Thursday, June 18, 2015

Embrace the Boredom

Boredom is good?

I don't know what to think of this.

I would appreciate your opinion.

There appears to be a whole series of posts and articles lately on the general theme of how boredom is good for you and why you should "embrace the boredom."

For example, James Clear had a chance to talk to a top Olympic coach and ask him the thing we all want to know...

“What’s the difference between the best athletes and everyone else. What do the really successful people do that most people don’t?”  
He briefly mentioned the things that you might expect. Genetics. Luck. Talent.  
But then he said something I wasn’t expecting. “At some point,” he said, “it comes down to who can handle the boredom of training every day and doing the same lifts over and over and over again.”

Hmmm! The boredom of training.

It sounds right, If you are going to be good at anything - running, sailing, playing the guitar - you are going to have to do lots and lots of practice and training.

And sometimes that gets boring. The ones who succeed learn how to "embrace the boredom."

I can see that. The people who rise to the top are mentally tough enough to stick at the training plan and keep working at it even when they are bored with it. They "fall in love with boredom."

But is that really the only way?

When I was training to run marathons I had to do a number of really, really long runs. Longer than the marathon distance itself in some cases. And what's more boring than running? Put one foot in front of the other. Repeat for 30 miles.

I solved it - to an extent - by exploring different places to run. Trails through unfamiliar woods (until the time I got lost and had to run even further than planned to find my way home.) A trail alongside an historic canal in another part of the state. Actually it was still pretty boring at times.

It's much the same with sailing.

The top Olympic sailors are sailing on at least 100 days every year. I think even sailing would quickly become boring if you were doing the same drills with the same people in the same boat at the same place day after day after day.

Of course, we sailors are lucky in that the winds are rarely the same from one day to the next so that introduces some variety into the program.

But we can also avoid boredom and burnout by mixing it up. Sail in different places. Sail on the sea and on lakes and on rivers. Sail on flat water and in waves. Do solo practice. Tune up with one training partner. Attend a group clinic. Sail small regattas. Sail large regattas. Travel to other countries to sail. Sail in different boats.

But surely most of us sail for fun. Why do it at all if it's boring?

What do you think?

Do you have to "embrace boredom" to succeed.

If so, how do you make yourself do that?

Are there other tricks if you want to put in the time to hone your skills to a high level without getting bored out of your mind in the process?

Is embracing boredom the new mindfulness?

Does embracing boredom make you more creative?

Or is boredom just a bore?

Surfing a bore


yarg said...

I ran across a good line to remember when thinking about this (from Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell I think) - "Talent is the desire to practice." It's a long way to get to the 10,000 hours required to be world class at something, You have to practice a lot. We all want to win, but most of us don't want to practice enough to get there. Finding some variety is a great way to keep up the desire, but sooner or later it gets boring to us semi-serious mediocrities.
I like to think we mediocrities are less obsessive, more well rounded, and more well adjusted human beings.

Tillerman said...

"Talent is the desire to practice." I like that. It's saying much the same thing as the quotation in the James Clear post only more succinctly.

The big question in my mind is what drives the desire to practice. Is it a sheer love of the process of practice? Or is it a driving ambition and focus on the results of practice (better skills, better results in competition) that enable some people to block out the boredom of practice? Can you really "embrace" boredom?

Anonymous said...

Boredom can make you think of better alternatives.

For example, I think I am reasonably efficient at things because I am a bit lazy - so I find better ways of doing things.

Tillerman said...

Great point Anonymous. I have always felt that my successes in life, such as they are, have been achieved because of my laziness.

I could write a post - with examples - to explain this but I am too lazy right now to be bothered.

Skippy said...

Hey Tillerman - I forgot your personal email. Could you contact me? Use my last name on my google account I talked with a couple of local guys that are racing with you out here. I wanted to make sure you have a great time.
Of course if you are too lazy....

John in PDX

Tillerman said...

Sent you an email Skippy. I'm not THAT lazy!

Center of Effort said...

When we go practice it's never boring. One of my favorite quotes of all time by Thomas Edison. "Creativity is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration." When I was a teen I loved playing there piano. I practiced sometimes 3 hours a day. I never got bored but playing piano is a challenge on multiple levels. I think a sport like football has to be boring in practice. Anyway I see the Pop Warner kids practicing and it looks really boring to me. Sailing practice is never boring. Like you said the conditions are always changing and there's always something to work on. That's one of the reasons I love it so much. Oh and all my semi-serious training partners who provide lots of laughs and allow me the opportunity to imbibe in funky tasting beers at Aidan's Pub.

Tillerman said...

Well said Judith Krimski. I agree - funky beer is the best cure for boredom.

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