Saturday, June 08, 2013

Stop lying to yourself

When I was a kid, I studied the violin. (I know, quite a shocker for a Chinese-American kid growing up in the 1980s)

My violin teacher made me keep a practice log.  I was supposed to practice for 30 minutes per day.  For each 30 minutes I practiced, I got a token which let me move a felt cloth horse outline around a cardboard track.  If/when I reached the end, I would get some nominal prize.

I "practiced" for 30 minutes every day.  Here's how my practice worked.

1) I would start practice at 8 PM.  That meant that I would look at the clock at 8 PM and note that I had started practice.  At that point, I would go get my violin, rosin up the bow, dig out my music books, set up my music stand, and perhaps get a drink of water--so I wouldn't get thirsty in the middle.

2) When I actually put bow to strings at around 8:10 PM, I would practice while watching the television.  If something exciting happened on-screen, I found myself pausing--just for a few moments, of course.

3) At 8:15 PM, I would take a break to use the restroom.  Darn that pre-practice water!

4) At 8:20 PM, I'd resume my practicing.

5) At 8:21 PM, I'd start packing up my stuff.

6) At 8:26 PM, I'd finish putting away my stuff and round up to 30 minutes.  There, that wasn't so hard!

I was actually practicing about 6 minutes per day, but I was lying to myself--quite convincingly--and believed that I was practicing my 30 minutes per day.

Of course, I got my prize.  What I didn't get was any increased skill at playing the violin!

You might have your own equivalent of "violin practice" in your life.  Are you really pursuing it with 100% of your energy and focus?  Are you really putting in your 30 minutes, or are you fiddling around (figuratively--literally is what you're supposed to be doing!) for most of it?

I didn't really want to get better, so my self-deception didn't hurt my life too much.  But if you're an entrepreneur, stop lying to yourself.  Take a blunt look at how well you live up to your goals.  If you're technically meeting them, but failing to make real progress, your startup is what loses out.

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