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Practice for Perfection

On the first day of class, Jerry Uelsmann, a professor at the University of Florida, divided his film photography students into two groups.

Everyone on the left side of the classroom, he explained, would be in the “quantity” group. They would be graded solely on the amount of work they produced. On the final day of class, he would tally the number of photos submitted by each student. One hundred photos would rate an A, ninety photos a B, eighty photos a C, and so on.

Meanwhile, everyone on the right side of the room would be in the “quality” group. They would be graded only on the excellence of their work. They would only need to produce one photo during the semester, but to get an A, it had to be a nearly perfect image.

At the end of the term, he was surprised to find that all the best photos were produced by the quantity group. During the semester, these students were busy taking photos, experimenting with composition and lighting, testing out various methods in the darkroom, and learning from their mistakes. In the process of creating hundreds of photos, they honed their skills. Meanwhile, the quality group sat around speculating about perfection. In the end, they had little to show for their efforts other than unverified theories and one mediocre photo.

Points to take from story

1. To attain a level of expertise we have to fail numerous times and each failure adds to our progress.

2. More time should be spent on actively engaging in action rather than only analysis and planning.

3. We spend more time in procrastination and justify it as the time spent on preparation. However to hone a skill we need to put our hands to job more than our mind.

4. The saying ‘Practice makes a man perfect’ is a 5 lettered encyclopaedia. Adapting it in our acts can help us to evolve each day.

Source of story

■ Art & fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland; also referred in Atomic Habits by James Clear.

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