A Constant Striving For Improvement

I recently watched Eliud Kipchoge breaking the 2 hour mark for the marathon. It was an incredible thing to see. I stood in my lounge shouting encouragement and crying when he achieved his dream. The physical aspect of it is totally amazing. I was delighted when I managed to break the 2 hour mark for a half marathon, so the fact that he’s done that for a full marathon completely blows my mind. He clearly has a remarkable talent. The conditions were just right for him, with everything from the location, the pacers, his shoes and his fuelling all controlled as closely as possible. Ultimately though it was down to him. His belief that he could do it this time and pushing through the pain to succeed in his goal.

Listening to the commentators, they were talking about some of the things that make him such a great athlete. Clearly he has the innate talent to make him an incredible runner. That’s not enough though. He had a tough start in life, with hardship being an expected part of his life. Even now in his training camp the mantra is “run, eat, sleep, repeat.” That’s what’s needed to be the best. Even if I had the talent I don’t think that life would be for me. There’s too many things I want to achieve in my life to focus exclusively on one thing.

Apparently Eliud is a big believer in reading self-help books. He likes to think deeply about things and then applies this to his running. He doesn’t have a mental coach, which is a bit unusual for a top athlete, but rather he likes to read and apply what he’s learned to his sport. I must admit that I’m a big fan of books that help me to improve myself. I like to read books about setting and achieving goals and how to make changes to my life. Some of these types of books are a bit too pie in the sky for me, but as long as they’re offering practical advice that I can see how to implement in my own ife then I’m in.

The Need To Take Action

Of course the danger with these types of books is that you just read endlessly, nod sagely and do nothing about implementing the changes that are needed to change your life. I’ve definitely been guilty of this in the past, and although I do take action nowadays, I’m sure I could be doing more and making grander changes to get me to where I want to be much quicker. I think the key is to read enough to galvanise you into action, but not to spend all your time setting goals and reading about how to achieve them, rather than actually doing something about bringing about the change you want to see.

I like to think that I’m pretty good at reaching my goals once I’ve set my mind to them. For me the difficult thing is working out what I want to do in the first place. I have a spreadsheet set up with goals for the different aspects of my life. So I have separate tabs for health, running, work, learning, money and the house. The danger is that this just turns in to a massive To Do list. As long as these are all steps along the way to reaching an overarching goal, then that’s good, but sometimes these feel as though they are a little unconnected.

Streaking Is a Wonderful Thing!

Something I’m really enjoying working on at the moment is improving my Spanish. I’m currently on a 143 day streak on Duolingo. I work on this twice a day, going through the tree and listening to the stories and podcasts. This is something that I love doing. I like to feel that I’m learning new things and improving my skills. But how is this going to help me in my life? I’m not planning on using it in my job and I don’t even have a holiday planned where it would come in useful. I suppose it’s possible that at some point in the future I might move back to Spain so keeping up with my Spanish keeps that open as an option for me. I’m not sure if that’s really why I’m doing it though. It’s fine if I’m just doing it for fun, but I didn’t really plan to spend so much time on this, I just started and got really into it.

Coding Is Messing With My Mind

Something new that I’ve started working on is coding. Again, it’s not something that I’ve consciously planned to do, but I suppose it was in the back of my mind. You know when opportunities just seem to present themselves and everything seems to come together almost as if it was meant to be. The kids are both into their coding, with one of them in the midst of building a game for his Computing project as part of his Higher course. The other kid wants to do this as a living, so there is a decent amount of computing/coding chat around the house. It’s maybe inevitable then that it would be on my radar at some level.

At work we have the opportunity to give back to the community with a day off work to volunteer. Most people go and do gardening or painting or something similar. In the past I’ve done that, but last year I went into a school to talk to the students about managing their money. It was a bit nerve racking, but I really enjoyed it. Don’t even get me started on how little so many of the kids knew about basic budgeting, saving and borrowing. Anyway this year I’ve been holding off on using my day looking for another interesting opportunity.

Finally a project was advertised to go in to schools to help kids with coding projects. It said it was suitable for complete beginners as the idea was you would work through the project first of all yourself and then guide the kids through it. The idea terrified me, so that immediately told me it was a great idea for me to apply for it. I’m going for my induction shortly to get all my vetting done and I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in.

Meanwhile posters appeared where I work about drop in sessions to learn how to code. They will be once a week and you work away yourself on the freeCodeCamp website, but there’s someone there to talk things through with. Again I was terrified, so again a good reason to go along. Sometimes things just seem to come together and you just have to go with the flow. Probably if I hadn’t gone for the volunteering opportunity to teach the kids how to code then I wouldn’t have even noticed the drop in sessions that were on offer.

So I’ve been to that first coding session and to say I was bamboozled to start with would be the understatement of the century. I think I probably already knew that I would find it hard, but that’s no reason to give up. I worked away during my hour’s lunch break and made some progress. I then got home that night and worked away some more, this time with the assistance of my home grown computer experts. I’m on holiday this week, so that’s given me some time for some more practicing. It’s hard, but I’m really enjoying it. When the penny drops on a particular part and I get something to work I’m so pleased with myself.

So for now my plan is to keep working away at the free Code Camp curriculum. I’ve started with html and seem to be managing that without too many issues (well, you know, a bit of tearing out of my hair, but I’m getting there). I’ll just keep plugging away, use my lunch break once a week to go to the drop in sessions and keep practicing at home. Hopefully my vetting will come through quite quickly for getting in to the schools and I’ll manage to help the kids with some of the projects. Who knows where all this will lead? Not me anyway. Will this lead to a change in career? I have my doubts, but I suppose it’s not beyond the realms of possibility. The fact of the matter is though that I’m learning new things, expanding my horizons and peering into the future to see what might be possible. If I don’t try then I won’t know what I can do.

Get Out Of That Comfort Zone

I’m shocking at dealing with change. I retreat into myself and try and resist at all costs. Ironically though I get bored if things don’t change often enough. Although I want things to remain constant, I get incredibly frustrated when they do. I really need to force myself out of my comfort zone. Learning is what sustains me. I’ve always loved learning new things. Ideally I would be a student or on a training course for the rest of my life. Probably not the most practical plan, but lifelong learning is definitely the way to go for me.

This is partly down to loving learning, but also because I always want to be improving myself. I always feel that I have so much more potential than I’ve ever come close to achieving. It seems to me that there should be a switch inside myself that I could just put on that means I would understand so much more about the world. I know this switch doesn’t exist, but I sometimes feel that I’m so close to understanding things, but I just can’t get my head around them. Although I studied sciences up to O level, I’m much more on the social sciences side of things. I love language and my brain really struggles with the maths side of things. I do feel though that if I could just understand some basic maths concepts then lots more things would become clear to me.

It just so happens that I have two maths and science fiends living in my house with me. Both of them have those sorts of brains that revel in maths and science. One wants to study maths at university and the other computing.  I know all parents think their children are amazing, and I’m no exception, but just from an objective point of view my kids are good at this sort of stuff. Both of them have taken exams a year early and sailed through them and one of them is trying to get in to Cambridge to study maths. The other one wants to study computing, and would aim for Cambridge too but unless tuition fees get abolished he’s going to stay in Scotland (clearly my FIRE rantings have had some effect!) I have to say I can take absolutely no credit for the brains on these two. I’m not exactly dragging my knuckles on the ground, but I’m not in the same league as them. What can I say, clever men are my thing, which means you get clever kids when you procreate.

It would be ridiculous not to make use of these live in maths brains to get them to help me to understand some of this stuff. They won’t be living at home forever, so I might as well make the most of it now. So one of them is teaching me some algebra. I don’t quite know how this started, but suddenly I was solving equations on the blackboard. My house is a bit random in that we have blackboards around the place and both of them have a blackboard wall in their bedrooms.

One day I was walking home from work thinking about how big a pot I needed to accrue so that using the safe withdrawal rate I would have enough to top up my defined benefits pension. My sociology brain somehow realised that algebra would be able to help me with this. I burst through the door and got one of the kids to sit down with me and point me in the right direction to figure it out. I was insanely pleased with myself, and this has become a bit of a regular thing over the last week or so.

Part of this is that I just want to know how to do this stuff. To some people it just seems so easy, and I want it to be like that for me. Sadly it’s not, well not yet anyway. The other part is that I want my kids to be proud of me. I’m not saying that I’m some dummy, or even that intelligence is the only important thing in life, but I really want to be the best that I can be. What is it that they say? You are the sum of the five people you surround yourself with? Something like that anyway. Well at least two of those people are my kids, and they are pretty incredible, and I want to be like that too. They’re still only teenagers and yet they are so interested in learning things. I really don’t feel like I can have any credibility in the house if I’m not striving to improve. I realise that I should be the role model to my kids, and not the other way round, but honestly if I could be half as clever and interesting as they are then I’d be more than satisfied with myself.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s