Social entrepreneur. Engagement consultant.
Last week was huge for me because I finally managed to swim an entire pool’s length in London’s Olympic Swimming Pool without stopping for one bit. Now, for those of you who know me well, I think we can all agree that the chances for me to succeed at swimming were as high as England’s chances of winning last month’s World Cup.
I have had this unexplained clumsiness and inability to swim since forever. Throughout time I’ve been looking at other people swimming and it all seemed so natural that the idea of me achieving such a thing seemed to fade away in a very obscure corner of a distant galaxy at the end of the universe. Deep down inside I knew that my fear of water alongside my lacking abilities to coordinate myself under water were the main two barriers that stopped me from wanting to learn.
Having said that, this post is not about how I overcame these barriers. It’s about finding the one thing that can make you push that extra mile, that thing that can turn circumstances into opportunities.
This March, when London’s Olympic Swimming Pool opened its doors to the general public, I thought to myself – ‘You know what, I’m 26 years old and I don’t know how to swim. How is that even possible? I can do this. It looks easy’. Since then my personal objective was to learn all by myself – without any professional help whatsoever from any swimming teachers – how to swim. Four months later, here I am doing at least 10 lengths per session while I’m still trying to find new ways of improving my technique and style.
Looking back at what just happened I’m struggling with the concept of self-teaching. I didn’t take any swimming lessons nor did I have a personal trainer to stay by my side 24/7. What I did have around were people and the almighty Internet. And a specific goal. So is it really valid to say that when it comes down to swimming I was self-taught?
When asked about what he thinks about self-taught cooks, Marco Pierre White – one of my favourite chefs – said: “How can you be a self taught chef when you dine out, refer to cook books, learn from other chefs and watch cooking programmes?” (Devil in the Kitchen, Marco Pierre White, 2007)
So then, you are learning through vision, through imitation. Nowadays, one is never truly self-taught. You need that foundation, you need that understanding, you need that platform to get you going. What happens, is that you buy into someone’s knowledge whether is through a book, through a tutorial or whether through taking lesson from a professional. And then, when you will have obtained that basic knowledge platform about what you’re doing, only then you will allow yourself to add your personal spin on it.
Thus, I would like to say “Thanks!” to all the people that I’ve stolen techniques from without them knowing. They helped me to achieve my goal. It’s funny how we learn from people that we have no idea who they are. This reminds me that we’re all here to learn and teach ourselves how to make things better.
That should be enough for now. I’ll go for a swim. ‘Cause I can!