Practice, practice, practice

Martha Graham was an American modern dancer and choreographer whose style, popularly known as the Graham technique, reshaped American dance. She is considered as one of the pioneers of modern dance. Graham invented a new language of movement and used it to reveal all emotions common to human experience. She was the first dancer to perform at the White House, travel abroad as a cultural ambassador and receive, among several other honours, the highest civilian award of the US: the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Her long life was spent mostly in dancing and when she died at 96 years, she left behind a legacy of inspiration not only for dancers but for artistes of all kinds. When asked about the key contributing principle towards perfection in a profession and life, she said, “We learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practising dancing or to learn to live by practising living, the principles are the same.”

This theory that practice makes one perfect is ascribed by all those whom the world considers talented and extraordinary. A story told about Pablo Picasso, the most renowned figure in 20th Century art who became the most well-known name in modern art, with the most distinct style and eye for artistic creation, underscores the importance of practice towards perfection at anything.

One day a woman met Picasso in the market, and pulling out a piece of paper said to him, “Mr Picasso, I’m your fan.  Could you please do a drawing for me?” The wizard readily complied by sketching a drawing on the paper provided and responded, “Madam, that will be a million dollars.”

“But Mr Picasso,” the woman replied flabbergasted, “it only took you 30 seconds to do this little masterpiece.” “My good lady,” Picasso laughed, “it took me 30 years to do that masterpiece in 30 seconds.”

What appears to be ability and flair is in fact often the result of constant practice and repetition. The experts who make a skill or the art of living look easy and effortless are in reality much like the common folk. Conversely, the common man, who settles for mediocrity at his profession and in life, blaming absence of talent, is actually losing out on attaining expertise purely for lack of practice.

The essential truth is that every ordinary man is endowed with abilities that can be perfected through practice.

For, as neurosurgeon Ben Carlson observed, “There is no such thing as an average human being; if you have a normal brain, you are superior.”

Practice then is the mantra that can take any man to world-class living. As author Joyce Meyer put it, “The way anything is developed is through practice, practice and more practice.”

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