Practice | porchlight - Indiana Public Media

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Allow me to invert this ancient joke likely based on a real-life encounter somewhere in Midtown Manhattan. “How do you get to Carnagie Hall?” the lost visitor asked. “Practice” the stranger replied.

Thus the inverse: “How do you get to practice?” Well, the directions to your destination will involve devoting plenty of time, although along the way an excellent teacher may offer you a lift. And probably at some point in your journey of discovery, you will pass the intersection of curiosity and forgiveness.

By practicing anything, you will occasionally fail. If this is done in the company of others you might be corrected, though hopefully not shamed. Some may be generous enough to offer you forgiveness for mistakes which can easily be translated into encouragement. Curiosity becomes your motivation to continue practicing, until that skill gradually becomes part of your identity.

Carnegie Hall notwithstanding, there is no final destination with practice. That’s why doctors and spiritual seekers describe their vocations in this way. With practice, not giving your actions a second thought might seem like the objective, but your many memories of what it took to achieve any mastery you’ve acquired make this unlikely. They will sweep you right past that second thought to maybe that ten thousandth step, not all of them moving forward.

Eventually, if you’ve been practicing anything long enough, you might actually begin to look like what you’re doing. Witness airline pilots: each exhibiting a calm demeanor from managing all those essentials along with a good posture in spite of sitting down for thousands of miles a day. Just watch them at the airport. Whatever the estimated time of departure, they’re never flustered, they’re never in a rush; they know you won’t be leaving until they do.

One more example of a successful practitioner of practice. A large limestone building constructed in 1905 with a grand entry of 21 steps. At the very top, a toddler of between one and two with dad holding both her hands above her head. By the time she had descended half way, she had already drawn an appreciative crowd of onlookers.

Sure, a great lesson in courage and perseverance. Pretty soon I imagine she’ll be practicing with only one hand being held. But the real gift when she nailed that final step was watching her clap and giggle in sheer delight. So how do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, but also make sure and enjoy the walk.

Song, Artist, Album 

Stepping Stone, Monkees, Best Of

One Step Up, Bruce Springsteen, Tunnel Of Love

I Can’t Make You Love Me, Bonnie Raitt, Best Of

Maybe I’m Doing It Wrong, Randy Newman, Live 

Straight Down The Middle, Bing Crosby, So Rare

Learning To Fly, Tom Petty, Greatest Hits 

Swimming Song, Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Same

Start All Over Again, Van Morrison, Enlightenment   

Die Trying, Guy Clark, Cold Dog Soup

Second Time Around, Frank Sinatra, Ultimate