John Lennon advised new musicians to spend 100 hours in rehearsal for every hour they planned to perform on stage. When taking Tae Kwon Do, my teacher made the statement that it was a boring sport. Punches and kicks were practiced over and over until they got very boring. When I switched to another form of Karate, again, the teacher instructed the class to practice punches, kicks, and blocks until they became boring. It seemed that every time I attempted to learn a new skill, I was told to practice it over and over. For me, it was torture to do that. As long as the skill that I was learning was new, fresh, and exciting, I enjoyed the practice. However, when the repetitious exercise began to become boring I lost interest. My mind and interest began to shift from this old boring routine that I was practicing to something that was new and exciting. Inevitably, I stopped practicing and began to pursue the new interest. I’ll bet you’re a lot like me.
Unfortunately, I missed out on a lot of the dividends that my practice would have paid me. As the new skill is practiced, it actually becomes a habit. at that point, its execution becomes effortless, required no thought or planning and flawless. One performer advised those seeking advice on how to reach his level of expertise to practice until the song, skill, performance or becomes extremely boring. He said that when the practice becomes boring, that’s when the magic starts for those in the audience. It’s actually at that point where the audience wonders aloud, “How did he do that??”
The closest I came to that magic was in my Karate class. I practiced long and hard. It got boring. However, I noticed that I began to win more fights. I began to get hit less and less. I was able to duck, weave, and dodge fists and feet that were trying to cause me harm. I never thought about it, but it actually got to the point that it was actually effortless on my part. After winning one particular fight fairly easily against a more skilled opponent, my teacher came out on the mat and summed up all my repetitive training: “It’s like everyone else is moving in slow motion, isn’t it?” he asked. In fact, it was.
The point is that when we begin to learn a new skill for our professional development, we need to practice it until it becomes boring. Without even knowing it, we become faster at our jobs, more productive in our efforts and more accurate in our performance. At that point we impress our superiors, dazzle our peers and confound our competition. Yes, it becomes like everyone else is moving in slow motion.
The best example of this, however, came from one of my students, who passed a particularly difficult test one day. I asked him how he did it.
“I really don’t know,” he replied. “I went home and studied last night and when I read the questions on the test today, I just knew the answers! It was weird!”