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Bigger, Better, Faster, More?

Here I am just before my son’s swimming lesson and we’re talking about what he wants to concentrate on today. He wants Bigger, Better, Faster, More!

I’m not a swimming teacher but I can see that all his enthusiasm and love of the water is actually having a negative impact on his swimming ability. What he wants is to swim as fast as he can and race his friend up and down the pool. Yet, the more he tries to swim quickly the less likely it is that he will actually swim fast. It’s frustrating him.

We talk about what’s getting in the way and how he could achieve his goal of swimming faster. Trying to go quicker ironically isn’t the solution and he knows it. He’s got an idea…

He gets in the pool and swims his first length slowly. I mean real slow. The kind of slow that feels agonising to watch.

Here’s the thing though. Having swum a length, he sees that he’s not really much slower than when he goes helter skelter. His swimming though is effortless and something clicks.

During the lesson he tries a little experiment – all his own invention. He tries swimming fast and swimming slow and he notices the feedback from his teacher. Sure enough, slow works pretty well and praise is forthcoming. Fast is when the teacher critiques.

In the car he’s tells me about his little experiment. His conclusion is easily made – “I need to stop trying to go so quickly and slow down. When I slow down, I can concentrate on my technique and that’s how I’ll build my speed.

I could see it. His teacher could see it. Sheesh most of the pool could probably see it!

However, he needed to see it. He needed to find a different way of behaving to reach his goal. He needed to make the change himself.

What made it happen?

There was a caring conversation. There was a safe environment. There was an expert on hand to give feedback and even critique. He’d had a good day. He was enjoying learning. He was willing to experiment. The sun was shining. All these things surely helped.

Each and every one of is capable of doing similar.

Perhaps sometimes we all need to behave a little differently. Perhaps sometimes we all need to seize the moment and experiment. Perhaps sometimes we all need to let go of the Bigger, Better, Faster, More?


6 thoughts on “Bigger, Better, Faster, More?

  1. Such a good reminder not to stand in our own way. Being so desperate to grab all the prizes on the table, we are sometimes blinded to the one which has dropped right off at our feet. The goals which are more than within our reach if we just stop for a moment to really look at what we are striving for.A thoughtful post.


    Posted by Melinda Sealy Fargo | April 17, 2012, 6:43 AM
  2. Great post, David. Chimes for me as one of my children is having lessons. Interestingly, the focus is on getting from one side of the pool to the other. His experience is similar to your son's. But is getting to the other side of the pool really the point when learning to swim? I'd argue not.I have heard of another local swimming instructor who spends the first few lessons focusing on how to swim, just working on technique and not getting to the other side. From what people say, the children learn much faster as they learn the 'how' of swimming. They can can then use that to get to the other side of the pool more effectively.


    Posted by Martin Couzins | April 17, 2012, 7:45 AM
  3. Hi Mel! I love your comment on our desperation to "grab all the prizes". It's a common theme and the peril is that we keep ourselves unfulfilled…  I think we often self-limit the goals available to us when in fact there are more goals available to us if we approach their achievement differently.  What do you think?


    Posted by davidgoddin | April 17, 2012, 12:40 PM
  4. Martin – thanks for adding to this with your comments and anecdote.  The "how" rather than the "what" is something that's going to stick with me.  I wonder how performance management in organisations would look if leaders/managers took this perspective?Also, related to this, I sense there's an important connection for organisations in that article you shared on formative feedback :- Something perhaps to explore at the L&D Connect Unconference next week!


    Posted by davidgoddin | April 17, 2012, 12:47 PM
  5.  Hi David – agree and think we might have a topic of conversation! 


    Posted by Martin Couzins | April 17, 2012, 3:33 PM
  6. "…approach their achievement differently." This worked for me when I stopped not only to ask myself what I was trying to achieve but….why? When I got to the root of that answer, I no longer felt the need to keep achieving certain things.


    Posted by Melinda Sealy Fargo | April 17, 2012, 4:53 PM


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