Always Improving
/ Author: Andre van Heerden
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Always Improving

By André van Heerden, Communications Director

A few years ago, it was raining the night before my family and I were to leave for camping. I needed to get a big roof rack up on top of our van and fill it with camping supplies. I thought I came up with a great idea of strapping the rack on and packing it while still inside my garage. This way I kept it dry and it was a shorter distance to load up supplies. Boy, did I feel smart.

The next morning, I felt incredibly foolish. As I reversed out of my garage, I realized why I hadn’t done this before. The roof rack was too high to get out of the garage! Thankfully, the awful crunching sound of the rack hitting the garage didn’t result in any serious damage. However, it did mean unpacking and unstrapping the rack to get the van out of the garage before putting it back on again.

Two positive things came from this: one, I’ll never forget why I do the roof rack in our driveway; and two, the rack was both packed and strapped on better than the first time I had done it. Just the process of doing it twice in a row had improved the quality of the pack and the securing of the rack.

It’s something that I’ve recognized over and over: doing something several times can make you very efficient and good at it. I’ve done quite a bit of painting over the years. And room after room, I’ve gotten a little bit better and quicker, and my lines are cleaner. However, when watching a professional painter at work—someone who paints day after day—my little improvements seem laughable. The professionals are so much quicker and better.

I’ve noticed the same thing with several trades. There’s a reason why you hire plumbers, mechanics, carpenters, and others—they’re good at it and can do it much quicker than you probably can. One of my daughters recently began working at a lavender farm. In the first week, she marvelled at how quick and skilled the other workers were at clipping, planting, bunching, and hanging the lavender. She’s now been there for a few weeks and has noticed how the speed and quality of her own work has improved.

As inspirational author Jim Rohn wrote: “success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day.” And legendary martial arts expert and filmmaker Bruce Lee said: “practice makes perfect. After a long time of practicing, our work will become natural, skillful, swift, and steady.”

Trying to learn a new skill, or trying to improve upon an existing one, can seem complicated or insurmountable—but it often involves the repetition of small, simple processes. Focussing on those repetitive things, learning as you make mistakes, and not giving up, will pay dividends.

And then take pride in what you’ve learned to do well, and don’t hesitate to begin perfecting something new.

 


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