All posts by Madeline Boldt

The Art of Being a Good Student



The Art of Being a Good Student

     There is an old story about a young Japanese boy who goes to an old Samurai master to learn how to become a great warrior. When the young boy arrives, he sits down to tea with the old master who asks him, “what do you know about being a Samurai?” as he beings to pour the tea. As the boy goes on and on about his knowledge, the master continues pouring tea so that it is overflowing out of the cup, all over the table, and dripping down to the floor.

     I know of this old yarn from back when I was an elementary school student. My sister and I were homeschooled by my dad who used to  wield a large stick he’d cut from a tree in our backyard that had become smooth from countless hours of handling. It was about two feet long and fairly thick and was in his hands at all times.  When our minds would wander or we would get unruly he would crack that thing on the table so hard we would occasionally fall straight out of our chairs. 

     Almost every time upon introducing a new subject he would ask what we already knew about it, and as soon as we opened our precious little mouths to brag about our knowledge that stick came crashing down on our table with a fury and my dad would say, in his best “Samurai” accent,

“You must empty the cup so that it may be filled.”

     Being a good student is imperative when learning a new skill. Luckily, that responsibility is completely within your control. Here is a short list of qualities that, if adhered to, will expedite your learning process and enhance your experience as a student;

  • Empty the Cup – AKA- Be Open Minded!  You don’t pay your teacher to tell them what you know. If you are so preoccupied with showcasing your knowledge, and too close-minded to be open to new ideas and critiques, you are doomed to fail from the start. In our context: it doesn’t matter what sport you played 20 years ago or how proficient you were in your high schools weightlifting class. You came here to learn.  Set your preconceived notions aside and make room for new ideas. NOTE! This works both ways! Don’t decide what you CAN’T do before you get to class, either. You may surprise yourself with what is possible.
  • Be Present – Sometimes, the teacher will be doling out corrections and advice to your fellow students in class.  If you are not present to hear this guidance, you are missing out on information that could potentially be vital to your own improvement. By paying attention to the entire class (instead of just your own bubble) you will glean so much more knowledge, you will be a better team mate, and have the advantage of seeing the situation from a non-biased third person perspective. You might be surprised how much you are missing simply by being too inwardly focused.
  • Don’t Try to Cut Corners – There are no advanced techniques. There are only complex ways of combining foundational moves.
  • Don’t Take Corrections Personally – Corrections are there to help you! Not to personally attack you. You are not any less of an athlete if your coach corrects you on something. Try to put your ego aside when your coach suggests you move differently or switch to a lighter weight.  Our goal is the complete opposite of tearing you down.  We want to build you up in the safest, most rewarding way possible.

     Oh…and one more thing. Be on time.

Motivation vs. Commitment

Lifestyle changes aren’t the kind of changes you make in a day, or a week, or even a month. Hell, not even in 3 months. They are not comprised of work done on the surface, but rather from a deep internal shift. Such changes require not just the initial spark of the flame, but moreover a long-lasting supply of firewood.  This logic can be applied to change of any kind in your life, but we are a CrossFit gym so let’s keep this discussion fitness-centric.

That foundational spark is your motivation. That spark is your “why.”  Motivation simply denotes a strong interest in a goal; it is the reason you decide to create a certain dream.  However, without commitment, your motivation will sadly never become much more than that — a dream.  Whereas motivation will create the drive to achieve your ambition, commitment is what will get you there when your motivation is in question.

Commitment bespeaks discipline. There WILL be days that your desire for a cheat meal or a day off of training will far outweigh your original motivation. Motivation itself is fickle. Commitment is what will steer your ship back on course when your motivation shifts. Your commitment is what keeps you from stopping at the In-N-Out drive thru on the way home from a long day at work. Commitment is what puts you in your gym clothes instead of your PJ’s when you get there. Commitment means persevering through the days that feel useless, emotional, and exhausting.

This is not to say that motivation itself is not important —  it is. What good is all that firewood without a flame to consume it?  And, I have good news: the commitment part gets easier the stronger your initial motivation. 

In short: motivation is wanting to do something. Commitment is doing it.

These journeys take time and I promise the road will be difficult. Weaknesses will be exposed.  Constitution will be tested. You will fail. Commit to continuing to get up every time you are knocked down and you will be successful.

I will leave you with an apt and succinct quote from Irish author Samuel Beckett;

“Ever tried. Ever failed. Never mind. Try again. Fail Better.”