Is it time for you to switch?

Image: Pixabay

All of our is . We our craft as leaders, team members, creators, strategists, organizers, and professionals. We communicating, mediating, ideating, deconstructing, distilling. Every task we do, from writing an email to running a project is . is what enables us to be more effective in the next moment.

We practice everything, every day.

Like playing a vinyl record, the more you practice something, the more it becomes engrained in you. Every time, the needle etches a shallow groove into the vinyl. Over time, the grooves deepen. Patterns emerge.

While practice can be categorized in countless ways (regular/spontaneous, fast/slow, group/solo, innovative/imitative, etc.), all practice ultimately falls into one of two .

And your work needs them both.

The two types of practice

Basement practice is the kind of work that you do quietly on the side. No audience, because you don’t expose yourself.

These are the drafts you make that you haven’t shared. The scribbled notes in your scraggly notebook. The books you choose to read on your weekends. The courses and tutorials you take, especially the unaccredited ones.

And there’s sidewalk practice. This is standing on the sidewalk and running your show. Everyone passing that sidewalk is your audience.

Your sidewalk could be a physical storefront. Or the conference room. Or a classroom. Or a website. Or a podcast. Or a blog. Or Medium.

What’s not true

At this point, you may have already decided which type of practice is “better” and neatly stereotyped each type of practice into what they mean.

Here’s what’s not true:

It’s not true that basement practice is a sign that you love your work more intrinsically.

It’s not true that sidewalk practice is for attention-hungry performers.

It’s not true that basement practice optimizes for long-term success.

It’s not true that sidewalk practice builds your skill faster.

It’s not true that one type of practice is better for any given work.

Switching it up matters

When you get stuck doing basement practice, you lose the skills of being attuned to immediate audience reception and feedback (and noise). Sharing your work will open you to new connections and ideas, and help you to see how your work can contribute meaningfully to society.

When you get stuck doing sidewalk practice, you deny yourself the opportunity to examine your weaknesses carefully and honestly. The pressure to deliver on time may be too demanding and you fear what the public will think in that moment. You may find yourself becoming a crowd-pleaser, resorting to tried-and-true methods (while your other skills languish). You might lose that sense of wonder and exploration that got you into this work in the first place.

If there’s one type of bad practice, it’s mindless practice. Constant dripping hollows a stone, but only if it is focused.

If there’s one type of bad practice, it’s mindless practice. Constant dripping hollows a stone, but only if it is focused.

Keep yourself constantly mindful. Just before you get comfortable in a form of practice, switch. Design a process to remind yourself — perhaps that’s scheduled “switch dates” or weekly check-ins with a friend. Prevent complacency.

When the stakes are higher

There comes a time when what you do matters more than usual—a deal negotiation, a job interview, a product launch. You’ll feel you won’t have had enough practice.

You’ll be right. Because you’ll never have enough practice. And this is exactly what makes you ready enough.

You’ll never have enough practice. And this is exactly what makes you ready enough.

But shipping is also practice. Just sidewalk practice with higher stakes.

If you start to see shipping as sidewalk practice, you’ll see that nothing ends upon shipping. Afterwards, there are more opportunities to practice. In the basement, on the sidewalk. Both matter.

Your craft is waiting.

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