Friday, August 15, 2008

Being coachable

Being Coachable: How to excel through the lost art of listening

In the late 1960's, a young man was completing his second year of rigorous martial arts training and due to relocation of his family, was about to leave his training facility.
He had learned some very hard lessons there under the instruction of a very capable instructor.
One thing he learned from this man before heading to his new location was to always seek out the best instructors available and to train against the toughest competitors. That young man listened to that advice and acted on it.
I know, because that was me.
Fast forward to 2008, I am still acting on that advice, and it has served me well. Am I the best in the world? No.
Am I the best I could possible be at this time? Yes, for now.
So why do I bother almost 40 years later to seek improvement, often times from coaches and trainers who weren't even born when I began my training? It's simple, they know more than I do and are better at what I want to learn about.
Have I "looked bad" over the years as I was learning new things? Of course, in fact, I looked worse than that when I started each new thing. I didn't stay that way, though, I gave myself permission to "fail forward"(I borrowed that phrase from author, John Maxwell).
I've learned several key points during my journey, like keeping my mouth shut while my coach is teaching me or correcting me on something. Actively listen and actually hear what he is saying. The old cowboy/philosopher, Will Rogers, said, "Never miss a good chance to shut up." That advice is solid.
Another key point is, don't let your critics impede your progress. Often this will be so-called friends (who probably have never trained) or even family members. A "thick skin" is a good thing to have when you encounter these people.
They can make noise, but you don't have to listen. Unasked for advice is usually worth what you paid for it, nothing.
This is one of my favorite quotes on that subject:

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat." --Teddy Roosevelt

If you are a trainer or a coach and you have extremely capable people you are training, they may pass you in performance. In fact, you should be encouraged when they do; that means you are training efficiently.
Keep in mind I believe that a coach or trainer should train hard as long as there breath in his body. Don't give them a victory, make them take it from you through hard, smart, effective training and a burning desire to excel.
The man I was originally talking about at the start of this article is Van Canna, who is nearing 70 years old, and still trains himself, as well as instructs others in the Boston area.
Another good example is Steve Maxwell. Talk about a man of iron, Maxwell is for sure, and in his mid-50's would put many young men to shame with his athletic abilities.
One last point is this: don't just learn from people who think just like you. You don't have to like a person's worldview, politics, religion, etc. but if they are better at something you want to learn, respect them as a human being and humbly take their advice.
It's time to workout isn't it? Let's go!

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