Archive for August, 2009

Never stop learning

August 11, 2009

Learning is life.  Aliveness.  We are either learning, growing, evolving….or contracting, decaying, withering.  I’m not talking about learning a new tidbit while watching TV.  I am talking about stepping into discomfort, doing something you aren’t (yet) good, developing some new perspective or capacity.  All for the pure joy of feeling alive and thriving.  Draw a picture, learn an instrument, walk in your back yard and pay attention to the birds that live there, pick up a few words of your neighbors primary language, research something interesting on the web, learn to juggle.  It doesn’t matter what it is so long as you are learning.

When I was a kid one of my idols was Ringo Starr of the Beatles.  I wanted to play drums like I wanted to breathe.  I just had to.  For my 8th birthday my parents bought me a real snare drum.  They hired a college kid to give me lessons.  And guess what?  I discovered I have no natural sense of rhythm (something my wife will attest to when we hit the dance floor to this day!)  Learning felt painful, I wasn’t going to be the next Ringo Starr.  So I quit.  As I quit many other things that didn’t come easily or naturally.  Learning can be hard, scary, embarrassing or just plain boring at times.

But here is the thing.  All the research into brain development says that learning is critical for our health, joy, vitality, and overall well being.  Not long ago it was thought that the brain stops developing once we reach adulthood.  Now we know that simply is not true.  Our brains and bodies, our hands and our feet, they are all just longing to develop new neural pathways.  The process of learning keeps us young and vital.  And in order to learn we must develop our commitment and ability to step into the discomfort of doing something we aren’t already good at.

Learning is life.  Aliveness.  Just do it.

Questions:  What have you always wanted to learn?  What skill, language, idea or arena of knowledge have you thought would be fun or interesting?  For the sake of what would you continue to learn and grow?  How would you assess your ability to step into discomfort for the sake of learning something new?

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Less BRAKING, more TRUSTING

August 5, 2009

The Tour De France, the most grueling event in sports (2241 miles ridden over 3 weeks), completed last week with an exciting finish in Paris.  The British sprinter Mark Cavendish had won some sprint stages but had never won the final sprint into Paris.  He wanted it BAD!  As they riders approached the last corner before the final straightaway Cavendish was in a virtual tie with the other top sprinters.  Coming out of that turn, however, he launched into the lead and ended up winning by 20 yards — in a race where the victor usually wins by inches.

How did he do this?

Looking at the video it becomes clear.  Cavendish did not touch his brakes as he rounded that final corner while his competitors lightly touched their brakes to maintain a feeling of safety and to hedge their bets against crashing.  This reflects a commitment to win and a willingness to live with potentially negative consequences.  By not braking he ran a higher risk of crashing and losing, not to mention possible injury.

After watching this race I went mountain biking.  As I was riding, I noticed how often I was touching my brakes as I went into corners.  Occasionally this was a necessary check on my speed, but often this was merely a way to FEEL more comfortable.  So I began to experiment.  To my amazement I found that on about 75% of the corners I was braking unnecessarily.  Better yet, this resulted in greater speed, fluidity and JOY in the experience of riding!  Paradoxically, this did not make me more scared, it made me less scared.  Why?  Because less of my focus went into focusing on my fears.  Thoughts like: “oh boy, be careful here, you might be going to fast, look out for that obstacle…”  Instead, I placed my attention on trusting my body’s ability to set up for each corner with the appropriate speed.  As a general rule, we have more wisdom, knowledge, and capacity in our body than we tend to trust.

Questions: Where do you see that you are riding the brakes in your life?  Where are you playing it safe rather than playing to win?  What result do you stand for with such conviction that you would be willing to go for it rather than hedge your bets?  What would you be doing if you believed that you couldn’t fail and/or were willing to live with a few bruises?