Training vs Trying

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been reminded again about the value of training. My family and I just returned from trekking in Peru. For several reasons, I was unable to train like I have for previous trips. As the trip approached, I made a classic error that transcends the outdoor adventure world: In the absence of training, I assumed I would just try harder.

As we began to climb on our first day, I was quickly reminded that trying is no substitute for training. As a guy who’s been in the training field for many years, I probably should have given this more thought. But, as we hiked for six days to an elevation of over 15,000 feet, I had plenty of time to think.
Why does training matter? Here’s my most recent thinking…
Training enables us to do by choice what we cannot do by trying alone. Thankfully, I had trained just enough to successfully complete the trek. But had I not trained at all, trying would have been insufficient. Had I trained more, the entire experience would also have been more enjoyable.
Let’s put this in another context. If you or I are asked to do something we do not know how to do or are physically unable to do, trying will not cut it. Training is always an essential element in performance. We must know how, and be able, to do what is required. Training provides the path.
As we moved along the trail, I was reminded of the second reason I’m a big believer in training. Not only does it give us the ability to perform, continued training elevates our ability and proficiency. Training makes us better!
This second truth was reinforced by a lady on our trip who was one of the world’s leading high altitude mountaineers. Ever hear of the seven summits? Peggy had invested the last 20 years training to attack those mountains. Her life of training was evident. She was amazing! I guess when you’ve been to 29,000 feet, 15,000 doesn’t even raise your pulse. Her life is a testimony to the power of training – not to gain basic proficiency, but to create deep expertise and capacity.
Here’s my question after the adventure:

In what areas of my life do I need more training?

Are there areas in which I don’t even have the requisite basic skills to lead well? If so, training is required.
For many of you, based on where you are on your leadership journey, you may not have any critical gaps in your leadership skill set. Congratulations! The question for you is different:

In what areas should I consider deepening my skills?

Is there something you should pursue to take your leadership to the next level? Is there an area in which your expertise and proficiency are merely adequate? What is your training plan?
I wrote a post a few weeks ago about Mastery. It seems like an appropriate reference to close this post. The master doesn’t train to a basic proficiency and stop. She or he continues to train. I believe the best leaders embrace a life-style of training (learning).
I can’t wait for my next adventure. I’m not sure when or where it will be, but make no mistake, I will continue to train. How about you?[GLS_Shield]

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John R. Meese

9 years ago

Great point, Mark. I often make the similar mistake of relying on my endurance and willpower to make up for the lack of training.
I saw the difference most starkly on my two treks at Philmont Boy Scout ranch in the mountains of New Mexico. The first time when I went I was 14, overweight, and had scraped by with the minimum preparation possible. It was supposed to be a once in a lifetime experience. I was miserable.
Four years later I had the incredible opportunity to go again. This time I trained more, was in better shape, and went with a different crew. I had a fantastic time, and my crew even chose me to lead them! I try to remember the difference between these two events when I need motivation to train for something.


9 years ago

Thanks, John. I appreciate you joining the conversation! Mark

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