Mastery Quadrant #4 – PRACTICE / PLAY

There is a learning curve for anything that you attempt to learn. Everyone starts off as a novice, and as they spend more time learning, they graduate through being amateurs, professionals, experts and finally masters.

While time spent in deconstruction (MQ #2) and identifying the best learning sources (MQ #3) are highly valuable in helping smoothen and speed up this journey, the journey remains the same for everyone. A certain amount of time has to be spent learning, making mistakes and learning from your mistakes, before you become good.

There is however, a significant difference between how true professionals and amateurs spend this time in the learning curve

  • Amateurs: are anxious to ‘get started / get-in-the-game’ and believe that they can ‘learn on the job’. Initial errors are inevitable when you start something new. Therefore, an amateur will fail publicly and fail in something which has a direct negative impact (since they are ‘on-the-job’). This results in a significant blow to their ego, and often leads to the amateur believing they are ‘not good enough’, leading them to either quit the game or continue playing the game as an amateur.
  • Professionals: are proud people, who do not like to fail publicly. They are aware that at the initial stages of learning a new skills, they are bound to be initial errors and failures. They therefore choose to first practice their new skills, in a safe environment (when no one is watching or in front of a coach / when there is nothing material to lose). Initial failures have no impact on their ego (it is considered past of the learning process), and once they have gained a certain level of expertise they choose to proudly display their new found skills in front of an admiring audience.

Professionals always first practice / play

Do all professionals first practice. While there will always be a few exceptions to any rule, there is overwhelming proof of the significant time spent by any true professional in MQ#4 Practice / Play. Consider

  • Sportsmen: spend the vast majority of their time in practice sessions fine-tuning individual skills, so that on the few days where it does matter, they bring on their A-game.
  • Defense forces: spend virtually all their time practicing, be it exercise routines, drills or war games. The cost of failure is simply too great in this field, to ignore MQ #4 Practice / Play.
  • Artists: spend countless hours perfecting their art in isolation, so that when they do perform in front of an audience, they deserve their thunderous applause.
  • Top companies: before launching a new product / service, top companies will spend significant resources in prototyping, testing, quality checks and test launches, so that when they do go to market they ensure a higher chance of success.

How do you implement practice / play?

Spending time in MQ #4 – Practice / Play, is simply a question of a mindset – recognizing that you need to put in a certain amount of time perfecting your skills, before you rush to publicly demonstrate them. You need to be prepared for the time that will be spent practicing, budget for it properly and remember never to rush this process.

The easiest way to implement practice / play, is to be able to identify an activity that allows you to perfect your skills in a low-impact environment. For example,

  • Blogging: if you wish to become a blogger, first set up a blog on a topic you don’t really plan to pursue and use it to learn all the relevant skills.
  • Coding: start by coding meaningless apps.
  • Presentations: learn to make better presentations, by making meaningless presentations – perhaps on how your cat spends her day
  • Sports: practice!

To appear professional, act like professionals do. Make sure you spend adequate time in MQ #4 Practice / Play.

Remember, Practice makes Perfect!