You’ve Practiced – Now Do It!

I was thinking about my grandson today, wondering how he’s holding up in boot camp. A lot of memories started to flood in, and among them was his penchant for rehearsing conversations that may or may not ever take place. Do you know anybody like that? We’ve all done it at one time or another. But this kid takes it to a level of commitment I’ve never seen.

And I guess it’s good to think through what you plan on saying, especially if it’s something that may not be well-received. Like when you’re telling the boss you want a raise, or letting your wife know you’d rather not eat last night’s “special” dinner again this century. Get that one wrong, and you may not want to eat anything else she cooks for a while. I’m just saying.

But there comes a point where we can rehearse things so much, we never really get around to the real thing. And, even if we do, odds are nobody else was there for rehearsal, so they don’t know how the conversation is supposed to go anyway. You say something, and they think you want them to respond with whatever comes to mind, not some carefully scripted dialogue only you know.

In his book Ten Powerful Phrases for Positive People, Rich Devos wrote “If you wait until you have all the knowledge and experience you think you need, you’ll never take a risk or achieve a goal.” My mom had another way of expressing that thought, but I won’t repeat it here. Her philosophy was don’t take up space in the outhouse if you’re just sitting there thinking about it.

When I was getting ready to begin my career in standup comedy, I read several books, watched a few live open mic shows, then wrote what I thought was the funniest five minutes of material in the history of show business. Then I set up a video camera in the basement and practiced. That alone should have deterred me from ever stepping onstage, but I never claimed to be a genius.

Still, there came that point where I had to turn off the camera, set aside my notes, and make a decision … do I call the club and get a spot on the show, or just sit here and dream about it? I made the call. Not only did I book myself in the next open mic show, I invited everybody I knew to come watch. I guess I figured there was no way I’d chicken out with that many witnesses.

That was the first of about 1500 shows for me and, after a while, I got pretty good at it. But it wasn’t until I stopped rehearsing every set word-for-word as I paced nervously outside the club that I finally learned to relax and enjoy it. And that’s when my audiences started to enjoy it as well. Sure, I missed a few lines and made some mistakes. But I was the only person in the room that even noticed.

There are things we need to rehearse, or learn to a certain degree of expertise, before we’re ready to share our newfound skill with the rest of the world. Flying a plane would be at the top of the list, along with wrestling alligators, performing a high-wire act, and defusing live bombs. Any one of those could really mess up your day if you aren’t up to the task.

But most other things in life are a bit more forgiving. Yet we still let the fear of being slightly imperfect keep us from taking the first step toward achieving our goals. As a teenage boy, I was hesitant to ask girls out. Not because they might not be interested in me, but because I was afraid of flubbing the words and ruining my one and only chance at happiness. Seriously???

And I see that scenario play out all the time. We know the things we need to do in order to achieve our goals, but we hold back waiting for the perfect opportunity, or the perfect conditions, or until we’ve rehearsed the perfect sales pitch. And, because nothing is ever perfect, we never even try.

Most times, the only thing standing in the way of our happiness is ourselves. We can achieve anything we want, but we have to first accept that the timing will never be just right, and we’ll have to work through some less than ideal conditions. From the back of the plane, the pilot’s expertise in navigating a thunderstorm is awesome. Only he knows how close we came to catastrophe.

It’s important to take time to learn new skills and practice what you’ve learned. But never let the fear of imperfection keep you from stepping into the ring. Any New Yorker will tell you the way to get to Carnegie Hall is practice, practice, practice. But none of that matters if you never take the stage. That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

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