Tarnya Davis | Paddling on

They say life is suffering, and this is true of much of what we learn in the beginning. At the start, skiing is falling over, cooking is flopped soufflés and studying is being confronted by your own ignorance. 

There’s the vision of the end, there’s you at the beginning, and there’s a wishy-washy period in between. This is the interesting space of more mind than matter. How we deal with failures along the way, how we cope with the discomfort of not being good at something, and the pain of the hard work needed to get better, determines how far we get. 

It is in this space that I have been living, three times a week, rain, hail or shine (although we do stop for lightning), for the past year as a paddler. In the beginning I found myself minute by minute, fighting the urge to quit. I’m just not good at this. I’ll find something else. It’s just not my thing. These and many other ways I tried to let myself off the hook. But then in a strange twist, I was hooked. I started to get fitter, I practiced (psychologist Anders Ericsson’s research suggests that rather than natural talent, 10 000 hours practice is all anyone needs to be really good) and now it’s less painful and there’s more joy.  

Henry Ford said success was 99 per cent failure. Our challenge is to be comfortable with failure enough to persevere towards success. Next week, Newcastle Dragon Hunters head to Queensland for the nationals. We’ve waded through the urges to quit and done the hours, so, as my coach says, for us the race is already won.   

Tarnya Davis is a clinical and forensic psychologist and principal of NewPsych Psychologists.