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    Jacko’s Love of Learning

    By David Jackson

    It’s funny how when we actually take some time to stop and reflect, we gain a better understanding of ourselves – what we’re good at, what we like, and what makes us happy.

    That’s exactly what some astute and thought-provoking questions that Tim asked me on this week’s podcast (My Story ‘Jacko’) forced me to do. A couple of times, I just simply couldn’t give an answer straight way, which is what I’m so used to doing. I had to ask the ‘quiz master’ for some extra time! Given that time, I had to actually stop and think about those questions of why I’d done the things I’ve done in the past.

    I have a fairly random past of collecting degrees and qualifications. I’ve earned a 1st Class degree in Engineering from Loughborough University, played professional rugby and juggled studying for a diploma in both sports psychology and sports nutrition during that time, qualified as a secondary science school teacher, become a rugby coach as well as a performance mindset advisor to athletes, and more recently become a Strength & Conditioning coach and passed my UKSCA accreditation in 2016… the list could go on.

    Tim wanted to know why. Initially, I thought to myself,  ‘Yeah I’ve done quite a few different things, maybe I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I kept chopping and changing.’ However, that didn’t sit right with me, and a after a few more ‘ums’ and ‘arhs,’ it hit me. It’s because I love learning.

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    Love of learning

    It’s actually something I’d realised many years ago but in the last few years I’d forgotten, or not given myself the space and chance to reflect or remind myself of. Why is that even important? Well, I believe that when we are aware of what we like and what makes us happy, we can be more intentional and proactive about making it happen.

    I used to wrestle a lot with identity and the idea of being ‘Jacko the rugby player’ when that was my job. I used to dread being asked what I did for a living, because the labels we give ourselves based on our jobs don’t tell our full story — far from it.

    It’s an issue that was really highlighted when I was working as a performance mindset advisor with athletes, after I retired from professional rugby. Too often we fall into things because we are good at them. We work hard to maximise our abilities and it becomes our identity, but it only tells part of the story of who we are. Another problem when your identity is in what you do for a living: what happens when you retire? What if, like me, your career ends because of injury? Who are you then, when you’re no longer ‘Jacko the rugby player’?

    Well something that has stood the test of time for me, and has been a constant when I’ve been happy in my life, is learning. I’ve had a love of learning since I can first remember, and it’s a label ‘Jacko the learner’ or ‘Jacko that loves learning’ that I’m happy sticking on my forehead!

    It tells the story of my childhood, my rugby career, and everything else I’ve done. Whenever I’ve not had learning in my adult life is when I’ve found life becoming almost stagnant and not as exciting. There was a period during my professional rugby career where I didn’t want any distractions from my training and playing duties, but without some outside learning influences, I felt lost and played my worst rugby.

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    Things I’ve learned

    So what have I actually learned then? I’m going to look at a few key points that include both things I’ve learned about myself as well as things I’ve learned that I believe will help others. My hope is that both will help you, either directly because it’s something you struggle with, or to help you stop and consider things like how you learn best.

    1. How I learn best – this was a good one to discover, although it was only half way through my Engineering degree (but better late than never). Writing things down and repeating the process is key for me. I discovered that the more I write things down in pen and paper and continue to do it, the more things sink in. These days even if I’m reading a book I’ll write a scribble all over the page, as it helps me take in the information and better process what it actually means.
    2. Understanding rather than knowing – this was something that my favourite teacher at school, Mr. Goodridge, taught me. Most people can remember that one teacher at school who had the biggest effect on them. I was lucky and had a few great teachers at school, but Mr. Goodridge, a Chemistry teacher, stood out to me. Why? He wanted us to understand principles rather than just know the answer. He encouraged us to ask ‘why’ and praised us when we questioned things, rather than simply accepting an answer. It was a huge encouragement for me, as I’ve always loved understanding how and why things work. He really was an inspiration to why I embarked on a short teaching career as a secondary science school teacher.
    3. I’m good at working hard – this is what I used to my advantage as a professional rugby player. I wasn’t the most skillful, and when I just accepted that and decided to double down on my strength of working hard, I simply decided I’d just out-work everyone and that would be my edge. I’d train harder, be the fittest, and look after my nutrition and recovery more than anyone else (as much as I could). Often we want to be the most talented and naturally gifted, as that gets praised so much, and we look at hard work as something you only do if you’re not actually that good at something. But I’ve learned to put ‘work ethic’ at the top of things I admire most about people.
    4. Learn from other people, teachers and coaches – I’ve been fortunate to have worked with and been taught and coached by some fantastic people in my life. From an early age I’d think, ‘I want to be just like them!’ I guess I’ve always want to be a coach, teacher, or leader, and I  admire those who are particularly good at that or have personally helped me learn or get better at something. As I learned from more great teachers and coaches, I started to want to be like all of them (or at least the best bits of each of them…no one is perfect right?). So over the years, I’ve tried to understand and take on board for myself the best bits of all the teachers, lecturers, mentors, players, coaches, and athletes I’ve learned from and tried to apply them, when appropriate, to my own methods of coaching and helping others learn new things.

    Love helping others

    One of the great things about being part of the School of Calisthenics is having the privilege of helping others with their training journeys and ensuring that they don’t make the same mistakes we did. Tim and I are often the ‘guinea pigs’ and will experiment and test out thoughts and ideas of exercises and progressions that might help a certain movement goal, like handstand for example. Like any good scientific experiment,  you have a hypothesis, a reason, and rationale to why it might work. Oftentimes the trial and error that takes place helps you find out what does work through a process of trying lots of things that don’t work. We essentially make the mistake so you don’t have to. Although that can be frustrating at times in our own training (I’m not going to lie to you – it is!), it’s actually something I love about what we do at the School of Calisthenics.

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    This idea seems to have spread to the whole community; all of you are so amazing at helping each other and giving your personal help and advice from your own experiences to help others who are working on the same goal as you. It’s something we feel is really special about the School of Calisthenics community, and we hope it lasts long after we are gone!

    The reward to all of this comes when you see someone’s face or reaction when they redefine their impossible. Whether it’s in person at a workshop or online through people learning in the virtual classroom, it’s something that gives me goosebumps every time and I love seeing it!

    I hope you’ve enjoyed learning a bit more about me, my crazy and somewhat random past, linked together through learning, and that perhaps it’s encouraged you to stop, reflect, and think about what it is that you love doing.

    I’d love to hear from you and any thoughts you have on this article, so please either contact us on social media or email me directly at david@schoolofcalisthenics.comI’m looking forward to hearing your reflections.

    Class dismissed,


    One more thing… have you heard about the FREE 7 day trial we have running on the Virtual Classroom at the moment? It’s your chance to get in through the school door and experience what 100’s of people are already using to help them progress their calisthenics training // CLICK HERE

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