Monday, November 29, 2010

Practice and Training

I have been mulling over the concepts of practice and training in my mind as I have been listening to Nighean Bhan practice her trumpet diligently (20 minutes a night) in preparation for the Christmas Concert. As I listen to her pound out the notes of Silver Bells and Frosty the Snowman again and again, it has minded me on the nature of practice and training and their function as a corollary of mastery.

What is the difference between practice and training? They are two words that denote the same general principle but strike different chords in my breast. Both deal with the same idea: a period of time in which one spends focused attention on a skill or attribute. Both often involve repetition. Both can be done individually or in groups.

Yet one seems far more palatable to me than the other; one excites me with the concept of performing it than the other - why?

Practice: To perform or work at repeatedly, so as to become proficient; to train by repeated exercises.

Training: The skill, knowledge or experience acquired by one that trains.

Practice (to my mind) connotes continuously performing a series of actions with the intention of mastering them. On the other hand, training connotes preparation in anticipation of a greater event: runners train for a marathon, soldiers train for battle, workers train to use a new skill.
So what is the difference

To me, training is set apart by urgency and intensity. Practice can often go on forever with or without an end event to cap it. Training seldom does: there is a signal event at the end. We tend to think of someone that trains for a long period of time but never executes as someone who has failed.

But both are important. By practice musicians get better, athletes improve, students achieve mastery - by the application of effort to the same activity again and again, sometimes in mind numbing boredom. Practice develops skills by repetition; training develops skills by application towards an objective.

However, both imply improvement. And perhaps that is where the difficulty comes in my own mind.

Training implies goals, something I am striving to achieve, a marker. Practice I have come to associate as not achievement per se but rather as something I do.

Perhaps (probably?) both of these are constructs in my mind.

To train is to practice. When I train, I perform based on the basic skills I have learned for any activity.

To practice is to train. When I practice, I am customarily doing so in anticipation of a signal event or activity.

To practice/train is critical for mastery of an subject or skill. Without a knowledge of basic skills I cannot go further; without the intensity of an end objective (even mastery of a thing) I will lose my incentive to continue.

So perhaps the question is rather not do I practice or train, but how do I raise the intensity of my training/practice to get to the end result of mastery?


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