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If You Want to Get Better at Something, Ask Yourself These Two Questions

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If You Want to Get Better at Something, Ask Yourself These Two Questions

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It was the last race of the ski season. My son Daniel, 10 years old, was at the starting gate in his speed suit, helmet and goggles, waiting for the signal.

“3… 2… 1…” The gate keeper called out and he was gone in a flash, pushing off his ski poles to gain momentum. One by one, each gate smacked to the ground when he brushed by. As he neared the end, he crouched into an aerodynamic tuck to shave a few milliseconds from his time. He crossed the finish line —48.37 seconds after the start — breathing hard. We cheered and gave him hugs.

But he wasn’t smiling.

48.37 seconds put him solidly in the middle of the pack.

I had coaching ideas. Ways I could help him get faster. While I am an executive and leadership coach, I coach skiing on the weekends and I was a ski racer myself at his age. But I held back my feedback, hugged him again and told him I loved him. That’s what he needed in that moment.

Later though, I asked him how he felt about the race.

“I never get in the top 10.”

This is delicate terrain — coaching your own kids — and I chose my words carefully.

“I have two questions for you,” I said. “One: Do you want to do better?”

If the answer is “no,” then to attempt to coach would be a fool’s errand (a mistake I have made in the past).

“Yeah” he said.

“Here’s my second question: Are you willing to feel the discomfort of putting in more effort and trying new things that will feel weird and different and won’t work right away?”

He was silent for a while and I let the silence just hang there. Silence is good. It’s the sound of thinking. And this was an important question for Daniel to think about.

November 9, 2018 at 08:14PM

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