As someone who aspires to be a speaker, I tend to talk a lot. Such constant practice, along with some self-reflection, has certainly been helpful. I have improved drastically, even over recent months and years. But public speaking, in a way, is ironic. For a profession that relies heavily upon your output—how you speak and write—one must first receive and think about a lot of input—things you are told or have read. Such has been the case with me. While I love to share ideas with others, I am also very intentional to listen when others share ideas with me. For how can one speak if one cannot first listen?
Such was the case a little over three years ago:
My (former) high school had a biannual career day. Leading up to it, students received a list of careers and got to select three they would like to learn more about, from someone currently in that career. At the time, I was still largely unsure of what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew it would be probably be something with business. Hence, when one of the careers was "Business Owner," I immediately included it as my first choice! As a result, some two weeks later, I found myself in a room with 20 other students, most of whom I didn't know, and a gentleman who owns a business. Over the next hour, he did several things for me—he fostered a newfound appreciation for public speaking, a fascination with Disney's intentionality, and a greater awareness of what the real world is like. And he bet us all a dollar.
He told us, a bunch of high school students, that he would give us a dollar if we could complete the following statement correctly: "Practice makes..."
"Perfect!" resounded the room.
"We'll that's too bad," he remarked. "I guess I'll be keeping my dollar."
Over the next few minutes, he explained. Practice does not make perfect—it makes permanent. What you do over and over again—what you make habitual, instinctual even—will never be perfect. But it will certainly be permanent. No matter what you do—speak, write, draw, design, configure, or conclude—all of it will never reach perfection, but the habits you form will remain. And they, for better or for worse, will shape, your world, and your future.
That lesson has challenged me immensely over the past three years. I have continually analyzed what I'm doing and refined it over and over again—intentionally shaping myself and my world into what I want it to be. And while it is difficult at times, I know I am much better off for it.
My friends, I ask you to challenge yourselves! I may not be as eloquent in my writing as that gentleman was in his speech, but I believe the message he shared and I've been fortunate enough to repeat is largely impactful, no matter the medium through which it was shared.
Consider the things you do every day. Better yet, record a day in 15 minute increments! What do you spend the most time doing? How much of that is important or useful? And how much of it is insignificant to you? I'm not saying you can't enjoy things—my family knows I'm a sucker for a good movie—but look at how much of your time is wasted. And consider what you could be doing instead.
I once heard the story of a 12-year-old girl whose father tasked her with the same challenge I give to you. She had to record what she did every 15 minutes throughout the day. After some time doing this practice, she saw an alarming trend and spoke to her father.
"Daddy," she said, "I spend an hour and 45 minutes a day eating snacks!"
She and her father talked for a little while and over time she slowly redistributed that time to more influential and important tasks. And now, after many years, that 12-year-old girl has become a successful adult. Today, her father claims she is the most intentional of all his children in regards to how she uses her time. What was a small change back then has made a huge difference over time!
My friends, observe what you practice. Keep track of how you're spending your time. We all get the same 86,400 seconds each and every day—make the most of it! And as you observe and change how you habitually spend your time, remember the following quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson:
"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."
Or in modern speak, don't do the same pointless things over and over again. How you practice dictates how you perform. And practice always, always, makes permanent!