Practice DOESN’T Make PerfectThe dojo where I’ve been training in aikido for the past dozen years recently reopened for class on a very limited basis. Despite numerous safety precautions, however, a lot of students are—understandably—not yet comfortable returning to train. In fact, at a recent class, I was the only student.

Which was awesome!

I got a full hour of one-on-one instruction with our sensei. He was able to focus on every detail of what I was doing, and as a result, was able to point out small flaws in my form that were significantly impacting my effectiveness. When I corrected those flaws, I could immediately feel the difference.

Here’s what’s frustrating: I thought I was better than I actually was. I’ve been practicing those techniques for years. I thought I was great at them.

Here’s the light bulb: Practice only helps you get better if you’re practicing correctly. If you practice something wrong, you’re going to get wronger. (Yes, that’s a word. Or at least, it should be.)

Practicing something incorrectly can actually be detrimental because the mistakes become ingrained, and thus, harder to correct. As I’ve been practicing those techniques since that momentous class, I’ve noticed that I really have to concentrate on the corrections because doing it wrong feels so natural.

Which is not to say that practice isn’t valuable, because it absolutely is. To get the most out of it, though, you need instruction, guidance, and feedback. Which can come from a teacher, a coach, a mentor, or a boss. Like with so many things in sales, business, and life in general, trying to “lone wolf” it won’t get you the results you want.

So if you’re frustrated because you don’t seem to be getting better at prospecting, qualifying, presenting, or closing—despite the fact you’ve been doing them for a long time—seek out someone who can correct what’s wrong and emphasize what’s right with your technique. That will make your practice far more effective. And while even effective practice won’t make you perfect—none of us ever will be—it will definitely make you better.

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