My Mate Liz…

…is in the middle of doing a very brave thing.  I listened to her talking on Facebook Live this morning and what she spoke of triggered me to want to write a post of my own.  But more than that, she’s made me want to write it right now, quickly, not thought through.  That’s hard for me.


What’s even harder is that I’m concerned that what I’ve written will seem critical of Liz’s broadcast. It isn’t.  It’s very much meant to be a “yes, and…”

So here goes.

Liz talks about the act of committing to something that we’re not comfortable with and how that commitment can provide the energy needed to succeed in whatever it is. Liz’s analogy of committing to the drop-off on her mountain bike is a great one – not committing can be a sure way of going over the handlebars. Liz also talks about sport in schools being a great way of teaching that point, whether it be going for the tackle, getting onto the front foot or deciding on the port-tack flyer (extra points for naming the sports…) and I heartily agree with both points..


On the commitment thing :: Over-committing is bad.

There’s a line between pushing the envelope and being over-ambitious. Often the distinction between the two is applied in hindsight, after the result is known, and sometimes that’s not fair. Sometimes the distinction is obvious at the outset, though.

Here’s a made-up example: It’s a grey, windy, rainy day and two sailors head out in two boats from Swanage headed for Weymouth. They both end up getting rescued a few hours later. Did they both over-commit? Should they have known better? OK – so you haven’t got enough information to make a judgement – but that often doesn’t stop us either when we’re judging others or when we’re making a decision to commit to something ourselves. Here’s some more information for you then:

The first boat, a well found 40′ yacht, hit a submerged log that caused steering failure. The experienced skipper was unable to continue his passage, despite trying, and reluctantly called the UK Coastguard for help.

The second sailor was spotted by a member of the public waving for help as the small handmade dinghy he’s in gets tossed about off St Albans head.

Early commitment (or premature convergence) can be bad too.  Try this little quiz.  We all have a tendency to jump to a conclusion, or decision, when we see some evidence to back it up.  We need to look for the evidence that what we’re about to do or decide is a bad thing too.

On the sport thing :: Losing is a bad word

Sport, by it’s very nature, encourages competition. Competition encourages winners. People who don’t win are losers and they have failed.

How are we supposed to learn in an environment like that?

The answer, of course, is not to have an environment like that! Create an environment where sportsmanship (what’s the gender neutral equivalent of that?) is valued and where the coach spends as much time with the 3rd team as the 1st team and you’ve got a much better recipe for learning and improvement. We learn most when we fail, provided it’s safe for us to do us.  It’s why my 17 year old twins are learning to drive in a car park and I’ve banned them from counting the number of times they stall…

So what are my conclusions?

On commitment; gather the data, think about the decision you’re making, use models, tools and experience to test your thinking. When you decide, go for it.

On sport; play to win, play to have fun, play nice.  Learn when you win, learn when you don’t.  Try things out – it’s only a game.

And at work; see above.

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