Insert catchy title here

I recently read this article by James Clear. 

So if success is linked to grit then why do we spend all this time wanting to find our passion?

Why not develop our grit? Why not spend time developing our staying power?

Well maybe because we believe the short cuts we are sold.

If only we have enough talent, if only we discover our talent, if only we find the magic pill, if only…

And it starts with small things. Daily rituals that lead to long term gains over short term potential losses. It starts with brushing our teeth. And then flossing! Ah here is already the rub. Who misses out on this part? Then we make our bed. Once we can do that we can try to do square breathing for 32 days continuously. Then maybe we can move onto the important stuff. Oh but hang on is the really important stuff not developing grit. So floss every day. 

And finally for those who want the full research article to back this all up:

“… these findings suggest that the achievement of difficult goals entails not only talent but the consistent application of talent over time” Angela Duckworth

Questions

Some of us have seen this article before. Either way it is worth paying attention to again.

What it illustrates is that we make assumptions all the time. We are wired that way. Our brain creates gaps in perception to free up space. We don’t notice the blanks because we fill them in. The problem is that these filled in blanks are sometime simply not true. Ultimately we make an assumption. A statement of sorts.

We assume a truth and do not consider for a moment that this might not accurately represent the situation. By stating “the road is clear” we must, on some level have asked “is the road clear?” However few of us consider that question. “Is it really clear?”

Actually we should be asking questions. Of our own reality and how others perceive theirs.

What a strange assumption to think that our “reality” is true for others too.

Without drifting too far from the cycling theme we could argue that the “gap” we require to navigate a given road safely may have completely different dimensions to that perceived by a driver.

Maybe instead of the statement: “The roads are unsafe”

We should rather ask: “How can we make roads safer”

Even better still: “What can I do to make my ride safer and more pleasant for all concerned”

That is taking responsibility and therein power.

STFD

Unlike HTFU the above acronym does not have its own line of clothing, incorporated into The Rules or being throw about on your average coffee ride. You won’t even find it on Google.

Meanwhile every magazine cover has their version of the “12 weeks to your best Ironman”. Completely unrealistic time lines and gradients to get a result out of yourself.  Beyond yourself.

In contrast Jiro Ono requires his apprentices to train for 10 years plus, go through 200 plus attempts at the simple egg sushi before the standard is reached. That is no mean feat and separates the men from the boys. It seems that your 10 000h is only the entry exam. Ultimately there are no short cuts.

The focus is on process. The struggle is real only if you lose focus and think of the end result.

Meticulous attention to what you are doing every day. In your training, relationships and life.

If you have to compare, compare yourself to yesterday. Compare yourself to the process.

A friend of mine recently did her first 5km, then 10km and now is steadily increasing mileage to complete her first half marathon. We have all been there. If we are honest we have all faced the inevitable collapse in some form or other. Some injury or other forced us to slow down. Or we have lost enthusiasm and taken up chess.

So why not Slow The F… Down?

Rather than building the highest sky scraper in town as quickly as possible build a solid foundation. Meticulous attention to every detail. Building an unshakeable base. Building something solid. Doing the best you can before moving on.

Why not try to run your best 10km before moving on?

Oh “Because it is hard!” you say. Well is that not the point.

Maybe STFD does not mean take it easy, quite the opposite. It means do the work, all the work. You have a life of progress ahead of you.

Mentors

Thanks Rosemary for posting this on twitter. And thanks Linda for posting.

Running is a great leveler. We are stripped down to our takkies and running shorts and we are all equal. We start at the start line of a race and we are all one. Even after the gun goes off we are equal. And so it goes. Yes one person wins and others follow. In reality though there is always somebody who is faster (and by definition slower) than us. The title of winner is very fleeting. And in this realisation we are all equal. In this equality we have the opportunity to support.

I look up to those faster than me and support those behind me. Knowing full well that tomorrow the roles can be very different.

In the same way every teacher has a teacher who has a teacher.

Every mentor has a mentor has a mentor.

It matters not if the runner in front of me knows that I admire (and emulate) their style. It changes nothing for them. And so it should with mentors.

Knowing that others look up to us offers us a great responsibility though. To be the best we can be.

For ourselves.

To go the extra mile. To be the mentor we would like to be.

This is an opportunity given to each of us.

Grab it with both hands!

In a garden as in life

IMG_4839I walked in my garden yesterday. I noticed some early spring buds pushing through.

A tree grows a millimetre at a time. A leaf unfolds little by little. A great gardener trims a little here, a little there. All relative to what is in front of him. He deals with reality. Takes an action then steps back and observes the effect before deciding on the next step. To do it any other way would result in a mess.

We however set lofty goals. Goals that stretch us. (remember the slogan “If a goal does not scare you then it is not worth having as a goal” or something like that). Often these goals are just out of reach, just that little bit too far. We tell ourselves that this is cool. Certainly our friends applaud us for this.

We become over committed publically and personally, (sometimes financially even) and hence we resort to shortcuts. Take running races for example. We overtrain because race day is just around the corner. We take pain killers because we are not up to the task.

Is it not better to look at what is and consider the next step, whatever that may be.

Thanks to James Clear for your inspiration here

Swimming – A case for Life Coaching

swimSix years ago I could not swim. Well actually I thought I could swim. To my best knowledge I could do it.
‘I certainly was not as good as those pros but I can swim’ I kept telling myself. 
I had learnt from my dad who had learnt in the Namibian desert. Go figure.
He called it farm dam swimming: breast stroke with your head well above the water line. ‘What is the problem?’ I thought.
I was in my mid 30’s when I started dating a swimmer and was exposed to a whole bunch of ‘pro’ swimmers. Guys and girls who were successful and did tumble turns and all that.
Suddenly what I had been trying to wish into reality (that I could in fact swim) was shown up for the illusion that it was.
The problem with people who are good at something however is that they often don’t know how to pass that knowledge on.
So I sought the help of a coach. Somebody who had studied how to teach. The Total Immersion drills felt awkward at first and it took  me ages to master them. I studied notes, got videos, watched on line…
In fact after the initial weekend intro course I religiously practised at the Sea Point Pavilion.
I did not have access to any other pool as I was not a gym bunny so logistics were an issue.
One afternoon at the start of winter Ryan Stramrood and some of his ‘pro’ buddies arrived in the lane next to mine. I was super excited to share the pool with real heroes who had swum The English Channel and stuff. My excitement did not last very long after I got out of the water as I got quite hypothermic on the drive home due to the cold.
I migrated to warmer waters at the Long Street Baths before I finally got a Virgin Active membership. At this stage I was still just doing drills. Not real swimming. I can’t remember when I actually managed to swim a whole length of the pool non stop. I was ecstatic and I was determined.
I knew this was the way. The only way for me to get it right. I would come home and proudly state that I had done 20 lengths, then 30, then 40. The point is I made progress. I was working on technique quite hard and just generally relaxing in the liquid environment. I was working on the skills that allowed me to progress. The same way building a foundation looks pretty boring and unimpressive until at some point the concrete sets and the walls shoot up above the ground. So too there was a time when that was not enough. I would have to work on fitness. Finally I joined squad. I was put in the slow lane, next to the wall. This was quite welcome as I could grab it in panic.
The point is I slowly improved and Viv gave me great pointers. My swimming volume increased dramatically and a new norm was laid.
I started doing the Clifton Mile and got comfortable in the sea. with a wet suit of course. The point is I was trying to become a triathlete so there was no need to endure the cold.
I sought out Neil Macpherson’s endless pool of hell. The drills he gave me lifted my stroke like nothing else. If you want to ever bring yourself down to reality then I can highly recommend a splash with Neil. The drills WILL lift your game if your ego can take the beating that is.
Learning is all about accepting where you are at and having the determination to improve from there, no matter how small the improvement. As long as you are going in the right direction, you are going in the right direction. Those improvements stick.
One of the first triathlons I did was in Durbanville at the start of winter. The ‘warm up’ was a disaster as it had the opposite effect. The water was far too cold. Finally we swam our one lap and I got out the water and promptly fell over as I was not accustomed to the change in body position. Ear plugs sorted that out. They were a crutch that I used willingly but deep down inside I knew that I would have to learn to cope without them at some point. many years later I left them behind too.
We were well on our way to training for the BIG DANCE when we did a training weekend in Fisherhaven. The swim across the lagoon was supposed to be 2 – 3km in total. It turned out to be that distance to half way! The worst was I swam by myself. It was not fun to be left way behind by my wife and paddler at the time but the lesson was a good one. If I could survive that then I would survive the swim at Ironman.
Each new level of competence brings a plateau. We have the choice to enjoy it and wallow or challenge ourselves to a new level, whatever form that may take. As we gain more competence we have the option to learn new things and constantly be challenged. Or we stagnate.
I am not singling out any one intervention as a game changer. It was putting the right thing in at the right time. The  fact that my stimulus was just the right intensity every step of the way led me to cope with each challenge rather than hit overwhelm.
I could not have gotten to where I am now if it had not been for a coach (or every single coach I have had actually) to guide and steer me in the right direction. Constantly giving insight and reflection. I took everything on board and took what I could use and discarded what I could not.
[I still remember being asked to practice tumble turns on the lawn. At the time a stimulus too far (by no fault of my coach at the time!!) I just hate water up my nose and as such I don’t tumble turn.]
What if we embraced the same growth mindset in life issues? How much better could we perform? Who do you have to reflect you accurately, to point out areas of improvement, to push, to prod?
Post script:
I am now swimming in lane 2 with Gary. He still gives me pointers in more sessions than not. I know where I am at and I continue to seek. I know I am on a plateau with swimming. I am OK with that only because I am doing huge growth in other areas of my life. I will get back to actively looking at my stroke in the future. There is no rush.
Now when we get a warm up of 40 lengths it is not something completely out of the ordinary.

Wendy

You sat in the middle of the room. Surrounded by people. A guru to us all. Many considered you a dear friend. Wrapped in your blanket on this sunny day. There were too many. I stood outside. I felt something was wrong. Only got to touch your shoulder as you sat there princess like. All the fuss going on a round you for your 70th. It was a Saturday.

Later when all the cake had gone a handful stood around.

You got up from your room. The birds were calling you, you said.

And then you were gone. I heard the news on Monday. There would be no class, no follow on. No weekly gathering. Everything had changed. You were the glue to the whole gathering of a week  ago. And now the glue was gone.

I danced with the bears when they scattered you in Tokai.

I thank you for shining the light.

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti