When I used to work as a surgical nurse, people would ask me, “So, you’ve seen a lot of surgeries. Do you think you could do one, you know, like in another country, or in an emergency or something?”

Sometimes I’d respond by asking if you could think you could play a cello if you watched a lot of concerts.

Highly skilled tasks take years of repetitive training, often with close mentoring from a master. There’s a running joke about how “easy” surgery is: “See one, do one, teach one.” Hah! Not even close.

I like the saying, though. It reminds me that it isn’t enough for my students, my children, or anyone I happen to be training to simply watch me do a task over and over again. They have to be given the opportunity to actually do it: supervised until basically competent–and then unsupervised so they can develop independent thought processes–having to figure it out without the mentor there to rescue them.

Then, if they can transition to teach the next person, they’ll learn even more.

The process is often awkward and slow…often frustrating to the point of wanting to revert back to a previous stage. But it’s also super rewarding to see your mentees mentoring others. Hang in there. You can do it.