I relish any chance I get to take off my coach’s hat and return to the realm of the athlete.  This past Sunday I attended an Olympic Weightlifting clinic at McKenna’s Gym that was run by one of the best coaches in the sport, Victor Gallego.  (Find out little more about Coach/Professor Gallego HERE.)  The clinic was awesome, plain and simple, because the coaching was plain and simple.  Coach Gallego’s corrections were so basic, yet so effective that I remember thinking to myself “Man, the answers have been right there staring me in the face all along!”  I also remember being so grateful for the opportunity to learn from a master and be a student again.

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SWCF athlete and coach Brooke Havens getting some instruction from Coach Gallego.

And that leads me to the focus of today’s post:  its important to be a student EVERY day, in and out of the gym.  Being a true student of your craft, be it weightlifting or engineering, is the only way to achieve mastery.  What does it mean to be a student?  Here are the qualities I feel are necessary towards being an effective student and by extension, a successful person.

  1. Be here.  I’ve met lots of people who are all talk and no walk.  Boasting how ready they are to improve their lives and circumstances, these people usually last one week and then “poof” they disappear.  Life cannot be changed if current habits are not changed.  Showing up to train/work is often times the hardest part of improving fitness/your situation.  Get to the gym/school.
  2. Be Open-Minded.   When an athlete enters the gym, boardroom, work site, he or she should be open to all possibilities and potential lessons that can be gained from an experience.  Many people approach new activities with their own preconceived notions of doing things “correctly” that they often fail to be open to other methods of doing things.   As both an athlete and a person, the more that I have learned, the more I realize I know very little.  It is from this angle that everyone should approach new activities.  Be willing to learn and try new things even when they seem “strange”.
  3. Be Present-Minded.  The theme of presence has been a reoccurring theme in many of my writings and also daily coaching.  Set your attention to the task at hand, be it performing a snatch, writing a paper, or talking to your husband/wife.  Nothing else.  What will come does not matter right now.  Only right now matters.  The serious athlete-as-student knows that attention given to his or her coach is a sign of respect, not only towards the coach, but also to the entire process of personal development.
  4. Be disciplined.  Tying into point 1.  Lofty goals are attained only through smart work and staying committed.   In the realm of the Steelworks athlete, this means eating right, staying hydrated, getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night, and training at least three times a week.  Get to the gym at least fifteen minutes before class starts.  Bring everything you need to be successful in your workouts.  Give mobility work its due diligence.  Get your head in the right state of mind.
  5. Be willing to fail.  In my and weightlifting journey, I have missed more lifts than I have made and I have had lots of shitty WODs.  I’ve questioned my presence in the sport.  “Why the hell am I doing this workout today?  I feel like garbage.  Why am I always missing my split jerk?  I am useless.”  I have had so many conversations with myself throughout my athletic career where I have asked myself why am I doing what am I doing.  I have questioned my resolve.  As I have become older and much wiser, I have come to savor the heartbreaks and failed lifts.  Failure is the greatest teacher.  We need only avail ourselves to its lessons.  In fact, the implications of failure need to be reimagined.  Every failed lift, every horrible metcon, every failed job interview or relationship teaches us how to be better athletes and people.  The true failure happens when the athlete sees the steps that are required to improve, but does nothing to take those steps.

Be willing to learn something every day.  Be willing to be a student.