Something I think we learn as children but perhaps many of us lose with age, is the art of practicing. When we’re young we don’t know all that much or have that many innate skills. So as we learn new things, we’re encouraged to put them into practice, and practice to improve our abilities. I played several musical instruments growing up and always had to set aside practice time….or if I didn’t then I’d be cramming it in at the last minute before a lesson! I also played netball. I’m no natural athlete, but I became a first choice attacking player for my school because of a lot of hard work and practice – I just never missed the net.
Why am I telling you this? Well I was reminded recently of something my younger sister said to me a year or so ago which has stayed not only with me, but also one of my best friends. I’ve always bemoaned the fact that I could never perfect the ‘smokey eye’ look with my makeup (I know this sounds shallow but stick with me folks). No matter what I tried with various different eyeliners, I just ended up looking like a clown. So I simply gave up trying, but wished all the time I could do it. One day I made this comment to my younger sister as she put on her makeup, complete with the perfect eyeliner. And I asked her ‘how come you can do it?’ To which she replied with the ultimate simplicity: ‘I practiced’.
I kid you not it was like a smack in the face. She just practiced! She simply refused to give up and kept going until she mastered the technique! My sister rides race horses for a living so she is used to (quite literally) having to pick herself up off the floor and dust herself off the face of adversity. If a horse throws her off, there’s no question. She has to get back on and keep going.
By contrast, I’ve been doing what I do professionally for a number of years now and know the ropes. Yes I’m learning all the time but I don’t come up against real adversity that often, certainly not physical challenges. My brain is very used to learning new things, but my body is less used to it. So while I’ve become a part-time runner over the years and have had to practice at that, I never gave myself the option of whether or not to practice and get better at it. I entered a race and that was that – nothing about running was optional! But with a dexterous skill – like applying the perfect eyeliner – I had a choice, and I simply chose to miss out rather than even try and learn.
It seems that as I’ve got older, I sort of just *expect* to be able to do things. If I can’t, then I can walk away and find something else to do instead. And I bet I’m not alone. Whereas my sister, and certainly my brother take a much more realistic view of the world and understand that it’s worth practicing to improve your skills. My brother is dyslexic and dyspraxic and has spent his entire life *having* to practice to get anywhere with most things. A good example is learning to drive.
My brother passed his driving test on his seventh attempt. His learning difficulties mean he doesn’t have good co-ordination skills so it took him a long time to a) learn to drive and b) have the confidence to pass his test. By contrast, two of my cousins of a similar age to my brother who are very clever (one has a doctorate in maths) both started learning to drive at the same time…found something difficult for almost the first time in their lives…and quit. They’re all now nearing 30 and my cousins still can’t drive, yet my brother’s perseverance and ability to apply himself to something he found challenging mean he is mobile.
When I was at my best friend’s the other week, we were discussing make up (as girls do) and she reminded me of what my sister had said to me about practicing eyeliner. She had been in the same boat as me, wanting to be able to do it but having failed early on, stopped trying. She said my sisters words had ‘stayed with her’ and encouraged her to practice and perfect her technique. It reminded me of the importance of practicing and perseverance. And I think there’s something for everyone in that makeup lesson that’s a lot more than just skin deep.