Sunday, May 31, 2015

Fear of Failure

In the industrialized world, the world of driveways, parkways, dishwashers, and dumbwaiters, a rational fear for our individual survival isn't even in the top ten. Wild animals don't threaten our existence, the diseases that were rampant a century ago do not exist, and crime in our biggest cities is more rare than ever before.

So what is there to be afraid of?


Our schools, our marketers, and our culture reinforce this fear daily. The heartbreak of psoriasis, the humiliation of underarm odor, but most of all, the utter horror of trying and failing.

Failure is almost never as bad as we fear it will be, but it's our fear that we feel, not the failure.

Worst of all, we've so amplified our internal narrative that we can't help but associate freedom with failure.

And so our fear of failure transfers effortlessly into fear of freedom.

Consider our avoidance of feeling tired. If you're unwilling to be tired, unwilling to feel fatigue in your legs, you can't run a marathon. Successful marathon runners haven't figured out how to avoid being tired, they've figured out where to put the tired when it arrives. If you're not willing to be tired, you can't run.

If you're not willing to imagine failure, you're unable to be free.

In just a few generations, we’ve gone from "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” to "The fear we feel is the fear of freedom."

This book is not just fabulous; it is mind bending and eye opening at the same moment. We encourage you to put it on your “buy now” list. Thank you Seth Godin…hundreds of times over…the passage above is page 63 in his book. As we told our team when we read them this page at Saturday’s team meeting, there are rarely new words invented. What is constantly evolving is authors’ ability to use words in more meaningful ways. Godin is one of those authors.

Sunday, May 24, 2015


We are taking a chance here, dancing with political correctness while simultaneously using a colloquialism to make a point. We apologize in advance but feel compelled to write anyway.
Our high school season just ended here in California with the first ever State Championship Meet. Now it is on to long course season…which is a conundrum in and of itself since there isn’t anything long about this summer season of ours here in the west. We have maybe 10 weeks to train, rest and race…nothing long about that. But we digress.
At the end of any cycle there is time for reflection, an opportunity to see what went right and what didn’t. It is at this time you find out who on your team is an Egyptian, the one(s) living in de Nile. Someone famous once said, “It is nearly impossible to get through the day without a rationalization.” We have found this to be true.
And it is especially true when an athlete is reconciling her/his season with the actual outcome. Swimming is brutally honest. You either made the cut or you didn’t. You either made a final or you didn’t. You either made the travel team or you didn’t. This process toughens you up for life.
You either got the job or you didn’t. You either got the promotion or you didn’t. You either got the raise or you didn’t. You either made the sale or you didn’t.
Yet, when we miss, one frequent tendency is to rationalize. We coaches think this is when you find out who is living in denial…who your Egyptians are. One of the very best things about our sport is that each and every and in fact any athlete can “fix” what is “broken”…it isn’t terribly difficult. What is most challenging is making the choice.
First however, you must be willing to accept personal accountability for the choice you make. Our position is that you cannot do that if you are living in that big river in Egypt.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The One Constant

Here in Northern California the high school season is over for all but a few elite swimmers who will go to the first ever State Championship this next weekend. As is the case when a season’s block of training and racing ends swimmers and coaches reflect on what went right and what went “not so much.”
Discussing this with one coach we found his observation interesting. We don’t keep strict track of attendance other than to note that we do absolutely know who is there “all the time” and who misses on a consistent basis.
This coach remarked that he had an athlete who swam a 56+ last year and a 57+ this year. He also pointed out to this swimmer (because he has the data) that last year the swimmer came to 95% of all workouts offered and this year to 88%. He went on to say that he had a boy last year head off to a major academic and swim school who missed 4 workouts in his 4 years of high school and a girl who did the same, missing 1 workout in 4 years.
Now lest you think that this is absurd we can assure you the data is real. Not every workout attended was high performance and not every workout attended was on 8 hours of sleep. But darn near every workout offered was attended.
If you look at any field of performance this one constant is - dare we say – always present. We know since we follow Bruce Springsteen that in his development from local hero to superstar (still relevant today after 40+ years) he played his guitar every day…not most days, every day. He still writes music every day. That is why he is still relevant.
So as we looked at our swimmers we noticed another trend. The ones who swam really well – and really fast – this block also had another characteristic readily visible. They trained really well every day. Some coaches and swimmers relate better to the word “hard” so we will use it here. These swimmers trained “hard” every day. On many days they were faster than on other days…but make no mistake, they didn’t take days “off”.
Were they perfect in their swims this weekend? Not necessarily so but did they shine? Absolutely they did!
So, swimmers, the question is, “are you going to the pool today or are you not?” The second question is, “Are you training or are you going for a swim?”
The same two questions apply to all coaches out there…just saying…

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Paul Lundgren

Paul Lundgren is on our NBA Masters team. He shares insights as he works toward completion of numerous life goals. One of his swimming goals is to complete a solo Sea of Cortez crossing. He has learned a lot about the challenge in his first two attempts.

He shared this clip last week. If you are working on performance or coaching performance, or doing both simultaneously you might want to invest a couple of minutes.

Many thanks Paul!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Keeping Things Simplified

We were talking with Coach Mark the other day working to simplify the tapering process. We remember clearly when we first started coaching. Tapering was a mystery. We quickly learned how important it was because everyone was talking about it. Then, somewhere along the way we realized that it wasn’t so complicated after all.
We think two things really are important. First you must be rested so that the work you have done can come to the surface and be available to you. Secondly, you need to be supremely confident so you are ready when it counts the most.
Most swimmers don’t rest enough. Why is that? Well for one thing, it takes more courage to rest than it does to train. Also, folks worry a lot about getting out of shape. So, remember to rest, both in and out of the pool. Oh, one more thing. Unlike a math final you cannot cram for a swim meet. So, take whatever work you have done, even if it hasn’t been very much, and then rest like crazy.
Confidence is the most important muscle in the athlete’s body. How do you get it? Pretty simple again; you look at how much stronger you are, your times in the mid and late season compared to last year at this time, your repeats in workouts…you get the picture. Look at what you have; not what you don’t have or what the other guy has and see how big your shortfall is.
And if you haven’t done much work and your times aren’t faster than last season, well then – deal with it. Put a smile on your face and realize that there are probably hundreds of thousands of folks your age who would much rather be in your shoes than theirs. And do your best so that you can say you gave it your best shot. And if you aren’t pleased with the results then you can do something about it the next time. This is what is so great about our sport. Each swimmer has the personal power to makes him/herself faster and better.
And we would say one more thing about this time of year, here in California in particular. Our high school season is ending just as the school year ends. There are multiple distractions for the swimmer/student…or student/swimmer. There are the end of season festivities and heightened expectations with multiple championship meets. You are faced with the end of year school testing and finals. There are many social distractions, not the least of which is school proms. And if you are a senior, you have graduation – practice for same and parties and festivities.

Our advice to our team is very simple – “Resolve to stay on track and then do so.”