Scene is the pool. Swim Coach is on the deck. Eager Swimmers are standing in the deep end hanging on every word Swim Coach says.
Swim Coach: The difference between you guys here in lane 2 and those guys in lane 8 is they can hold their technique under duress.
Confused Yet Eager Swimmers Continue to Stare at Swim Coach….
Swim Coach: For you to improve you need to practice your technique to the point where you can do it under duress. To the point where it just happens naturally. This takes work. Hard work. It is the difference between you and them.
Eager Swimmers Start To Get It But Keep Staring at Swim Coach….
Swim Coach: You need to use your warm-up sets to practice technique over and over again. You need to build your muscle and mental memory. And now you’re going to swim under duress so you understand what I’m talking about.
Eager Swimmers Start to Sweat and Stop Making Eye Contact with Swim Coach…
And for the next 1,000 meters the swimmers swim under duress. And slowly but surely, the cracks float to the surface. One swimmer who shall remain anonymous learns her open turns really aren’t great when under duress. In fact it turns out that her open turns are downright terrible under duress. This same anonymous swimmer learns that when under duress her head falls off and she forgets everything she was practicing a mere 15 minutes earlier in the warm-up.
This motivates this anonymous swimmer to get better and to keep on practicing. Turns out this swimmer likes swimming enough that she appreciates the value of being under duress.
Hint – those athletes we cheer on during the Olympics who make their sport look effortless, the musicians we watch perform in front of thousands of people night-after-night, the journalists reporting from the scenes of terrible horrible devastation and loss, the author who keeps churning out best sellers, or that person you know who just keeps on going and doing and doesn’t seem to ever stop – well, they all got there the exact same way.
And now think of how this applies to you on a day-to-day.
Maybe, like me, you rearrange the letters of the alphabet over and over again every single day (hint – you create word magic for a living). This is not easy. You were not born being able to do this everyday all day. It took practice. It took patience. It took learning. It took doing it badly to slowly get to doing it really well.
I am not an expert in this – of course.
But here’s the thing – I am not naturally talented at anything. I’m not a natural athlete. I’m not a natural writer. I’m not one of those lucky people who was good at that thing the minute they tried it.
I am a natural at stick-to-itness. I am a natural at wanting to be better. I am a natural at not letting go. This has gifted me the ability to perform under duress.
Taekwon-do – definitely not a natural. But I have a first degree black belt and competed at the 2003 ITF World Taekwon-Do Championships.
Cyclocross – definitely not a natural. But I raced at the 2010 World Cyclocross Championships.
Writing – definitely not a natural. But this is how I make a living.
I kept at it. Until, like those guys in lane 8 – I could do it under duress.
What does this all mean? I have no idea really. I just had to get this thought out of my head.
And because every search engine likes a blog with a photo, here’s three random but connected photos.