Practice does make one perfect | Value Research How you tend to lose your skills if you don't use them again and again, proving the old adage 'practice makes perfect' right

Practice does make one perfect

How you tend to lose your skills if you don't use them again and again, proving the old adage 'practice makes perfect' right

Practice does make one perfect

What is it? The old adage 'practice makes perfect' was drilled into our heads by our schoolteachers, especially for maths and accounts, and, of course, our parents, who told us this numerous times.

The use-it-or-lose-it tendency is the tendency to lose the skills that you have if you don't use them regularly. "All skills attenuate with disuse. I was a whiz at calculus until age twenty, after which the skill was soon obliterated by total nonuse," says Munger.

Such continuous practice of skills is not limited to ordinary human beings. Even top practitioners of their fields rely on continuous practice to keep themselves sharp. Munger cites the example of renowned Polish pianist Ignacy Jan Paderewski, "The pianist Paderewski once said that if he failed to practice for a single day, he could notice his performance deterioration and that, after a week's gap in practice, the audience could notice it as well." The solution? "Skills of a very high order can be maintained only with daily practice."

How does this tendency work in real life? Says Munger, "Throughout his life, a wise man engages in practice of all his useful, rarely used skills, many of them outside his discipline, as a sort of duty to his better self. If he reduces the number of skills he practices and, therefore, the number of skills he retains, he will naturally drift into error from man with a hammer tendency. His learning capacity will also shrink as he creates gaps in the latticework of theory he needs as a framework for understanding new experience. It is also essential for a thinking man to assemble his skills into a checklist that he routinely uses. Any other mode of operation will cause him to miss much that is important."

Often found in: Honing skills, continuous learning and practice add to the wealth of skills you already have.

In Life: Remember the time our teachers used to hammer into our heads the idea that we should understand what we learn and not merely cram it all up for a test? Turns out they were right all along. "The hard rule of the use-it-or-lose-it tendency tempers its harshness for the diligent. If a skill is raised to fluency, instead of merely being crammed in briefly to enable one to pass some test, then the skill (1) will be lost more slowly and (2) will come back faster when refreshed with new learning. These are not minor advantages, and a wise man engaged in learning some important skill will not stop until he is really fluent in it."

There is only one effective antidote to this tendency and that is to use your skills again and again, without fail. Munger says, "The right antidote to such a loss is to make use of the functional equivalent of the aircraft simulator employed in pilot training. This allows a pilot to continuously practice all of the rarely used skills that he can't afford to lose."

You just read about one of the misjudgements people generally make while investing. Read 25 ways to (Not) make mistakes to get an account of Charlie Munger's twenty-five typical misjudgements, along with our commentary on how they fit into Indian businesses and Indian investments.

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