I went to Puerto Rico on a Guys’ Weekend recently. During the action-packed adventure, my friends Dan Richards, Matt Prince and James Colligan played 11 games of pickleball. I had only played the game twice before. I am not good. But that weekend I played enough to get more intelligent about the game. I am now starting to have ideas on strategies. And techniques. And excuses.
One of my greatest problems, among many others, is that I hit the ball long a lot. As I played more I wouldn’t say I stopped hitting it long. But I could see that I was hitting it less long. My shots or pickles or whatever you call them were inching closer and closer to being in the area I was trying to hit. I recognized that progress as my true, but subtle victory.
When you are learning a new skill it is important not to simply see success and failure. Pass and fail. Or right and wrong. It is valuable to recognize your progress. To note your closer and closer approximations. To identify your good misses. Like Doubtfire, Butterworth and Fields.
Skill acquisition doesn’t happen overnight. It happens as a creep towards correct. The key is to increase the percentage of times you get it right. And to shrink your range of variation. Recognize your improvement along the way, even when you are still not doing things correctly. Because it proves that you are on the right track. And it provides the encouragement you need to keep going.
When learning new skills look for small wins. Recognize the improvements that don’t show up on the scoreboard. Give yourself permission to be an amateur. It’s not about hitting the bullseye. It’s about throwing the dart, taking feedback from where it hits, and correcting accordingly. Then just keep adjusting, attempting and learning until you can’t miss. But be patient. It will take a while. All worthwhile things do.
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