If you will recall in the Introduction, I said that the shared vision for Lean, Muppets, and Modus was:
- If we care, we create.
- If we create, we improve.
- If we improve, we live.
But there is something underpinning all of these, and that is practice. When we practice, a few key elements lead to the evolution of our mastery:
- We learn more about how to do it.
- We learn more about if we like to do it.
- We learn more about what “right” looks like.
- We become more comfortable.
A state of continuous improvement does not come easily to people or teams. While it is not quite an unnatural state, it is nevertheless, one most of us are not accustomed to.
Like Fozzie here, we are going to have some misses, some near misses, and some very strange successes.
Lore has it that it took the Beatles’ 18 takes to get “Helter Skelter” right, at the end of which Ringo Starr cried out, “I’ve got blisters on my fingers.” Practice sometimes can even be scarring.
But practice leads to (while never quite reaching) perfection.
To think is to practice brain chemistry. ~ Deepak Chopra
Eventually, Fozzie will learn the right pressure to apply to his hat rim to receive only one rabbit. The blisters on Ringo’s fingers eventually healed.
But in order to improve, they both need to practice. In practicing, our brains actually reorganize internally – adjusting to new patterns, looking for others, and becoming more of an “expert” at what we are practicing. So, imagine if in continuous improvement we constantly practiced improving. Our brains would actually optimize for improvement – which would involve all the awareness, learning, and compassion required to do so.
Practice and MetaPractice
We have two types of practice here:
- Normal Old Practice: the repetition of something either in preparation or actual production that results in learning about the action, and
- MetaPractice: the practice of practicing in which we internalize the need to rehearse, repeat, and relearn what we do.
I consider my friend John Von to be a pretty stunning musician. He’s played all around the globe in front of packed crowds in mega stadiums. He played the bass for years, then stopped for a few years to do digital music work. Sometime around 2006, he decided to return to the bass and so he spent weeks practicing for 8 hours a day. I was confused. For me, it seems like John naturally has a bass guitar attached to him. It’s been that way since we were in grade school.
But John has always understood both practice and metapractice. In order for him to improve he not only needs to practice what he’s doing, but also practice practicing. He needs to incorporate practice into his daily life. John understood the drive for continuous improvement long before I did.
If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster. ~ Isaac Asimov
Over the course of 72 years, Isaac Asimov wrote or edited over 500 books. If we were to deduct 22 years for growing up, that’d equate to 10 books per year, or nearly a book a month for life. Asimov practiced writing daily. He wrote limericks, postcards, jokes. He would write and write and write. He wasn’t just interested in the practice of writing science fiction, but also in practicing practice.
Asimov’s writing could only improve if he practiced other types of writing. So his 500 books actually span every major category in the Dewey Decimal System. In order to write about those things, he had to learn about those things. In order to learn about those things, he had to be committed to practicing learning – and then practicing whatever he was learning about – even if only through exercises.
Fozzie’s downfall has always been his impetuousness; he acts well before he has practiced. The Muppet Band, however, seems to always be the surprise antithesis to Fozzie. Floyd is well practiced at practice. He is therefore cool, collected, and seemingly ready for anything. He is practiced and therefore comfortable, even around the craziness of the Muppet Show.
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