A lot of emphasis is put on practicing – think of Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours maxim or something similar – in order to become better at what you do. Such emphasis is not without precedent; practicing is a necessary and essential component of becoming better at what you do. It is not, however, the only element. It’s one of the pieces in the puzzle of how you become a better writer, artist, engineer, et cetera.
The other, equally necessary component is learning from another person, usually another person within your field. If you are a writer, you talk with and study other writers as well as find an editor. If you are an engineer, you examine engineering schematics and seek an engineer who is further along in his or her career. If you are an artist, you review works, search for other artists, and learn from both.
The secret to working with such a person is to find a person who knows when to push and when to pull. It’s a person who can be encouraging even when being critical, i.e., a person who gives constructive criticism. It is not to find the best of the best within your chosen field or industry; sometimes, the best of the best are the worst teachers. They have forgotten what it is to be a learner, or they lord their knowledge above yours. No, you need to find a person who cherishes learning and who will treat you as a human being.
If you want to become better at what you do, you can’t simply practice. Practicing the same thing over and over again will not necessarily make you better at what you do. If want to become better, you have to do more than practice. You have to find someone who will teach and critique you.