The Practicing Mind by Thomas Sterner
One Line Summary
The truth about why you can’t practice
I truthfully believe there is no skill that can’t be mastered with proper practice.
As much as we like to talk about natural born talent, I’ve never seen it where anyone was able to get by purely on talent at a high level.
And you know what else?
Despite the self-imposed limitations people fight to defend, I’ve never seen a skill that couldn’t be improved.
But that all hinges on your ability to practice.
In The Practicing Mind, Thomas Sterner teaches you the mindsets necessary for deep practice. Turns out this is a surprisingly serious rabbit hole.
Why its Awesome
Thomas’ argument is simple but powerful. Due to people’s obsession with obtaining an end goal, they’ve lost their ability to practice.
There’s no doubt we live in a results oriented culture. People want what they want, when they want it. And while I believe in the importance of results, few people wonder what kind of effect this can have on a person.
The reality is this is not the way life has always been.
If you look at ancient cultures like the Samurai, many of them gave a great deal of respect to training and practice. Some even placed it above all else.
But in the modern western world, our culture is one of quick-fixes.
Can’t wait to lose weight? Take a diet pill.
Can’t wait to get rich? Just invest in our investing scheme.
Can’t wait to learn how to drive a golf ball? Buy a driver with a massive face so you can’t miss.
People are insatiable and business plays into it. Marketers KNOW people want things instantly, so they just give the people what they want.
And if you think you’re just going to switch from this “I need everything now” mode when you’re a consumer to having the patience of a zen monk when it comes to practicing, you’re wrong.
Everything is a habit. Including your inability to sink into the boring, repetitive process of practice.
In a way, this book reminds me a lot of Mastery by George Leonard. Can you be process-oriented when it counts?
Process orientation isn’t about not having a goal. And it’s certainly not about not being passionate about your goal.
But it is about finding fulfillment in the work itself.
Of course, you might agree that this sounds nice. But if you’re someone who is interested in producing results, you don’t want sounds nice. You want what works.
What I love about Thomas’ work is that this is actually extremely practical. Here’s why.
It’s your over-zealousness to reach the end goal that moves you away from it. This is what stops you from sitting down and playing the same song over and over again. This is what stops you from committing to a sport and getting better every year.
Because when you just want what you want now, you’re always disappointed. It always requires more work, more energy, more boredom, more time, more failure, more practice than you’d ever want. And so you get frustrated and quit.
Think about how many times that has happened in your life. Think off all the times you quit something and why you actually did that.
So you can say that you’re committed to results, which is why you want results now. But it’s ultimately ineffective. You’re not being practical.
Being practical would be to commit to practice. That’s what is truly going to get you where you want to go.
The reality though is people lack discipline. Yes, that Asian grandfather had something right.
Practice is too boring, too subtle to be enjoyed by most people on a long term basis.
Learned to be bored.
And be okay with it.
Why Does It Suck
A lot of ideas you may have already heard if you’re into personal development. While it’s always good to get a refresher, it’s not wholly unique.
Get it for Thomas’ perspective, not because you think you’re going to get some “new idea”.
The Wrap Up
Really good for newbies who haven’t understood the idea of process-orientation yet. Also an easy intro to certain spiritual topics.
For more advanced people in personal development, get it if you’re looking to get back to basics.