Practice and training done on your own for yourself is the most important and the best way (arguably the only way) to develop beyond introductory novice levels. Good instruction, in written, audio, video, or live classes, is useful for steering one down the path toward progress but real benefits are gained only when the student personalizes the lessons and turns them into consistent, on-going action.

Nobody can sell you skill. People hosting and selling training classes have done a decent job convincing others that attendance at such classes is necessary. The truth is, a good, motivated student learning from a book or video will become more skillful than a mediocre student regularly attending classes because the good student actually puts the lessons to use and isn’t dependent on an instructor running the group line dance (er, I mean “defensive shooting and tactical training course”) to spoon-feed every tidbit of information.

People selling instruction, especially classes which are the most expensive (and profitable), don’t profit from students learning on their own. However, the simple fact is that everyone wanting to go beyond novice levels must do so on their own.

The following is based on material from James Clear.

We all have goals that we want to achieve in our lives… but there’s a point when you need to stop planning these goals and start working towards them. In fact, learning something new can actually be a waste of time if your goal is to make progress and not simply gain additional knowledge. It all comes down to the difference between learning and practicing.

The Difference Between Learning and Practicing

Thomas Sterner’s The Practicing Mind explains the key difference between practicing and learning.

“When we practice something, we are involved in the deliberate repetition of a process with the intention of reaching a specific goal. The words deliberate and intention are key here because they define the difference between actively practicing something and passively learning it.”

Learning something new and practicing something new may seem very similar, but these two methods can have profoundly different results.

1. Learning Can Be a Crutch That Supports Inaction

In many cases, learning is actually a way to avoid taking action on the goals and interests that we say are important to us. For example, let’s say you want to learn a foreign language. Reading a book on how to learn a foreign language quickly allows you to feel like you are making progress (“Hey, I’m figuring out the best way to do this!”). Of course, you’re not actually practicing the action that would deliver your desired outcome (speaking the foreign language). We make the mistake of being in motion rather than taking action. Learning is valuable until it becomes a form of procrastination.

2. Practice Is Learning, But Learning Is Not Practice

Passive learning is not a form of practice because although you gain new knowledge, you are not discovering how to apply that knowledge. Active practice, meanwhile, is one of the greatest forms of learning because the mistakes you make while practicing reveal important insights. Even more important, practice is the only way to make a meaningful contribution and have the ability to express your knowledge in a meaningful way.

3. Practice Focuses Your Energy on the Process

“Progress is a natural result of staying focused on the process of doing anything.”

—Thomas Sterner, The Practicing Mind

It is not the things we learn nor the dreams we envision that determines our results, but rather that habits that we practice each day. Fall in love with boredom and focus your energy on the process.

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