Sage advice from a unique character in my life. I think it applies to many things.
I've never been very good at sit-ups. For some reason, I just wasn't made that way ... I can't curl up and crank them out like so many other people can. 30 in a minute is a good number for me, and it has been even way back in high school and college (when we're supposed to be really good at stuff like that). To most people, it's just an inconvenience, but it nearly got me kicked out of college.
I went to school on a Navy ROTC scholarship, and each semester, we had to take the Physical Readiness Test. Do as many sit-ups as you can in two minutes; do as many push-ups as you can in two minutes; and run 1.5 miles as fast as you can. There was a scale that gave you P number of points for doing Q sit ups (up to a maximum), and the same for push ups and your run time. There was also a bare minimum for each category, so you couldn't be a complete slacker in one event and crush the other two.
The bare minimum for sit ups in 2 minutes was 38. I remember this all too well, because I had to struggle -- mightily -- to get 38. Most of the other guys would hit the maximum of 108 easily. In fact, many people had a goal to max out on all 3 events: 108 sit-ups, 72 push-ups, and run 1.5 miles in less than 8:35. At my first PRT, I squeaked by with something like 39 sit ups. My Navy supervisors noticed, and I got a nasty letter saying that if my performance didn't improve, I would be put on physical fitness probation, and would have mandatory PT at 6:00am each morning. Failing again would get me kicked out. Yes, I had met the minimum, but just meeting the minimum wasn't good enough for this ROTC unit.
The whole next semester I spent doing crunches, ab workouts, side bends, everything. You name it. I knew I wasn't going to get close to 108, but I felt confident I'd be halfway there.
Game Day comes, and I get a measly 41. I was shocked. Dismayed. Bamboozled. I had done all these unique practice methods, thousands of crunches, all these other ab routines, and I fight tooth-and-nail to get a puny 41. One of my supervisors, an exceedingly intimidating former Force Recon Marine, yelled at my sub-par performance. "Dammit, son, you should be getting 108." I was exasperated, and lamented about all the other abdominal routines I had been doing.
He pointed a huge, meaty finger at me. "The best way to get better at sit-ups is to do sit-ups."
A gong rang softly in the distance.
The advice has stuck with me ever since. If you want to solve differential equations, practice solving differential equations. If you want to ski in the moguls better, throw yourself down the mogul runs. If you want to get better at meet and greets, put yourself in a social situation and just start saying "hi" to people. It will hurt. But nobody ever gets better at doing something by not practicing.
In later semesters, I think I got into the high 70's for situps in 2 minutes. My body (mainly my back, it seems) just isn't built for situps.
That advice is part of the motivation for this blog. I've now registered a domain name, established a hosting service, started a blog ... we'll see what comes next. I'm currently leaning on the Google crutch for the blogging software (and it feels sooooo good), but maybe I'll spread my wings further later on. If you want to get better at writing, start writing a bunch.