Gradient: the secret to learning

We were made to walk up stairs the other day. First one step at a time then back down. Then two steps at a time, back down. All in a long snake we walked, round and round. Some of us managed four, some had to grab onto the hand rail to manage, others gave up… I happen to have long legs so I managed 5 steps at a time, just. (I am not saying this to brag just that in this particular situation I have an advantage.)

Now I am not sure if I hurt my hip…

That there is gradient at its finest.

We all want to grow and improve (for the sake of this argument let’s call taking more steps improvement).

The thinking goes that if we are not improving then we are going backwards. Mainly because the world is growing around us so we need to do something to keep up. (Humor me for a moment here.)

Compared to whom?

We all run races, get marks at school, compare salary packages and compare cars. The problem with races is that ultimately there can only be one winner and by extension everybody else is a loser. OK marketing has sold us that you too can be a winner “in your age group” or that 50% is still a pass. But ultimately we are comparing ourselves to the dude who gets 7 A’s. (Is that even still the benchmark?)


The problem is if we try to improve purely on sporting times and positions we ultimately are forced to accept that unless we win, we lose. So winning becomes everything and inevitably we end up with a sport full of cheats from the top down.  And not many nice people left.

So what does this #winning mean to you?

At the end of last year I did a race series of 6 events. I slowly refined my strategy and technique every week. I mostly lead from the gun (or tried to) and then would get dropped in the last third. This was the fourth race. I was right on target, my target. 500m to go and I was still in the lead. It was working. I was in the zone. I was winning. Then he came past me. My parachute opened and I was done. That Friday afternoon I did the best I could and still got beaten by another athlete. I hope he heard me congratulate him as he disappeared into the distance. I never went back to toe the line. I had been in the zone very briefly but that was enough, in fact I think I had my perfect race and I was super happy with that. I did not hit my target time either but all I had was that feeling and that was enough for me.

Even if I broke the tape I would probably not have a better race so I stopped.

Few understand why I have not been back.

For me it is on to new horizons and hopefully onto new learning.

We forget to compare ourselves only to our former selves and get caught up in trying to outdo our neighbours and not improve. The problem then is that we lose ourselves in other’s agendas.

I am not immune to this and I catch myself trying to keep up with the Jones’ on a daily basis.

The real trick is to work out who I am, where I am and then plot my trajectory from there.

I encourage you to do the same!

2 thoughts on “Gradient: the secret to learning

  1. Pingback: STFD | leo rust

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