How the Practice of Practice Is the Secret to a Sustainable Business

Commit to showing up consistently and

doing the work from where you’re at

“Isn’t it a bit unnerving that doctors call what they do ‘practice’?” — George Carlin

I love this line. When you think of the rehearsal sense of practice, it is the realm of amateurs and it is not where you want to find your doctor.


But this quote gets to the heart of practice for creatives, freelancers, and business owners:

“The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.”― Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle


And then this one, which elevates practice to a whole other level:

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” — Dalai Lama


There are, in fact, many understandings of practice and practice-adjacent concepts that I like for the day-in, day-out of building and working in a sustainable business.

Commitment So meta. The practice of practice is a bow to commitment — committing to the practice of your business and its various undertakings. Your craft, your service, your relationships, the accounting, the sales, the marketing, the strategic planning, the endurance.

In the middle of it The notion of practice reminds us that most of our work is the journey itself, being in the middle of something. We may feel stuck; we may lose sight of the destination at times; we may be feeling our way forward one step, one decision, one fumble at a time; but we’re in the midst of a practice, our business.

Right, right now Given that we are always in the middle of our commitment to our enterprise, practice graciously allows us to be right, right now. To be meeting expectations, to be clearing the bar, to be okay, to be enough, to be worthy, to be in the right place for us in this moment. The present reality is the sum of the work, learning, and external circumstances that went before. And continued practice will shape our future and its rewards.

Presence Understanding practice as being in the middle of it opens the door for making ourselves right, right now, as well as for the attractiveness of the present moment. Embracing the power of presence is another component of practicing practice. Meeting one moment after another with the mental, physical, and emotional capacities available.

The power of “yet” With the practice of ongoing practice, we can leverage the power of “yet,” as in I don’t know how to do that yet. I haven’t met that person yet. I haven’t reached that level yet. I haven’t done it yet, but it’s in the works.

Leaving things half done Stopping in the middle of it. Building hard stops into your workday. Leaving work for the next session. Leaving things half done is a powerful element of practice. It implies that there is future time allotted for doing more. That things will get done in their own time. That you trust yourself, your habits, your discipline, your practice. You’ll be showing up tomorrow.

Skills The rehearsal sense of practice is also in play with our businesses because whatever we’re doing requires a whole repertoire of skills — and our unique combinations of them is what’s on offer at any given time. Over time, our various skills improve, expand, and deepen with practice, and so will the distinctive blend of our abilities that is our special sauce.

How things actually get done “Most of us have a very distorted notion of how things actually get done in this world. We think that accomplishment only comes from great deeds.” says one of my coaching heroes, Barbara Sher, in Wishcraft: How to Get What You Really Want. She further expands on this: You don’t always have to have a positive attitude. You don’t always need extreme discipline. You do need to show up steadily, taking the small steps, making the small gestures of practice.

Perfection not required A practice orientation is its own built-in permission slip to not be perfect and to ditch that concept altogether. You can still and always be learning. You don’t have to be the best. Whatever that may mean. You can serve customers right now with the competencies you currently have.

Contributing to a conversation On a similar note, Denise Duffield-Thomas (Chill and Prosper) stresses to entrepreneurs that they don’t have to be a guru, the top dog, the know-it-all and be-it-all of their field. She reminds us that we can be one of many who contribute to the conversation of a field by practicing it and bringing ourselves and our own perspective and style to the game.

Slowing down When the notion of practice guides your business efforts, it’s easier to feel free to slow down a bit, or at least go at your own speed. A pace determined by you and not external or imagined external expectations and goalposts. You’re committed. You’re in the middle of the thing. You’re right, right now, contributing to the conversation of your field and improving your various skills and offerings over time. Your practice of practice can then incorporate the many rewards of Slow Business: attention to things that matter, deliberate choices, work-life balance, time and attention for simple pleasures, personal enjoyment and satisfaction, devotion to your craft, attention to quality, meaningful relationships, a customized business model, a broad spectrum of wellness, development of needed cushions, alignment with your values, and the solidifying of a sustainable enterprise. The capacity for your business to last— and to provide you with the good life as it endures.