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What is the difference between getting an education from the knowledge we consume versus just getting entertained by it?

First, let me define those terms:

Education = I have been changed by what I learned. It has improved my experience or performance noticeably.

Entertainment = it feels good to become acquainted with the topic, but it made no noticeable difference in the way I experience or perform.

Consider the last topic you read/viewed eagerly – were you really educated, or merely entertained by it?

Now the answer…

What makes the difference between the two?

Integration of that knowledge.

What is integration?

In a visible, measurable sense integration may take the form of a new habit. It is a new or improved pattern, a positive change in the way I experience or perform.

Can you see now the substantial difference between having knowledge that just goes in the head, bounces around a bit and causes a nice buzz, and knowledge that goes in and actually re-arranges one’s mindset and behavior?

Which result do we want from all that information we consume?

So, how do we go about acquiring more education and less entertainment?

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Like many of you, I am hungry for more insight, more knowledge. I study a lot and widely (relatively speaking, and I can’t compare myself to you).

Compared to all of human history before us we have inconceivable access to knowledge. However, there are some accompanying obstacles which make it difficult to make good things come from all this access:

1) There is too much knowledge to consume. We can’t possibly take in but a small portion of it.

2) We are too busy with too many things to do produce much out of that portion of knowledge we do consume.

There are some people who just don’t bother to seek out more knowledge or insight. They don’t get much improvement in life either. But these are not the people I am writing to and you are not one of them because those kind wouldn’t be reading this blog. (And, you might note, I don’t work so hard to keep these super-short, which is another filter for those who don’t take the time to think and integrate).

But you and I need to beware of falling into the opposite extreme – of consuming too much, but not doing what is necessary to actually have it improve some part of our lives. Otherwise, what is the point of taking in more?

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I have a few ‘guiding values’ to help me make decisions in this world of over-abundant knowledge and opportunity to experience new things.

  • No vision? No life. Get a vision and guard it.
  • Invest in what supports the vision.
  • First things come first.
  • Take quality over quantity.
  • Do less, and do it better.
  • I can’t do it all. Say No.

Each one of those could inspire another essay of its own, but I will summarize…

These principles channel me toward integration of important ideas, toward improvement.

There is a lot of exciting, valuable knowledge available to us out there, in any field we are interested in. We each need some tools to help us decide what few things to pick out of all of it, and then engage the discipline to do something productive with those ideas.

What are your guiding values? Are they serving the improvement of your experience of life?

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Here is an example from mine:

I wrote a bit ago (in Mindfulness… Part 3) and recommended the book by Joshua Waitzkin, The Art Of Learning. I first heard the interview with Joshua on the Tim Ferriss show, was immediately drawn to it, then got the audio version of the book (he reads it himself), was deeply inspired, and then purchased the paperback book copy so I could study it better (I am a visual-learner, so I must see the words to absorb them better).

The whole book is about the journey for integrating technique and mindset to enhance experience and performance. To read this book and then forget about it was as foolish and mindless as one could get. But as an avid reader I do feel a pressure to finish-the-book and get on to the others calling me from my shelf and tablet. This very book challenged me to resist that misguided urge and consider the investment of time and attention that true integration requires. Reading a book is (usually) not enough to be transformed by the ideas in it. It takes time, attention, and a lot more.

So, what I have done is carry this book around with me in my bag, though I only sometimes pull it out. Since I have already listened to the whole books on audio I don’t feel the pressure of trying to finish-the-book. I know what it holds, now I want to digest and infuse some of the ideas, one-by-one, into how I practice life. So I read a little way through a chapter until I come to a point that resonates inside then put it down. I might write in my journal about it, then I ‘stew on it’ for weeks.

I talk about it with my wife or any other person who might be interested. I think and practice while driving. I practice while standing in line at the bank. I practice while making lunch or washing dishes. I practice while playing a game with my son. I practice while sorting through stressful thoughts about work.

Why carry the book around if I don’t read it much? I might pull it out quickly and re-read the last part before my bookmark, and my marginalia written there. But mostly I see it in my bag, snug against my journal (which I pull out a lot) and it reminds me of this latest integration project. The sight of it triggers an eager, conscious check-in with my own mind to see how that last idea has taken hold, and see if I am ready to pick up another one. I wait for it to make a dent in my habits before moving on.

In parenting, running a business, and living in a foreign land (to name a few) I have a lot of opportunities to practice these ideas.

How long will I work on this? It really doesn’t matter to me (in this case). The process of integration itself is consistently rewarding, because it makes my practice of life, and therefore my experience of life better. Every little improvement is a new dose of hope. And I might say that the ultimate measure of integration is when my children, my wife, my swimmers, and my neighbors in this land notice and benefit from those improvements.

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What has this got to do with swimming?

If you didn’t know our secret already, TI training uses the practice of swimming to integrate mental and body-control skills that can also transform the way we live, not just the way we swim. If you prefer to keep your application of this strictly in the water, you are quite welcome to do so. Some people may call this ‘spiritual mumbo-jumbo’ and therefore get turned off by the subject. Call it what you will, but it is still practical and powerful. I wouldn’t claim this kind of training is a replacement for religion per se, if one is so inclined, but it is quite useful for making daily life better.

And anyway, where else are you going to learn such skills?

So, this post is meant to encourage those of you who want to move beyond being merely informed about How Swimming Works to actually integrate some of these powerful ideas into your habits for swimming, and perhaps beyond that too.

Here are some questions in relation to your swimming that could help you narrow down your thinking and your efforts to get you into integration mode:

  • “What specific capability do I want to have in 6 months that I am not capable of right now?”

 

  • “What is the one or two specific swim skills that would do the most to make that happen? (Note which foundational skills must come before other advanced dependent skills).

 

  • “Before going out to get more, what education resources ‘on my shelf’ already could I squeeze more value out of? Have I put in the effort required to get what I can from my current resources?”

 

  • What other tools or assistance might I need to make the daily practice of these skills work?

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How do I reconcile this topic with my efforts to sell you on another workshop, lessons, camp, or online program membership? Do you really need one of those? Have you done all you can with what you have already?

It is in my interest also as an education service that you get results from what you are taught. Satisfied students attract more students. As a student you must have realistic expectations for How Improvement Works. Therefore I must help you realize that you have a critical role to play in your own success. I can only provide part of the equation – the information, the structure, the guidance, and encouragement. But you must still invest the time, attention and effort to integrate the concepts into your mental and physical practice. If you haven’t done that work after the first book, video, lesson, or camp – it won’t magically happen after the second one either – without a change in the way you approach it.

So, if you feel the urge to go get more or get something new, ask yourself how it will be better than what you’ve got already. What else might be required of you to be more successful with the new thing than you were with the last thing?

As much as those of us in TI, or in any other program may try to make it easier, better, faster for you – there is a point at which there is no more we can do for you than what you are willing to do for yourself. (As I tell my teenage children, “I can’t want this for you more than you do. It doesn’t work that way.”)

Here are some practical instructions:

  • Slow down, or just stop for a moment.
  • Think of what you want.
  • Set a specific (measurable) goal.
  • Define what body control skill you need to work on first for that.
  • Define what mental skill you need to work on first for that.
  • Make some tough decisions to trim input that is too much, too soon, or not directly related.
  • Plan the time, a little bit each day.
  • Then do it, a little bit each day.
  • Go as long as it takes to start seeing a new habit form.

Then, for a little encouragement to keep going, connect with those who are pursuing the same thing as you. And, of course, you are always welcome to send me a note too.

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