Practice makes perfect. We’ve all heard that old axiom. As a child, we probably heard it enough from our parents to make us sick. But, like most old sayings, it was grounded in truth. Think back to your childhood, to any skill that your parents forced you to learn. Would you have ever achieved any level of proficiency without the endless hours that you were required to put into practicing that skill?
When you sit down to a piano for the first time, it’s ridiculous to think that you’ll pound out a concerto on the keyboard. It takes countless hours of practice to reach the point where anything you play sounds remotely familiar. The same thing can be said of your business: you can’t become proficient without practice. You may think that you’re the exception to the rule; that simply completing the training courses and passing the licensing exam ensures that you’re going to be the best (insert profession here) that’s ever graced the face of the earth.
It would be great if things worked like that, but unfortunately, that’s not how it goes. You still have to go through the same growing pains as everyone else in your industry. And while some people will have more natural ability than others, the learning curve still exists for all of us. There’s no way around it.
We all endure the growing pains of learning our profession. It can be a long and tedious process, trying to figure out the right blueprint for your own success. Obviously, the sooner you can discern your path forward, the easier it will be on your mental (and financial) health. It makes sense to try to figure out what works best as quickly as possible.
On the surface, the formula for success is really fairly simple:
- Do your job.
- Make mistakes.
- Review your process to figure out what you did wrong.
- Implement changes to your process.
- Repeat step #1
While it may not seem attainable at the beginning of your career, it is entirely possible to become proficient at your chosen profession. You can become a productive real estate agent, a sought-after home inspector, a recommended professional in any industry; it just takes practice.
Newcomers to any profession are always discouraged and frustrated by the fact that no one seems to want to give them a chance to prove their worth.
“I’ve marketed to them until I’m blue in the face, but they still won’t call me…”
This is a common refrain that’s heard all the time from new small business owners. It’s a high hurdle that every new entrepreneurs must face. And all too often, it’s the thing that leads to their downfall. Many new business owners get hung up on the belief that they’re spinning their wheels; that their marketing is costing them too much money and isn’t producing any tangible results. Conditioned by our current “instantaneous results” culture, they quickly become disenchanted with their new career and throw in the towel before their marketing is given enough time to produce any benefits.
But, is this a viable response? Should we expect to see immediate benefits from our initial foray into marketing? Why don’t our efforts pay off more quickly?
Think back to the last time you had some type of medical procedure, like a surgery. You undoubtedly sought out some help in choosing your surgeon. You probably asked about their experience and level of competency. It’s doubtful that you went searching for the doctor who just graduated last week.
“Can you find me a doctor who just got certified?
One with very little experience in this procedure?”
It’s hard to imagine those words passing over your lips, isn’t it? Then why is it so hard to believe that our potential customers would be apprehensive about hiring someone new to their industry, when the ink hasn’t even dried on the new license hanging on the wall of their office?
This reality is even more pronounced when a decision revolves around big ticket items and major life decisions, like purchasing a home. We don’t think twice about taking advice from a teenage associate at Best Buy when we’re buying a pair of headphones, but when we’re looking at our next home, we want someone who’s been around the home-buying block a time or two.
“How old were you when the microwave oven was invented?”
Buying a home is typically the largest single purchase that most people will make in their lives. The implications of every choice that a buyer makes can be magnified in their minds. Each decision, like choosing a specific realtor or deciding on a home inspector, takes on a seemingly over-sized importance.
This reality all but ensures that a new small business owner faces an uphill battle in getting their business established. It’s often compared to a race against the clock. You’ve got to become experienced enough to be taken seriously in your industry before you run out of money and have to close your business, forced to go back to the 9-5 job you were hoping to escape.
“Welcome to Biggie Burger, sir. May I take your order?”
Getting experience is tough. It takes practice. Lots of practice. Practice makes perfect. So, the key to survival is figuring out how to get practice. Sometimes it’s as simple as practicing on your own. Repeating the steps involved in doing your job until they’re ingrained in muscle memory. Sometimes you need to get a bit more creative, maybe offering your services for free or at a reduced rate. Taking jobs that you wouldn’t normally be drawn to, just to get in those hours of practice.
You’ve got to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince (or princess, if you’re so inclined.)
Don’t forget to treat every one of these practice sessions like they’re the real thing. It does you no good to practice one way and try to do your job in a different manner. You won’t see professional sports teams slacking in practice, doing a bunch of things that will never translate onto the field. Elite athletes make every practice session count, endlessly repeating the exact moves that they will perform in a game, until those moves become second nature.
Practice like you play and you’ll play like you practice.
So, the moral of the story is to be prepared for those inevitable growing pains. You need to be successful in getting experience before you can experience success. Practice your craft. Make those mistakes and learn from them. Keep getting better at what you do.
And once you’ve achieved success? Don’t stop practicing.
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