Life is Practice

learn by practice

Blog by Jen Bebb

Lying on a yoga mat last week, it clicked. One word, heard thousands of times before, resonated and echoed and stayed with me for several days. It’s with me now…

…practice

The yoga teacher said something like “Remember, yoga is a practice and you will always have things to learn, to improve and to work towards.”

Further into the class she was leading us through a pose and shared that it had taken her years to reach this point and that she was still working towards the next level. The teacher admitted that she was still learning, practicing, and working to get better.

Let’s say that again: The teacher, considered a master of her craft by those in her class,  admitted she was still learning, that there were things she could not do, that she worked to improve everyday.

It’s a practice.

And there is was, everything that is wrong about our “leaders”, everything that is wrong about professional education, right there in my yoga class.  How many of our leaders, our educators, the masters of the craft, still take time to learn, grow and practice everyday?

It would be interesting to change our vocabulary surrounding success. In photography (the space I was in for 14 years), you reach a certain level and are considered a “master” of your craft, or “expert” in your field and you begin educating others. My experience is that this makes it challenging, especially from an ego perspective, to continue your own eduction and growth. You may choose not to attend class for fear that people will  question your “master” title, or for fear of not looking like an “expert”.

What if success was the journey, not the finish line?  After all, if we stop learning and growing, we’re done.

When we stop practicing, we are no longer growing.

We can’t be – we can’t stay on top and maintain our position in whatever market we are in without innovation and growth. Not today.

Life is about practice.
Success is about practice.
Innovation is about practice.
Growth is about practice.

We should flip the current ethos and call out those among who choose not to continue education and growth, especially those we hold up as leaders. Wouldn’t they be better leaders if they attended class,  advanced their own development, and continued practicing?

If I had known then what I understand now, I would have happily attended the classes taught by others, I would have sought out newcomers and chatted about process and craft. I should have gone to different courses just to learn how others do things, and I should have embraced people who were charting a different course, watching as they wandered into something different, but equally of value.

As leaders we are conditioned to believe we have to learn from leaders who are “better” than us. Maybe we look up to Seth Godin and consider him better than us. And maybe one day we rise to the same level as him – now where do we go to learn? Where do people like Brene Brown and Seth Godin go for new ideas and continuing education? Do they hold themselves above it all (I suspect they do not or they would have quickly become sidelined)?

What if we started to respect the practice that is life, business and everything else in our world? To use a sports analogy – the very best players in the world are still in need of a coach and still practice regularly. They never stop honing their skills and learning from each other.

Why do we, as leaders, feel that once we’ve been given that designation by others we no longer are in need of practice? How are we different than every other person on this earth?

Everyone needs practice.

I’m going to WPPI next week and I wonder how many instructors will sit in classes other than those taught by their friends, actively listening and taking notes. Beyond that, how many instructors will sit in a class taught by someone they disagree with or in a subject they already “know” and be open to the idea that they might learn something.

I encourage everyone to attend classes taught by people who aren’t their “heroes” or who might be controversial. Go learn from someone who has been doing this for 30 years, then someone who has been doing it for 3 years and see what takeaways you get. Deliberately sit in on a class you heard bad things about and form your own judgement. Before dismissing what someone has to say, listen to them.

I dare you, each of you, to get out of your boxes, your routine, and open your eyes to the possibility that there is a better/different/more efficient way to get things done.

Practice!