Completion, certainty, and a guarantee all have one thing in common – they leave no room for questioning. And these are things that give us a sense of security – a sense that we can trust in the process that things will be as they should be, and that we will be okay.
At our core we all want to be okay, and of course we want a guarantee.
But we also want growth, forward progress, improvement, and to achieve what we set our sights on. In that, there is no guarantee. Goals are, after all, what we would like to accomplish – not what we have already accomplished.
What we want in the future is a place we would like to be – not where we are already. And growth is a process that hasn’t happened yet.
Do you see the uncertainty in these things? Try as we might we cannot manufacture growth in the way we’d like, align the planets to assure we achieve our goals, or exert complete control over the future.
Things will always be a little bit unfinished, sort of incomplete, not quite there yet, and not 100 percent certain.
But it is also for this reason that we will keep coming back, keep trying to improve, to overcome our mistakes, to get one step closer to our goal.
In his brilliant book, The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle, describes this as deep practice, a concept that is “built on a paradox: struggling in certain targeted ways – operating at the edges of your ability, where you make mistakes – makes you smarter.”
In Coyle’s description, it is exactly these situations that demand our full attention and force us to slow down and focus intensely because the task is at the very cusp of our ability – that sweet spot where we will make mistakes, but also know how to correct them.
Engaging in deep practice is a lot like what happens when Michael Jordan receives the ball in the fourth quarter with two minutes on the clock and his team down by two points – to reach his goal, he must risk making a mistake.
But it is in deep practice that mistakes also become beacons. Coyle describes a study where two groups were asked to study a natural history test. The first group studied the paper in four sessions and the second group studied only once but was tested three times. A week later, when both groups were tested, the second group scored fifty percent better.
It was in being tested that progress was made.