motivation · Rowing

Lessons sports teach you: Perfection is the enemy of excellence


Our rowing coach told us today to think about improving the ratio of good to bad strokes rather than striving for perfection. I think that’s terrific advice in many areas of life. Rowing, yes, but writing too.

Don’t let your bad days define you.

The idea is to put bad strokes behind you instantly. They’re gone, they’re over, don’t dwell.

No one is perfect. I got a good reminder of this on the weekend when I worked one of the rescue boats at a regatta hosted by our club.

Our job is to help ensure the safety of rowers. We kept sailboats and kayakers away from the course. We also were charged with seeing if “flippers and tippers” needed aid. If they can get back in their boat and row on they can continue in the race so you need to ask if help is wanted.

Only one boat flipped on our watch. It was in a women’s single race, under 23, I think. Everyone assumed it was one of the novice rowers but no, it was a member of the national rowing team who’d flipped her single. She was in the lead at the time.

Thinking about performance in terms of ratio of good to bad, helps you think about getting better. Otherwise, we default to all or nothing thinking.

I sometimes think feminists need this awareness, maybe progressive people generally. We criticize most harshly ourselves and others for our mistakes when we’re getting it right eighty percent of the time.

Would it be better to get it wrong all the time?


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