I had a book signing today at a local bookstore. Five people showed up. Two were my son and wife. Two were our house guests (who were morally obligated to attend since I’m providing shelter for them). And one was a loyal friend who almost always comes to these types of things.
When it was over, I was relieved — until someone asked me on Twitter, “How’d it go?”
At that point, I was tempted to whine. To complain. To moan until he felt guilty for not coming or so full of pity that he bought a hundred copies of my book just to make up for it.
But instead, I chose another route: gratitude. Realizing there were two ways to look at the situation, I decided to see the potential in the perceived failure. So instead of, “It sucked,” my answer became:
“It was good practice.”
All of Life Is Practice
In every disappointment, there is the potential for a different perspective, one that defies the status quo. Instead of giving in to despair when all seems lost, we can see our shortcomings as lessons. We can re-envision failure as a rough training camp for what’s to come.
When you do this, you’re not merely looking for the silver lining. It’s deeper than that. You’re willing yourself to go on, believing that this one setback will not defeat you. You’ll live to fight another day.
And today? Oh, well that was just practice.
The Difference Between Rehearsing and Performing
I used to want to be a professional musician. After practicing the guitar in my parents’ basement for six years, I wasn’t much better than when I started.
Oh, sure, I made incremental improvements but was nowhere near where I wanted to be in the talent pool. And then I went on my first tour.
For a year, I traveled around the country in a van with six other musicians, playing sometimes several shows per day. I didn’t practice scales or runs or any of that stuff. I just performed. Day after day, night after night.
And you know what? I got good. Better than I ever thought was possible. Turns out, that’s the best kind of practice — the kind that isn’t really practice at all.
When You Do Your Best Work
You don’t do your best work at rehearsal. You do your best when you have to. When you’re onstage and in front of a live audience. Everything else is just prologue, leading up to the big moment.
That’s not to say you don’t pursue excellence (you do) or prematurely step into the spotlight (that would be irresponsible). But it does mean that the way we own our craft is by doing the stuff. Not by talking about it or simply studying. But by actually doing the work.
We practice by living. And what better time to start than now?