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?
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