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Feb 23, 2013

On Criticism and Coachability

“Criticism is something you can easily avoid by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” ~Aristotle 

From Tabata sets and air squats to sprints and "star-jumps," you won't catch a Space Dragon around the beach not already busting their booties to kick the season into gear. The air is ripe with work and sweat and the season is definitely in full swing. But with all that physical prep, let's pause and consider our mental game. 

I mean, let's face it, starts, "rate-ups," land workouts, and OC-2 time trials--although fiercely great and punishing--are debatably not as exhausting as a tired mind. At the end of the day when I feel completely exhausted, its oftentimes not because of all the physical things I've been doing but really of the mentally draining things I've subjected myself to (OK, sometimes it is the former. #BURPEES #racesets #OC2timetrials). The type of exhaustion I'm talking about is the type of exhaustion you get when you've bent over backwards trying to win people's approval, either in work or in life. I'll admit I'm getting better at it, but I can't imagine how exhausting it must be to listen to every daily bit of criticism one might get from his or her boss at work, loved ones at home, and even one's self. To add to the madness, there are those pesky coaches (like yours truly) making sure that you--the dedicated paddler--are on-time, entering smoothly, setting your blade, pulling aggressively, recovering smoothly, or otherwise being the perfect paddling specimen you're striving to be. Criticism comes from all around, but taking it can be an exhausting experience if you let it affect you negatively.
I realize criticism doesn't always come gently nor does it always come from a perspective of positivity. Sometimes the feedback we receive is unsolicited and doesn't come from a coach and may even be off-putting. We can't control what other people will say to us, whether they'll approve or form opinions and share them. But we can control how we internalize it, respond to it, and learn from it, as well as when we release it and move on.

Here are some tips on the benefits of criticism and how to receive it from your coaches so you can become the best "coachable" paddler you can be. 

  1. Looking for seeds of truth in criticism encourages humility. Its not easy to take an honest look at yourself and your weakness, but you can only grow if you're willing to try.
  2. Learning from criticism allows you to improve. Almost every critique gives you a tool to more effectively create the paddler you visualize yourself to be.
  3. Criticism gives you the chance to foster problem solving skills, which isn't always easy when you're feeling sensitive, self-critical, or annoyed with your critic. 
  4. Criticism presents an opportunity to choose peace over conflict. Oftentimes, when criticized our instinct is to fight, creating unnecessary drama. The people around us generally want to help us, not judge us.
  5. Fielding criticism well helps you mitigate the need to be right. Nothing closes an open mind like ego--bad for your personal growth, damaging for your relationships, and a hinderance to your technical growth as a paddler.
  6. Fostering the ability to let go of your bad feelings and thoughts about being critiqued can help you let go in other areas of your life outside of paddling. Letting go of worries, stresses, regrets, and fears helps you root yourself in the present moment. Mindfulness is always the most efficient use of time. 
Training is hard. Taking criticism is easy. Good luck on your time trials Space!

Teamwork …
There are NO “stars” in dragon boat paddling. No one paddler makes the boat go, it’s a team effort, with the many working as one.  This applies both on and off the water. Teamwork is the single most important attribute of a successful team.