Train for Performance

I promise this isn’t a blog post about running, although I can’t promise I won’t use an analogy related to running. That’s a risk you run with any of my posts. 

Training relates to everything we do in life. Training to become a spouse. Training to take on the new responsibilities of a promotion. Training to have your first child, then maybe your second and third. Training for the trauma that inevitably comes as a part of life. Every minute phase of life is preparing us for where we are, but also for what is coming up.

Browsing the ‘gram for more than 2 seconds will undoubtedly bring you to pictures and videos of guys and girls flaunting their booty challenges, models with the perfect body for crop tops and pulling off a jumpsuit, as well as the growing world of fitness competitions that require carb deprivation and days of near starvation leading to the day of competition. I’m not mocking them - they look amazing and I have incredible respect for the discipline they have to stick with rigid nutrition plans and hours and grueling work in the gym. My wimpy arms are not going to argue that what they do is anything less than awesome.

No matter what you’re training for, push yourself to go beyond the surface of looks and set yourself up for sustainable performance.

During my freshman year of college I had two intro history classes, one each semester of the first year. These history classes were housed in an auditorium-style classroom, with at least 100 students in each class. Most freshman classes were strict on attendance but because of the size of this class, they emphasized the importance of showing up to be prepared for tests, but not once did a roll call. That made it an easy choice for me. I showed up to class one session before each test and then on test days. My roommate was in the same class, so she told me when important events were coming and during tests I sat next to her and, uh, let’s just say I vicariously passed my history class. 

The grade was mine and on paper I looked fine. I passed classes with that pattern of laziness, but missed a huge piece of development. I was NOT training for performance and lost opportunities to practice memorization, listening skills, collaboration with classmates, and how to study. Skipping nearly an entire semester of classes seemed harmless and rather comical as I was proud of my setup. Looking back at many other grades I received in college I can’t help but wonder if I would have fared better in the long run if I had trained for performance instead of looks.

Training for performance requires contextual awareness. I needed to understand that not only did I need to know what was being taught in that single history class, I more importantly needed to develop skills that would help in all my classes for the next few years. I’m totally aware that we all get consumed in the weeds at times and can’t see the bigger picture, so this is my plea for you to take a step back wherever you find yourself and try to see a wider view of where you came from while scanning over to where you see yourself going.

Let’s say you are a barista at Starbucks. You are learning customer service in the moment, how to make ten different coffee drinks in the span of five minutes, and remembering to keep the cafe area clean and presentable. The difference in sustainable training is to connect the dots of working under deadlines and pressure, multi-tasking and prioritizing, and most importantly, staying connected to the people around you no matter what is going on.

Knowing your goals and who you are will be the most important parts of setting yourself up for long-term success. If you want to be a clothing designer you have a destination in mind that will allow you to  chart the school you need to attend and the steps you need to take to place yourself on a path to achieve that goal. If you want to play in the NFL you can then create a plan to move in that direction with fitness, nutrition and coaching. 

Understanding who you are will also help you train for performance. This is probably my favorite part because goals can be fairly intuitive, but knowing how you are wired and understanding your motivations can absolutely illuminate your life path. Using tools like personality tests and strengths assessments are vital to helping you set yourself up for success. 

Within the professional goals I set for myself I rely on my natural wiring much more than the vision I have of what others my age are doing or social pressures I feel. I’m not saying it’s easy all the time, but I have to know me as deeply as I can. so that I make choices at every step that will bring the most fulfillment in the long run. Even people that I work with at the same level can’t become benchmarks for what I should or shouldn’t be doing. I am created uniquely, so developing a unique plan is crucial to my own growth and well-being.

Figuring out the training you need is a little bit like an IEP. If you have kids in school you know what I’m talking about. An Individualized Education Program takes into account a student’s specific needs and learning style to create a tailored plan for their development. 

You need a tailored plan for your path in life. Don’t train for looks in your current space. Invest in knowing yourself better through tools such as a Meyers-Briggs test, the Enneagram, Strengthsfinder, or a spiritual gifts test. 

Meet with a therapist if that’s what you need. A life coach or business coach might be more appropriate to help you create a plan. Find someone to mentor you and be there to challenge you. 

Develop practices of stress management and healthy life rhythms. Learn how to process your emotions to avoid holding them in and causing other problems.

Think bigger than the space you’re in. Choose core areas to develop that will transcend any single job or situation.

Train for sustainable performance.


Enneagram Resources

Meyers-Briggs Resources

General Personal Growth

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