Have you ever thought “I learned that already. I should have known better”? (Who hasn’t had this thought??)
Adventures in Front Summersaults
I’ve been working on my front tucks in trampoline practice. Over the last five weeks, for a total of 31 consecutive attempts, I landed each one on my feet. As I gained awareness of where I was in the air and how to adjust, I gained confidence. That confidence travels to other endeavors.
Today, after 7 clean landings, I had an awkward off-balance bounce and couldn’t stick the landing. I got back up and did 5 more, landing all on my feet. I did more today than I’ve ever done in practice. I stuck the landing on 12 out of 13.
And I was crushed.
I Should Have Known Better
I’ll leave the obvious perfectionism issues for another time.
I was angry at myself for betraying the inner wisdom that told me to stop and start again or give it an extra bounce. After weeks of feeling where I was in the air and adjusting accordingly, I felt like “I should have known better.”
The Coaching Wisdom
My coach, Roger, pointed out that the one on which I couldn’t stick the landing wasn’t “bad.” I landed it safely. He said it’s part of the process of learning when I could take another bounce, when I’ll be able to adjust in the air, and when to stop and restart.
This was true, except I thought I had learned this lesson already.
To this, Roger responded with great Circus wisdom:
Learning isn’t binary.
In that thought — “I thought I learned it already” — I had created a binary:
I learned it vs I didn’t learn it.
This is how we often think of learning because this is how we learned in school.
In school, we “learn” something, spit it back on a test and consider it “knowledge.” We think we learned it.
This is not learning.
Real learning — the learning that happens in life — is a process of integration and adjustment. This is how we create real knowledge —knowledge that is embodied.
Learning is conditioned. It’s not “one and done.” It must be reinforced. Continually drilled in. It’s a process of acclimating and adjusting over time. Learning is evolutionary.
Understanding vs Knowledge
I was angry at myself for ignoring my intuition. I knew going into the trick that I wasn’t going to land smoothly. Roger could see on my face that I knew. So why did I continue?
Intellectually understanding a principle is one thing; knowing when to apply it is something different.
Learning is the process of developing the awareness of “this is when to apply that principle.”
We can only learn by testing and experimentation. Perhaps I could have saved it and stuck the landing on my feet. The only way I’ll learn is by doing it and seeing how it lands. I won’t know if I don’t try.
And as Roger pointed out, the next time I had an off-balance bounce, I stopped and restarted. So I did learn.
My inner perfectionist reminded me that trampoline is one of my safe spaces to fail. But to Roger, the landing on my seat wasn’t a failure; it was part of the learning process.
He took it as a win that I landed it safely.
Learning to Handle the Bad Bounces
Not every bounce will be perfect. Some bounces will be off balance. The crucial aspect of the skill is to have awareness of where I am and confidence in my ability to land safely, even if I have a bad bounce that throws me off-balance.
Part of the process of learning is seeing and feeling where I can adjust, where I can take an extra bounce, and where I must restart. The only way to know when to stop and restart vs when I can keep going is to test it.
And to test it means that I must be willing to land on my ass, and then to get back up and do it again.
It’s not about risking “failure” but about being willing to experiment with it and test where my limits are.
Releasing the Goal to Meet the Outcome
The outcome is to improve my aerial awareness and in the skill itself.
If I am too attached to my “goal” of maintaining my streak of landing cleanly on my feet for each attempt, I won’t take the risks and find where my limits are. I’ll be playing it safe. And I won’t improve.
Also, focusing on the one that broke the streak detracted from the fact that I did more repetitions today than I have since I started this still. And I landed 12 of 13 on my feet.
That’s a win in any day.
This post is related to Episode 64 of My Circus Life. You can watch the Episode here:
This is day 48 of a daily publishing experiment. It might be the next streak to go. Thanks for reading and being here.