Practice Makes Perfect is Full of Baloney

Practice makes perfect is full of baloney. Some people who practice may reach perfection, but not most. Yet, practice is vital no matter what you’re doing. So how do we manage?

White text on a dark blue starry background reads "when practice becomes a game for you, that's when you're about to explode in your progress." Mary Buckham

When you Google “Fun Facts About Practice” you get a bunch of “fun with math” links. Um. That’s not what I had in mind. But, isn’t it interesting? We’re desperate to prove that mathematics can be fun, but not one word about practice as a thing to do. I believe we do a disservice to everyone with the practice makes perfect phrase. Practice becomes the thing that we focus on. We kill our enthusiasm with forced practice.

As a child, I took piano lessons. I loved playing piano but I grew to hate it. The rule at my house was thirty minutes of practice after homework and before anything else. I hated to practice. It was drudgery. The seconds ticked as if mired in molasses when I sat at the piano.

We improve with practice, without a doubt. And there are times when rote practice is what we have to do. But as Mary Buckham says it’s when our practice becomes a game that your progress will explode. And that’s what we’re looking for with practice—improvement.

Rote practice will bring some improvement. But typically that’s not where great progress happens. Should we make practice fun? Like the “fun with math” approach, it likely won’t work. What makes practice a game is your emotional investment in the process. Your emotional investment in the thing you practice.

My son didn’t care about reading. As a writer, that hurt! But he had an insatiable curiosity about how things worked. He spent hours learning to take things apart and put them together again. It’s still a passion of his to this day. That was where he found practice became a game for him. That passion led to lots of practice and his abilities exploded. (I swear the boy can take anything apart and put it back together again, blindfolded!)

I practice piano today, but practices are brief and infrequent. My skill isn’t great. But I have found my “game.” You guessed it. Writing. When I’m writing or learning about writing the time flies past. I’m so engrossed I don’t know I’ve missed a meal or that I’m an hour late for bed. Has my progress exploded? You betcha!

Next time you find yourself dreading practice. Stop. Remember that practice makes perfect is baloney. Look for the passion. Your passion will make practice a game. Your practice will explode your progress.


  1. I took piano for many years as a child and I had a similar experience. The dreaded 30 minutes of practice per day upon fear of death just sorta spoiled the whole experience for me. When I was in college, I took a lesson just for grins, thinking I might want to get back into it. The instructor was young and vivacious and talented. As we were chatting, she made a comment that has always stuck with me. The gist of it was, it’s not the quantity of practice, but the quality. In my case, it didn’t really matter that I had had more than ten years of piano lessons, if I had basically been getting one year recycled nine times. That was one of my many lightbulb moments. Lots of similar insight if you google ‘practicing’ (or doing anything, really) ‘with intent’.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *