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Running, Blogging, Antagonizing…It’s All About Selfish Motivations

Posted by on Dec 11, 2012 | 7 Comments

My narcissism post and flow state post were the result of introspection about my motivations for doing various things, including running, blogging, travel… whatever. In regards to running in particular, I know I’m not motivated by times, placement, buckles, attention, the envy of others, inspiring others, or even whether I finish or not. I AM motivated by socializing and the intrinsic challenges presented by specific races. At first the answer seemed rather complex. The flow state idea greatly simplified the self-assessment, though. As it turns out, most of the things I do are motivated by a relatively simple idea:

I’m a selfish learner.

Pretty much everything I do is intentionally designed to learn new stuff. I like the social aspect of ultras because I can learn from my fellow runners. I like the challenge because I can experiment and learn from my experiences.

Some other learning behaviors are obvious, like researching crap on the Interwebz. Other examples are more subtle. For example, I love teaching whether it be in the classroom, running clinics, or other situations. While it is fulfilling imparting knowledge on others, it’s just an ancillary benefit. The real reason I love teaching is because it’s an excellent way to learn. Students, no matter what form they take, can teach a teacher far more than the teacher can teach them.

For example- my friend Trissa recently thanked me for showing her a downhill running technique (which I stole from Jesse Scott). It made me chuckle because the 5-10 minute conversation we had prior was far more valuable to me that my tip probably was to her.

I love Facebook for the same reason. One of my favorite pass times is to instigate a debate, then step back and let it unfold. I’ll occasionally toss some gas on the fire to keep things lively, and I’ll occasionally step in and mediate if it gets out of hand. It’s the exact same methodology I used when I was a high school teacher. Why do I do it? Following the logic of other people’s arguments helps me empathize with their point of view. This is especially important if their opinions differ from my own.

I’ve come to realize that exchange of ideas is a major motivation for all that I do. It’s the reason Shelly and I can spend an inordinate amount of time with each other and never really get bored. Anyone that’s spent time around me has probably realized I ask a lot of seemingly stupid questions. It’s the reason I love holding clinics. It’s the reason I love forums and blogging.

The last one was a bit of a revelation. I love writing… but only in certain contexts. I love blogging, but really don’t care for article-writing (like magazines) or authoring books (like The Barefoot Running Book). The reason- the latter examples provide no real feedback. There’s little or no opportunity for me to learn anything from the readers. The implicit narcissism post was fascinating because it brought a few of the fellow curious folks out of the woodwork. The post was geared toward the idea that I recognized some of the reasons I’ve done the things I’ve done were simply to draw attention to myself. I didn’t generalize the idea beyond myself since it was introspective in nature, but there were many reactions. It provided an interesting window into thought patterns we otherwise suppress. That sort of exchange is impossible in one-way communications.

In fact, this very blog post has an intended purpose. I’m curious if other people go to great lengths to expose themselves to learning opportunities. I know a few of my close friends do this also, but surly we can’t be the only people with a borderline pathological curiosity.

So… what do you think? Anyone else out there REALLY motivated by learning new stuff? Anyone out there think it’s a really dumb reason to run, write, and even teach?

Share your comments!

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7 Comments

  1. João Pedro
    December 13, 2012

    I love to run because i want to learn new thing’s. I also love to run and to write. I get the same inspiration from other’s who do the same. I feel this from a few reader’s of my new blog. Everything i publish is what i deeply have inside my mind. If it isn’t there i don’t write it down. I just can’t. It’s just who i am. What i love the most about running is that as brought me back from a place where i don’t belong. Sedentary kind of life. I walk around my obstacles in life day after day by running. Because it makes me reconnect with the earth again and i really feel a better person. Like a teenager. I love it. A good life to me comes from simple thing’s. Running and writing what i learn. And i share, if it is of some use to others. I just stopped being afraid of myself. I’ve grown up a lot. I want to dedicate my life to a very light and healthy sport. Run. And this is just me. The other thing is that i learn to teach my children to do what they love to do. I have never felt more connected to other’s than my previous life of non running and just thinking of “moneying”…Learn is a way of teaching. Dumb? Not at all. I follow my own goals. And never crossed my mind to wrote thing’s like this on a blog from someone across the sea. :-) Keep it going. Best regards from a curious reader :-) My favorite theme is the meaning of running in different cultures :-)

  2. Chris Fielding
    December 13, 2012

    I have found that blogging is away to follow my thoughts. I am becoming more aware that I love to learn about a subject and then move on. I am an enthusiast about whatever it is that I am learning about at the moment. Borderline pathological curiosity is a great phrase. I have found that I need something to look forward to and the world that opens up when you discover a thread that needs following is just that.

  3. John Y.
    December 11, 2012

    Which is why I consider ALL of us students, only there is a cyclical give/take/process/application where the flow of knowledge is concerned. We all hit those aspects more efficiently when we can share with one another, and that makes learning more fun! I have (er…kinda) blogged a bit but my inability to sit still for very long makes me far less prolific than Jason or that tall gangly fellow that wears that superhero outfit. Maybe I need a superhero persona. Any suggestions?

  4. Ben W
    December 11, 2012

    I think learning is key to my own satisfaction in teaching. I never teach the same lessons twice. I am always trying to learn more to make my teaching better. I spend an inordinate amount of time reading and thinking about teaching writing. I basically am using my job as a teaching to give myself a course in writing. If I ever get to the point where I am no longer learning (I don’t think that’s really possible in my positiion.) I will leave.

    In addition to teaching, I always have at least two to three hobbies I am obsessing with that keeps me from getting bored — more writing, baking bread, running barefoot, becoming a bicycle commuter, etc…. As soon as I become proficient at one thing, I usually move on to something else.

    As I get older, I am beginning to realize a new challenge — sticking to one area and really mastering it and developing it into something more than a hobby. I have found sticking to one thing to be the biggest challenge. Not because I get bored, but because I have to overcome challenges bigger than those presented by the early stages of learning something new.

  5. Ben W
    December 11, 2012

    I think learning is key to my own satisfaction in teaching. I never teach the same lessons twice. I am always trying to learn more to make my teaching better. I spend an inordinate amount of time reading and thinking about teaching writing. I basically am using my job as a teaching to give myself a course in writing. If I ever get to the point where I am no longer learning (I don’t think that’s really possible in my positiion.) I will leave.

  6. Ken S.
    December 11, 2012

    I think I deploy the same basic strategy you discuss here. Instigate conversation and debate as means to learn through an exchange of ideas. Although, I think you do it much more effectively. Anyway, don’t please don’t stop now.

  7. trissa
    December 11, 2012

    :) Thank you, Jason. I love to learn different ways/ideas/techniques. I still have wonderful memories of the conversation we had at that meet up in Ohio.

    And I had NO IDEA it had that impact on you. I am blushing.

    I think pride keeps many of us from growing..and learning from each other. May it never be that I stop DESIRING to learn…DESIRING to grow…not just in things of running/training/…but in life. :)