Learning little things

For a couple of years now I have been teaching myself how to SUP (stand up paddle board). It’s a pretty simple process. But like all simple things there is a depth to practice and technique that helps you get better and better. And the changing context of the ocean and the winds and weather means there is never a way to “win” at it.

The thing about SUP is that the conditions change radically all the time. One day is flat calm and the water is like glass. Another day – like today – it’s windy and the chop is sloppy and the currents are really strong. Almost every time out is a new challenge with new little victories and little defeats.

Mastery is like that. It’s about learning a technique and then applying it as the context shifts. It’s about getting good at something and then facing a humbling experience that teaches you something about yourself.

Today it was learning about the power of the currents whipping around Dorman Point. Lately it’s been about trying to offer quality process when there is fear and ego and expertise at play.

Mastery comes from a myriad of little learnings gathered from a myriad if different context. There is no flash of insight that makes you a master and there is no way you can ever feel you have arrived. That we are all human and always falling short of our ideal for ourselves and others is the great secret that helps us to connect, if we can see it. If we instead hold ourselves so far above or below this line of vulnerability that we can’t see our small tender selves in others then the benefit of our little learnings are lost, mere spindrift in the current of our learning lives.

I think it was my friend Toke Møller who said “never trust a sword teacher without scars.” Truly.

04. August 2014 by Chris Corrigan
Categories: Uncategorized | 2 comments

Comments (2)

  1. “There is no flash of insight that makes you a master and there is no way you can ever feel you have arrived. That we are all human and always falling short of our ideal for ourselves and others is the great secret that helps us to connect, if we can see it.”

    You’ve aptly described something I hold as my highest intention, one that I simply define as “elusively seeking.” I have found it to be a most useful way of living. I claim it as my own path, but I suspect it is universal.

    I also recently discovered the mathematical equivalent of your statement — called the Asymptote. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asymptote

    The asymptote forms one of the three pillars of mastery that Daniel Pink outlines in his book — Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.

    Cheers
    Allister

  2. Those forever moving and unpredictable contexts and conditions make the process of Mastery such a joy. Without the chance of failure, there is no flow … no sense of losing oneself completely in the art of paddling or practicing the basics in the dojo.

    I’ve recently retuned to tennis after hanging up my racquet 20 years ago. I spent 20 years of my life on the tennis court … an everyday of the week practice. Thanks to my dad, I discovered the joy of the beginner’s mind … of enjoying the flow state of being entranced by the rise and fall of the ball. Tennis is simply a game of something approaching you (the ball as an offer), a response (your stroke) which is a counter offer to your opponent. For me, the mastery of tennis was all about the inner game of quieting the ego and allowing my natural game (the hundreds of thousands of practices strokes) to shine. Now my boys are playing tennis and, rather than teach technical mastery (leaving that to the local coach), I’m getting them interested in noticing the ball more by playing Gallways game like “bounce hit”. I am loving watching their natural technique develop as they play “ball watching” games.

    I’ll expand on this comment more over at my own, neglected blog and talk about mastery (& vulnerability) of SUP’ing in the surf … a truly humbling experience at times.