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Loving the plateau (2)

George Leonard reminds us that the majority of the time we spend doing anything will be spent on the plateau rather than on the peaks of learning and performance.

We improve a little, experience a brief burst of outstanding performance – perhaps the best we’ve ever experienced – and then revert to a new, hopefully-higher-than-before plateau below the peak.

These peaks and plateaus* aren’t simply a function of our skill and effort: they are subject to conditions that are beyond our control.

Each performance depends on:

  • The environment: the best surfing requires good waves. It’s hard to run your best time (or have your best family picnic) in a tropical downpour or in scorching heat. It’s hard to have a good meeting in a loud and crowded office.
  • Our health: we can’t entirely avoid sickness or injury.
  • Our equipment: we can’t always have the best kit for all conditions.
  • Infrastructure: is the administration as easy as it could be? Are events well managed? Are the greens manicured?
  • Our fellow players: are our teammates at the top of their game? Are old players retiring, or new players still finding their feet? Are there worthy opponents, or people who inspire?
  • Those around us: are family members and friends supportive? How much energy and focus must we lose from the game by supporting those outside it? Is a good coach available?

There are things we can do to influence all of these conditions, but we can never escape them entirely. They are part of our peaks and valleys and plateaus.

Making the most of the journey will mean, in some way, loving the constraints too, even as we seek to make the most of them or seek to change them.

Boundaries define our art.

*Plateaux if you prefer

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