Tag Archive for: practice

Friendly Rivalry

I don’t know how exactly, but somehow, I was 1-0 up.
The last time Dofna and I sat around the chess board, I’d managed to snatch a surprising victory!
I hadn’t played for a very long time.
Teasingly, I enjoyed ribbing him about that triumph for the last 9 months or so. 😊
It’s my experience that a strong rival inspires the protagonist to become better and does so for the rival as well; in other words, we both fed off (and had a few laughs) of being competitive with one another for a good while.
Our return match was long overdue.
And for the last several weeks, we’d planned to get back together.
Yesterday, Missionary Preparation Day (P-day), visitors arrived at the mission home.
I discovered they’d already been practicing and honing their chess skills, playing a few games that morning already.
On the other hand, I’d never looked at a chess board for 9 months!
On a very sunny morning yesterday, in Leidschendam, we geared up to let the battle for dominion commence – and off we went.
The energy created in our friendly rivalry helped us to focus our efforts for sure.
It was a chance for each of us to shine!
The quiet intensity of the battle was all consuming.
The first game went by all too quickly.
He’d obviously been fine tuning his skills.
It was 1-1.
I used a well-rehearsed opening in match 2.
Somehow though, quickly he seized my Queen.
Incredibly, a few moves later, I captured his Queen.
Our concentration levels were at fever pitch as the ferociousness of the battle reached its climax.
You could feel the mental energy!
Sadly, for me, the end came swiftly and painfully, he was victorious.
I told him to keep the hat!
I’m sure too, he’ll enjoy ribbing me for the next few years that he’s 2-1 up!
“We learn little from victory, much from defeat” – Japanese Proverb.
And the moral of the story?
𝑷𝒓𝒂𝒄𝒕𝒊𝒄𝒆 𝒊𝒔 𝒆𝒗𝒆𝒓𝒚𝒕𝒉𝒊𝒏𝒈!


What makes a man or a woman a good musician?
What makes someone a good singer?
What makes someone a good footballer?
A good artist?
A good teacher?
A good boss?
A good cook?
A good missionary?
A good mum, or dad?
A good man or woman?
There is really nothing else, but 𝐩𝐫𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐜𝐞..
What are you becoming through your 𝐩𝐫𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐜𝐞?


“Do you have time for a game President?”

This question has become a regular one whilst I’m in the office once a week.

This week was no exception.

I do enjoy a game of table tennis.

I think my very best days are well behind me now though.

As a teenager growing up in Scotland, many an evening was spent at the local community centre with school friends, fine tuning my table tennis skills.  Mum and dad were pretty good too.

I was always very competitive.  Although, I could never beat dad.

It wasn’t until I was 16 that I had a breakthrough and won a match against him.  Growing older, I’m not actually sure if I beat him, or he actually let me win, in order to encourage me further!

These days the goal is a simple one….. “To beat President!”

They have an extremely strong motive!

There are several good players amongst the missionary force at the moment.

Two of them are regularly in the office when I am in too, namely Leif Andersen and Atticus Snow.

Week in, week out – they ask me the question.

And week in, week out – I am still managing to hold my own and win – just!

Both are definitely improving.

Practice is an important way to improve skills.

It is repetition of skills during practice that enables you to learn from mistakes and become a much more confident player.

My practice time is extremely limited and won’t be changing anytime soon.

Their motivation is high, and their practice time is much higher than mine!

For the moment, I’m enjoying the victories whilst they last!

My conclusion – my days are numbered!

What is your motivation to succeed?

Learning takes practice.

𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐝𝐨𝐞𝐬 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐡𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐤?
Growing up in Scotland in the 1970’s was a fun place to be.
I was oblivious to many of the challenges of the era, but I do recall one occasion at Primary school when I was around 9 years old, that I’ve never forgotten.
An announcement was made in class that a recorder group would be starting in school and that anyone interested to learn how to play should come along to the next practice.
I had grown up listening to my dad playing regularly on his chromatic mouth organ and like him I wanted to do something musical – he always seemed to be having so much fun!
The day came and along I went.
I was given a small descant recorder and duly started practicing in the weeks that followed.
Through lots of lessons, my playing began to improve, and I learned to read music too.

Lessons Learned

I began to understand that
  • Growth and development take time.
  • Learning takes practice.
As time passed by, one day I recall being picked upon and bullied by several boys.
“You’re just a big namby pamby, a big sissy” they’d say to me, along with a few other belittling terms.
I was the only boy, playing the recorder amongst a group of around 15 girls.
Despite the regular taunts, insulting and smart-alecky remarks, I continued playing the recorder throughout my school years and developed a resilient spirit to the comments.
Playing simple melodies, always brought joy to my youthful heart. And it still does!
In later years, in a little tender mercy, I discovered that like me, Monic too played the recorder.
Sometimes in life we have to persevere when opposition comes our way.
Oftentimes, its listening to the feelings of our heart, that can overcome the challenge of the day.
What challenge might you face today?
What does your heart think?

Lessons from Juggling….

“Can anyone juggle?” I asked.

A few raised their hands and I invited them forward.

I gave them three balls each and asked them to show us how.

Admittedly, they were a little rusty, but after a few attempts, the basics returned.

“Who would like to learn how to juggle?” I asked.

A few raised their hands and I invited them forward.

I gave those who could juggle the assignment to teach those who came forward how to juggle.

The challenge – they had only two minutes to show them how.

After their time was up, the novice jugglers showed us their rudimentary skills.

The result – it wasn’t very pretty, with balls flying everywhere – but it was great fun!

After a few attempts, one even managed to complete a cycle of three balls through the air.

The Lessons –

  • Learning takes practice.
  • Growth and Development takes time.

As we grow older and develop in life, we have to learn how to juggle many responsibilities. Frequently, it can take lots of practice to get things right.

That day, I gave a new set of juggling balls to the willing learners.

Pleasingly a week later, one by one they told me of their significant improvement in their juggling skills.  Each of them had taken time to learn the techniques of throwing and catching a ball. They had practiced with 2 balls and then ultimately juggled with 3.  With lots of continuous practice, 4 balls won’t be a problem either.

Learning something new?  Don’t get too disheartened and throw in the towel too soon!

Remember, practice and time are key principles in our learning, growth and development.

Signs of Progress

How do you measure progress?
After 9 weeks of immersion in the culture of Belgium and the Netherlands, something significant, yet very subtle happened in my head this week.
For several weeks, I hear the Dutch language and then translate what I hear into English.
In order to respond, I then translate my English thinking into Dutch.
This week though, things started to change – just a little.
I am beginning to think in Dutch… 🙂
What a difference it makes!
The result?
I am even struggling to recall some simple English words and replacing them with Dutch ones!
The transition is starting to happen!
Don’t get me wrong, I have still lots of learning, but genuinely feel after some tough weeks, that I am making some progress.
So how do you measure progress?
…One day at a time! And then recognising the change.
When I’m dreaming in Dutch – that will be a real sign!
And for our new missionary arrivals next week, remember to speak it every day – that is so crucial. There is hope!!


“Would you like to play something on the piano?” I asked.
Yesterday, before going out to eat at a local pannekoekenhuis, we had a visit at home from our sister missionaries.
I know that Samantha Greenhalgh has been gifted with a wonderful talent and loves to play the piano. So, I pointed out some music sheets and invited her to take a seat. Seconds later, the room was filled with a beautiful melody. She chose not to select any of the music, rather play something from memory that was elegant and pleasing.
The short musical interlude lasted only a few minutes, but it brought peace and joy to those who were able to sit and listen for those few moments in time. I even captured a little smile from Samantha too! 😊
Each of us have been blessed with different talents, gifts and abilities by our Heavenly Father. We have the responsibility to develop the talents that we have been given. Listening to her play the piano yesterday, it was very evident that Samantha has devoted many hours to developing her talent.
– What talents have you been gifted with?
– Have you discovered them yet?
Spending time to develop your talents, through practice, regular effort and sharing, are key principles to allow it to grow.
Consider the talents you have been blessed with and who knows, it may not be too long before you’ll be sat playing the piano, or even winning an Olympic medal!
Go on, give it a go!

Perfect Pizza!

“It’s the centrifugal force” I said, as my daughter Cristi gave me a bit of a strange look!

In attempting to make home made pizza at the weekend for the first time ever, I learned a lot about the key ingredients and the due process of making the dough. Both are essential for perfect pizza.

The Ingredients

Strong plain flour, yeast, salt, olive oil, warm water and a little warm milk mixed together create a perfect dough.

Then the fun begins.

Kneading the dough on a well floured surface for 5 minutes creates a smooth and slightly tacky texture. Then, you pop the ball of dough into a bowl, cover it with a wet cloth, leave it for 90 minutes, allowing it to rise to perfection.

Time to knock back the dough.

Gently lifting the dough out from the bowl, kneading it again, then leaving it for another 45 minutes to rest a while. The passage of time is key.

Now, roller in hand, it was time to roll out the dough.

The first two bases were impressive and I determined not to toss the dough, frightened that I’d make a mess of my perfect creation! However, on the third base, after watching a “how to throw dough” video,  I incorporated the toss into my routine. Gently balancing the rolled dough on my fingertips, I tossed it into the air, with a gentle rotating spin action at the same time and capturing it again on the back of my hand.  Performing this action three times, allowed centrifugal force to stretch out the pizza base to perfection!

Adding on the toppings, making sure the oven was on full blast, pizza trays were already hot and getting the oven timings right were crucial finishing touches.

The result.  Perfect Pizza’s!

However, it has to be said, although Pizza’s 1 & 2 were good, adding in the toss for Pizza 3, made the difference between good and great!

In my allegory filled mind, there are dozens of pictures forming about this due process.  There are multiple comparisons to be made and lessons to be learned.  Time, ingredients, process, heat, practice, that little extra toss.

What allegories come to mind for you?

To move from good to great, sometimes you just have to throw in that little extra…. (toss!)

Now to do it all again, this time Gluten Free!

What is your strategy in life?

‘The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do’ says Michael Porter.

In August 1993, I met my future Dutch father in law, Bep for the first time. I learned a lot about him that day, including the fact that he was an avid chess player and amongst the top players in the local club in town. I’m a novice at best, but soon a challenge was issued. Out came the board, chess pieces and a clock too! I’d never even see a chess clock! Needless to say I was thrashed and humbled a few times that day.

Over many years of playing chess with Bep, I observed and learned much about him.

– he was methodical
– he valued time
– he planned carefully
– he was patient
– he anticipated
– he was exact

These characteristics were a pattern for his life. He was a highly skilled carpenter to trade and these qualities I presume were finely tuned over many years of practice.

Sadly, he is gone now.

I did manage a couple of wins over all the ensuing years and yet, I have never forgotten those powerful lessons he taught me.

The clock of life never stops ticking and each of us always needs to carefully consider our next move. What will yours be today?

Shortcomings – do you have any?

Shortcomings – do you have any?
“A fault or failure to meet a certain standard, typically in a person’s character, a plan, or a system.”
I haven’t met anyone who is perfect yet, have you?
We all have our limitations, one of life’s greatest challenges is accepting those limits.  Frequently we may not want to appear weak, sometimes, personal pride or even a stubborn heart can get in the way.
No matter what your own weaknesses are, there is a way to change your shortcomings and turn them into strengths.
As you find the courage to wake up to your weaknesses, you have to be willing to admit to yourself that you are not infallible, that you have faults, failings and limitations and humbly accept that you are not perfect. In turn, this will lay a foundation for progression.
In many coaching conversations, I have found that when someone shares with me they have a shortcoming, a weakness or a flaw, then that first step of recognition is a giant surge forward, a massive leap of admission and progress is made.
Overcoming shortcomings is possible.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “That which we persist in doing becomes easier to do, not that the nature of the thing has changed but that our power to do has increased.”
It takes time, humility and practice. So, how about you?