“The more I read, the more that I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing.” – Voltaire
“Learning never exhausts the mind.” – Leonardo Da Vinci
“Belief gets in the way of learning.” – Robert A. Heinlein
Without question, many different elements need to come together for any athlete to reach their true potential. In this series, I’m sharing four “secrets” that I believe have separated Susan Ford from many of her peers. Clearly though, the list could contain more than four, so my goal is to go beyond the more obvious aspects (that you might already be aware of as essential for success) and focus on those that might come as a surprise, that you might not have considered, or perhaps most likely, that you yourself have UNDER-estimated.
For example, most are aware that consistency is essential for long term success. In a recent article on the Training Peaks blog, calling consistency the #1 rule of endurance training, Coach Jim Vance said “the number one most important rule of training, which is often forgotten, is consistency. There is no training program or workout any coach can devise that can make up for a lack of consistency in training. The higher your goals are as an athlete, the more important consistency is.” I might argue that the only way one can be consistent is to be moving well and be durable, but his point is well taken. In a very real way, consistency is an integral part of long term durability and thus success as well.
Another obvious element is being enthusiastic and enjoying the training process. It is impossible to reach your potential when you don’t enjoy the training process. Figuring out more creative ways to bring fun into your training and racing routine is critical for long term success. Susan is definitely enthusiastic and truly enjoys her training. She brings a smile and an eagerness to every training task, many more days than not, and that is saying a lot.
There are many other factors that are important for exploding your potential. Beyond these elements which include being consistent in training and enthusiastic about training lies the next “secret” I’d like to share with you…
Secret #3: To explode your potential, embrace life-long learning.
Don’t look for knowledge, experience, wisdom or speed to trickle down on you like magic pixie dust.
To truly grow requires you embrace active learning. Active learning requires mindful engagement, experimentation, practice, tenacity and a willingness to make mistakes, all with an enthusiastic smile.
Life Long: From the very first day that I spoke with Susan and began to work with her as her coach, she has shown an insatiable thirst to learn! And it hasn’t just been her desire to learn that separates her from many others, she has also grown to understand that learning has no beginning and no end, and it isn’t passive. She’s not satisfied with being “exposed to” information, she has always wanted to dig in and rip it apart, seeking to separate the junk from the quality, the marketing hype from the meat. She’s truly a life-long learner.
Active vs. Passive: She knows the only true path to learning that brings value and will help create the future she wants, is to not only read about it and ask questions about it, but also to try it, experiment with it, engage in it fully, dig deeper into it. In his book, “The Sourcebook for Teaching Science,” author Norman Herr presents two very different models of learning, one active and one passive. In a passive model, students are simply “expected to record and absorb knowledge," vs. an active model, in which students are expected to “care deeply about their own education, learn to monitor and discuss their own learning, and collaborate with other students to discover and construct a framework of knowledge that can be applied to new situations.”
Humility: To truly learn requires being humble and open minded. I’ve seen many an athlete who believes they know "all they need to know," and along the way, use their own “confirmation bias” to shut down any chance to really grow, improve and learn. Susan always approaches a topic she wants to know more about as a beginner. She opens her mind with very little confirmation bias, and from there, opportunity to learn and grow abounds. Above all else, she understands one thing that very few endurance athletes do: the ability to reach our ultimate potential mirrors our desire and ability to learn more.
Work smarter, not just harder: As a coach, I’ve seen so many athletes over the years who decided that working “hard” in their “own way” was the best path toward improving. People who think like this will always under-achieve long term. You’ve all heard the saying, “it’s not just about working harder, it is about working smarter.” Susan has learned over time how to live this philosophy every day.
The true secrets to improving and reaching YOUR potential aren’t about slick aero wheels or a cool lightweight bike. It isn’t about fancy colored shoes. It isn’t about dressing in the latest cool tri-clothing, buying books that collect dust, reading the cool mags, or hanging around with the fastest athletes. Improving and reaching one’s ultimate potential requires an individual commitment to life-long learning and a willingness to block out all the NOISE. If, like Susan, you can commit to learning something each and every day, and then take that knowledge and work to become the most well read and well-rounded and studied athlete that you can possibly be, you have the opportunity be better than you ever thought possible!
Look for secret #4 soon. All the best!