Don't think of practice as a noun Print
Youth Column
Written by Karen Osborne, Catholic News Service   
Thursday, Mar. 31, 2016 -- 12:00 AM

There's an old joke that makes musicians howl with laughter and nonmusicians a little confused: "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" "Practice, practice, practice!"

Landing a Carnegie Hall debut recital is widely known in the classical music world as being a defining moment in a young musician's career. In one glorious, glamorous, magical night, young musicians step onto the stage at one of classical music's most regarded stages and complete the metamorphosis, butterflylike, from student to professional.

Except that's not the whole story.

Carnegie Hall isn't magic. The young debut musician in question didn't pick up her violin one day and turn into a professional like Superman in a phone booth or a heroine in an episode of Sailor Moon. Like the joke said, getting to Carnegie Hall takes practice. Years and years of practice, every day, for hours a day.

Practice is also how you get to be the quarterback of the team that wins the Super Bowl. Practice is how the star of a basketball team is able to slam-dunk a basketball in front of a very distracting, screaming crowd. Practice is how a physics teacher is able to deliver a very confusing lesson and make her students easily understand some pretty crazy scientific concepts.

How does anyone get good at anything? Practice.

Sure, you could argue that natural ability has something to do with it. But talent, although important, doesn't explain everything.

Doctors and nurses make the necessity for practice even more obvious. Ever wonder why a surgeon or an anesthetist might call their office "a practice"? It takes an incredible amount of skill to save a life. A friend of mine had a heart event once, and it was only a doctor with a lot of practice in identifying the symptoms that got him to the emergency room in time.

Everyone talks about how J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series was an overnight sensation, and how Rowling went from being a single mom who scribbled in coffeehouses to one of Britain's richest women. But that's not the story at all -- to get as good as she was, Rowling had to practice, and practice, and practice. (Just ask her kids!)

Ever wonder how saints got to be saints? They didn't have one amazing moment where God waved a magic wand and sainthood was imparted. In fact, the process of sainthood is just a long way of the church confirming that the saint "practiced" -- that they made themselves a saint, through years of devotion and faith.

No magic involved. Just practice.

Practice gets a bum rap in our society, which is obsessed with get-rich-quick schemes, rap stars who make it with one YouTube clip, young entrepreneurs who hit the big time with their hot new app idea and actresses that are considered "too old" at 28. Nobody wants to practice. Nobody wants to put in the time.

But putting in the time is what gets you to Carnegie Hall. To the Super Bowl. To the top of the bracket in March Madness. To a top hospital or the top of the best-seller list.

Don't think of "practice" as a noun, a thing, a chore to be pushed through and forgotten. Think of "practice" as a verb, like a doctor might: It's something you do as a part of your everyday life, not a chore that you have to "get through" to get to the good part.

If you find something that you like to do enough that "practice" actually becomes "the good part," isn't that even better? What if "practice" could become less of a chore to avoid and something that you look forward to accomplishing every day? Wouldn't that be wonderful?

Where's your Carnegie Hall? How do you plan to get there?

Karen Osborne contributes to “Coming of Age,” a CNS column series for and about youth. She is a staff writer for the Evangelist, newspaper of the Diocese of Albany, N.Y..


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