Train Like An Animal

James Walpole/ July 13, 2020

I learned to surf from a very intense hippie instructor on a beach in Puerto Rico. He spoke of how the ocean was like a spirit mother or something, and he taught by means of whistling as if we were dogs in training.

It annoyed me so much. It was also extremely effective.

The instructor knew that humans share much with animals, and that no amount of rational explanation of *what to do* was going to be enough to teach us how to surf. His simple signal of the dog-whistle and insistent hand signals was forceful, bossy, and unpolitic, but it broke through my tendency to over-think and helped me to have a good surf session.

As (I think) one of my friends pointed out after a reading of The Inner Game of Tennis, one of the keys to learning any new skill is to engage the unconscious mind rather than the conscious one. In other words, the more reflexive “animal mind” which we still carry should trump the homo sapiens reasoning mind. It tends to act faster and more smoothy, which is just what you need if you’re going to do anything with your body, whether surfing or shooting or dancing.

We could all learn more about training then, from observing how animals are trained. Like dogs, horses, etc, we do respond to rewards and punishments. We do have a strong desire to please an alpha male (AKA a powerful instructor). We should use this knowledge if we’re serious about getting better in anything.

James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

0 Comment

Add Comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Strong Opinions, Sent Weekly

Stay in the know.

Get my best new essays and other occasional news, ideas, or projects delivered in nice, tidy packages once weekly.