Every Day Is Training
I hate failure. I’m sure you hate it, too. For many of us, fear of failure is debilitating, almost paralyzing, and it often stops us before we get started. Our fear of failure terrifies us and so we place tremendous pressure on ourselves to not fail. We do not necessarily have to succeed, just not fail. We believe we must know exactly what we are doing — at all times — and we are chagrined and dismayed when we do not, or worse, when other people realize we do not. We want to be competent, and perhaps as importantly, we want to be perceived as competent by others, particularly by those we respect.
Most of us have a misjudgment regarding competency and success. We strive and strain, struggle and train, under the assumption that we will eventually “arrive” in a plush existence (the comfy house, plenty of money, good relationship, the job we feel decisive and knowledgeable about). Too often we have a static view of ourselves, as if there is a set “Body of Knowledge” that we are supposed to already know or only a limited number of subjects for which we are slated to be competent in. This is a false self-perception or expectation, and it stems from this mistaken idea of “arrival.” We never really “arrive”; we are always in flux, either shaping events or being shaped by them, often both simultaneously. One would not tackle running a marathon or a 400LB dead-lift and expect mastery the first time (or even much success). Why do we expect other areas of our lives to be any different?
If we have not arrived (and we never do), then every day is training. This mindset is a training mindset and it frees us from a fear of failure or self-limitations on what we know or are capable of. If one adopts a training mindset, many daily things suddenly become possibilities and potential turning points. A rocky period in a relationship? Train on it, find methods and means to work on improving it and opportunities will present themselves constantly throughout the day. New professional position or career change? Take great notes, be curious about everything that is relevant, and talk to others with more experience. New challenge or hobby? Find an expert to apprentice with, research the field, experiment with different aspects of the activity. Train, train, train.
Very few of us set out being inherently good at anything; we call those individuals geniuses, and they are very, very rare. We all have aptitudes, native intelligence, and some seemingly innate interest in things, but all of those things take skills to realize and bring results to fruition. Skills take time and effort to hone and fine-tune; they take training. One of my favorite examples of this is Wynton Marsalis, the world-renowned trumpet player. The mastery of his craft is obvious, his skill and abilities undisputed. Was he born with such amazing talent? He undoubtedly had some native aptitude, but I would argue that it was the 5–6 hours of practice per day, from the time he was a child, that has set Marsalis apart. When other 14-year-olds were goofing around, Wynton was putting in the weekly equivalent of a full-time job on his musical craft. For him, every day was training. That mindset and approach has served him well.
With this training mindset, each day is an opportunity to work on our goals. There is no arrival point, so we can quit wasting time looking for it. And there is no journey without setbacks or failure; training is based on failure. When you set out on a project, a goal, an endeavor, the failures and setbacks will be there every step of the way. Just because you failed or encountered a setback yesterday is no reason why you should quit today. A training mindset gives you the opportunity to learn from all your experiences because it keeps your mental outlook and emotional equilibrium geared toward your goals and the future. A training mindset allows you to encounter the inevitable trials, mistakes, and rebuffs with a degree of calmness, knowing that this temporary hurdle has its own limited time-frame and that tomorrow is another day of training. A training mindset is not stoical or resigned, it is aggressively optimistic. It makes you acutely aware that growth, improvement and — most importantly — depth, abound every day, in all areas of our lives. We simply need to open our eyes, change our thinking, and seek those opportunities that surround us each day in the ordinary things.
Do you approach each day as training, as an opportunity for improvement and progress?
Have you found this to be effective in any particular goal or project you have?
Originally published at fjwriting.com on February 23, 2018.