Everything I need to know I learned from swimming.

I went to a really good high school.

I graduated from a great college.

I got my masters degree.

I would say that I’m pretty well educated.

After spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on my education, here is what I have ultimately learned.

Everything I really need to succeed in life, all the lessons, my real education…I didn’t get those things in school.

I got them in the pool.

If you really want to be prepared for adulthood, get yourself on a swim team.

That’s where you will learn the following thirteen lessons that are crucial to surviving the real world successfully:

1. Pay attention to detail.

The more efficient your stroke is, the less tired you are while you swim, the more endurance you have, and the faster you go.

Sure, you could thrash your way through the water. You will make it to the other side. Eventually.

But you won’t last long very long, and you won’t log too many laps under your belt that way.

Shortcuts will always catch up with you.

It’s all about technique.

No matter what you are doing.

2. Practice makes permanent.

The way you practice something is the way you will do it when it really counts.

Practice doing things the best way you can.

Practice doesn’t make perfect.

And perfection is not realistic. You will almost never achieve perfection.

But if you are aiming for perfection, perfect practice makes perfect.

3. Change is inevitable. And it’s good. 

In the twenties, the world record holder swam freestyle with his head out of the water.

He swam a 100 freestyle in 58 seconds.

The world record now is 47 seconds.

You can continue to do things they way they have always been done.

But you won’t be able to keep up.

4. Complaining is cancerous.

Swim in a lane of people bitching and moaning, and you will find yourself soon doing the same thing.

And wanting to get the hell out of the pool

Practice is hard enough as it is.

Going through it with a bunch of miserable people doesn’t make it any easier.

Surround yourself with positive people.

5. Dating a teammate is risky.

When it doesn’t work out, you are still stuck with them every day.

It’s no different with a coworker.

6. There is no easy button.

Garbage in = garbage out.

Screw around in practice and you will not deliver.

There is no substitution for hard work.

And hard work sucks sometimes.

Okay, most of the time.

It hurts.

It might make you sick.

It might make you puke.

But it won’t kill you.

It will show you what you are made of.

7. Recovery is important.

Ask any swimmmer what the Most Wonderful Time of the Year is.

They will tell you taper time.

There is a time for hard work.

And there is a time for rest. Recovery.

You cannot go at 110% forever.

In order for your body (and brain) to perform at their best, they need rest.

8. You don’t need to be the best to be the leader.

Attitude and work ethic are just as influential as a gold medal or a team record.

More influential, actually.

People want to be around the person who is smiling and dependable, not just the person who is winning.

9. You are your own biggest cheerleader.

There aren’t many sports where you spend the majority of the time with your head submerged in the water.

You are alone with your thoughts.

You can talk yourself into or out of anything.

Learn how to talk to yourself.

It will take you far.

10. Teamwork

Your teammates depend on you.

It may be as a part of a relay.

It may be for the points you score as an individual toward the team total.

It may be for the enthusiasm you bring to the pool.

There are countless ways you make a contribution to a team, and they are all important.

11. Perseverance.

You are going to work hard.

And even when you do, sometimes you will lose.

You won’t have a best time.

Successful people do not throw in the towel when this happens.

They use these situations as opportunities for self reflection and growth.

12. There will be more good times than bad.

You will train for years.

You will work your ass off.

Your race will last minutes or seconds.

But the feeling of accomplishment you have when you win the race or set that record or swim that personal best is totally worth all the blood, sweat, and tears (and there will be all three of those things).

There is no drink or pill or drug  that can surpass that high.

And that high can last a lifetime.

13. It’s not about the destination. It’s about the journey.

Winning is awesome.

Seeing your name on a record board doesn’t suck.

But that will only happen for a small percentage of people.

You may not ever be a champion.

But you will make friends and make mistakes, experience happiness and sadness, overcome some obstacles and stumble on others, hurt feelings and have your feelings hurt, you will be supported and stabbed in the back, you will laugh, cry, offend, defend, bleed, puke, poop, pee, and fart your way through swim season with boys and girls, men and women, who are fatter, skinnier, prettier, uglier, taller, shorter, faster, slower, meaner, nicer, smarter, dumber, richer and poorer than you.

Sounds pretty much like the real world to me.

With the added challenge of doing it all half naked.

Catch you on the pool deck.




I’ll keep writing, you keep voting!


6 replies
  1. Nicole
    Nicole says:

    One of my all time favorite posts.
    Can be applied to other sports but mostly you hit the nail on the head. These are the things you need to learn/practice in order to be successful in LIFE

  2. Kelly
    Kelly says:

    I don’t swim, but love the lessons they taught! Most of these are exactly what I hope my kids will understand. I may need to print these out for when my kids are old enough. =)

  3. Bucky Croushore
    Bucky Croushore says:

    Thank you for the wonderful article. I printed it out for the baseball teams ages 13 thru 15. We definitely having issue with them paying attention to details of their game and definitely their attitude with practice. They think they know it all! I already had one parent call me that their son talked to them about it when they got home. “It inspired him that he will practice harder and pay attention to the small details and techniques of the game.



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