Recently, I took up ceramics (again). Despite having taken classes a few times in my life, I’m not (yet!) very good.
Scratch that. I’m still quite bad.
My attempts to throw on the wheel are far from perfect.
I made lopsided bowls with uneven walls. Sometimes the whole thing collapses before I get it off the wheel.
Honestly, it’s quite humbling.
As an adult, I rarely engage in something I’m not already good at.
And it’s a reminder that learning new skills is hard as hell.
But you know what?
If I look at my first attempts a few months ago, to what I’m producing now, I see progress.
My bowls look more like bowls.
Slowly, but surely, I’m improving.
And, it’s a reminder that you can improve at ANYTHING, if you follow a simple, 2-pronged approach.
What are the 2 prongs?
- Practice, and
You need both.
You need to keep doing the thing, over and over, even when it seems like progress is so damn slow.
And you need feedback to know what you’re doing wrong, so you can make incremental improvements.
The last time I took a class was a couple of years ago. And after I took the class, I thought about joining the studio to keep going, but I didn’t.
The studio where I took the class required that I get in the car, and even though it was only a 7-minute drive, it was enough of a barrier that I was worried I wouldn’t go often enough to make the expense worth it.
It was a lesson in the power of convenience.
And quite frankly, I was worried that if I only went once a week or so, that just wouldn’t be enough practice to improve in a way that would be satisfying.
However, somewhat recently, a ceramics studio opened up 3 blocks from my house. I walk by it several times a week.
It’s literally on my way to almost all my errands in the neighborhood, to the grocery stores I frequent, to my kids’ favorite boba place, to all our local restaurants, to the library, to the park.
And every time I walked by, I thought: I need to join.
And so I did.
And it’s been so worth it.
The pots I’m throwing now are so much better than they were a few months ago.
And the more I practice the better I get.
(Even if my kids are far from impressed!)
In fact, because it’s so close, because it’s so convenient, I’m finding myself at the studio several times a week.
I’m practicing frequently Sometimes I go for a few hours. Sometimes I go for 20 minutes.
And when I see folks with technique better than mine (which includes almost everyone in the studio), I ask for feedback or I watch them to try to figure out what they’re doing.
I watch videos about the techniques I’m struggling with so I can give myself feedback.
(Tiktok clearly has my number as I’m basically only being served pottery videos these days.)
Practice and feedback go hand in hand.
If you practice without feedback, you will likely improve…slowly.
But if you practice WITH feedback, you’ll improve so much faster.
This, in large part, is why coaching is so effective; when you have a coach, for any skill, you’re getting these 2 things:
- consistent practice and
- consistent feedback
Just think back to the sports you played in childhood.
You had a coach. You went to practice.
You tried over and over again.
Your coach gave you micro-adjustments.
Things you wouldn’t have noticed on your own without an outside perspective.
And when you made those adjustments and continued to practice, you saw that you were able to improve more quickly.
Instead of practicing the “wrong” way, you were getting closer and closer to the “right” way.
When you have a coach, you have the impetus and accountability to keep on trying, while getting regular feedback on your attempts.
When was the last time you tried something new?
Do you have a skill you want to improve?
Try this 2 pronged approach and I can almost guarantee you’ll make improvements.