23 March 2008

Teachers and Students


The Endurance Corner team is in Tucson, Arizona this week for our first of two spring training camps. I love the desert -- no bugs, cool at night and plenty of sunshine.

Coach KP and I were swapping ideas about learning and teaching this past week. We shared a few observations that came from thinking about how open (or closed) I have been to new ideas across my triathlon career.

Being open to new ideas, means being open to change. Change is uncomfortable. As an adviser, most of my clients come to me seeking reassurance that there is no need for change (a lot of time that motivates me as well). We are open to guidance, so long as it consists of digging deeper into our existing patterns.

How often do we say to a teacher, "I hope you are not trying to tell me there is a problem."

Most often we see the need to change as a problem when it is an opportunity for success.

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A few years back, I read that Tiger Woods decided to change his golf swing. At the time he was the best golfer on the circuit, yet he saw the need to change. I know very few experts that would be willing to completely learn a skill that is fundamental to their identity. The true master's commitment is to excellence, not the current way of doing things.

It is the rare expert that is open to change -- not only did Tiger see the need to change but he had the self-awareness to figure this out on his own. Most of us require stress, failure or some other external input to indicate that change might be required.

The trap of expert knowledge. Of being smart enough, good enough, fast enough -- it can be useful (but painful) to get outside of the familiar from time to time.

Here at our Tucson camp, the group environment takes all of us outside of the familiar, it can be uncomfortable at times. At our first dinner KP spoke of his experience at being the strongest athlete at a camp, as well as, the weakest athlete at a camp. He says that it can be emotionally uncomfortable when we are out-gunned. However, in getting through those situations, we can emerge stronger.

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Early in my career, I remember thinking that simplicity was a sign of ignorance -- and -- having a strong desire to constantly demonstrate my complex knowledge to my teachers and the world at large. My coaches found my intensity entertaining -- I was fortunate for their patience!

The master teachers that I have worked with make the complex simple -- they help their students focus on the key elements. As the student becomes an expert, he sees more and more complexity. One of my drivers for simplification is to make sense of all the options that are available. Another is seeing that there are a few themes that underpin the wide range of protocols that are applied by successful people.

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History tells me that I know less than I think
We each need to live our own experience
Remain open so my students can remind me what I don't know
Remember that my goal is to help my students not live for them

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This blog is a few days late (we've been training) so that is enough for now.

Until next week,
gordo

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