Back in August, I watched a lot of Olympics coverage. Actually, I’m obsessed with the Olympics — especially the swimming. It’s insane how incredibly fast these athletes move across the pool and how many world records fell in this sport. I’ve read the stories about the NASA-developed swimsuits and the world-class pool designed for less turbulence. But beyond all the science and improvements in the “stuff,” don’t forget that these are world-class athletes who trained for this moment nearly all their lives.

Technology versus training — why does it have to be one or the other? It’s the combination of the two that makes athletes better at what they do. And these two factors contribute to success in our industry as well. We can all be better at our jobs with advances in technology. But even with the latest and greatest products, you need to train continually to improve your skills.

First, there’s an obvious need for training that comes with learning how to use the new products and systems. Each brand or product group has specific conditions under which it performs best. And you need to learn exactly what those conditions are. For every advance in technology, there’s a new bit of training that needs to be done.

But this isn’t all I mean when I say training. I also mean practice.  Repetition. The more you do something, the better you will be at it. For you, that might mean acrylic or gel application. It might mean finishing work. Practice will make your service times faster (which in turn will make you more money by allowing you to book more appointments). Practice will improve your skills (which in turn will make you a more sought-after nail technician). And practice will make you more confident in what you’re doing (which in turn will make you a better all-around nail tech).

When Lynn Lammers came to do the nails for this month’s cover, she was wearing a set of the nails she was going to do on our cover model. She also had created a number of nail tips with slight variations. In addition to practicing the design on herself and on nail tips, she did a set on a willing “practice dummy.” And because she had practiced, she knew exactly what she was doing when the model sat down at her table. She practices her nail designs before every competition. No wonder she landed the top spot on this year’s NAILS Top 25 list.

And you don’t have to limit practice to technical skills. Have you ever practiced what you were going to say to a client, say, when you decided to raise your prices? Or maybe you practiced a pep talk you were going to give your staff. Sometimes this kind of practice, or role-playing, is more difficult than the repetition of doing set after set of nails. But it can be just as, or more, beneficial in the long run.

Without new technology, you wouldn’t be able to advance the industry. But without practice, you won’t be able to perform the new skills. I think Olympic gold-medal swimmer Cullen Jones summed it up best when he said, “The swimsuit isn’t getting up at 5 a.m. to practice.”

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