I haven’t been writing as much lately because I’ve been hustling to practice what I preach. That’s the secret, really. The best way to be whatever or whoever you wish to be is to relentlessly practice it. Do whatever it is you must do to be better at everything you do, every time you do it.
The title above is a token of advice my Sensei used to tell the class when he would bestow martial wisdom upon his disciples. He would usually educate us in martial philosophy at the end of class, when my fellow classmates and I would be tired and out of breath, thankful to rest and listen.
“Perfect practice makes perfect,” he would tell the class. I took this gem of advice to heart and received the benefit that was a byproduct of putting that advice into action.
Recently I saw this video. In that interview, Dr. Bruce Lipton explains how the conscious and subconscious brains work and how the operations of these dual parts of the brain play out in our lives.
Dr. Lipton claims that the programming of the subconscious brain is responsible for the majority of our life experiences. He goes on the explain that subconscious programming is done for the most part in the first 7 years of life, and only later in life through repetition.
By repeatedly practicing good habits and behaviors, martial arts techniques and the like, you can program your subconscious brain to adopt these things.
So if all we have to do is practice to be better at something, why aren’t more people good at more then a few things? Well, that’s because most people give only as much effort as is necessary to scrape by, and that’s the reason why only a few people ever attain mastery in their given fields.
Your practice must be perfect if you want to develop a level of mastery over your martial arts or whatever it is you wish to be better at. I learned this philosophy in my career as a sushi chef as well. There is a Japanese saying, which I couldn’t recall even if my life depended on it, that roughly translates to, “every cut is better then your last.”
Think about it. If I practice a certain kick (let’s say a roundhouse kick) 100 times without attempting to execute it perfectly every time, then I will be only slightly closer to mastering that kick because maybe only 20 of those roundhouse kicks were executed to perfection.
Now, let’s say I do 100 roundhouse kicks and I intend to do each kick perfectly and I successfully execute 50 perfect kicks out of 100. That’s means I’ve done 50% of my kicks masterfully compared to a 20% rate if I practice just for the sake of practicing.
If I practice perfect, then I will reach mastery at a much quicker pace then if I practiced without the intent to execute my technique to my maximum ability. You don’t want to program the subconscious to throw imperfect kicks because when you are fighting an ineffective kick can result in injury or an ass-kicking.
When the pressure comes down and you are forced to perform perfectly or suffer the consequences of inadequacy, you will either be grateful for practicing perfection or wish that you had.
The Zen principle of mujo embodies the truth that everything that exists is subject to change and therefore all that you do is either an advancement or regression of your skills, character, etc. It is for this reason that the Zen Buddhists place an emphasis on doing even simple things such as sitting and breathing to perfection.
Many people excuse their lack of effort saying, “I’m human; I’m not perfect.” And that is a true statement. However, one should strive to be perfect, even when we often fall short of that mark. Some say perfection is unrealistic, but striving to be perfect will take you much further then not trying to be perfect.
Follow the example of the Zen Buddhists and start attempting to do small and simple things to perfection before you try to take on larger challenges. Build and grow, despite failure, and draw closer to your image of perfection. This is the mindset I embody when I practice my martial skills and make sushi. If I’m not doing things perfectly, then I’m not doing them good enough, and the next time I do the same thing, I aim to do it perfectly.
Yes, we’re all human. Yes, we all make mistakes and none of us are perfect, but we should all be striving to be so. Be humble and sacrifice your pride for personal growth. Try to do things perfectly, to your utmost ability, but don’t think yourself a master because you did something perfectly a few times. A master is a master because they execute perfectly everytime.