Never practice becoming old

“Practice makes perfect.” That’s what your mother said when it was time to sit down at the piano.
And what your father said when you first learned to bat a ball.
Although they probably didn’t know it, your parents were quoting an old proverb dating back more than 2,000 years.
We’ve known for a long time the importance of continuous practice. The excellent ones never stop doing it. Whether it’s violin or trumpet, football or soccer, whether it’s baking airy popovers or making perfect desert crepes, practice is what it takes to excel.
A 70-year-old man was asked recently what he’d like to accomplish before he reaches 100. His answer was simple and easy: “Drive a straight golf ball.”
And he can do it, if he practices.
I still remember the beautiful young blonde pianist 30 years ago in Edmonton. She played like few budding musicians and the whole city wanted to listen. Her mother was a friend and one time I raved about her talented daughter.
“Not talent,” the mother corrected. “Practice.”
Then she went on to admit that maybe it was 10 percent talent, but mostly she said, “It’s hard work.” Long hours of practice with few vacation days.
It’s almost scary what practice can do. Creating excellence where none existed before.
Way back in the fifth century B.C., Confucius said, “By nature, men are nearly alike; by practice, they get to be wide apart.”
More recently, George Burns lamented that people practice the wrong things. Especially when it comes to aging.
Burns saw retirement as dangerous. “When you have all that time on your hands, you think old, you act old. It’s a mistake. I see people who, the minute they get to be 65, start rehearsing to be old.”
I like the 1970s television show “The Odd Couple” and watch it whenever possible. In one episode, Felix (the hypochondriac) met his high school sweetheart—only to discover she had turned into a grandmother.
That’s all it took to make Felix feel “old.” Desperately old!
In no time at all, Oscar had caught the bug. At first, the pair tried to live it up–acting like silly teenagers. But when that didn’t work, they took to the couch. Sitting in their robes, watching television, lamenting their certain demise.
Murray the cop could take it only so long. At first he tried to cheer them up but when they insisted on staying old, he stormed out the door, stopping on the way to say, “You know something, you guys make me sick–sitting there like Ma and Pa Kettle.
“You ought to be arrested for impersonating the elderly.”
I think Confucius had it right. We all start out pretty close together but by practice, we get to be wide apart.
Take retirement, for example. It’s something our society expects, so we’re all caught in the trap, but that’s no excuse for impersonating the elderly.
You might say we’re all on equal ground at the point of retirement, or for that matter at any other given age. But once we choose a goal and begin practising it, our paths will diverge.
Oscar and Felix saw only two options—the wild dancing of youth or the soothing rocking chair of old age. What they totally missed was the practice of investing energy in life and forgetting the calendar.
You can be sure of one thing: nobody is going to arrest you for impersonating old age. But on the other hand, don’t ever make the mistake of practising something you don’t want to become.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at