
I replied: “I would like you to just draw lines”.
“Just lines?” she queried.
“Yes. Just lines”, I said.
So, I drew an outline of a square on a blank A4 paper. I then proceeded to show her the fundamentals of getting the best possible result from colouring. I said, firstly, lets:
1. Sit up straight with proper posture.
2. Must be comfortable with balance.
3. Relaxed and focused.
I drew a line from one end of the square outline to the other. Then did another line. And repeated, and repeated and repeated. Until the whole square outline was a shaded in square. I told her how the repeated start and stop of a straight line creates colour, texture.
The object (the square) was now ‘coloured-in’.
I told her how it was important to learn how to draw a straight line and be clear on where the start and stop of the line begins and ends. That, just like in many things in life, a picture or drawing may have boundaries. She needed to be aware of them and stay within them.
Also, that if she practiced drawing a defined straight line – repeatedly, she would become better at colouring-in.
She was excited. Excited about the challenge.
I drew her several shapes to colour in with straight lines – another square, a circle and a triangle.
I then asked her to try drawing the straight lines as I had just done. To fill in the shapes. One by one, she did. Tentative at first and unsure of its correctness, she made those first few lines. I kept encouraging her to keep going. She was a little afraid to get it wrong.
I told her not to be afraid. That it was ok to get it wrong. I told her to aim to ‘stay within the line’ of the square, circle and triangle. She needed to focus on ‘filling in the gaps’.
She got it wrong. Again and again and again.
She threw hands up in frustration and stormed away. A few times. I sat there and asked her back. “Lets try again, sweetie. You’re getting better. Its ok to do it wrong. You need to do it wrong to learn to do it right”.
She returned. She did. Multiple times. She did learn to do it right.
It seems this is the same for most endeavours in life requiring skill. Talent alone is not enough. Learning the basics. Repeating perfect technique with deliberate practice builds up to something others may refer to as genius in a particular area.
For example, a rugby player that does not practice basic skills such as catching and passing will not get very far. A violinist that does not practice the basics of her instrument, with deliberate structure and purpose won’t get to the next level. A gym enthusiast that does not learn proper exercise techniques of the basic exercises in the gym would highly likely not get the results he or she desires and increase risks of injuries.
Olivia is a champion colouring in kid, now. She colours in with the skill level of kids far beyond her current age. She is very proud of the pictures she very astutely does. I am very proud of the work she does too.
She wasn’t afraid to do it wrong to learn to do it right. She faced her fear of getting it wrong.
That’s my definition of courage. Facing fear, no matter how small it is.
She got past her frustration. She put in the work. She deliberately practiced those lines. She did the basics, in this case – she learned how to draw a straight line, better than she had ever done before, not some of the times, but all the time. She accepted that ‘close enough’ is ‘not good enough’.
She learned to let go of the ‘almost right’ line to make room for the ‘better line’. Just like in life, some of us have to learn to say ‘no’ to the good to be able to say ‘yes’ to the best.
So, dear readers, remember, when things in life get a little bit more complicated and overwhelming, like it usually does, learn to keep it simple.
What do I mean by this? Well, ask yourself what are the ‘basics’ of the situation/task at hand? Then:
Learn proper execution. Repeat. With Deliberate practice. Persevere and persist.
Whichever area of life it is. Become the best you can be at the basics. The compound effect of the basics, executed excellently, in any area of life produces the best work. The best ideas. The best innovation. The best sporting teams. The best businesses. The best of everything.
You can go further … become the best you can be at the ‘basics of life’. Smile more. Say ‘hello’ more. Laugh more. Give more. Love more. You can identify many others.
Once again, don’t be afraid to do it wrong to learn to do it right and never be afraid to ask for help. From someone who ‘has been there’ and ‘done that’.
Then, ask yourself how much of your 86,400 seconds of your daily life do you put aside to become better at the ‘business of LIFE’? That’s right – the business of becoming a better human being – a better YOU. I’m not referring to your work or your business. Or your profession.
I’m referring to the business of life.
Until next time,