My friend Shep told me of a college professor in the music department who asked his students, “Does practice make perfect?” They all agreed that it did and vowed to get better by practicing more. He then asked them to put down their instruments and practice drawing a line exactly two inches long, without the use of a ruler, on a sheet of paper. It soon became obvious that they were all guessing at the length. The wise professor then asked the question again. The answer was yes and no. Yes, maybe… and no, they didn’t know. The learned one said the answer was a resounding NO. Practice does not make perfect. You have to have feedback to make sure what you are practicing is right. And of course if you keep practicing mistakes then practice makes imperfect.
We could learn a lot from this little fable. The lesson could be applied to piano, government, human relations, you name it. I’m sure marriage counselors and lawyers could give some dandy examples of failed policies, not to mention Congress which has raised it to an art form.
My friend Byron told me of a guy he used to work with who practiced annoying others with the habit of pulling out a Snickers bar around the break table when nobody else had access to candy. He would carefully unwrap it, hold it up and say, “Does anybody want any of this?” then he would lick one side of the bar and grin. One day a guy said, “Yeah, I do,” took the bar, licked the other side and handed it back. That feedback stopped the practice altogether.
A fellow I know had a wife who came in the house loaded like a pack mule with grocery bags hanging off both arms. She was also clutching a big bag of ice to her chest. He said, “Here, let me help you with that ice, I don’t think your heart can get any colder.” Boy did he get some feedback.
I was discussing theology with Wayne, a redneck friend, and I asked what he thought about the hereafter. “From what I understand you won’t have to eat, drink or sleep and you’ll live forever. That could get boring,” I remarked. “It could be worse,” he said, “you could be shovelin’ coal.” Interesting feedback.
My friends Bryan and Judy Babe, avid fisherpersons, came through Texas on a trip and we had dinner. They had just celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary. Judy Babe said, “Tell them what you got me for our 20th anniversary.” She laughed when she said it. He proudly announced, “I took her skinny dipping in the creek behind the house.”
“What else?” she prodded.
“I got her a camouflage negligee. When she got out of the creek she put it on and I couldn’t find her.”
It may not be perfect, but with proper feedback they still practice the art of catch and release.
Doc Blakely is a humorist and motivational speaker who now resides in the Hill Country after living in Wharton 47 years. For more information, visit www.docblakely.com.