Get skills and agility first… strength and stamina later

Said one of my first books on sports — a book on the art of Judo. The quite vividly remember the “weight training” section of the book that literally got me curious about training for strength. One of the major caveats by the author, however, was to focus on getting good at the art of Judo first. Rationale: strength merely complements one’s game. It doesn’t replace the skills (of the martial art) required to master the game.

A couple of decades later, I’m still practicing what I learned from that book. Though the dynamics have changed drastically. I’m in a strength sport. And in powerlifting, the agenda is to get good with the lifts (as in techniques) first and build your strength gradually.

It’s sad to see youngsters working their ass off to get a bump in their biceps. Some would lift a 100 kilos off the floor with pathetic form and still feel so great about themselves! It’s like missing the whole point! Sure, it makes them happy. But, then what? Injuries. That’s what happens to them! And even then they won’t get it. Some geniuses would even push themselves through injuries thinking it’ll make them stronger.

I can relate that behavior to the field of coaching. We think we can ask “powerful questions” because they’re simple questions asked with gravitas. At least that’s what coaches think. But is it? Heck, no! Before you can even ask a decent question… you need to listen to what’s been said. And that’s not just “hearing” but listening… at a much deeper level than you’re used to. That’s what makes a great coach! It’s not just about your questions… there’s more to it than what meets the eye (ears perhaps, in this context).

I remember a story from the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (or perhaps Principle-Centered Leadership, can’t remember which one) where Dr. Covey shares a dialog with one person who was frustrated with his kids and said (paraphrased), “I don’t understand them. They never listen to me!” And in response, Dr. Covey asks (paraphrased), “But I thought to understand… you have to first listen to them. Have you?

The question stopped the person’s thought process dead in the tracks. Heck, I literally pulled over when I heard that question several years back. In fact, I replayed it a couple of times to understand the depth of that question. It was a powerful question.

But I digress, the point is this — just like listening is the foundation of all communication so is building a great foundation on which you plan to build your skyscraper.

The BIG question is this — is your foundation strong enough? If not, why the heck are you building anyway?

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