Extracurricular activities are often a source of inspiration for upcoming events, and I’ve learnt more from long-distance running than just about any other activity I’ve ever undertaken, including reading those big books that are meant to make you clever. That, as friends will testify, does not necessarily work. Running on the other hand is the most intensive, on-going learning and development pursuit I could have imagined, requiring constant personal assessment, re-alignment, kit inspection, maddening calculations on dietary intake, pointless psychoanalysis, extremely useful belief-building, mental and physical exhaustion, and blisters, of course.
Part of my preparation was to ingest large amounts of knowledge/wisdom through the experience of others via the internet, magazine and books. Knowledge consumed, it then went largely discarded and off I went exploring. The 16th century French philosopher Montaigne advised to read lots and forget most of it. I know what he means. Received wisdom is all very good, and it is useful to avoid repeating the mistakes of others, but I’ve found it more fun to plough my own furrow.
For example, one is advised to pound the beat, build up the miles, and instil resilience through perseverance. Quite frankly, I found this knackering, unnecessarily wearing on the body and numbing to the senses. Instead I explored cross-training, varied running regimes and discovering places of outstanding natural beauty. It doesn’t always work, but it sure beats relentless mile-pounding.
Received wisdom also declared that I should stop running altogether. A broken ankle from 20 years previous kept coming back to bite and the local GP simply advised me to stop beating myself up. Thanks, but no thanks. A little bit of research discovered ‘bare foot running’, whereby the pressure is applied on the middle to front part of the foot, avoiding stress on the ankle. A simple realignment and I was off running pain-free. Okay, this is picking up on the wisdom of others (ancient knowledge at that), but it’s rediscovered through personal experience, and filtering out useless advice (in this case from a supposedly respectable GP).
Without wishing to bore you more with running stories, for me the notion of filtering received wisdom seemed to map perfectly across to emergency planning exercises. If we keep doing the same thing over and over, are we necessarily learning new things, or reaffirming old ones? How can we learn something new if we don’t do something different? Are we in danger of pounding the beat over and over again, simply dulling our senses rather than opening our minds?