All Skills Have Limits

I have recently been building a shelf for my basement workshop. It is a large, “L” shaped shelf with pegboard incorporated into it for hanging tools and packages. The reason this shelf is so large is because it is serving as a sort of wall to enclose a small bathroom in our basement. This is my way of avoiding permit fees and inspections, which I would have to tolerate if I were putting in actual walls, but I digress. The true purpose of this post is not to talk about this shelf or my shop, but to highlight something I realized while working on it. That even with practice, all skills are finite.

I get frustrated when I make a cut after careful preparation and it turns out to be flawed. Most of my projects end up being assembled with pieces that are all slightly misshapen. This sometimes turns out alright, but it also sometimes throws the entire project off and I need to make additional adjustments to force the project into square or level. If I were going about things haphazardly, then I would expect to see such mistakes. However, I measure multiple times, I use tools and techniques to help ensure straight and accurate cuts, and I try to move deliberately. The effort I put into being accurate is what makes my inaccuracy such a frustration. In these moments my thoughts often become quite negative and only serve to feed the problem. Earlier today I was caught up in such a moment, a few naughty words even escaped my lips as I realized how unevenly my shelf was sitting on the floor. As I was roughly shifting my shelf into position to see how the size worked for the area, I thought about how those who say, “practice makes perfect!”, are horribly misguided. In truth, what Vince Lombardi said is far more accurate, “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” Since we are all flawed humans incapable of perfection in any aspect of our lives, it is safe to assume that perfect practice is impossible (unless God willed it that is). Remembering this quote helped me realize that all human skills are finite. If you want an example just look at Michael Jordan. The man played basketball for the majority of his life, pouring countless hours into practicing his skills. Now, if the “practice makes perfect” mantra were true, wouldn’t his skills have continuously increased, thus increasing his statistics? Yet if we look at his statistics we can see that his field goal percentage, points per game, and free-throw percentage were all in obvious decline as his career progressed. It seems that even Michael Jordan, who is widely regarded as the greatest basketball player of all-time, had a limit to his skills.

I do not mean to imply that practice and improvement should not be a pursuit, God doesn’t want us resting on our laurels. What I mean is that, at least in my case, expectations need to be adjusted and I need to be open to the possibility that I am reaching, or have reached, the peak of my skill in a certain area. That being said, I do believe I can improve in most areas of woodworking and framing. However, just how much further I can take those skills might not be as far as I would like.


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