1.08.2017

Comfort food for thought

Comfortability is a strange thing. So many yearn for it, love to have it and keep it close. Comfort is often what people strive to achieve in their every day lives and routines. Yet as nice as it is to be comfortable, comfort itself is a plateau.

Over the last few years, I've had the opportunity to talk to many high level athletes from many different sports. I won't name names, and I won't go into specifics about any particular program. I'm not looking to get anyone in trouble, just giving my opinion on the mindset of sport (Sorry to those of you who got really excited to hear some juicy gossip). Actually, I find this pertains to many walks of life, but I'm an athlete, so if I relate it to sports, people might actually think it's insightful. Back to the point, after talking to all of these experts in their respective fields (sports), there always seems to be a story of a coach, or trainer, or administrator, or official, or teammate, sibling, parent, local legend, superfan, pizza guy, etc. that told them, in some way or another:

"This is the way it has to be done" "This is how it's always been done, it'll be too hard to change" "This is what funding partners are looking for" "I've seen a lot of [sport], and this is how most people do it" "If you were truly dedicated, you would do what everyone else is doing"

To which my response (at least in my head) is always "Oh yeah? Let me prove you wrong." In my opinion, these are the people who are happy to reach the comfort plateau, and remain there. It is possible to grow substantially, by doing things the way they've always been done, and I do agree there is some value in it. But at a certain point the growth will slow down, and if you continue doing things the same way as everyone else does them, you likely won't surpass any of them. Hence the plateau. Now I'm being a little misleading with this plateau metaphor, because it will undoubtedly lead you to believe that the ultimate goal is to go beyond the plateau and find the peak of a mountain. Actually, to those seeking excellence, the peak doesn't exist. Those striving to be the best are not climbing mountains, they're climbing the Penrose impossible staircase (below). There is no endpoint to development, so suggesting there is one single method to reach it seems a little too good to be true.
Now maybe I'm just the stubborn 2 year old who loved to say "No", but when I look at athletes at the highest level, I don't often see the people who complied with "the way it has to be done." In fact, most often the difference between the best athletes and those trailing, is how they innovated their training regime. They went beyond the ordinary way of doing things, and came up with something new that helped to propel them forward. Often surrounding themselves with the coaches and trainers, etc. that are willing to innovate and develop their techniques right alongside them. The people who stand out are the ones who find a way to be different, and use it to their advantage.

Now obviously I don't condone going so far outside the comfort zone that it would be considered illegal. Steroids = bad, sabotage = bad, ignoring rules/laws = bad. I merely suggest finding multiple methods of climbing the staircase until you find the way that suits you. Everyone learns and develops in a different way, and so it makes sense that every process should be different. If there was an easy way to become a champion, everyone would be one, everyone would coach one, everyone would administrate the program that develops them, etc. (Participation trophies don't count).

What I've found myself preaching at various clinics that I've coached over the past few years, and especially quite recently thanks to the newly formed West Coast Beach Volleyball Society is to be comfortable with the uncomfortable, because that's where the big changes are made.

And trust me, I know a thing or two about being uncomfortable
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Cheers,
Ben Jammin