It is still early days in my Triathlon career. As I write this in mid-October I have been in training for just three months. Living life as a triathlete has been a dream for a long time and so far, I could not be happier with how it is coming together.
After being invited to write a blog for TRI24|7 I realised that I do not know where this journey may lead, but one thing is for sure and that is: I am going to take this journey. This leads me to my philosophic topic for today. Just in case you don’t know me, I am old compared to most of my triathlete peers and it is from this aged perspective that I have re-learnt something in the last three months.
We/I often take it for granted that learning a new skill or set of skills such as triathlon requires an open mind. We need to be willing to learn. We need to have the inquisitive nature of a child and soak up the knowledge around us. Now here I am and I have already been around the block and around the world a couple of times, and I have already learnt a lot of stuff. I already know things. Perhaps you can remember coming across people who already know. It is very hard to teach these people anything new. Sometimes it is literally impossible. Sometimes you see these people and it is obvious they are stuck in the rut of their own knowing. Sometimes it is hard to see much because it is you that is stuck in the rut of your own habits and your knowingness. I have been in such a rut and I don’t want to say anything more about that.
As I turn towards the mirror of self-understanding I must be super careful that I do not let this pre- conceived attitude of knowing permeate my Triathlon relationships – I can’t afford to be closed off to new ideas and new learnings, I don’t have the time to waste. My overall goal in triathlon is simply to become the best athlete I can possibly become and then, if humanly possible, to maintain an ability to swim, cycle, and run until it is time to die. If I allow an attitude of ‘I know’, I cut off the ability to learn, I cut off the ability to realise my potential. Not only will my mind not allow new information into my understanding and practice, my coach and my peers will probably not offer anything that might help me.
As I was ruminating on this subject I realised that this problem of ‘knowing’ carries through to even the elite athlete level. This is not something that applies just to old fogies trying out something new. It applies to us all whenever we slip into that ‘knowing’ sense of superiority when we have become the expert or leader in some field. It even applies to some youngsters who get a little bit of knowledge and suddenly ‘know-it-all’.
Let me make my point with the example of an elite athlete. When you get to the elite level you are obviously the best or one of the best in your field. Does that mean you are as good as you can be? Hell no! My mother says there is a better way to do things. She refers to almost anything. If you want progress then discover what the better way is and do it. Just try it out and be curious about the results you get – and then watch out for the next development. This exemplifies what it means to be human in one way and that is we are infinitely inventive. If we set our minds to something, if we believe in the possibility, if we are as inquisitive as a child, if we are teachable, and then if we are willing to work really hard – for a long time, there may be no limit to what we can accomplish.
Finally let me acknowledge the complexity of learning the skills we need for triathlon – briefly. I say briefly because there are many books about developing as a triathlete. What is true and right at one time or for one person, can change and does. What is best practice in one situation or at a given stage of one’s career can change. There is some benefit to being old. I plan on using that benefit to understand change and then simplify it all down to allowing myself to act like a child. Be inquisitive, always learn, have fun and then go as fast as I can and see what happens.