Have you ever heard of “rock training”?
“Rock training” is a special course the U.S. Army developed for soldiers like me. I’m a poor swimmer, or as my instructors put it, I swim like a rock.
I took swimming lessons as a child, and every year my family spent a week at Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. I learned the rudiments – the crawl, the backstroke, and how to swim underwater. But I never learned how to tread water or the side stroke. Both techniques are important to pass the Army’s Combat Water Survival Test (CWST).
The CWST is designed to make sure a soldier can cross streams, deal with falling unexpectedly into water at night, and survive a parachute landing in water. And while saving himself, the soldier needs to save his rifle. As a safety precaution, the test takes place in a pool, with several lifeguards at every station. As a “victim” the first time I took the test, I appreciated the presence of the lifeguards.
Enrollment in “rock training” was mandatory for anyone who flunked the test. After several weeks of splashing, kicking and swimming, we were allowed to re-test. This time I was determined to pass, and I did (although I’m pretty sure I also drank half the water in the pool).
Since then, I never forded a stream, fell into the water at night, or had a water landing after jumping from an airplane. I still don’t swim that often, and I’ll never be the best swimmer in the pool. But I apply the lessons from “rock training” everyday.
Lesson 1 – If you don’t know how to do something, seek out professional training.
If I tried to teach myself how to swim, I’d be stuck at the shallow end of the pool. Or worse, I would’ve drowned. Instead, I received training from certified instructors. They knew how to swim, and they knew how to teach swimming.
What skills do you need to reach goals? Research what training is available for your field. Attend classes, seminars and conferences. Seek out a mentor to guide you through the rough waters.
Lesson 2 – Always swim with a buddy.
The water can be a dangerous place. Bumping into the pool’s wall or getting a cramp can become life threatening. Swimming with a buddy ensures that there’s someone looking out for you. And you are looking out for your buddy.
Who’s your buddy at work? In life? We may get so fixated on our goals that we don’t see other obstacles that may cause us harm. Don’t go it alone. Have a buddy who’s ready to hold your head above water when you get tired.
Lesson 3 – Don’t let fear keep you from your goals.
Some of the guys in my swimming class were afraid of water. Deathly afraid. The thought of putting their head underwater for more than a second was unimaginable. But passing the CWST was mandatory to get into special schools. So they faced their fears, learned to swim, and achieved their goals.
What fears are stopping you from achieving your goals? Maybe it’s the fear of speaking up at a meeting. Or the fear of managing people for the first time. Maybe it’s just the fear of failure. Being afraid is okay. Letting your fears stop you from reaching your goals is not okay. You’ll always be stuck in the shallow end of the pool unless you face your fears, and take steps to overcome them.
Lesson 4 – Slow, deliberate movement is the most effective way to move yourself.
The first time I took the CWST, I thought moving my arms as fast as possible would propel me to the other end of the pool. All I did was cause a lot of splashing and tired myself out. In “rock training” I learned that slow, complete swimming strokes would move me forward faster.
Are you doing too much too fast? Look at your schedule and the activities you try to accomplish everyday. Narrow down the list, and concentrate on the events that will add the most value. Stop doing things that take up your energy while you barely keep your head above water.
Lesson 5 – Be prepared before jumping in the deep end.
No one swam in the deep end of the pool on the first day of rock training. The instructors made sure we first understood the fundamentals. We practiced in a safe area before venturing into deeper waters.
Are you prepared for your next challenge? Practicing the fundamentals isn’t always fun, but it’s necessary to be successful. Test yourself and your skills in a safe area before getting in over your head.
Every time you overcome a challenge, what you learn will help you in other areas. “Rock training” wasn’t the most enjoyable time of my life. But I needed to learn to swim better to pass the CWST. And passing that test meant more than just being a good swimmer, it meant doing what it takes to achieve a goal.
By applying the technical swimming lessons, I’m able to swim in the deep end of the pool. I can enjoy myself at the ocean or on vacation at a hotel. By applying the lessons I learned about myself, I’m able to venture further in the business world. I’m able to enjoy my career and my life. And I’m no longer a “rock”.
Mark M. Fallon is president and CEO of The Berkshire Company, a consulting firm specializing in mail and document processing strategies. The company develops customized solutions integrating proven management concepts with emerging technologies to achieve total process management. He offers a vision of the document that integrates technology, data quality, process integrity, and electronic delivery. His successes are based upon using leadership to implement innovative solutions in the document process. You can contact Mark at email@example.com.