When Michelle asked me to write an article about my recent personal best distances in the DNF and DYN disciplines at Zen training, I felt both proud and uncomfortable about sharing. It was cool to have friends give me that little splash session after surfacing on a new longest swim. At the same time, even though it is my personal best, there will always someone with more depth, more distance, and a better static time than me.
Humanity advances when we push for and expect the best of ourselves – especially when there is struggle and failure involved. But at the end of the day, a free diving PB is a number from a night in a swimming pool or a day in the ocean. The PB is not who you are or what you stand for. Attempting a PB and succeeding (or failing) is not a true indication of what’s inside you.
What is noble in this pursuit for PBs, and why I keep pushing myself, however, is the feeling. Experiencing emotions like discomfort, anger, pride, envy, and happiness is how I try to understand others and myself and how I try to live more graciously.
Pushing myself to dive farther than ever before takes me out of my comfort zone. To be able to do that, I need to first take myself away from all the fears and doubts running through my head. Knowing how to quiet my mind and disengage from my problems during a dive is what ultimately allows me to face them with more courage and honesty once outside the pool.
With so many circumstances surrounding our pursuit of goals (PBs and in other areas of life), I put together a personal list of a few important personal truths. The list was pushing 20 items and had to be whittled down to a few favorites in order to make this newsletter. Hopefully some of them also speak to you about what pushing and learning about yourself is all about.
Adrian (L) and Brian (R). Zen buddies who freedive together and party together.
A Few Things I Know to be True About Personal Bests (in freediving and in life):
- The accomplishment is not in the distance or time of one swim. It is in the hours of learning and growing that happens between one max attempt and the next.
- If you don’t have a swimming background, go get one.
- I cannot do it alone. It is the people by my side who matter. And I’m not just talking about my safety divers (thanks Michelle and Chris). It is the people that I trust, who care about me, and who encourage me that give me what I need to succeed.
- In the pool when I feel like I need to surface, I tell myself to just make the turn. At 40 meters when I want to come up for breath, I remind myself that I just need to make the turn. At 80 meters when I really want to come up, I tell myself to just make the turn. It’s amazing what still left in the tank after that turn.
- A new wetsuit helps. Molchanov fins help. A Molchanov monofin would really help. However, fancy equipment will never be able to replace effort and practice.
- It’s not about what distance you think you can or should do, what distance you want to do, or what distance you almost did. It’s certainly not about what distance the diver next to you has just done. PBs are about feelings, and come from how much I relax inside.
- You might be stoked with your PB, but no one at your office is going to get it (or even give a crap) the next day when you go to share your accomplishment. So don’t bother. Instead, remember why you pushed yourself in the first place and then go out and party with your Zen buddies after the PB instead.