June 2, 2010

“The single most important element in developing an expertise is your willingness to practice.” –G. Rubin.

Everything you do is practice. All day long, you’re developing an expertise. The question is, are you practicing being who you truly want to be?

When it comes to practice, I was lucky. In 1980, I got a job driving city bus in Minneapolis. I’d been a bus passenger all my life, so I knew that a bus driver could influence a person’s well-being – a friendly bus driver has happy passengers, a crabby bus driver has (creates) unhappy passengers.

I wanted to be the best bus driver, so I made a vow to myself: I would greet every passenger with a smile and a warm hello. Every passenger, even the ones who reeked of cigarette smoke or perfume; even the snooty; even the surly; even the wierdos – every one of them would get a genuine smile and a friendly hello from me.

I kept that vow, and I had happy passengers who thought I was the best. (Of course, I was a first-rate driver, and they loved that, too.) But, and this I hadn’t expected, that vow changed my life. As I practiced being the best bus driver, I became a better person.

Compared to who I was before I was a bus driver, it was like night and day. I went from being chronically judgmental, arrogant, antagonistic, and insecure, to being kind, and curious about others (although only marginally less judgmental). Eventually, after many, many more years of practice, I became a happy person, and truly less judgmental.

Even though it’s many years since I was a professional, I still practice being the best driver. Every time I get behind the wheel, I remind myself that I’m practicing to be the best, I hone my skills. Maybe that’s why I enjoy driving so much.

And I still practice being the best me. Every morning, I remind myself that this day is an opportunity to really be who I know I’m capable of being.

I had three years of intense practice at unconditional love. Every day, 5 days a week, I smiled sincerely at hundreds of individual people. Not many of us get such a profound practice intensive. Maybe most don’t need it as badly as I did. But we are all practicing to be the person we want to be. The trick is to remember that we’re practicing, to remember that it’s all practice.

Today, practice. Be the self you know you’re capable of being. Develop an expertise in being the best you.

Do you have a string for your finger?