If you have an important task, such as needing a spokesperson to evangelize your product, or a salesperson to close an important big sale, or a surgeon to operate on a life-threatening ailment, who would you choose?

Unfortunately, these days, it is harder to discern if someone actually has the field-proven, battle-tested skills and knowledge you need to get a job done. There are many college graduates who may have the confidence to persuade you that they can do the job well (and they may). But the crux is that if there is something important, something that hangs in the balance, do you like to leave things to mere chance?

We were at the Yie District of New Taipei, Taiwan, which is known for its pottery. We wanted to see the pottery museum, and to try our hands at pottery as well. I have been an art club president during my high school, and was very good at sculpting clay and pottery. I figured it would be easy to pick up pottery again, at least for fun.

When we sat down to toy with the moist clay, I suddenly realized, how foreign the clay suddenly appeared to me. The feeling of the clay in my hands was unknown and I took more time than I liked to attempt to sculpt and mould the clay. My early confidence vanished, and humility and genuine effort began to set in. I was able to finish one piece of work at the end of the rather educational session.

Likewise in our roles, having done it before may embolden us to imagine that we are capable of finishing particular jobs, and may even have the false confidence to imagine we will get these jobs done faster than the reality itself. And for the young, they may too imagine that merely graduating in a college program means that they can easily get the job done.

The reality is, the best spokesperson took laborious pains to practice and practice their presentations, until it is honed to an art. I am a professional platform speaker, and I can speak from field experience, that my peers and I, often prepare, and prepare, and refine, and tweak, our message and presentation, until only the essence remains. The Chinese have saying, “a minute on stage is backed by a decade of hard work and practice”. How very true! So keep our clients on the toes by helping them practice their delivery, often.

Likewise, the best salespersons hone their message, their knowledge of the products, their presentations, their manner of delivery, and how they interact with people through many failures and rejections, before they become top of their trade.

For trade professionals, whether surgeons, craftsmen, engineers, architects, lawyers, and so on, the scenario is exactly the same – a great deal of time is spent on continuous learning and practice.

Therefore, it is important to inculcate in our teams the importance of continuous learning and practice. You fail once, you get up and continue learning and doing. Young or old alike, the same rules apply. Just because someone has done it before, does not mean that he is as good today. What’s more, the world is changing so fast that the knowledge and skills acquired before, may already be obsolete the moment we are ready to tackle the next challenge. Keep practicing, keep learning.