It was a wonderful, brutal weekend at the Russian Kettlebell Certification in St. Paul. I learned way too much to about coherently in a blog post, so some of these lessons will be dribbling out over the rest of the year on World’s Strongest Librarian.
For now: here are three things I learned that have great value to training and life in general
Accurate self-assessment is difficult at best, impossible at worst
Long story short, I thought I had good form on my kettlebell lifts, but I did not. I couldn’t believe my ears when everyone kept yelling “lock out your elbows!” They were locked! Except that they weren’t, but I couldn’t tell. But when four professionals are all telling you what you don’t want to hear, it’s time to listen and not argue.
Kettlebell lifts are simple in concept but do require many small, precise details that all have to work in sequence or the lift is imperfect–or worse, dangerous. Some people do very well assessing themselves with a video camera. So please, I’m not saying it can’t be done, only that I’m not one of those people right now.
With your life, self-assessment can be even more slippery. People’s perceptions of you are real whether you like them or not. Whether they’re accurate or not. If you just don’t care what people think and don’t need relationships to be happy, you’ll get away with this. Good luck to you. Could I be happy on my own? Perhaps. I like my own company well enough. Am I happier with people that I love and enjoy in my life? You don’t even need to ask.
What people perceive to be your character or integrity is worth knowing. Unless you are a hermit, you are going to have other people in your life and their perceptions shouldn’t be dismissed. Relationships are mirrors. Asking for feedback has been invaluable to me at work, at home, and in my training: especially when I hear something I don’t like.
If it sucks, it probably instructs
Hmm…that might actually be my first coinable phrase. I like it. But onward!
I know that I push myself hard in my training. But, full disclosure, I never go into my backyard for 10 hours in a row and really WORK. And that’s okay, because I don’t need to push myself for 10 hours very often. But that’s exactly what happened two days ago: 8:00 to 6:30, nearly non-stop effort and pain. It gives perspective and clarity. Once you pass one of your own limits, you know that more will fall.
I’m not saying go work out for 10 hours today, or ever. But find a way to test yourself occasionally. If you know you’re working, find a way to work brutally hard a couple of times a month. You’ll surprise yourself. One thing I’ve started doing that I’ve fallen in love with: once each week I do a longish set of heavy kettlebell swings and then immediately pick up a 200 lb rock from the garden and jog around my backyard until it falls out of my hands.
Yes, it sucks, and if it sucks, it probably instructs. Leave your comfort zone as often as possible.
You can’t have too many friends
Once you have learned to push yourself hard, you can go farther still with the help of others. This weekend I saw dozens of people working harder than they ever had. As awful as some of it was, the outcome was never in doubt–you couldn’t be the one who quit. It hurt like hell but I haven’t talked to anyone yet who ever thought about quitting.
Call it competitiveness, peer pressure, whatever you like. I’m going to call it results, and that’s really all you should care about in your training and your life: are you happy and are you progressing? If you are, don’t let anybody tell you what you’re doing is wrong.
If you want to be happier and make some progress, find some friends, make some goals, and get after it. Adam Glass said something brilliant last night when we spoke on the phone to talk about new goals:
“You will learn more from finishing something you started than by constantly setting new personal records.” He then gave me a hideous set of kettlebell snatch requirements which will have me nailing my secret service snatch test numbers four weeks from now. And I’ll do it, because he’s one more person for me to be accountable to.
Go make friends, online or off. They’ll help you finish what you start.