Patient Practice


Earlier this year, I enjoyed reading Doc, a fictional account of the life of Doc Holliday written by Mary Doria Russell, based on her meticulous research of the Southern gentleman and his cohorts, Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson. In the chapter titled “Roughing the Edges,” the following words from Doc struck me:

“And paid or not, there is considerable satisfaction in the exercise of a hard-won competence…”

While Ms. Russell was referring to Doc Holliday’s facility with cards, one could apply this to any skill honed by patient practice. Related to this idea are these two lines in Verse 3 of Tao Te Ching, a classic text written in the 6th century BC by Lao Tzu.

“Practice action without striving
and all will be in order.”

What this means to me is that, rather than thinking about what we might receive or attain for doing something well—to the best of our ability—it is the doing for its own sake that is the reward.