Many years ago, when I was training in the circus, I experienced two ways of learning movement: the hard way and the easy way.
One of the moves I wanted to learn was the standing backflip. I was 19, and very, very, very much wanted to learn this cool move. I practiced daily with my coach, and tried every technique that was given to me. I tried flipping off a set of raised mats, into a foam pit, with spotting belts, and willing my body into the flip.
One day, I was feeling confident (read: cocky) and told my coach that I was going to do the backflip - on my own. No spot.
He looked at my dubiously, and nodded slightly. I centered myself over a thin mat (first mistake), and raised my hands over my head in preparation. Suddenly, a hush came over the gym, and everyone seemed to pause in their activity to look over at me.
I had no choice. Now I had an audience.
I launched myself into the air with everything I could muster.
My body turned 180 degrees in the air - exactly 180 degrees short of what I needed. In other words, my head was straight down as the floor came rushing up to meet my skull.
I landed with an ugly crunch and twisted my neck as the full weight of my body collapsed on top of my face.
My neck and back were wracked with pain, but I survived. But my ego was much more damaged. I slinked out of the gym, barely saving face.
After that experience, I learned to practice my moves with less aggression, and allow the movements to integrate into my body slowly. I listened more carefully to how much I could push myself. As I gathered more years of training experience, I also began to learn how intentional rest from training or exercising actually sped up my rate of learning and execution.
In other words, I began to listen to the natural wisdom of my body, instead of imposing a rigid program on it with my mind.
In our next letter to you, I'll talk about how I was able to apply that very lesson - listening to my body, instead of forcing it to perform - enabling me to learn a very difficult trick in a fraction of the time it would have normally taken.