What makes the difference between the pro and the amateur?
The pro has mastery of fundamentals. The amateur is inconsistent and undisciplined and neglects practicing the basics.
The basics of any practice, profession, sport, or activity are the foundation on which you build your performance.
As an example – I like to play pool. A lot. Probably way too much. In college I played pool about as much as I was in class. I played games, and when nobody was around, I just practiced making shots. I would line up hard shots and hit them over and over and over again. I analyzed what I did wrong, and then I tried again.
I got pretty good. I was one of the best, if not the best, players at my school. (There were only 350 students at my tiny Catholic college and maybe a couple dozen frequented the pool room.) When playing 8-ball, I frequently won in one or two turns. I wasn’t quite a pro, but I had a real love of the game, and was a solid player.
After college, I stopped having the time or opportunity to play, and my skills waned dramatically.
Recently, I picked it back up (and joined the APA).
The things I had difficulty with were very basic: visualizing my shots, executing a solid stroke. The fundamentals. I couldn’t do them.
It took several sessions to start to pick it back up. I had to practice the hard way. I painstakingly lined up my shots, examined the strike point and the cue, focused on the angles needed, and finally after all that shot. And I was inconsistent.
This was intensely frustrating, as I used to make these shots effortlessly. It was annoying. I got angry with myself. But I kept going, and had occasional encouraging moments.
And then it clicked.
At some point, I rebuilt the basic fundamental skills enough to connect it with the intuition and accumulated skill to begin playing closer to where I had previously.
Practicing the basics relaid the foundation and I started to play consistently better.
Fundamentals are also key in other areas of life, such as relationships.
Occasionally, relationships get rocky. It doesn’t happen all at once. It’s a gradual process. Kindnesses are omitted. Consideration is forgotten. Little gestures aren’t practiced. And suddenly, you’re not really on the same page, and hardly speaking the same language.
It can be tempting in these circumstances to think that something is really wrong that requires dramatic action. However, most of the time, all that’s needed is to simply commit to small daily practices that help bring you back into sync, re-establish understanding, and rebuild the emotional bank account balance that was getting sorely overdrawn.
A lot of the time when our life or coding is feeling way off, it’s because our foundation is shaky. And frequently, it’s simple basic things that we neglected.
Practicing fundamentals helps keep our execution consistently high, and can help reinvigorate our skills when things get a little off.