How To Learn A New Skill Without Drowning

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Everyone likes to bang on about how much fun learning a new skill is. About the rewards of trying new things, of overcoming challenges and standing toe to toe with that little demon in the back of your head who says “I can’t do it” and kicking lumps out of him.

No one every wants to talk about how absolutely terrifying it is.

Like, legs shaking, tears streaming down your face, wanting mummy type fear.

Stand up paddleboarding (SUP) was that for me yesterday.

Having only just recently learned how to swim confidently it was a pretty scary proposition standing up in the open water, even though I had a life jacket on.

I was so scared of falling in that I think my fear eventually caused it.

Funny that – I got what I focused on… falling into the water.


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My experience of SUP wasn’t the best tbh. We paid the guy and he spent 4 or 5 minutes showing us what to do, and left us to figure the rest out before jumping in a speedboat to take someone else wake boarding.

He was an awesome guy, and I’d go back there again, but it would have been awesome to have just a bit more info.

Hell, we only realised we had our paddles the wrong way around  after about 40 minutes. And after getting comfortable on my knees, when I tried to get to my feet I shook more than a latino ass at a Shakira concert. You can guess what happened next…

In the end, diving head first into the sea wasn’t so bad – I’m a pretty good swimmer now and can look after myself in the water, I just needed to be forced into it. I just needed extraneous circumstances to force me to see that I could overcome a situation.

SUP was good and bad for me. On the whole, I wouldn’t do it again unless someone dragged me back (..and that’s what Sarah will be doing).

It’s instructive – stepping into a new environment can be very scary. For someone who’s used to being in that environment all the time it’s easy to forget how nerve wracking it can be for a beginner.

The trick to overcoming it is to have someone to go thru it with you and make you do it (an instructor, coach or partner), get constant feedback and instruction to ensure progress, and eventually, you just have to face your fear and dive right in.



There’s basically 3 steps to take on and conquer any challenge.

#1 Find someone to help you take on whatever challenge you want to accomplish (learn a new skill, get in shape etc)

#2 Get feedback, lessons, coaching and instruction so that you can learn faster, avoid silly mistakes like sticking your paddle in the water backwards, and avoid the frustration and feeling of pointlessness that comes with not knowing what to do

#3 Dive in head first and just see what happens. All going to plan you won’t drown.**

**Revolution Fitness Limited does not take any responsibility if you do drown and always recommend you wear a life jacket when in open water, the shower or with a fair and middling chance of rain



One of my favourite parts of learning new skills is that it reminds me what it’s like for people when they first walk into my gym, RevFit. I always come away with an increased level of empathy and compassion, because even though we KNOW we can help them transform their body and their life, they (you?) need to believe it and trust us to help first.

If you wanna see what that’s like, I’d like to invite you into the gym for a free goal setting and personal training session where we’ll teach you how to squat, bench press and deadlift and have a look at any mobility or flexibility problems you have and help you get on the road to solving them.

You can book the next available time here: http://revolutionfitness.ie/pt-intro/

…but if you reply to this post (or use the contact page on our site) and say you wanna do it, we’ll squeeze you in even earlier if at all possible.

We’ll even let you have a week’s training on us so you can test drive our coaching and see that we’re not full of crap.

Can’t say fairer than that right?

TL;DR – to learn a new skill, get a coaching / partner to keep you motivated, get lessons to learn what you’re doing to stay on track, dive in and try not to drown

James Hanley

Strength Coach. Performance Specialist. Dog Lover. Powerlifter. And the guy behind the scenes in RevFit that keeps the plates spinning.