Lessons from the Learning Curve

World Cup Nordic Skiers in a Freestyle Race
Yesterday I got to go out with my kids to their Nordic Ski Team practice. Sunday is the best kept secret because the practices are optional and most of the time hardly anyone shows up. I’ve been Nordic skiing for over 20 years (probably more like 30 if I think about it) and not too bad of a skier but I realized some amazing things that ring true for most areas of our lives:
  1. Sometimes there is no substitute for professional advice, coaching, or services.
    • There are lots of things we can and should do on our own and have a basic set of skills. Good example is we all should know how to change a flat tire – yes, we can make a choice if we want to call and have someone else do it, but we all need to know how to do it. In this case, I am referring to the idea that while we may have basic skills in an area, it usually takes an expert to dissect what they see us doing and give us pointers on how to improve. In my case, I wasn’t gliding enough and also not extending my pole stroke back far enough. Those two little changes probably improved my skiing 25-30% just through simple technique adjustments. Same goes for anything we do.
  2. The biggest improvements come from intense focused efforts.
    • While we spent a great deal of time skiing, we also only worked on 3-4 different things that were designed to improve our efficiency and speed. Any more and we may have been overwhelmed with too many things to consider. You’ve heard of paralysis by analysis right? That’s it. By drilling down to a few things and getting them committed then we can move on to more refinement or skill and continue our journeys rather than getting 20 things to juggle and not get good at any part of it.
  3. In order to make considerable improvement (in anything) you have to build skills step by step and really want to get better
    • This may be two different things, but then again, maybe not. Isn’t there something about how you need to walk before you can run. Something like that….anyhow, I know I fall into the trap of wanting to be proficient at everything I do from the start and if I am not I usually abandon ship pretty quickly. Totally wrong – 100%. One cannot have expert skills without first working through the foundational building blocks. Doctors have years of education, training, and on-hands experience before you ever have a chance to see them. Why do we fall into the trap of thinking we need to be experts in things straight away?
    • To improve, we really have to want to improve and put focus and effort toward it. You can call it motivation if you like, but remember that motivation is fleeting and abandonment is easy when we build around it. We need to dig deeper than that to move beyond the average and become experts.
  4. The right fuel, direction, and motivation will always lead you to the desired result if you put in the matching effort.
    • The key to this is the matching effort. Consistent, forward moving effort is the only thing that will keep us improving. It is so easy to hide behind an industry certification or license, or even past results, but to really move forward with authority we REALLY have to want to be better and put the time and effort in, because it will not just happen by wishing to happen.
  5. Change is always uncomfortable, but without making those changes we all all destined to stay static in whatever we’re working on.
    • Staying in old habits or falling back into old habits is troublesome and so easy to dislike the discomfort of change enough to go right back and ditch the idea of getting better and months later even forget we had that desire. Nothing good ever came from not pushing ourselves as people. If nobody ever pushed forward from where they were we’d still be lighting with candles and riding horses & wagons for transportation for example.

A few hours of skiing (or anything that you resonate with) can translate to a great deal of personal insight. Time to move on to improving on something else I’m not super comfortable with.