19 April 2007

Approaching Information & Intellectual Arrogance

This week, I'll share some thoughts on how we can best deal with information as well as ponder the concept of Intellectual Arrogance. As you see in our photo, the Easter Bunny was very good to me! Bob-the-Bunny is on my lap and the book at my side is Raising The Bar (Clif strikes me as one of a few nutrition companies that have our best interests at heart).

Tomorrow, I am off to the high desert to attend a clinic that is being hosted by Mitch Gold's Counterpart Coaching. Mitch is a great guy and I'm looking forward to spending a week with him and the campers. You can follow along on Mitch's Board. We had two lads from Ireland cancel on us at short notice so there are a couple of last minute slots open -- click through the camp link above to get details and Mitch's email.

I'm back in Boulder in early May and have been invited to a swim technique clinic at Boulder Elks Pool on May 12th (2-5pm). We'll work on swimming for the first two hours then have open Q&A (any subject) for the final hour. Cost is $45 for non-members and $20 for Elks Members. If you are interested then drop me an email and I'll send you registration details. For the Q&A discussion, Siri Lindley and, my wife, Monica have agreed to share thoughts with us.


Approaching Information

Have you ever felt uncomfortable when faced with clear feedback about your current situation (be it fitness, financial, family or social)? The areas that make us feel most uncomfortable are, often, the areas for greatest personal growth.

When I get uncomfortable information (tight cash flow, high overheads, shortfalls against projections, illness, injury), I look past the "data" and search for the cause. What can I change in my approach so that the externals (that might appear to be at fault) will no longer impact my performance?

Sitting here on Thursday afternoon, I'm nursing a niggle in my left soleus. It likely happened because I ran 100+ miles last week -- not Mark's idea, he suggested a cap at 90M (max). So, the injury provides me with a learning experience. A clear reminder about the importance of being able to "consistently do" and the risks of "over doing".

The North American Ironman season opened up this past weekend and, I imagine, that many athletes found themselves nursing injuries, illnesses, anxiety and infections that occurred just as they began to "rest". There is typically only one cause when rest is followed by stress bubbling to the surface -- you over-did-it.

When you look for a person that's likely to improve, look for self-evaluations that focus on what will be changed to improve.

Be wary of the temptation to focus on the (uncontrollable) externals that prevented a successful outcome. This pattern of thinking creates blockages to learning -- successful outcomes derive from doing our best despite external challenges. It is these challenges that offer us opportunity for meaning and learning. It's normal to be a bit scared, what you do about it is what matters.

Under performance in competition (relative to training) is most often due to the combination of over-preparation and under-execution. You tried too hard. You may have lost your opportunity for a great race, but you can still grasp the opportunity for learning. In this situation, I like Joe Friel's advice that the only difference between a good race and a poor race is that we can learn more from a poor race.

I've certainly been there myself.
...I've blown whole seasons trying to get "fast" for a single competition...
...I've started ultramarathons at Half Marathon race pace...
...I've ignored sixty minutes of flashing heart rates at the start of a TT...
...I've convinced myself that "I'm different" only to be (forcefully) reminded that, actually, good advice seems to work pretty well for me.

A good advisor helps us see the difference between what we think we should do and what we can absorb. Mark's key (physiological) advice to me centers around maximizing what I absorb, rather than what I complete. That is a fundamental shift in my approach.

The focus on absorbing (with specific overload periods) requires a lot of discipline. In the coming weeks I'll share ideas on how this concept impacts Working Athlete Periodization as well as "Grip Tips" (the few areas where Mark has given me specific guidance).


Intellectual Arrogance

One of the neat things about having worked with so many great athlete-coaches is that I get to hear each of them describe the other. Of course, I am hearing all of this through my personal filters, dogmas and biases!

Scott likes to point out that there can be a large variation between "what I hear" and "what he said". If you work with remote advisers (or clients) then count on half the message going missing each time. I'm working more and more with a combination of written with verbal follow-up, especially with my clients/co-workers that don't like to read!

While, my mentors share a deep respect for each other, there is often a current of "...but MY way is RIGHT" lurking beneath the surface. I see this as an element of effective leadership (or sales). Acknowledgement that other methods can be effective but a total commitment to the chosen protocol. Early in my finance and athletic careers, I lacked the experience to see any merit in alternative approaches. I had commitment without tolerance -- I was intellectually arrogant. This blindness slowed my learning and reduced my success. Fortunately, I was assisted by first-class mentors that demonstrated that change was essential for development.

Drucker's paragraph, about believing that being bright substitutes for knowledge, described me perfectly at the start of my first career (see link in last week). In 1990, a very good friend even warned me that I wasn't as smart as I thought that I was. It took five years (!) of hubris to learn that lesson -- it still pops up in my personal life!

I can remember emphatically explaining to someone that "being nice was lame" and "ultimately, all that matters is results". You can still hear that talk in elite athletics as well as international finance. When we are batting 1.000 that may be the case. However, we all take a few lumps and that's when compassionate co-workers (or family) can help. Nothing like a set-back to make one appreciate friends.

I'm still working on identifying my current intellectual biases -- they're so much easier to see (then share...) in others! Perhaps I'll ask Monica once I have overcome my reluctance for clear feedback on my current situation...

Back next week,



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