How To Get Better At It

Rower Me

Practice won’t make perfect (perfection is an illusion) but it sure will make you less crap at something.

A lot of things came easily to me as a child. Spelling, maths, climbing trees. The unfortunate legacy of this is that if something doesn’t come easily, I’m not all that interested in pursuing it. That’s why I’m a Jack of All Trades. I’ll give anything a go but I have a lack of patience in acquiring the requisite skills.

I’ve always held the view that if I’m not good at it the first time, then it’s not a talent I possess so there’s no point in persisting with it.

I don’t expect perfection (well, okay, maybe a bit) but I won’t settle for less than competent. Or at least non-embarrassing.

I like to conveniently overlook the fact that concert pianists, best-selling authors and elite athletes get to where they are by putting in the hours. It’s easier to assume they have some other-worldly gift that makes such success out of reach of we mere mortals.

A Lesson for a Jack of All Trades

About two and a half years ago, I took up rowing. Just for the heck of it. It looked like fun. And it was. Mostly. But, in typical fashion, my enthusiasm waned as my skills did not progress as quickly to the desired level as I thought they should. So, about a month ago, I decided to quit.

Besides, I’d been eyeing off the stand-up paddleboarders on the river.

But as with many an activity I undertake and then think I’m not good enough to continue, there was a friendly community attached to it that made it difficult to give up. I was convinced to give it another go. I paid my membership and explained why it was so late. This then prompted an offer of some coaching which I gladly accepted.

Two sessions back in the single ‘tub’ (wider and heavier than a normal scull) and I was told I was ready to take my sculling test. You are not permitted to train in a racing single scull until you pass a test to show you have the necessary skills in balance and manoeuvring. A racing scull is handy because you can pick it up by yourself. A tub takes two. Independence is impossible. Interdependence is necessary.

By now, in addition to the single, I was rowing in a quad three mornings a week and an eight one morning a week.

I passed the test.

Lesson 1: Doing something more often will make you better at it.

Another Lesson for a Jack of All Trades

On my first outing in a ‘tracer’ (slightly heavier than a racing scull, used for training), I made it about 50 metres up the river before I fell in.

Kind of like this except I didn’t have the excuse of hitting something. I just fell in.

On the upside, I was still in front of the rowing sheds so it was an easy matter of towing the boat over to the landing to get out. Also on the upside, nobody saw me fall in. (The coach hadn’t even made it out of the shed with the bike after helping me launch.)

My coach picked up the boat, tipped the water out, put the boat back on the water and held it while he looked at me expectantly. Right. Dripping wet, a little bit cold and a big bit nervous, I got back into the boat.

Somehow I managed to row the five kilometres up and back without another dousing. And without freezing to death. Hooray for a windless day.

The next morning, with the memory of falling out of the boat rapidly growing to terrifying proportions in my mind, I fronted up to have another go before I could lose my nerve.

I didn’t fall in. I got better at steering. I got better at feeling for the balance of the boat. I got better in my stroke technique. (There’s little margin for error in a skinny little single scull.)

I got better at rowing.

Lesson 2: No, really, doing something more often will make you better at it.

Okay, so maybe all those concert pianists, best-selling authors and elite athletes are on to something.




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59 thoughts on “How To Get Better At It

  1. You row pretty well down the river of words as well. But for the few concert pianists, best selling authors or elite athletes that make it, there are thousands that are just as good but somehow fall through the cracks. It is all a game you know. It is in the doing and that’s what counts.
    You write very well and I like your wit and humour, it shines through.

    Liked by 6 people

  2. I applaud you. And I totally get the default position of wanting to hit the road running, in complete expertise mode the first time I pick up the paddle. Well, in my case, the crochet hook. For that’s exactly what I did the for my first crochet project – a full blown cardigan – nope, no sissy-pants granny squares for this gal.

    It took me a while (years!) to get comfortable with the concept that granny squares are perfectly valid. So are the crafters who crochet granny squares.

    Of course, when you drop a stitch while you crochet, you don’t get a head-to-toe dunk in icy water! Glad you got back in the paddle… er, saddle!

    Liked by 7 people

  3. Well done on passing the test! Falling in the water must be one of those learning experiences I keep hearing so much about. You only fell in that once, so you obviously improved during the course of the day.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Never tried rowing (kayaking is my water sport of choice) but other than that, this could be about me 😉 Thinking of stand up paddle boarding and – squirrel! – – this summer I gave stand up paddle boarding a go. About an hour into my first adventure I was feeling pretty good, very stable and such. There was a nice little yacht, you know, the type that costs more than I could possibly make in 10 lifetimes, with 4 bikini clad ladies sunning themselves on the deck. I, of course, was going to make a good impression and show my hour worth of skill. I flipped off the back of the thing and lost my sunglasses. I was able to catch up and grab the board before it wet into the heavy boat traffic, but still… Uhm, yeah, some things take practice.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Oh no, Trent! At least it would have been er… entertaining? 😀

      After my balancing experience in the scull, I’m not quite so enamoured of the idea of stand-up paddleboarding. I suspect it will be just another thing I can’t do properly.

      Kayaking looks fun, though. And you can see where you’re going.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Stand up paddle boards are not my favorite. With kayaks, yes, there is something to be said about facing the proper way in a boat 😉 What’s good about kayaks, besides seeing where you are going, is that beginners with zero skill can have fun. The bad thing is I know a lot of totally out of shape people that say, “yes, I’m an avid kayaker, just like you!” – it seems to be the totally out of shape sport of choice.

        Liked by 3 people

        • “it seems to be the totally out of shape sport of choice.” Gosh, you make me laugh! 😀

          I must say, that is one thing about the rowing. It uses every bit of you. It’s supposed to be one of the best for all-round fitness. If you’re in a cox-less boat, you even get some good neck stretches in. 😉

          We see a lot of kayaks and canoes on the river these days. It’s certainly becoming very popular.

          Liked by 1 person

          • With kayaking you can make it as strenuous as you want – I go at a very fast pace without taking breaks and really don’t care if I’m going against the current or if the water is rough. Others take it a bit more leisurely and complain that my wake makes their boat tip as I go by. Of course, that pace is still a million times better than sitting inside watching television.

            Liked by 1 person

  5. I have never been naturally good at an activity. Well possibly climbing but nothing has come easily. I’m often the slowest , the weakest, the whatever. I have learned that with tenacity and practice most anything is possible. So from across the miles I am cheering like mad at your success!! Good on you I say and I look forward to hearing more about your water ways.:)

    Liked by 1 person

        • Oh. Um. Er. Nope. Can’t do it. What do I give up? I mean, it’s not like I do ten different sports and I’d have to focus on just one. My interests are so varied. I could focus on rowing but what happens to my music? I could focus on the banjo but then I’d miss the ukulele. And the piano. And the guitar. And then, anyway, I’d miss being on the stage in a play. Urgh. Too hard. I’m probably really a happy little Jack of All Trades even in my ordinariness.

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Persistance pays with everything. It’s good to hear that you haven’t given up the challenge, Heather. Sometimes it’s the people associated with the activity that help to keep you focussed. Enjoy your posts, especially your humour.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I’m so impressed you persevered and you’ve even accomplished! Look how much you would’ve missed if you’d just been done with it! I think the only thing we need now is a GoPro on you somewhere so we can see you in action out there as you’re taking over the waters! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • Ha! It may be some time before that happens. I’d want to get to a point at least where I was confident I wasn’t going to lose it to the bottom of the river on the first outing!
      Plus, my goodness, you should see the armchair coaches come out in the comments on those rowing videos. Egad.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I reckon rowing must be better for you than running, H me love: after all, running does all that thrusting of the leg-bones up into the pelvic area, etc. … Rowing must exercise many more muscles. What a good thing they don’t make these vessels large enough for MOI ! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Congrats on sticking with the rowing and passing the test! I consider you the Master of Everything because you are not afraid to try something new. I think that is what counts, being fearless enough to try.

    If given the opportunity, I would give rowing a shot. In my head, it sounds like fun and good exercise.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, you so should, M-J! It’s great exercise (one of the best for overall fitness) and there’s nothing quite like moving along a river on an early still Summer morning. 🙂
      And thank you for your first comment, especially “being fearless enough to try”. I’m going to hold on tight to that one. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I really am not very well versed in rowing, so I’ll ask this: so you went from rowing in a group to rowing on your own in one of those skinny single tubs? I suppose the first time falling in really scared you – heck, who wants to feel all cold and shivering and uncomfortable? And your mind and body is using all of its will to keep the boat steady.

    Like you, I agree that practise doesn’t make perfect but we can certainly improve on what we are doing. It reminds me of piano lessons as a kid. My first piano teacher always “tsk tsk-ed” when I played and didn’t approve much of my progress. So did the second teacher. Then the third. The fifth teacher had faith in me and under her and hours and hours of practise, I passed grade four piano 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    • In answer to your first question: Not entirely. I’d been out in a single ‘tub’ on and off for the last couple of years (mostly off, to be honest). It’s quite a heavy, steady boat, great to learn in. But I had mostly been rowing in quads (four member sculls) for the past year or so. So even getting back in the tub was weird. Getting into the skinny racing scull was like starting all over again. In fact, I had to remind myself that I felt nervous and unsteady in the tub when I started in that and later I felt quite comfortable.
      Falling in really did scare me. I’m having to fight against the fear every time I get back in the boat at the moment but I think I’ll get there. (Just not this week because there is no way I’m going out in the dark. Need to wait for the mornings to lighten again.)
      Your piano story highlighted how important it is to have people who believe in you when you’re trying to achieve something. So glad you found someone like that eventually. 🙂


      • It sounds like handling a whole new set of wheels going from the single tub to the quads and back again. You got to push the right pedals so to speak and basically find your balance again.

        Fear is what keeps us more alert, helps us pay attention. Good luck 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  11. Great lessons. Well done for persisting in the face of discomfort and alarm. Funnily enough, although I too am a Jack of all trades, I come at it from the other direction. I’m too daft to understand that talent is needed at all. If I get interested in something, I just assume I will be able to learn how to do it – if I try hard enough. Sometimes this turns out to be true (up to a point, as in I always get better than I was at the start), sometimes, like playing the piano, progress is so glacial, I set it aside, then try again a few years later. You’d think I would have got the message by now.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. There is hope for me, the non sporty clutz, after all, it seems. (at least I can practise, doesn’t guarantee I will ever “get” anywhere in the sporting field. I think Yoga is more my scene for achievement…. lying on the floor and relaxing, yeh, I am good at that! Yet I have dreams of buying a kayak when I retire, so your post made me think more about that. Thanks and good luck for next time!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I have putting off so many things I want to do and learn because mostly I like doing things which I think I can (or hope very much I will be good at). I have to admit, I have this horrible fear of failing and looking stupid. Something I have been working hard to change. You have definitely motivated me to reconsider my options 🙂 Thank you!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I completely understand where you are coming from. I’ve had the same fears (still do to some extent). However, I would really encourage you to just give things a try because you just never know what you may discover you are either good at or even if you’re not good at it, that you really love doing. 🙂


  14. Oh boy, we have so much in common! UP is my favorite animation movie! And I too have yet to find out what in the world I’m good at. But unlike you, I’m not motivated enough to try different things to find out. Very cool blog you have here and love the title!

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Hi, MoSY, I’m back for a day or two and Margaret-Rose had already told me you were off gallivanting, but I stopped by to check out at least ONE post, and what do I find?: Yet another new pursuit. One you are already MASTERing (if MASTER is indeed the gender-neutral form). You are brave to remount that bucking seahorse immediately. I shudder. I think sculling would be a blast, but only in a quiet pond in warm waters–a lagoon in the Caribbean, say. One netted off from sharks.

    I hope you are having the most amazing time ever. When next I’m back, perhaps I’ll have time to read about it. May you and your family have a warm and grateful Thanksgiving, MoSY!

    –O. Babe

    Liked by 1 person

    • Babe!! So glad to hear from you. Just doing a brief foray into the Networld while taking a break. Currently in Thimphu, Bhutan. There’s a fair old queue of half-written posts in my head all waiting to be revealed when I’m back in Oz. If you come floating by again and feel so inclined, I’d recommend the one about the project I was working on in Nepal. It’s the one I’m most bursting to tell.
      Hope you’re keeping well. Will drop by your blog when I’m fighting the Back Home Blues.

      Liked by 1 person

      • My blog? Fahgeddabouddit, you astounding woman, you. The next time I dip back into WP, I shall make my way over and read up on your journeys. While I dream of a vacation in Rome, Florence, and Venice (my travellin’ $ keeps going to non-nationalized healthcare) I’m sure you have spent your time working on projects for others. Shame on you for shaming the rest of us!! Good on you!!


  16. Pingback: In My Forties | Master of Something I'm Yet To Discover

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