The Way You Practice Is the Way You Play

Decorative: "You Play the Way You Practice"


A. "Message to Graduate Students: The Way You Practice Is the Way You Will Play" (post) builds on sensible advice from a music teacher to outline "professional habits that students should work on cultivating [since] what they can do in graduate school to 'practice' [shapes] how they will eventually 'play.'"

  • "[W]hen decisions must be made quickly, people tend to fall back on old habits."
  • "If those old habits were built and reinforced by sloppy practicing, then people will be sloppy when situations demand they put forth their best efforts."
  • "So, even while practicing, people need to behave as if they were performing in the real thing."
  • "[E]xcellence is accomplished through mundane actions, ordinary in themselves, performed consistently, made into habits, and accumulated over time."

B. Five Helpful Habits

1. "Be Greedy"

  • "[T]ake every opportunity to learn more about [your] field."
  • "[G]o to all open seminars and workshops offered by the department."
  • "[D]on’t just 'attend' conferences ... participate in them: at professional meetings ... go to sessions!"
  • "[T]hink of yourself as ... someone who’s becoming a member of a research community."

2. "Speak Up"

  • Be able to "articulate a point of view and back it up with evidence derived from expertise."
  • This is "a skill you will need when teaching as well as when you’re trying to make yourself heard at conference sessions."
  • "[S]peak up in class—don’t just speak when called upon, but rather volunteer to speak."
  • "[P]ay attention to what others are saying so that you learn to maintain continuity in the conversation."
  • "[L]ear[n] to pay attention and do your part to support the collective effort."

3. "Start Something (or Volunteer)"

  • "[T]ake initiatives to organize [your] environments to [your] advantage."
  • "Start discussion groups outside of what is required by your instructors."
  • "Volunteer to serve on the colloquium committee or to run the social media operations of your department."
  • "[C]reate and manage virtual discussion groups."

4 . "Network (Across the Aisle)"

  • "[E]stablish relationships with others who have complementary skills and not just with those with whom they share overlapping interests."
  • "Befriend not only the junior faculty, but also some senior faculty with research interests different from yours."

5. "Live Up to It"

  • "[T]ake [your] work seriously even when [you] are not the person in charge."
  • "If you are a teaching assistant, be a good teaching assistant—someday you will be responsible for organizing your own course and you would like to have TAs who work as hard as you do."

6. Act "As If"

  • "Begin establishing good habits from the moment you enter graduate school."
  • "[T]ak[e] advantage of the many opportunities offered to you to begin acting 'as if' you had already earned your Ph.D."
  • "Practice the habits that will stand you in good stead throughout your career."
  • "Participate, connect, and ... commit yourself to never missing a beat."
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