Over 20 years ago, a father waited for his daughter to sit in front of him after school hours a few days a week. Every week.
The purpose: to play chess.
On the table in front of them was a chessboard. The little girl did not understand the point of the game. She did not even like the game. She would rather play with her brother outside.
But her father insisted. He said it was fun and she needed to learn the game. Because learning the game has the power to shape the minds of children and prepare them for anything.
She did not understand what he was saying. She did not understand why a king is being attacked from all directions. She did not understand why all the fuss about a certain king.
But she is also happy that the queen is the most powerful piece in the game (because she has seen her move horizontally, vertically and diagonally) even though she has less value than the king — as the game can continue without her.
Most times, she wanted to leave her seat and move around their home just like the queen is doing on the board.
She loved her father. So she learned to sit in front of their usual place and watch her father explain how she can play the game.
It sounded to her like he was explaining nuclear physics to her.
He talks about a king and a queen. And different pieces that play around these two central characters. And she is wondering why her father is protecting his king while attacking hers. And why one piece has more value than others.
But she listened. One day at a time. One chess piece at a time.
In their room where they practiced sat two people looking at them. Her mother and only brother.
Her father was a patient teacher. She was horrible at the game initially. He checkmated her in few moves repeatedly within few minutes of starting the game.
They continued to play through the years. Until one day — the girl was able to checkmate her father’s king. All eyes in the room went wide.
Silence. And utter jubilation at the same time.
Her mother and brother marveled.
For the first time, the girl was able to win a chess game. After years of practice. After years of playing the game.
Fast forward ……
Years later, that little girl can smoke anyone at chess game.
That girl is me.
You need repetition to learn any skill
Nowadays, in the era of immediacy, more and more people are forgetting the value of repetition. The value of patience.
Playing chess has taught me how to be patient. How you can be good at something if you give it time and consistent attention.
We have to a great extent lost those virtuous of qualities — patience and repeating something until we get it right.
We start something but we do not finish it. We trade it for something else.
We do not become a master at any skill because we’ve sold patience and repetition for quick gratification.
We want things now and if it takes time we get agitated. We do not learn any skill in this mindset.
You need repetition to learn any skill.
Learning any skill takes time.
In the words of Zig Ziglar,
“Repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action, which makes it the architect of accomplishment.”
With more practice, confidence increases
Have you ever been in this situation?
You’re in a hall full of people. They are waiting for you to speak. You imagine there are more than 500 people in the room. Someone calls your name.
You walk towards the stage all the time wishing for the ground beneath you to open and swallow you. It didn’t. You give a speech with your voice wavering the whole time. You are wondering how you can stand on the ground when your body is shivering.
But you continue giving speeches. To different audiences. Repeatedly.
You learned how to give best speeches. How to learn from your mistakes. You learned from Dale Carnegie’s book on ‘The Art of Public Speaking.’ How to improve your speaking skills daily. You took online courses on the subject.
Eventually, your shaking stopped. Your voice becomes clear and loud. You stand straight. You look people in the eye. The platform becomes your home. You’ve mastered it.
And people ask you,
“How are you confident at giving public speeches in front of many people?”
And you say one word:
My darling, you achieve anything in life through practicing.
Practicing has a redeeming quality. Look around you. Observe the daily habits of competitive people. Surely you will not tell me that they became competent at their thing in one day.
They’ve mastered their craft for years. You see their competence now but you don’t see the relentlessness of their efforts through the years. You don’t see that they care enough to continue doing their thing even when things go south.
Those who are competent at anything developed their confidence — through practice.
Whether you want to be great at chess game or make an excellent egg omelet or prepare an outstanding slide or be the best at your area of expertise or be exceptionally good at cutting flowers — there is one thing that will make you competent.
One thing that takes you upward in the long pyramid of competence.
You get to smoke “your thing” through practice.
Doing one thing, again and again, might not make us feel like a kid in a candy store, but it is how we get good at it
The most frequent question my blog readers ask me is,
“How can you stand to write such long articles every day? I get tired even reading a single article.”
And I give them two answers. One, an obvious one: “I love writing.” Two, a serious answer: “Anything I love needs my time and full attention.”
If you’re underestimating the power that lies behind routine, reconsider.
The words of Henry David Thoreau told us,
“Routine is a ground to stand on, a wall to retreat to.”
Practice does not always work if:
· You are not engaged — emotionally
I would never have become good at playing chess in a million years if I did not engage with my father when we were practicing.
Without engagement, practice loses its value.
If you are not emotionally invested, you don’t practice on a deeper and meaningful level. Like those people who are doing their bare-minimum at their work. Every day, they are waiting anxiously until 5.00 pm arrives and they can get the hell out from their workplace.
These people can fool us that they are doing their jobs but we know they are not.
That is not the practice I’m talking about.
I’m talking about your undivided attention to improve something. I’m talking about your care about learning something until you can teach it to someone else. I’m talking about your desire to do one thing and improve it daily until you become competent at it.
Such kind of dedication is not possible without engagement that comes from your inside — not the outside world.
· You don’t have a purpose
Who are you, and what do you want to achieve in your life? What do you want to do?
Now, go learn how to get what you want — by doing it — by practicing it. Every single day.
· You don’t have specific goals
“I want to be rich.” is not a specific goal. “I want to learn to play games.” is not a specific goal.
Wanting to learn a chess game is specific. Wanting to get 100,000 email subscribers for my blog in one-year is a specific goal. I got ¾ of that number in one year and 3 months.
What is your goal? It would be ideal if you set for something almost implausible. Do you want to run a marathon? Complete a race? Publish daily articles throughout the year? Face an awkward situation and navigate its complexities? Dancing? Whatever.
Now, go through the process of achieving your goals.
This will often include failures and setbacks on your journey.
Go figure it out. Continue practicing until you get the slice of your paradise.
Make another goal. Do the same thing again.
And you will realize through this journey that,
“Repetition is indeed a convincing argument.”
“Repetition.” There. You’d said the word you’d been thinking all through your journey.
Thank you for reading ….
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