Practice Makes Pretty Good

Practice Makes Pretty Good April 2, 2012

A senior leader in our ministry says that he strives to be a “pretty good leader.”  Not a great one, not an excellent one, just a pretty good one.

I’ve been thinking about this, because, at least in my Northeastern grim and driven town, becoming “pretty good” might be a pretty good goal.  Up here, we demand excellence in everything in everything and it’s just too much to handle.  I can feel like a failure if I’m not an excellent mother, wife, friend, minister, sister, daughter, and follower of Jesus–which means I receive chances to feel like a failure almost every second of my life.

Our kids hear that same message.  As friend’s son told her, “Mom, this is a hard town to be average in.”


I’m wondering why I should expect or even hope that my kids  be great athletes, musicians, scholars and leaders.  Especially in an age where we emphasize multiple intelligences.  And if I subtly encourage worshiping excellence, is it any surprise that Jesus becomes irrelevant?

This past week, I had the chance to watch two of my kids perform–Ling at a piano recital, Ren in 9 performances as Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast.

I’ve written before about Ren’s journey in theater–how he went from “deer in the headlights” to doing a pretty good job as Robert, steward to the king in Sleeping Beauty, and then Little Jake in Annie Get Your Gun.

He did even better as Cogsworth–drawing laughs, acting so much like a fussy control-freak Type A living clock that 2 moms asked me if he’s like that in real life.  Hmmm, if only he would act more like Cogsworth with homework and cleaning the kitchen.

He’s become a pretty good child actor.

Ling has played piano since 3rd grade.  My mantra has been “You don’t practice, you don’t get lessons.”  And Ling’s been the most faithful child in following that mantra.  Almost every morning, she wakes at 6 am and practices 20-30 minutes.  By kids practicing their instruments standards, she’s got a gold star.  By kids who are serious about their music standards, she’s a total slacker.

But it’s amazing what 30 minutes of piano a day over 8 years can do.  She’s become a pretty good piano player.  Not a perfect one, perhaps not even an excellent one, but a pretty good one.  A couple weeks ago, she performed in a recital followed by a friend’s child who’s a piano prodigy.  Ling felt a little bad, but I pointed out the other girl practices 2 hours a day, and has since first grade.  You can’t expect to compete with that if you practice only 30 minutes.  And why should you?   Unless you want to be a concert pianist, why not enjoy the skills you gain and enjoy swimming and reading novels as well?

At this rate, neither kid will make it big with their acting or music skills.  They may never be excellent.  But working slowly and steadily, enjoying the progress, enjoying the craft, they’ve become pretty good.

And that’s pretty good for me.

Here’s Ling’s pretty good piano recital if you want to listen in:

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