Diving Lessons

Five children, ages seven to ten, were lined up side-by-side on the cement pool deck, my sister and I among them. Our diving coach stood about ten feet in front of us, clapping out the same rhythm, “Step: 1 -2- 3, JUMP!”

Five new divers took three steps forward as counted, and then jumped as high as we could. After jumping, we’d scramble back to the starting point on the deck to do it again. And again. And again. After a while, we added throwing our arms up in the air, while kicking up our left knee before jumping. Step by repetitive step, we learned a dive approach.

I remember practicing that darn three-step approach for days. Finally, we were allowed to move to the diving board. Step: 1 – 2 – 3, knee and arms up, pushing down on the flexible board, bouncing up high, sailing up into the air and landing in the water.

Now, as an adult, diving is one of my favorite sports to watch. The movements in the air are amazing, as are the perfect entries. But those dives start on the board. Fancy dives just don’t happen without a strong approach and a high bounce.

We’ve all had the experience of crawling before walking, and babbling before we speak. These are necessary beginning steps to a new skill. We don’t usually question why these steps are needed, because it makes sense that it’s ‘practice, practice, practice’ that shapes and prepares us for growth.

Not that it’s easy. Diving into a new skill, or branching out into a new job or volunteer position can be very daunting. How am I supposed to know if I can do it? If God called me here, shouldn’t I see success quickly?

I often struggle with these questions. I have hope that I’ll be successful, but doubt comes in with expectations. I want mastery of new skills to come fast and easy. But if I’d just look back on my diving experience, I’d certainly be comforted.

Not everything comes quickly, and really, it rarely happens that way. Having to work hard to make the most of our opportunities is truly a universal truth.


If you fail to prepare, you’re prepared to fail.

~Mark Spitz, Winner of 7 Gold Medals at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games


Luck has nothing to do with it, because I have spent many, many hours, countless hours, on the court working for my one moment in time, not knowing when it would come.  ~Serena Williams, Winner of 2 Gold Medals at 2000 and 2008 Olympic Games


Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.

~Malcolm Gladwell


If you’re feeling called to something new, don’t decide that it’s not for you if you’re not immediately successful. Just take a deep breath and try to enjoy the season of learning. It can be as much fun as finally mastering the new skill.

Be kind and gentle with yourself, knowing that good things eventually come with open eyes, open ears and a willingness to practice.

Step: 1 – 2 – 3. You begin at the beginning. But with work and practice, who knows how high you’ll soar?


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42 thoughts on “Diving Lessons

  1. Focus and practice, practice, practice! My issue is distraction. I can sure become distracted so I don’t practice. And self-doubt is the layer under that, causing the distraction. But, ‘be kind and gentle with yourself.’ Sound, solid wise words Ceil! And knowing that Selena and Mark, and Matthew had self-doubt too, I’m sure! But chose still to practice.

    • Hi Lynn! Distraction is a real problem for me too. When I start to clean the house, I flit from one thing to another. Yikes. So it’s not only prayer, but it’s in a lot of my life.
      Not sure who Selena is, but I think self-doubt is always something we deal with. Being regimented and doing the ground work to bring the opportunity for success is the way to go, don’t you think?
      My mom would say ‘practice makes perfect!’, and I know she’s right about the practice part. Perfection? Maybe not, but I’d sure get closer to my goal.
      Thanks for visiting!

  2. Yes, often we can look at others who have a particular skill and wonder how it seems so effortless, but actually it’s usually the opposite and they have put a lot of time and effort into practising to reach that stage.
    It is important to remember that often all we need is some hard work and a bit of time.

    • Hi Lesley! Your point about hard work and time is so right. Very few people are blessed as savants, and can just be perfect with little trouble. Most of us need to work, and work hard to succeed.

      May we all do the work, and with love, to be who God needs us to be,

  3. Hi Ceil!
    So true on all this! If we stop risking to learn new things we may even fear to try, we stop growing and we fail to trust in the One who is always with and for us. It also helps those os us who are “just a little older” to keep our minds, bodies, and spirits healthy and growing.

    Love and hugs,

    • Hi Pam! That point of learning new things relates to my last post about my dad too. Being willing to put in the time to learn and hopefully be successful is really the only way to progress. It’s hard sometimes, but we can do it if it’s truly a priority. That’s a challenge too…making something tough a priority!


  4. This reminded me of the way I practiced, practiced, practiced my guitar, day in and day out. You can never be great at something, or even good, for that matter, if you’re not willing to put in the time, not expecting amazing results right away. So good to remember when embarking on anything new God calls us to try.
    Blessings, Ceil!

    • Hi Martha! I played guitar when I was younger too, and man, getting those calluses on the fingertips was WORK! And so painful while building them up too…

      Great illustration of the painful road to making beautiful music. Doing anything well takes time and a willingness to put in that time. I bet you really enjoyed playing 🙂

  5. Ceil: I am finding out that marketing a book is the hardest part of the process. I have to plan and then re-evaluate my actions and find new ways to approach this phase of the process. It might look easy to someone looking from the outside but it takes a lot of time, patience and planning.

    • Hi Cecelia! That’s a great example of learning, and let me tell you, I’m sure it’s not easy at all. I wouldn’t have the first idea of where to start!

      The point about it looking easy to others is such a great one. Whenever we look at others work, we think it was such a simple thing to do. Especially when it comes to art, like writing. I really admire writers and other artists who struggle and struggle, all for their passion.
      Best of blessings on you in your new journey, all done for your passion too,

  6. “Be kind and gentle with yourself, knowing that good things eventually come with open eyes, open ears and a willingness to practice.” Thanks for this gracious encouragement, Ceil. We humans–especially women–tend to expect perfection of ourselves, which is far more than God expects! He knows our frame, Psalm 103 tells us. I think he likes your lesson on “steps.”
    Happy Day, Jen

    • Hi Jeanette! I do think that women push themselves to be perfect, as you pointed out. Perfect mates, parents, volunteers…it can be so exhausting. Practice doesn’t always = perfect, although we can always want to do better.

      We will be who God has intended us to be, so I think the goal is to be the best ‘me’ I can. That may fall short of perfect in my eyes, but it’ll be plenty for the Lord.

      Thank you for your kind words my friend. I appreciate them.

  7. I know you’re trying to encourage us to take on something new Ceil; believe me, I have tried and failed many times. My life motto has been “If at first you don’t succeed, delegate it to someone else!”

    Years ago I tried to learn to play the guitar, something I always wanted to do. My wife and I went to lessons. I was hopeless. My left hand could not find the places and the strings I have to hold tight to the neck of the guitar. My right hand kept going up and down frantically but a few inches away from the strings. When I mover it closer my fingers got entangled in the strings. The teacher gave me a plectrum (a small triangular piece of plastic) to use instead of my fingers. I tried that and the plectrum hit a string, flew out of my hand, and hit him in the eye. He had to go to hospital and I stopped trying to play the guitar. I can play the tape-recorder or CD player though!!!

    God bless.

    • Hi Victor! Um…well…it does seem that the tape recorder is a better choice for you!

      I practiced guitar for a long time, as did Martha. I loved playing, although I was certainly no virtuoso. I know I can only aspire to what God has given me, and I hope I did that. I had taken piano before guitar, and I didn’t enjoy it that much. I guess that has a lot to do with our desire to practice and get better. We all have natural likes and dislikes too. I’m just glad I liked to dive!

      Have a peaceful evening my friend,

    • Hi Sandi! You are such a comfort!

      I think I’ll make your comment my mantra. If I try, if I keep at it, I’ve achieved success. I really like that!

      God bless you,

  8. This is such great advice, Ceil. It’s not always easy to take pleasure in the practicing process, is it? In the Olympics, I especially enjoy the gymnastics. Such skilled, graceful balance and moves awe me. Seldom do we see how long it took them and how frustrating and painful the process was. All the getting back up again from the falls. I love hearing the background stories of some of the gymnasts, how much extra determination and perseverance they needed to rise from obstacles or poverty in their lives. This especially encourages me – “Be kind and gentle with yourself, knowing that good things eventually come with open eyes, open ears and a willingness to practice.” Thank you for inspiring me to enjoy the process. 🙂 Love and hugs to you!

    • Hi Trudy! I really like those background stories about the athletes too. What stamina and resilience they have! That’s why I included so many of the athlete’s quotes in the post. They really embody the ‘practice’ theme.

      Being kind to myself is something I have to practice too. It’s so easy to blame and get upset over mistakes. But how will I learn if I don’t try? Open eyes and ears will serve me well, and help me with the next try. Who knows? This time I just might make it!

      Love and hugs right back to you my friend,

  9. I agree with you that working hard and making the most of our opportunities is truly a universal truth. I’ve learned so much about individual healing this year. I get frustrated when I put so much effort into my knee exercises and sometimes I feel like I’m standing still in PT. Then one morning I wake up and can bend my knee much farther. It has been an experience I carry into many areas, not just physical! There is a time for breakthrough!

    • Oh Mary, I’m so glad! I remember my own experience in PT, but it wasn’t anything like you’re going through. Your rehab is so rigorous, I can’t blame you at all for feeling like it’s so hard.

      There is time for a breakthrough! I’m so glad you see some light, and a payoff for your practice. Can’t wait for the time when you can say that you are really flying! (I’m sure you feel that way too 🙂 )

      Thanks for sharing your hard-won experience,

  10. Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good. that works in our spiritual life too…all too often we don’t feel like reading our bible and then wonder why we feel empty. Good post sister, good one.

    • Hi Betty! Thank you so much for your lovely words. You are so right about it applying to our spirits too. God will show us the way, and bring us to him always, whether it seems like we’re ‘making it’ or not. Those are comforting words for sure.

      Have a peace-filled night my friend,

  11. What good advice! Why do I think I should automatically be good at doing some things, when most everything requires practice, even if it’s something God has gifted you in? I am going to remember this, and along with this, the reminder to be patient with others and myself!

    • Hi Mari! That’s for sure…just about everything requires practice! I really like that. You know those bumper stickers that say “student driver”? Yes, that’s someone who needs patience, and practice!

      Have a peaceful night,

  12. I am in this “Step 1-2-3” process right now with my Syrian neighbors. They are teaching me Arabic and I am teaching them English. We have had MANY moments of hilarious laughter on our approach to mastering the languages!

    • Hi Pam! I don’t think I’d be able to learn Arabic, it sounds hard! So glad it’s a fun experience, and the neighbors can laugh about it along with you.

      Yes, 1-2-3, and start over again. Pretty soon you’ll be able to converse and share your life in a new language 🙂

      Blessings on your new endeavor!!

  13. Hi Ceil, Thank you for this great reminder about the importance of practicing, practicing, practicing the itty, bitty steps to the overall goal. Your description of diving practice reminds me of practicing piano and singing. It’s the small things that end up making the biggest difference. The same is true in our spiritual lives–learning, growing, serving takes time and there is a clear growth process as we live for and serve the Lord!

    Blessings on your week,

    • Hi Kim! It is those small steps that add up, I think you’re right. Each time we practice, we’re closer to doing something well. And each time we pray, we get closer to the will and love of God. All great things!

      Do you still play piano? I took lessons as a child, but really liked guitar better. Too bad though, I wouldn’t mind being able to play a few songs on the piano.

      Have a wonderful week too my friend,

  14. Ceil, I really like this because anything new can be a bit daunting for me. These words are helpful here –> ‘don’t decide that it’s not for you if you’re not immediately successful. Just take a deep breath and try to enjoy the season of learning.’

    Some things take time, take practice. We have to be ready not to be perfect, not to have it all figured out. Be willing to make mistakes and look a little dumb.

    Enjoying the journey’s the key, isn’t it. And taking the pressure off ourselves to have arrived already.

    You’re such a wise encourager, friend … I’m grateful you’re in my world.

    • Hi Linda! I always think of JK Rowling. She tried and tried to get her first Harry Potter novel published. I forget how many publishers denied her, but I know it was over fifty. She never thought her work wasn’t good, and kept trying. What a great role model!

      I like how you said that taking pressure off is so important. We are where we are supposed to be, right now. God is in control, and he will bring us to the places we need to go. Enjoy it, yes! (Even when looking ‘a little dumb’!)

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment Linda. I’m thankful that we are connected too 🙂

  15. Love how used this analogy to show that it takes hard work to make things happen and that it may not happen quickly. As you said, usually doesn’t. My granny used to say that nothing beats a try but a failure and if you fail try again! Speaking of diving…girl, I never learned to dive. Now, I watch the grandbabies dive and they do an awesome job. Hugs and blessings to you dear friend.

    • Hi Cindy! Your grandchildren dive? How fun is that? I’d love it if a few of my grandchildren took it up.

      Love your Granny’s wisdom, she’s so right. Failure means it’s time to try again, not give up. If scientists gave up after failing at research, we’d never have the inventions and medications we have today.

      Have a wonderful Thursday,

  16. You right so poignantly Ceil, and I’m so thankful for the word that you chose to share today. I enjoyed your swimming practice parallel to our lives where many times we practice not knowing exactly what for but eventually it all comes together and make sense when we turn around and look back. Always such a blessing to visit with you and I pray that the Lord continues to bless your writing abundantly!

    • Hi Marilyn! I really like your insight about practicing for something, perhaps not really knowing where it will be used. That’s faith for sure. Finding out where it all leads, that’s the adventure of living.

      Thank you for your prayer for my writing. I could use it! I’ll pray for you and your photography…we can be prayer buddies!f

  17. What a great reminder! I never took diving lessons but loved your sentence: “But those dives start on the board. Fancy dives just don’t happen without a strong approach and a high bounce.” reminded me of my “high bounce rate” on google analytics. LOL. But seriously a great illustration about the importance of process and practice. We are all work in progress aren’t we?

    • Hi Jean! Again you teach me! I had to look up ‘bounce rate’, what an interesting statistic. But I don’t believe you have much of that, you write so well.

      Yes! Works in progress, I like that very much. Every day hopefully a little closer as I practice my approaches for a solid faith and follow-through.

      Have a happy weekend!

  18. Hi Ceil,
    Every day in our lives is written in His book before even one of them is formed, and His plans are for our welfare and not to harm us, so we should not really be worrying about anything should we? – but we do, and it is anxiety that comes into the carnal mind, even though the Lord tells us to be anxious for nothing.
    God bless.

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