I've been a bit quiet on the blog for a few weeks now and for good reason. Between my day job through the week and coaching both days on the weekend with family time and duties sandwiched in between, life has been pretty jam packed. That said, I probably wouldn't have it any other way. After all, time is that commodity that you can never get more of. Once spent, you can't make more of it so I like to cram in as much as I can to worthwhile pursuits and purposes.
But after an intense period of busy, nondescript business stuff and actually having a weekend off from coaching I managed to spend a bit of time reflecting on how things in life have been going. And in that reflection I realised something was bothering me. So this particular post is actually me thinking out loud about what I've been mulling over during the last seven days.
In the world of "adult" jobs, my approach to do things could be called "non-traditional". Don't get me wrong - there are many things that I do that are standard and normal. But at certain points, how I prefer to achieve business outcomes diverges from traditional business practices.
So what does any of this have to to do with mountain biking, I hear you ask. Or maybe not, but I'm going to go there anyway.
Learning to jump on a mountain bike is one of those skills that I often get asked about. It's something that a lot of riders aspire to, a stretch goal or objective when translated into business speak. It's something that seems out of their reach with their current abilities and riding experience. But is nonetheless a skill level they want to achieve.
And for some reason, there is a perception that it's something that I can teach people in a single lesson. I mean, it's very flattering that there are those that believe I have this almost mystical ability to instill what is in essence the combination of several complex techniques to deliver the skill of jumping within an hour or two of meeting a person. But I'm honestly not that good a coach. Or perhaps I believe that people need time, practice and experience to really engrain the techniques required to achieve what amounts to stretch goals and objectives.
Jumping back to the business life lesson for a moment, there are two business concepts I want to touch on. The first is the "KPI" - Key Performance Indicator. It is a traditional business measure that is effectively a benchmark that says "if you achieve this, you are doing well". I personally have a fundamental problem with this measure because to me it says "you don't need to do much better than this because you've done what has been defined as acceptable, or even good".
The other business concept is called an "OKR" - Objective and Key Results. The objective is supposed to be a stretch goal, something you're not likely to achieve - but you might get 70% of the way there, as defined by the key results. Interestingly, I've actually traced this down to how a lot of professional athletes train - setting goals that push them beyond their current performance level.
If you think about this in terms of jumping though, achieving 70% of a jump, particularly if it's a jump with a gap that you have to clear - well, that might not be such a great stretch goal. Actually, thinking of it in those terms probably has "ambulance" written all over it.
But like everything in the world, the art of jumping is not a black and white objective. There are many facets to it and mastering 70% of the techniques required to learn the skill of jumping will likely get you over that gap and to your objective of landing safely.
And in exploring that I realised something that I had already done intuitively. In developing the mountain bike six mountain bike programs, I had purposefully created a series of courses designed to stretch a rider's ability beyond their current levels at each stage. However, the skills in each course are also unlikely to be mastered within the program's three week timeframe. There is an element of time based practice usually required after each program that I generally encourage riders to work on to develop mastery of the techniques they've been introduced to. This is because generally, students come away on average with a (wait for it) 70% level of competency of the skills taught.
Over the course of the six programs, new skills are introduced to further stretch rider abilities beyond what people believe they are actually capable of. I know this because at the end of a program I'm regularly told that students feel like they've learnt and achieved more than they thought they would be able to do. By the time they reach the final program where intermediate level jumping is introduced, they will have sufficiently built up their confidence level to stretch themselves out of their comfort zone while minimising their fear of failure (or in mountain bike words, crashing).
And so the goal of jumping with confidence becomes achieved, not by stretching a rider's ability to a point well beyond their abilities, but through progressively challenging them just beyond their current capabilities over multiple stages. Here's the other secret. The end objective isn't actually about teaching people how to jump. It's actually about mentoring them on how to stretch themselves beyond their capabilities and giving them the confidence to do so on their own without fearing failure.
Imagine what could be achieved if you had an organisation of individuals working together with that sort of mindset.