This winter at swim practice, I was reminded of why the right teacher (or coach) matters.
I have been swimming- not professionally-- just for fun, while surfing and to chase fish in beautiful tropical locations.
After years of swim team, my strokes were always pretty good, but not improving.
At practice, the swim coach gave me 1 tip for each of my strokes that transformed them. I think both of us were a bit in shock. The right comment at the right moment can create an entirely new experience. I easily slid across the pool with my new backstroke. I could truly fly in my butter fly and breast stroke became the powerful stroke rather than the lazy one.
I thought everyone in the pool was faster because they were in better shape (well, they probably are) but in addition to this they have better strategies for moving more quickly across the pool with less effort.
He told me to go home and watch Rebecca Soni (pictured above) win the London Olympics and beat the women's world record.
Watching experts and being guided by experts can save us decades of solitary struggle. Why struggle?
Robbins teaches about the inevitable "plateau" that comes whenever we learn a new skill. We move quickly in the beginning stages and then inevitably plateau at some point. Many people just give up and move to the next sport, activity etc just to get the high of the initial growth. Achievers usually fight their way through to the next level. People committed to mastery, however, just understand and appreciate that plateaus are part of learning.
The most efficient way to move to the next level is not just to grind and fight your way through.. I probably make a greater splash when I move across the pool, but those other swimmers finish first.
With a good coach and practice I'll better be able to keep up. Or I can just keep exhausting myself.
I'm almost embarrassed to admit how many things I've accomplished by reading books on how to do it...I found a book on how to transfer colleges. It told me how to handle an admissions office that doesn't do interviews. The author recommended just getting someone on the phone and getting them excited about you. It worked, I got into Cornell.
But this is true for anything that matters to you: tennis, stocks, college admissions, languages...
Now, I do think some input is easier to take than others. My swimming changed so dramatically because I had so little attachment to my "old way" of doing the strokes. I made improving more important than being write.
In writing, for example, I can be more resistant. My written words feel more intimate...more representative of me. The trick is to send my writing along anyway-- take a deep breath and get ready for feedback.
So, this was just a little blog to encourage you to reach out for a coach in any area that matters for you. You may only need one lesson, session or meeting. You may want a package of 24. We can do this or just struggle on our own for the next 10 years. It's really our choice.
I made mine...
Sarah Federman, PhD
Enjoy these short blogs and videos designed to bring you a little cheer.
My other blog Language of Conflict addresses the importance of word choice and narration in conflict.
Finish and Flourish supports writers struggling to complete projects.