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Being more coachable

by Carl Brewer last modified 2009-07-18 21:10

Or avoiding the 'I know everything' syndrome

Remember when you were a teenager (or if you're younger than that, just put yourself in old-man-shoes for a few moments and bear with me!).  You knew everything.  Certainly.  What you did was perfect.  You were the best car driver in the world.  You knew all the tricks, all the facts, everything was perfectly clear and if anyone spoke to you about what you were doing, or dared to give you some advice or relate their own experience they were WRONG or out of line, you'd get angry, you'd tell them off, you'd rant on your blog/twitter/facebook page after fuming for days etc, what do they know?!

Then, when you grew up a bit, you began to slowly realise that you didn't know it all and that other people are worth listening to, and even seeking out, their experiences and ideas.  That the things you were so sure about maybe weren't cast in stone and a little bit of humility and grace began to be a part of your personality?  It's part of growing up.

Around cycling in particular (although I'm certain it exists in other sports and social groups as well) there's a particular breed who are still stuck in that adolescent (my apologies if you are an adolescent, although I don't think a lot of you read this blog, so I'm pretty safe!) mindset.  Defensive in their certainly that no-one can tell them anything.  Some of them have even coined a name for this unwanted discourse, they call it ADvice and they bandy it around like some sort of a badge of honour.  "Don't give ME ADvice, I know it all".  That's analogous to  "I'm a closed-minded fool who won't listen to anyone else's ideas or experiences, and I'm proud of it".  Yah, smart .. very.  When, for example, a world champion hands out a bit of advice on the discipline in which he's world champion at, that's damn valuable information.  Only a fool would cast it aside and be offended about it being freely given.

Mark Rippetoe wrote of his own experience (we all go through the phase, it seems) where he was training in a gym, and some old guy started to talk to him and make a few technique suggestions.  Mark was training like (and he'd say it himself now) a muppet, doing "silly bullshit".  He was sure what he was doing was the best.  But, he was very very wrong, and after he learned a bit more, came to the stunning (at the time for him) conclusion that he should learn to be more coachable.  Ie: learn to listen to the experience and ideas of others.  Sure, some (lots!) of it will be bogus, but some of it won't and being exposed to other ideas is never a bad thing.  We all need to get better at being coached, we all need to grow up a bit and learn to accept advice and experiences and ideas with grace and humility and to accept it in the spirit in which it is intended - as help and support and interest.  Remember, no-one knows it all and ideas and suggestions are valuable, even if the ideas themselves aren't terribly useful sometimes.

We all think what we're doing is the best way to do something (or we wouldn't be doing it that way, right?) but then, often it isn't, and that's when we get to improve.  Closing our minds to suggestions and ideas from others is stupid and immature and taking offence at the same is the sort of adolescent behaviour that we should all try and grow out of.  Being given advice isn't something to be threatened by, it's an opportunity to learn something new or different and it's given by people who take an interest in the progress of others.  Be one of the people that learns things, not one of the ones that knows it all.

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