If you wanna get really good at something and stay good at it, it’s very simple:
Skills are like muscles; if you don’t use them, you lose them.
I think there are exceptions to this rule, but generally speaking, consistent skill requires consistent effort.
I recently wrote an article about The 3 Steps to Progress, and in it, I talk about how a consistent, long-term pace pays off more than just a burst of fast-paced practice, only for you to burn out after the rapid launch.
The truth in this idea was rather evident the day I punched my boss in the face.
As I’ve mentioned on a handful of occasions at this point, I currently train martial arts in some of my spare time.
Where I used to train martial arts was also…where I happened to work.
A-ha! I can hear you say to yourself now. I can see where the headline for this article is coming from.
Yeah, yeah, but let me explain my story anyway.
I was a bit of an outlier when I first started training in that when it came to practicing my Muay Thai, I preferred to learn and learned better through sparring.
Most people are not like this. Most people learn through taking group classes that involve cardio, bagwork (hitting the heavy bag), and partnered padwork (holding pads for each other to strike).
Sparring is the last thing in the usual sequence of training that people follow. And yet, it was something that I jumped into rather soon. My logic was that I like to get my hands dirty and pick up on habits and techniques that were practical in live combat, and not just memorize things to drill in a safe class setting.
And so while I sparred every week for a while, priorities shifted and things changed, and I eventually stopped sparring kind of cold turkey.
My muscle memory still mostly remained, thankfully, but it was clear that by stopping and not practicing the skills I had acquired, I had lost my edge.
Eventually, I found myself working in a Muay Thai gym. Although it was a different setting, it also felt like a familiar place at the same time due to being able to recognize what was happening during class.
Watching people spar in dedicated sparring sessions was tantalizing. I felt an internal tug to begin sparring again.
So one day, I had the bright idea to ask my boss, the owner and founder of the gym, if I could spar with him after work. He happily obliged.
Let’s just say as someone who’s been training for over 20 years in the Art of Eight Limbs, he definitely lived up to that amount of experience, and I took the L over the five rounds we sparred.
Even though I did get to lightly punch him in the face (and I earned it, too).
However, the L that I took wasn’t the only takeaway from that day. I was also hit with the reminder that skills need to be practiced consistently if they are to be retained and improved.
Since I hadn’t sparred for months before the day I sparred my boss, I was absolutely rusty and felt rusty.
Over the course of the sparring session, I gradually felt old skills return to me, but they weren’t as sharp as before.
This is why we planned on future sparring sessions, and he expressed enthusiasm for those plans. He was also able to give me some pointers and things that I need to work on, and I’m grateful.
But I’d hate to see this kind of deterioration happen in other areas of my life, particularly with skills I’d like to retain and improve upon.
Such as my writing.
I’ve been writing and producing content since 2015. Looking back at my older articles on Medium, I can see some of the problems that I used to have that I don’t have anymore. Quality has markedly improved over the years, at least in my eyes.
We can infer that it was through my consistent content production and revisions of my work that I was able to spot ways to get better at writing and producing content.
As someone who is now currently pursuing making a living off of mostly written content, I definitely want to make sure that my writing is of sound quality and high caliber.
And neither making a living off of writing nor making my writing better will happen by not writing.
The reminder is that the same thing applies to you and your own set of skills.
Sometimes when we get good at something, we slow down. We slowly start to lose that drive to master a technique once we know we’re already good at it. We get lazy with practicing the basics.
We also get arrogant because we think we already have the technique nailed down perfectly. We think to ourselves: “I don’t need to practice that anymore. I’m already good enough at it.”
Something I like to say every now and then is: just because something works doesn’t mean that it cannot be improved.
Keep up the practice and be consistent with your craft, and your talents will shine through what you make and do.