All my life, I have loved learning. If I don’t know something, I will work and work at it to figure it out. (Well, except algebra, but that’s another story.) 
When I was growing up, you could always find me in a corner of the house, drawing pictures, painting, or reading. My parents did not allow boredom in our house. There was always something to do and something new to learn. And my folks taught by example – to this day you can often find my Dad with his nose in some sort of history or 10 Wonders of the World book. Learning never stops.
 
I find there’s one part of learning that often gets overlooked, and that’s practice. I can read 1000 blog posts about social media, drop $500 or more on a course about it, but if I don’t start a Twitter account or begin blogging on a consistent basis, I will never really understand anything.
 
Understanding takes practice. Practice takes effort. Practice means slogging away at it and making mistakes. 
 
I think it’s the making mistakes part that hangs people up. 
 
The Journey of a Thousand Miles
I have been working on taking better care of myself lately. With my business ramping up to all new levels, taking on more responsibilities at Algonquin College, and working on some volunteer projects, I realize how important it is to maintain a healthy body, mind and spirit. That means getting plenty of sleep, eating well, exercising, taking quiet time for myself, and dropping some pounds. All of these are areas at which I’ve tried and failed multiple times.
 
But I’ve realized, although I have read all the articles on healthy eating, though I have learned some yoga and how to work out, and that I know how to meditate and go to bed on time, I haven’t been practicing. And because I haven’t practiced, I don’t really understand. I haven’t done the work. 
 
The Whole Enchilada
Our problem with practice comes because we only ever focus on the end result. We want to be successful with our social media efforts overnight. We want to wake up tomorrow 40 pounds lighter. But when push comes to shove, and we realize that in order to get social media working for us, we have to devote several hours per week over many months to do it, we never start. When we realize that losing the weight is going to take putting down the bag of chips and practicing daily movement of our stiff, unflexible bodies, we decide to start tomorrow or next week instead. 
 
The whole enchilada is too overwhelming. When we can only see the end of the road in our sights, we become afraid of how much work it will be to get there. It stops us in our tracks.
 
Just One Bite
Learning is easy. Figuring out what we have to do is pretty simple too. Practice is hard, but it’s the only way to true understanding.
 
The best way to practice is not to consider the end. Consider the step you need to take next, and only that step. If that’s setting your alarm for 6am so you can wake up the next morning and exercise, then let the practice be that. If it’s sitting down and writing just one blog post, it’s that. Don’t think “I have to start blogging more, I have so much writing to do.” Think, “I’m going to write this post now.” Think, “I am going to eat this healthy salad for lunch now.” 
 
Then just repeat doing that one thing over and over again. What you’ll soon realize is that every one thing you do is practice. And if you do one thing often enough, then time doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that it took you 6 months to have a significant body of work on your blog. It doesn’t matter that it took you 5 months to lose the 40 pounds. Because all along, you were just doing one thing at a time. 
 
And now, you haven’t just learned. You understand.
 
So go. Practice one thing. Then repeat. 
 
[photo by Martin Gommel]