Terry Laughlin Interview | The Tim Ferriss Show (Podcast) | Transcription

Transcription for the video titled "Terry Laughlin Interview | The Tim Ferriss Show (Podcast)".


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Intro (00:24)

Hello friends, this is Tim Ferriss and welcome to another episode of the Tim Ferriss Show. This is by far the most difficult podcast intro that I've ever recorded. I've already tried to do it six or seven times and have failed, so I'm just going to run with it. And the reason for the difficulty will become super clear quickly. The guest is Terry Laughlin who completely changed my life. He became a friend, a mentor. He taught me how to swim and did it remotely at first through his book, "Total Immersion," when I was in my 30s. And fixing that helped me to address one of my lifelong largest insecurities and something that really caused a lot of humiliation for me, which was growing up on Long Island, being close to water, having a few traumatic experiences, and never learning to swim until my 30s. And Terry, you can learn all about total immersion everywhere. Just search "total immersion swimming," "totalimmersion.net," "TISwim" on Twitter, etc. It's really a revolutionary way of learning and teaching. And he was introduced to me, or the method, "total immersion," was introduced to me by Chris Sacca, who's another friend who's been on the podcast, billionaire investor, all-around hilarious and intelligent guy who said to me at a barbecue, "I have the answer to your prayers," as it related to not being able to swim. And it turned out to be Terry Laughlin and "Total Immersion." The reason this is so hard is that I grew to really care for Terry. And we did this interview October 2nd. Terry had, at that time, metastasized pancreatic cancer. That was October 2nd. On October 10th, he had a stroke and was hospitalized. And then on October 20th, 10 days later, he passed away. I just found out about this yesterday afternoon. After getting back from being off the grid, I turned on my phone and a barrage of texts came in, and the first one that I saw was from a friend who said, "Did you see the news about Terry?" And that makes this, what you're about to hear, the last long-form interview that Terry ever did in his life. And it's intended to be inspiring and to showcase a tactically brilliant and sincere teacher. He developed 24 national champions, but then turned his eye to the adult population, people who had given up on themselves, who had accepted partial completeness, who thought that learning to swim or X, Y, and Z, whatever you might have in your mind, was impossible. And taught them to overcome that. And I really view him as the epitome of what I try to do myself as a teacher. Whether it is looking at accelerated learning or deconstructing something, logically sequencing it, he cares so fucking much, and that will come across in this interview. Even if you don't care about swimming at all, I encourage you to listen to this for a few different reasons. Number one, this is, like I said, the last long-form interview Terry did in his life. And when you listen to this, you will hear that he sounds incredibly vibrant. And was. What I also did, and I owe sincere thanks to his family for sending this to me, was included audio at the end of the interview. And these are clips that, within the first few days after his stroke in the hospital, a week before he died or so, his daughters, Fiona, Carrie, and Betsy, recorded audio, interviewed him following his stroke, because he was extremely focused the entire time on the mission of finishing his current book. So they were asking him questions and pulling out these philosophies of life and so on in this environment of hospitalized medicine, where you have beepers and you have footsteps and you have staff moving around. And I want you to listen to it because it's fucking heart-wrenching, and I want you to surrender yourself to that sadness and to let it envelop you and to really listen to it. It's not intended to impart a ton of super tactical information. It's intended to make you feel just how painful it is to have time running out. And I want you to ask yourselves, because I've written five books now, and many people have changed their lives by testing assumptions and finally doing the things that they have put off, whether it's quitting something, starting something, taking a trip, forming a company, a job, ending a relationship, proposing to someone, whatever it might be. I've seen that, but I've also seen thousands of people sitting on the sidelines with a deferred life plan of some type, something that they are deferring to someday when it's going to be more convenient, which it never will be, generally speaking. There's never a good time to do the things that are most important. And so I want you to listen not only to the interview but to the clips at the end that were recorded in the hospital, because I want you to extremely acutely feel in your viscera the reality, which is we are not guaranteed a long life. And I've had several friends die in the last year.

Evolution Of Terry'S Swimming Journey And Coaching Career

A message of gratitude for Terry. (06:34)

I don't know what's going around in the air, but several friends die in the last year, young and old. And people do not die of old age. They die of disease. They die of accident. They die from violence. There are so many things that can take you out before you think your lifespan will end. So hopefully this interview, this conversation with the incredible Terry Laughlin can serve as a catalyst for you to get up off your ass physically or metaphorically speaking and do what it is you really want to do so that you don't die with a bucket list of things that have not been checked off. And that certainly was not Terry. Terry squeezed every drop out of his life up until the very, very last moments. And you get to hear some of those moments. So this is really surreal for me, and I miss him already. So Terry, thank you for changing my life. And I hope you're swimming far and wide up in heaven. And he kept in good spirits until the very, very closing bell. And there's actually a piece in Outside magazine written by Kristi Ashwandan. I hope I'm getting the pronunciation right. He's a lead or the lead science writer at FiveThirtyEight. And she describes how at the very end, the last time that his daughter Fiona saw him laugh was him telling this joke about baseball because he loved baseball. And the joke related to two friends who had a pact. The first of them to die would return to tell the other whether there was baseball in heaven. So the first guy dies, and he appears to his friend. The good news, he says, is that there's baseball in heaven. The bad news is that you're pitching tomorrow. Terry thought that was hilarious. And he was able to find the glimmers of hope and optimism even when he was literally on his deathbed. So for the things that you want to do, for the things you feel compelled to do, for the things that you've dreamed of for so long, what is your excuse for not doing them? Think about it very, very carefully and meditate on it because we're all going to die. It's just a question of when. And in any case, my apologies for the long introduction. This has been really difficult for me, and this is the best job I can do with this one, guys. So please enjoy this wide-ranging conversation with none other than the incredible, much-beloved, and much-missed Terry Faulkner. Terry, welcome to the show. Thank you for having me on, Tim. I've really wanted to do this for quite a while. Well, I've wanted to have you on for many, many years.

Swimming history and early progress. (10:03)

And I thought I would start before we get into the backstory, and there's so many different things that we should cover in this conversation. But I think the most sensible place for a lot of my listeners is where I came in contact with total immersion. And I should start by saying I grew up on Long Island, for those people who don't know. As did I. And I was a townie out in East Hampton, of all places, worked in the lobster rolls, the bus points on. And I was minutes from the beach my whole life, and never learned how to swim properly until my 30s. And I suppose the trigger for preventing me to swim were a handful of near-drowning experiences, one at a summer camp. And it was always one of my largest sources of embarrassment, and one of my greatest insecurities. And then something happened. And what happened was, this was several years ago now, I just turned 40, but at the end of a January, I want to say in, I'm not exactly sure when it was, 2007, 2008, around there, a friend and I decided to issue each other New Year's resolutions. Because we realized that without someone to hold you accountable, very little tends to get done with New Year's resolutions. Now, Chris Ashenden, who's known as the Kiwi, because he's from New Zealand, said that I had to finish an open water one kilometer race. That was going to be in 2008, so it must have been the very beginning of 2008. And I then challenged him to go a year without coffee or stimulants, because he fed himself different types of stimulants to stay awake, and then used booze to go to sleep and so on, which is very, very normal. But I failed, is the short story, at least in the first, say, half or three quarters of the year. I tried kickboards, barely moved at all, and it was extremely humiliating, and I had left a number of classes. Hand paddles, tried those, my shoulders felt like they were going to break, which led me to believe that swimming could not be low impact. And I had effectively conceded defeat, and then I met someone named Chris Sacca for the first time, who's been on this podcast. And he is now a very, very famous investor. At the time, he was just starting his ascension, his hockey stick. And he was training for a triathlon. And we met at a barbecue organized by a guy named Kevin Rose, who was the first episode of this podcast. And I told him about how I was failing with swimming when he asked me what I was up to. I didn't start there, but we got there. And he said, "I have the answer to your prayers." It revolutionized how I swim. And that was his opening sales pitch, and that's what got me to TI, total immersion. And in the span of, I'd say around, between 7 to 10 days, with a book, and this is without even the video, went from about a 1 to 2 length maximum in swimming, in a small home pool, to more than 40 lengths per workout in sets of 2 to 4. And now, fast forward, I swim for relaxation, and part of how I chose where I wanted to live here, I'm recording in Austin, Texas, was its proximity to swimming, which just is insane. If you were to try to express that to my, say, 15-year-old self, 20-year-old self, even 30-year-old self. So thank you. That's a very long-winded intro, but I wanted to give people the context, because as Chris, my friend, pointed out, it's a life skill. It's not just a throwaway, decorative skill. And every time I was on a boat, I had low-grant anxiety. Every time I was near water or going into water, I had low-grant anxiety, and I no longer have that. So thank you very kindly, sir. That's... Certainly, I'm most gratified. And let me just... I'll bet you're familiar with Deep Eddy Pool. I am familiar with Deep Eddy Pool. I am. Just down the road from the Magnolia Cafe. Which is run by your friends. Yeah. And Barton Springs. Two wonderful places I love to swim when I visit Austin. And the fact that you can enjoy them so. That's the best part. It's not that you can swim 1K, but that you can take advantage of these lovely swimming halls that are really unique places in a complete way. And to do it as something that I enjoy, I mean, it's something that I seek out. And I actually wanted to talk to you more about a couple of plans I have for swimming after this podcast, perhaps. But the punchline also, I didn't provide for people. So I improved my swimming, and then I was not able to find an open water race that was 1 kilometer. So instead, I swam open water in the ocean on Long Island, on the beach where I grew up going, but really going up to kind of my waist most of the time. And simply went offshore after asking a lifeguard how far away a given house was. And swam parallel to shore in the ocean, which is pretty murky on that side of things. Pretty sharky too. And swam almost a mile. So that's a lot longer than 1 kilometer. And probably the most successful I've ever felt in my entire life. And that puts you in really rarefied company, Tim. I mean, there are not very many people who can swim a mile in a pool, but to swim a mile in an ocean really takes it up another notch. Only 2%, there's a pretty authoritative estimate that only 2% of American adults can swim as much as a quarter mile nonstop. So you're in rarefied company swimming a mile in the ocean. I've a lot of room to improve, but I think that the example of swimming is one for me of a partial completeness that I accepted. And it was an assumption, i.e. I can't swim, I don't swim, that I didn't test for a very, very long time. And many people accept partial completeness, whether it's being, say, overweight, well that's just the way it is, that's just the way I am. I'm good at some things, I'm just not able to lose weight, whatever it might be. Or in this case, say, swimming or playing basketball.

Paul Lurie. (17:33)

It could be anything. Learning to read. And I wanted to ask you about, just to give an example of how late you can test these assumptions, Paul Lorry. Or Lorry, I guess it is. Lorry, Paul Lorry, yep. Dr. Paul Lorry. Can you explain for the people listening who Paul Lorry is, Dr. Paul Lorry? Paul is a pretty amazing person. To give you an idea, he retired from, he was one of the real pioneering pediatric cardiologists in the field of medicine. He was a giant in the field. And he retired from practice as a pediatric cardiologist at age 68 and moved to Albany from Los Angeles to be close to his daughter. And this is at age 68. And for the next 25 years, he was an emeritus professor at Albany Medical College. So he taught his final seminar in pediatric cardiology at the age of 93, which will give you an idea of how unusual he is. He moved to New Paltz, where I live, into a senior living center called Woodland Pond and it had a pool. It not only had a pool, it had a chorus, it had a wood shop. And Paul just decided he was going to take complete advantage of everything that they had there. And he had never been very serious about swimming in his life. So he ordered one of our DVDs at age 93 and taught himself a pretty serviceable freestyle. And then at 94, he happened to knock on our door. We have an endless pool in our basement. We call it the swim studio and we teach people from all over the world. And Alice answered the door, my wife Alice answered the door, and she said this very slight man drew himself up and says, "I'm Dr. Paul Lurie. Can someone here teach me an effortless butterfly?" So Alice told me about it and our daughter Betsy was going to teach the lesson. So I showed up. I had to watch this. And I saw Paul swim freestyle. It was pretty nice. And then he tried a few strokes of backstroke, a butterfly, excuse me. And after watching him swim for about 10 seconds, I said, "Paul, I think your second stroke should be backstroke." And I said, "I offered him the ultimate senior discount. I'll come to the pool at Woodland Pond at no charge and teach you." And I ended up teaching him about three or four lessons. And when he was 95, we shot a video of Paul and I swimming together. We were doing what we call sink swimming where I synchronized my stroke to his. And I posed the question on the video, "Can you tell which swimmer is 62 and which is 95?" Because we looked identical, just exactly alike. And I was so proud of him. And to take this a little further, November 18th, I will be attending his 100th birthday party and he's still swimming 20 lengths a day.

Pick a unique character and test their ability - If they say yes, you have your winning setting. (21:03)

Wow. Yeah, so it's never too late to start. And it's such a wonderful… I only knew about 10% of that story. I definitely didn't know about me showing up at the door. I'm Dr. Paul Laurie. Can you teach me an effortless butterfly? He's still swimming freestyle and backstroke. He's happy with those two strokes. I'll tell you something else that's really remarkable about Paul. So he took his first lesson at 94. He was still gaining speed at 97. I don't know if there's another example in physical capability of someone improving between age 96 and 97. The way he timed it was he swam a 20-length routine, which he continues to this day. In the 50-foot pool at Woodland Pond, he does a 20-length routine where he swims two laps of free and one of back until he's done 20 lengths. And his time for that 20-length routine improved incredibly in the first year or so, but it was still getting faster between age 96 and 97. In fact, the day he improved his time at 97, I got a text message from his friend Marilyn Bell, who's another fantastic story. And she said, "Paul improved," I think his time, I think he improved it from 13 minutes and change to 12.53 this morning. And, you know, so I immediately texted back to both of them saying how thrilled I was about that. And then Paul texted me back and he says, "Yes, I went in with a plan to improve my time." Now, how many people are going to the pool at age 97 with a plan and a strategy to improve his time? And his strategy was that he was going to swim even more quietly than before. And you go faster by swimming more quietly, I mean, it's just the whole unexpected nature of what he did and the unexpected nature of his strategy. A very great, cool story. How did you personally start swimming?

The early path to swimming for Terry. (23:31)

Yes. Well, my dad started me when I was about eight or nine and my very first serious swimming experience was swimming at Bar Beach on Long Island. You were on the South Shore, I was on the North Shore. So in Hempstead Harbor on Long Island Sound, Bar Beach, and they had a raft anchored, I would guess, maybe 30 feet offshore, 10 yards or so. And I used to watch, with great envy, I used to watch my dad swim out to the raft and beyond. And he would come back and he would have me do Dead Man's Float and move my arms in circles and I would sort of practice in the shallows. And then one day I just screwed up my courage and decided I was going to make a try for the raft. And I, you know, swam, as we all do when we take that first swim in deep water, which is frantically. And I got to the raft, gratefully pulled myself out and then called a lifeguard to bring me back, escort me back safely, as my mother tells me. So that was my start. And then I, a pool opened, we didn't have a pool at that time in Williston Park where I grew up, and they opened a pool in 1963 when I was 12. And I took the Red Cross swimmer course and got my Red Cross swimmer badge and joined the pool, the swim team at the pool. And then in eighth grade at St. Aidan School, my Catholic grammar school, they announced a tryout for the swimming team. And there is not a lower, more grassroots level of swimming than Catholic diocesan, diocesan once a year meet. So they were going to have a few practices and then swim in the diocesan annual meet. So I tried out. I didn't even have to swim the length of the pool. It was the width of the Farmingdale Community College six lane pool. And when I got across the pool, there was a coach in full clothing in the water next to me who had jumped in, jumped in to escort me across, not sure I would make it under my own power. So needless to say, I didn't make the cut, not an auspicious start. And the guy who cut me is still a friend of my parents and we still laugh about that. But then they had the Red Cross 50-mile swim chart at the pool, as all pools did in those days. And you could get a badge for swimming 50 miles. And I had 11 weeks in the summer to swim 50 miles. So at age 13, I decided I was going to earn that. And I discovered I really loved the solitude of doing laps and I just through doing the laps to earn the 50-mile badge, which I did, I turned myself into an okay swimmer. Certainly not one with any sort of efficient technique, but one who could swim a mile a day. Not many people can. And I managed to turn myself into a mile a day swimmer at age 13.

The "not a bad thing" experiment. (26:51)

So let's flash forward and we can certainly pick up anything in between. But if we look at, say, 1972. So you, at that time, my understanding is, begin coaching at the US Merchant Marine Academy. Correct. And it was there that you had an epiphany or sort of observed something that would later very much influence your teaching style. Can you tell us about what you learned while you were coaching? Sure. Yeah. This is, it's such, it's a foreshadowing and an unbelievable foreshadowing of how I would spend the next 40-odd years. You know, first of all, to preface it, I have to take note that I had swum for eight years before I became a coach. And I was a very hardworking, very frustrated swimmer. And during those eight years, I can remember one occasion when a coach said anything to me about technique. So I got, you know, if you take your cues from what your coaches do, they put workouts on the board and then said, "Ready, go." And nobody said a word about technique except for this one time where one of my coaches said, "Lachlan, you'll never swim fast if you don't move your arms slower." That was the only input I got because I was just, I was such a high turnover swimmer. And, you know, as far as I knew, how else do you swim fast except by moving your arms faster? So I'd gone through eight years with not a word about technique except that one time. And then I was the coach of the Merchant Marine Academy. I think I had 12 men in a four-lane pool. And I gave them a garden variety warm-up of 800 yards of freestyle. It takes about 10 to 12 minutes to do. And I watched them from the end of the pool. And it was the first time I'm ever watching swimmers and, you know, where I'm in the situation or the responsibility of being responsible for their performance. And I must have been watching with a keener eye than I ever had before because I noticed that every swimmer in the pool was asymmetrical. Those who breathed to the left torqued and twisted in that direction and those who breathed to the right likewise. And it just occurred to me that, you know, if the object is to move to the other end by presumably by a laser line, that it's not good in every single stroke to be diverting momentum and energy off to the side. So I went home that night pondering what I'd seen and what I might do about it. And I decided that the next day for warm-up, we were going to -- I was going to ask them since it was related to their breathing, I gave them 800 yards of freestyle. But I said, "I'd like you all to breathe on the wrong side." And because we all start our swimming with a right side, a side on which we are naturally more comfortable. And the other side, we don't breathe to it because it feels more awkward and uncomfortable. So for the next 10 to 12 minutes, I had a markedly more symmetrical team and I said, "That can't be a bad thing." I didn't know the first thing about biomechanics at the time. It just seemed evident to me aesthetically that anything that moved you straight ahead was better than something that kept diverting you to the side. And I was just so gratified by the positive response to my first seat of the pants experiment in stroke work that I thought, "I'm just going to carry on." And I did. And it was not difficult. I had never been an assistant coach. I had never taken a coaching course or anything even remotely related to sports science or swimming or biomechanics or any of that. But I really trusted my aesthetic judgment. I trusted that what looked good was good. And I had an example of that. I had a four-lane pool and there was a hierarchy where the fast swimmers were in lane one and the slow swimmers were in lane four. And as I cast my eye across the pool, the swimmers in lane one, the fast swimmers looked more taller in the water. They looked longer as they stroked and they were markedly smoother. And the swimmers in lane four were shorter and more choppy and more rough. And I thought, "I'm just going to experiment with them and try different things to see if I can make them look more like the swimmers in lane one." And another interesting thing happened when I started engaging with them. And as I said, the coaching I got was all ready-go coaching where the coach would give you a set that lasted 30 minutes and then just sit and watch you. But when I was working with them on technique, I was engaging with them in a much more intimate manner. And I pretty quickly noticed that there was another difference between movement form, between quality of form and speed, which was that King's Point was a little bit different from a lot of colleges and that there were no athletic scholarships. And so your reason for swimming came down to you got excused from unwelcome, unpleasant duties like cleaning out the latrine and marching in reviews and stuff like that during the length of the season. Or you really wanted to swim. And I saw there was a big overlap between want to swim and good form and faster swimming in lane one and escapism and poor form and slow times in lane four. So, you know, then it was a matter of how to engage them as well. And I found that these, you know, these tech, the technique challenges that I was giving them and the little puzzles to solve and so on brought out in them a certain zest for the workouts that had not been there before.

Merging teaching and swimming. (33:21)

So I'm really curious to know the first, where what would later become total immersion kind of entered the picture and I want to just make a couple of footnotes because it's related to a number of things you said, for instance, the perhaps very in retrospect, sensible, obvious advice to for instance do what I do now which is breathe every third stroke, which means I'm going right left right left right left in a very symmetrical way that's the one of the points that you mentioned and then the, the importance of. This is something that I think applies to just about everything. Just about not everything but just about everything and that is when you get in the pool, and I remember this, this had a huge impact on me and I still have that very initial total immersion book somewhere. It got wet a lot. So, yeah. It's not in pristine condition but the idea that you're, say getting in the pool to practice, not to do a workout. And at least in the beginning, the idea that if it feels like a workout, you're not doing it correctly, was really difficult for me to first accept because I'm used to, or at least at that point in physical training, I thought that your results were a direct output from an input which was effort. Right. And it was a huge mental shift for me to gauge my practice, the quality, the success of a practice based on how little effort I expended during say 30 minutes in the pool. It was just, it was a huge shift for me and I think that applies to producing quality in many many different areas, at least in my experience. Yeah, and that's somewhat counterintuitively. So when did the bones of what would later become total immersion start to coalesce or start to appear? Well, the powerful impact of working on technique and not neglecting conditioning whatsoever. My swimmers were very well conditioned everywhere I coached. But the conditioning was always subordinate to the form. In other words, I would stop a set if I wasn't satisfied with the form. They might be swimming fast, they might be swimming their hearts out, but if I was not satisfied with the form, I would stop the set, redirect and restart the set and say you must maintain your form. The beginning of my conviction that that was an absolute, that swimming success is based on superior form came that first season at Kings Point. I had swum in that conference for four years. I swam for St. John's University and we swam against Kings Point for four years. We swam in the conference championship each year. And I took my team after doing all this technique work and radically reshaping their strokes, I have to say, to the conference championship at the end of the season. And we just set the place on fire. I just could not, you know, even having coached them the whole season, my mind was kind of boggled by the times they swam, simply because nothing in my experience prepared me to see swimmers improve that much and swim that fast compared to the previous year. I'll give you one example. Sort of the premier event in college swimming is the 4x100 freestyle relay. It's always the final event in a collegiate championship meet. And as four swimmers each swimming 100 yards or 100 meters.

Kings Point swim program transformation. (37:45)

And in the four years that I was in the conference, the conference record for that event improved from 325 to 323. And as it happened, I was fortunate that the when I was a senior, the record of 323.8 was set by my, by Kings Point relay. So I inherited the championship and record holding relay. Well, they, they came back my first year of coaching and went 316. Wow. In one night they improved seven seconds of what had, you know, what had improved two seconds in four years. And everybody's jaws were hanging around the pool and I realized, oh my goodness, what have I wrought? I had never done anything that you, you know, would suggest distinction of any sort in my life prior to that night. What, what, what year do you recall the year on that?

Nothing to distinguish me prior to that night. (38:44)

Yeah, that was March of 1973. Okay, so that's, I was, I was still 21 years old, for goodness sakes. I was the youngest coach in the NCAA.

Learning basic skills to swim (38:55)

Now you ended up producing, and I want to sort of qualify my earlier statement also, 24 national club and college champions. Right. If I'm getting my facts straight. So I don't want to imply that conditioning isn't a piece of successfully coaching a competitive team, certainly, but that it's necessary but not sufficient. I mean, to produce the improvement that you did in the relay, you can't just have them train harder or expend more calories in the pool. It was a, it was a technical improvement. And I think that, Right, right. There's no way any change in conditioning, anything I could have done in workouts could have produced that improvement. No way at all. Now, tell me, tell me about Bill Boomer. Where did Bill enter the picture and what effect did he have? So I actually met Bill Boomer in 1988, and I was just ready to step away from coaching. I had gotten burned out. I still love coaching. I love teaching. But I was, I had gotten a little burned out on dealing with parents. Before we, before we just gloss over that, so can you give us an example of like what type of stuff burned you out with parents? Yeah, well, there was one time where I had these two really sensational 12 year old boys. And when I had really good swimmers, I would, I would make things a little more challenging for them. I didn't want it to come too easily because at age 12, when you're a dominant swimmer, you're not used to being challenged. So we got to our season, our net, our state age group championships, and I said to the 12 year old boys, out of the eight events you're going to swim, you can choose six, but I'm going to choose two. And they both knew what it would be. It was going to be that they were both going to swim breaststroke events because that was their weakest event. And I, I wanted them to have at least, you know, one or two races where they really had to race and not just race each other. And one, once one of the boys, the parents came to me and complained bitterly about my forcing their son to do that. He had no problem with it. He didn't, he didn't have an objection or had not raised an objection, but because it was going to hurt his chances of winning the high point award. And, you know, and I'm thinking about his long term development, not whether he wins the trophy at age 12 or, and in the end, the other boy who's, who, who, who, his parents were fully supportive. He and his parents were fully supportive and he swam the breaststroke events. And I decided it wasn't worth fighting that battle. That if it was that important, I'd let him not swim breaststroke, but the other boy swam the breaststroke and ended up winning the high point award. So you were burning out because of overzealous or maybe overinvolved, over vocal parents. Yeah, they had just lost their sense of perspective and in it. And Bill Boomer came, came into the, came into the picture around that time. Yeah. So I'm, I'm 37 years old and I have no money in the bank. I, you know, I, I also had a 14 year old daughter who was, I was thinking, oh, I've got college costs coming up and, you know, coaching just didn't pay well. I was one of the most successful, most respected coaches in, in the United States in the age group ranks. And I, I had never earned more than $15,000 in a season and had no money in the bank. So I just decided I was going to cast about and see what other, what else I, my, my native abilities might allow me to do that might pay better. And so, but I still wanted to coach. I still wanted to be, keep my hand in it. I went, I was invited to the American Swimming Coaches Association World Clinic. It's, it's the top coaching clinic in the world. And I was invited to talk on a topic related to age group swimming. And then immediately after I finished my talk, I was sitting in the back of the room sort of decompressing with some coaching friends.

The swim coach's convention (43:34)

And I had intended to go see Randy Reese, the head coach of the University of Florida at the time and a guy who had coached many Olympians and world record holders. And by the way, the brother of Eddie Reese, who's coach at University of Texas at Austin and probably the most successful coach we have in the United States. So I was going to go see Randy Reese and learn how to coach world record holders and Bill Boomer, a completely unheralded, little known coach with a really unconventional approach to things. He was a coach at the University of Rochester in Rochester, New York, and he got up and started speaking and he just right, right from his opening sentences, it blew my mind. He was talking about things I had never heard and the most, the thing that he said that has stuck with me ever since, I'll quote two quotes of his. But the first was, he says, "The shape of the engine is more important than the," I'm sorry, "The shape of the vessel is more important than the size of the engine in swimming." And every coaching talk I had been to over the previous 16 years of going to coaching clinics, everyone had been about engine building, not a single talk about vessel shaping. What do we really mean by this? Well, Boomer says that a human body moving through the water should be treated like any vessel and should be designed to move through the water with as little drag and as little turbulence as possible. And engine building referred to both building the aerobic engine through cardiovascular conditioning and emphasizing how powerful the pull and kick is by doing what I call arms department, legs department training, where you tie your legs together, you put a buoy between them and a band around them, take them out of the picture, and then put a pair of big paddles on your hands and muscle your way up and down the pool with your arm muscles, or you immobilize your arms and possibly put on fins for more power and muscle your way up and down the pool and separating the arms from the legs in training, disintegrating the body, in other words. So the two types of engine building is really all that I had ever heard emphasized. And that was the first thing. And I'll come back with another anecdote later to tell you why this resonated with me. But the other thing that he said was that conditioning is something that happens to you while you build, refine and imprint skills. And just the fact that, you know, you would first look at the skill component, first look at the skill impact of any training set or task you give, and that the metabolic component, the conditioning component would be a factor of the difficulty of the skill task. As opposed to just say to the swimmer, "I want your heart rate above 170 for the next 20 minutes. Ready, go." And before we keep moving ahead with the chronology, I'd love to talk about your experience, which I think was maybe it was just before this, you could clarify when exactly it happened, but the break that you took from coaching. Can you tell us a bit about that experience when you were testing other avenues for making a living? Yeah, it ended up being writing. I had started doing just a little bit of writing while I was still coaching. I wrote one article for Swimming World magazine and wrote a few other things for newsletters. I always wrote a piece for our club newsletter, you know, from the coach's perspective, and I found I enjoyed communicating by writing and I thought I would try.

Baby steps back into coaching. (48:04)

So my wife, Alice, and I started a marketing communications, very tiny little mom and pop agency called Main Street Communications. We lived on Main Street in Goshen, New York, and we wrote speeches and PR stuff and things like that for small businesses in the area. At the same time, I started writing articles for small local magazines, and then I happened to go to my 20th high school reunion. And one of my classmates was the editor of a magazine on corporate hedging, on how multinational companies hedge their currency risk, which was much greater in those days before the unification of the eurozone. There were all those currencies in Europe, and so they were at great risk of currency moves and interest rate risk and political risk and commodity risk, all these forms of risks that you undertake. And so I, you know, he said, "What are you doing?" I said, "Well, I'm doing a little bit of magazine writing." He said, "Why don't you send me a clip?" And he ended up giving me an assignment. And I, you know, it turned out I was pretty good at interviewing and distilling the information and writing about it, even though I knew nothing about puts and calls and all these hedging strategies. And so I ended up, I earned my living primarily through writing about international corporate finance, which is kind of a crazy thing, during the time that I wasn't coaching.

Founding Of Total Immersion And Its Techniques

How Terry came to found Total Immersion. (49:48)

Why did you come back to coaching? Well, I, you know, I wasn't away from coaching very long. I actually was an assistant coach at West Point with a responsibility to be the, my portfolio was coaching technique for everybody on the team. My good friend Ray Bosse had just taken over as head coach, and he asked me to help him make the transition during his first year. So I did. That was 1988-89 when I had started the writing and stuff. And I enjoyed just working on tech, always had enjoyed teaching technique. And in 1988, in August of 1988, I resumed swimming. I had not swum in 17 years since college. And I saw that Masters Nationals were going to be in Buffalo, not far from my house. So I thought, well, I'll start swimming again, and I'll go to that Masters Nationals and see how I like it. So the takeaways I got was that everybody seemed to be having great fun. And I was super impressed by the people in the 55 and over age groups, how fit they were and how fast they were. And I thought, I want to be like them when I get to be that age. So I was introduced to Masters swimming, and I thought, well, if I coach these folks, I probably won't have any parent problems. And so the next summer, I decided I was going to hold a summer camp. The summer camps for kids were a common thing. Like other sports, there were week long and longer summer camps for different sports. So summer camps for swimmers were something I knew well. And I thought I'd offer one for adults. And so I did. June of 1989 at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York, I had the first ever total immersion camp. Where did I get the name total immersion? Because I didn't want to call it Terry Laughlin swim camp. To me, that was like calling it some guy's swim camp. I thought I needed a better name than just my name. So I was I was reading a magazine one day and I came across an ad for Berlitz Language Schools and they were offering what they call total immersion language courses. And I said, that certainly works as well for swimming as it does for language. So I chose that name and then waited about five years for a letter from their lawyers telling me to cease and desist before I went to a lawyer and found it. Oh, I could I could trademark total immersion swimming, which I did finally. So I had total immersion swim camp in the summer of '89 and I had six swimmers the first week and nine the second. I had I had an Olympic swimmer, a 1948 Olympian from from Holland, who was now a resident of Canada, of Ottawa, and came to the camp. And so I, I taught I taught those people what I had been teaching for 20 years or not 20 years, but 18 years, 17 years. I what I had been teaching to age group swimmers because these people were all very conversant with swimming. A lot of them had swum when they were kids, not to mention having an Olympian and they were all very comfortable in the water and everything, everything that I did worked well with them and a couple of them said I improved more in five days than I have in the last 10 years. So that was something that I found I enjoyed. I found worked well with the people. And I continued doing that for the next for the next several years. But I, I had master swimmers the first year and the third year I had my first triathlete come come to one of these four stroke camps. And first of all, they were mainly interested in in freestyle, not in the other three strokes. And secondly, when we finished a pool session, we had two pool sessions a day, one morning, one afternoon, and I, I wanted them to rest up for the afternoon. They would go out for a bike ride or a run and come back all sweaty. So I wasn't thrilled. But the proportion of triathletes grew so rapidly that by about the fourth or fifth year, it was 70% triathletes and we were doing just freestyle.

A case study in what it takes to learn to swim from scratch. (54:18)

Now, where if we're going to let's the if you don't mind flash forward as you're so you're forming total immersion, you're developing and testing different methods. If we look back at our experience that we shared in Hawaii with Sarah, who was very much novice swimmer uncomfortable putting her face underwater. Right. Mother of I think two at the time. Yeah. And for the Tim Ferriss experiment, a TV show at the time, we wanted to show demonstrate that it wasn't just an anomaly that I had learned to swim in this way and that in fact it could be replicated. So we brought Sarah to Hawaii and I'm going to back into the technique but started with kind of coughing and having a lot of trouble really just submerging her face to a few days later and keeping in mind that for those people who watch nonfiction TV or reality TV. If it's actually reality TV, which this was meaning it's not highly scripted, we're actually capturing someone as they progress from zero to hopefully open water swimmer. Yeah, there's a lot really on the line, you're putting it on the you're really on the line. And also you have audio issues, you have camera reframing. So you might think that with say Sarah we had four or five days of training but in reality we had a much shortened period of time is probably half of that time that we had to work. Very complicated and challenging instructional environment with all the all the technical people around and all the cameras and the reshoots and all that. Yeah, it really it but it worked and she ended up swimming in very deep water, open water, sink swimming with both of us and breathing in freestyle stroke. It was just tremendous. But where do you take someone like Sarah and begin? Where do you start? Because I think this is where a lot of people who try to learn to swim and you know they swallow their pride and go to the pool or find a coach where things go sideways and certainly that was true for me. Where do you start? Do you start by getting into the deep end and trying to learn how to breathe while you swim freestyle? No, no. Very, very small bits. Very what I call mini skills and micro skills. We always teach in a step by step fashion where each step leads naturally to the next and is a scaffold for the next step. So I meet Sarah at the pool on Monday morning. We began the shoot on Monday morning and I said, "Okay, well let's see what you can do." And the cameras are rolling and Sarah swims about six or eight strokes furiously just flailing away with her head out of the water, head just whipping back and forth and then she needs a breath and what does she do? She stops. She can't breathe and swim so she had to stop and she did that a few times and I knew I had a pretty good idea what I was going to say and you probably recognize that from your own experience, Tim. Oh sure. You know the way she was swimming and survival swimming. The drowning monkey technique. Right. Well, I cited the statistic earlier of only 2% of American adults can swim 400 meters nonstop. Only 30% can swim 25 yards. Just one length of your local pool. Only 30% can swim one lap nonstop. So that was you, Tim, as I recall your story was you in a 20-yard pool and swimming about two-thirds of the way down and not being able to get past that two-thirds point. So what is it? It's an inability to breathe. If you can't get air, you can't carry on. But you can't just start in with breathing because there's a series of skills that you have to learn first. So what did we have Sarah do first? Doing a glide. A very, very simple glide with arms extended at shoulder width. We call it Superman. It's Superman. This is instructing Sarah to just glide, to just hang her head between her shoulders, which is a non-instinctive thing but exceptionally important. In fact, it's counterintuitive. What was Sarah's instinct was to hold her head up to avoid choking. And here I was telling her, "Sarah, I want you to hang your head in the water. I want you to let it go." And she discovered when she let her head hang in the water that she could glide and her body didn't sink and she could just glide effortlessly maybe five or six yards. And that's a life-changing experience for someone who has always felt that they were a sinker. Right. Well, you're showing how the shape of the vessel, the hydrodynamics changes the whole game.

Learn the game from the end. (01:00:02)

We in fact were shaping the vessel so that she could glide five or six yards without any effort, so that she could just look down and see the pool bottom passing under her without her doing anything and at the same time feel this incredible sense of support, almost weightlessness from the water. I just want to highlight something here or a few things. The first is that this is happening in four feet of water. So Sarah can stand up at any time if she wants to. So it's removing that fear factor. Second, she's not kicking. She's not pulling with her hands. She's simply gliding. So you're isolating that prerequisite skill or component that leads to the rest. And one thing that really struck me, and this is true in my experience with all really, really profound instruction, whether it's music or say recently for me tennis with a coach named Lorenzo Beltrami who just blew my mind with teaching me how to serve properly. And I just want to draw a parallel if you don't mind the digression or Josh Waitzkin has been on this podcast and how he teaches chess, which is very much what you would not expect. And what you find is that almost by definition really profound instruction is very different from what you would expect because what you expect gets very mediocre results. And for instance, Josh starts with, and I think we'll come back to this, but first principles. He wants someone to understand the principles of chess in this case. And for those people who don't know the name, he was the basis for the book and the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer. And he'll take all of the pieces off the chessboard and start with a, I think it's just king versus king and pawn to teach very, very flexible principles that then apply to the rest of the game. So he'll start with the end game in order to demonstrate those principles. But perhaps a more direct parallel would be Lorenzo when he was teaching me. I'd never been able to serve in tennis or really I never had learned how to play tennis period. But what he started me with is he said, all right, you're going to hold the tennis ball in your left hand and you want your hand sideways. All right, so that you're not whipping the ball backwards. And I want you to just practice throwing the ball up and having it land a few inches in front of your feet. That's all I want you to do. So I'm just throwing the tennis ball up, having it land in front of my feet so that I'm not throwing it behind me or too far ahead of me. He goes, okay, great. Actually, I take it back. That was step two. Step one was practice lightly and loosely throwing a tennis ball over the net. Just like a soft baseball throw. Second was with my left hand throwing the ball up and having it land in front of me just a few inches in front of my foot. Then the next step was throwing the first ball up and then trying to hit it with the tennis ball that I'm throwing with my rear hand. Then literally he just said, okay, here's a tennis racket. Try to hit the tennis ball. And boom, right into the zone on the other side of the net. It just was one of those moments that just made my head kind of explode, which was also the case with total immersion and with this logical progression. That's what I want to underscore is that you're building on each of these skills. It just gets me so excited. When people ask me, why are you trying to learn the gamelan from Indonesia? Why are you trying to learn this or that? It's these aha moments where you do something for, say, Sarah. She goes, holy shit, for lack of a better, more elegant way to put it, I could actually do this. You have Sarah gliding. What are some of the other important initial skills or exercises that you layer on top of that? Well, one of the things that you have written when you write about meta-learning, one of the principles that you have cited for that is avoid error points. As soon as I read that, I recognized, oh yeah, we did that. Tim's got it. What are the two error points? You know from your experience, what are the two error points for swimmers?

Hydrodynamic Superman Glide, proper position in the water. (01:04:51)

Oh boy, you know what? I'm caught on the spot. I would say number one is just fear of not being able to touch the bottom, at least for me. I'll just name, and for those people who are wondering what I mean, if we're looking at failure points or error points… I can tell you the two you cited when you wrote about it, kicking and breathing, because every time somebody handed you a kickboard, as you said, your feet just sliced through the water like razor blades and you went nowhere. That's everybody's experience. Nobody can propel on a kickboard except people who are already really good swimmers. So that's a totally useless tool to learn to swim. But everybody, what do they do? What does everybody do? They hand you a kickboard to try to strengthen your legs so your legs won't sink. That's not the problem. Having weak legs is not the problem. So the first problem we solved with Sarah was fear of sinking. And we took out the breathing component. We said we're going to add that later. When you are ready, when you have a platform of skills so that you can control something about how you breathe, then we'll introduce that. And we're going to not even make kicking part of it at all, but teach you, as you have written, Tim, to have the legs draft behind the upper body. So we had her do exactly that with the Superman glide, which is just let out a pearl-sized string of bubbles so that you're not holding your breath. And don't kick. Press your legs lightly together and just feel your body gliding. That was step one. The second step was to teach her to shape her body for the most hydrodynamic position in the crawl stroke. And the most hydrodynamic position, the one where you experience the least drag, is the fully extended position. So when you've reached forward with one arm and pressed back with the other arm and you're fully extended and rotated just a little bit off your stomach. So we call that skate position because it brings to mind, or I would like to bring to mind, the blade of a speed skate. And to shape your body to be as long and sleek and balanced as it can be. And so what we did there was the Superman glide does not occur in freestyle. So we just used that to get her comfortable in the water to give her a sense that she had control of her body position. Very important to feel that you're in control. And then the very next step was to put her in the most hydrodynamic position. So we started with the most important moment in the stroke and let her become very, very familiar with all the fine details of that moment. Where should your hand be? Your extended hand be? It should be in a particular place. It should be below your body. And it should be on a track with the whole right side of your body if it's your right arm. And your left shoulder should be barely above the surface. You should be looking straight down. You should be kicking very, very minimally. And so we taught her that position. I would say we spent a good part of an entire pool session just letting Sarah become familiar with and in control of that position.

The importance of rating performance in strokes per lap vs. lap time. (01:08:34)

Definitely. And a couple things that come to mind that I also want to bring up that were particularly helpful for me. Number one was having a – and I'm very quantified in the sense that I like to have a number I can use for tracking improvement. But when you're just learning how to swim, looking at say lap speed is going to encourage bad behavior. It's going to encourage, at least in me, the thrashing and overexertion that we want to avoid. But looking at the stroke count per length ended up being really helpful for me. So for instance, I went from in about four workouts – this is, again, by myself, just self-coaching with the book – more than 25 strokes per 20-yard length to an average of around 11 strokes. So I had doubled my sort of efficiency. And I'll just run through a couple of quick notes that I have here. So the first is more of a meta comment, which is people think of swimming – and I thought of swimming – as something you do on top of the water. And I'll just list a few of these and then we can dig into them. But whereas in fact your body is denser or very often denser than water, you're going to be mostly submerged. So if you think of freestyle as having say 90 percent – you could give me probably a more accurate percentage – but like 90 percent of your body underwater, then when you are swimming, say freestyle, your body is going to be mostly underwater. And just accepting that removes a huge fear factor because if you're accustomed to thinking, "I have to swim in order to breathe. I have to keep my body on top of the water," you're on a suicide mission. It's just not going to work. The physics don't provide for it. Gravity will always win that battle. Yeah, gravity is always going to win. But when you're taught from the very outset or the expectation set, your body is going to be 95, 90, 95 percent underwater. And your goal – and let's start by kicking off a wall in four feet of water – is to glide from say sort of fuselage right to fuselage left. So if we think of freestyle not as swimming on your stomach but from alternating from one extended position to the other, just like you would go from say right speed skate to left speed skate, like you were mentioning earlier, in that extended position, things change really, really quickly. And thinking of – these are just a couple of the counterintuitive things I want to mention for people that really helped me. Another was focusing on driving your arm through the water as opposed to pulling in order to encourage that position. The looking straight down, which you mentioned, also I think very counterintuitive for folks. And having your arm when you are in that fully extended position a good deal underwater, not on top of the water. And what that does is helps to apply water pressure on the arm and raise the legs, right? So my issue or what I thought was my – It's what I call that the trim tab effect. So the way that the trim tabs on an airplane work to raise or lower the nose, if you have something in front, the hydrodynamics and aerodynamics work exactly the same. And if you have something in front of the vessel that is angled down, it's going to lift the rear and that's – so the arm is acting as a trim tab for your body. And effortlessly lifting your legs to the surface, meaning two really important things. One is you save on the energy of kicking and the second is you save a huge amount of turbulence and drag. So just using the arm in that way, who would ever think that that's more important than pushing water back?

The benefits of hand swapping. (01:12:38)

What are some of the drills or exercises that you found most helpful for translating or – translating to most of the components you want to emphasize into one exercise? So one that I found just really, really tremendously helpful was hand swapping. So if you talk to perhaps front quadrant swimming a little bit, but the idea that when in doubt, if I feel like I'm getting a little panicky or getting tired or whatever it might be, I think of hand swapping. Could you describe what that means for people? Sure. So our innate primal instinct when we start swimming is to windmill the arms heedlessly. Just turn away with the arms, meaning generally the arms are going to be 180 degrees apart or close to it. And not only are you not creating much propulsion by windmilling your arms, you're also creating a whole lot of drag. That's sort of a fatal prescription for getting anywhere. And so we always have prioritized what we call vessel shaping or shaping your human swimming body to minimize drag during all moments in the stroke. And so the first thing you can do to minimize drag is use your arm to lengthen your body. The longer the body is, the less drag there is. And then you need to think a little bit about stroke timing in terms of that because you want to keep the body long for a bit more of the recovery. Recovery is when you're bringing your arm forward. So essentially we're teaching people to leave the extended arm forward until the other arm is just about to reenter the water after completing its recovery. And not simply to leave it there, but to hold your place, to actively use your hand to hold your place because you're going to spear the other hand. So instead of once you enter the water, you're going to spear it past your grip and use power from the high side of the body to move past your grip. So instead of propelling with just your arm and shoulder muscles, you're propelling with your whole body.

Persisting Through Challenges And Learning From Experiences

Learn to love the plateau. (01:15:13)

So this is, I mean, what we're really deconstructing in a way is progressive mastery of a given skill, it would seem to me. And you, I know, are a big fan of a book titled "Mastery" by George Leonard. Can you tell us about how you found that book and your experience in reading it? I'd like to dig into it just a little bit because I think it's widely applicable. Yeah. Sometime in the 1990s, someone brought to my attention a magazine article he had written for, I believe, Esquire in the late '80s. And it was more reprints were requested of that article than any other article they had ever printed. And it was about mastery. And the story George was telling was that of taking up Aikido at age 47, a very advanced age, and then becoming the latest starter ever to reach the master teacher level in Aikido. And how did he manage to accomplish that? And it was just a set of prescriptions or principles for attaining mastery. And, you know, the essential idea of this is that life is not designed to make things easy for us, but to present us with challenges that help us grow. And that we should embrace these challenges and, you know, something you've done for many years, Tim. That we should embrace these challenges. And if we apply certain behaviors, we're going to experience a lot more success. And so the behaviors he cited were, first of all, always be focused on improving the skill itself. And any time you are doing it, you're focused on improving the skill. The amount of time you spend, what your heart rate is or any of that is secondary to doing things that improve the skill. A second is to focus on weak points. Don't focus on your strengths. A third, and I really love this one. This one is my favorite, is to love the plateau. In anything we learn, we initially, as we're working our way through the most basic and easiest skills, we learn pretty rapidly. And then things start to slow down. And then things may slow down to the point where you only experience a breakthrough every six to twelve months or so. And George Leonard wrote that when you practice with guided by the principles of mastery, there is always positive change taking place at the cellular level below your threshold of awareness. And that periodically this change consolidates into a thrilling leap forward, which was very much my own experience. I proved it to myself with my own experience where by the time I had been swimming fifty years, in other words, I'm in my mid-sixties, and I've really been swimming fifty years, maybe even fifty-one, fifty-two years. I was still learning things that thrilled me. I was still getting insights about my own stroke that were literally thrilling. And they were coming at really, really long intervals. And so having read George Leonard long before I was in my sixties, I was really prepared for that eventuality. Can you teach people to love the plateau? Are there ingredients that help people to persist through a plateau? And if so, what are they? Because I think that this is such a common quitting point for a lot of people. Where they are, myself included, I'm not immune to this, will get the sugar high of the initial "aha" moments and making rapid progress and experiencing rapid change. And then, uh-oh, now it's very, very incremental. Now it's barely perceptible and I feel like I'm not making progress or even backsliding. How would you help someone to persist through that plateau and, I suppose, learn to love it if possible? Yeah, well, I think there's a couple of things. I think one of the things you want to do is give them enough of the right sort of information about the foundations of excellence and what they have taken up that they become curious to learn more. So first you need to stimulate their curiosity and eventually you get to what I hope for everyone I teach, I hope becomes passionate curiosity. So you move from curiosity to being really intrigued to wanting to really solve this, to becoming passionate about it. And it's that hierarchy. You've got to love what you're doing. And there's a good deal of evidence about what causes people to love what they're doing. And one of the most important is simply the goal of enjoying it today. If I'm going to work out for an hour, my goal is to enjoy my hour of workout. At the beginning of the year, health clubs all over see a flock of people signing up. And they sign up far more people than they can actually serve because they know that about two thirds of them are going to not use their membership. They're going to start out with all the fire and then lose it and stop going to the gym. And there's been a pretty authoritative study that showed the main difference between the people who continued using their membership and those who do not was that those who stopped using their membership had in mind some benefit they might receive in six months time. While the people who use their membership and stayed with it just enjoyed going to the gym every day. They did things that brought them pleasure in the moment. So I think pleasure in the moment is really important. And the other thing is you've got to be really engaged with it. And it's if I see people on the aerobic equipment at my gym, what do I see? Well, some of them are reading books and disassociating from what they're doing and others are really paying attention to what they're doing. They may be using an elliptical machine or a running treadmill or something for the umpteenth time, but they're still finding details about how they use that machine that are worth their attention.

What can help you persist. (01:22:41)

So what might some of those details be? And I'll add a few that I found helpful for persisting in the face of a potential, say, technical plateau. Or even a strength plateau, for instance, in the case of strength training. So a few things that help me to continue. Number one is in the case of swimming, recognizing the sort of beneficial mental shift and emotional psychological shift that takes place in me, even if I am not swimming more laps or improving times. My state coming out of the pool is almost always better than it was going into the pool. I just feel better. And so that has benefits, even if I'm not, say, developing towards being a top competitive swimmer. The second, and this is true for me in almost everything, but I have measurables. And it doesn't mean that I'm tracking my measurables from workout to workout, but it gives me, I find the act of counting very meditative. So the fact that I have, for instance, in weight training, usually there's a cadence. Let's say it's two seconds up, four seconds down. Or yesterday I did a workout where I was doing five seconds up, five seconds down. So there's a tempo counting and then there's a repetition counting and then I'm logging the sets. And I find for whatever reason that increases my adherence to something. If I have a quantification. In the case of swimming, I have the one, two, three, one, two, three of breathing on alternate sides and then I also have the strokes per length that I can focus on. Or the hand swapping drill. And the last that comes to mind is specifically as it relates to swimming because there is, I think, still a tiny part of me in the back of my head that is afraid of drowning. There's a tiny part that still has the fear accumulated over 30 years. And I'm comfortable in the water, but what I think helps me to continue to want to go back to the pool is always doing less than what I feel capable of doing. Which is very much the opposite of what I've done in almost every other place. Not everywhere, but in the case of swimming there are a few other places where you have fine motor skill. Tennis is also true. Doing less than I feel is possible. So in other words, stopping before my technique really deteriorates.

A swim can be a practice in moving meditation. (01:25:24)

Tim, how long do you usually swim? Oh, I swim for very short periods of time. I would say typically less than 45 minutes. Very good. That's what I'd recommend to most people. Okay, got it. I would say very often I'll go in and I'll do 20 to 30 minutes. It's not a long workout and I try not to view it as a workout. It's really a practice of moving meditation for me. And if I want to smash my body in some type of other training, that's fine. But in the pool I view it much more as a practice in elegance and efficiency to the greatest extent possible. You're moving through a fluid. What could be better than flow in your own movement?

How Phil Cruz, the soybean farmer turned exemplary swimmer, did it. (01:26:15)

Right. Now, I see I took a note here and I don't know the story so I'll bring it up. This is, it looks like from 2000 and the story of Phil Cruz. Can you tell me who Phil Cruz is and what happened in 2000? Yeah, I think maybe 1999 I did a workshop in Chapel Hill. We had maybe 20 attendees. And we had one in particular who was the most challenged student that I had yet seen. He did what Sarah did during our first videotaping, thrashed about five strokes and stood up to breathe. And that was it. And by the end of the two day workshop on Sunday afternoon, it was a triumph for him to navigate one lane to the pool continuously with a hybrid between drilling and swimming. It wasn't even a whole stroke. So fast forward 18 months and I'm teaching what we call a Kaizen camp in Florida. And it's a four stroke camp if you want to learn all four strokes. And four strokes being freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly. And butterfly, correct. And they didn't have to do four strokes, but they could do any number of the four that they wanted. And we videotaped everybody in the first session to get a before picture, any of the strokes that you wanted. And while we were videotaping freestyle, one of these camp participants swam the most unbelievably beautiful freestyle at the level of our best coaches. Just that sort of grace and fluency and ease. And so, you know, afterward I said, "Where did you learn that?" And he said, "From you." And it became clear that he was the person who had attended, you know, he'd been at that, at such a challenge swimmer 18 months earlier in Chapel Hill. And not only that, but he was a soybean farmer. He had previously worked in a management position and then became a gentleman farmer after retiring from that. But he farmed soybeans in coastal North Carolina, and he was 25 miles from the nearest pool. So in that intervening 18 months, I mean, everybody we teach improves, okay? So I'm not, that's not the standard. It's just, my mind was blown by the degree to which he improved. And then I found out he did it entirely on his own. He had no other resources or help or anything. And, you know, he was just driving himself to the YMCA 25 miles away and did it in a year and a half on his own. And I became, what that stimulated in me was a curiosity. When someone shows absolutely no knack for something, how did they get that good? That was something that really intrigued me. So what was the, what were the components? What went into his practice? What did he do, do you think, that led to that degree of improvement? Yeah, you know, I'd say, first of all, not everybody is as good as he is or as you were at self-coaching. So he started out, he did start it out with some coaching, but it was just two days of coaching and then 18 months on his own. So I suppose he probably had probably pretty well acquainted with his body for whatever reason. That's one thing. But the second thing is, I think he probably just faithfully followed through on practicing the drills very patiently, very attentively, until he really understood them and constantly refined his form in the drills and then taking whatever he learned from the drills and putting it into whole stroke practice. He probably gave not a moment's thought to speed or how far he was swimming. I'll bet he did what you did, Tim, which was to only practice for as long as he felt the practice was fruitful. Yeah, there were a handful of things that I think in any practice, for me at least, help with self-coaching. The first would be, whenever possible, having a, as they would say in the startup world, a key performance indicator. So what is the number that you're trying to improve week on week? There's actually a very famous, for lack of, or to keep it simple, I'll say a startup incubator called Y Combinator, nicknamed YC, based in Silicon Valley, that can be thought of as the Harvard meets SEAL Team 6 of startup training. And they bring in a very, very small percentage of people who apply and work them into the ground 24/7. These people don't really need help to do that. They'll do it on their own. And at the end, they have a business that they pitch to investors and so on. And during that period, they almost all choose a KPI, a key performance indicator, and the goal is to say, "improve it 10% week on week." So for me, in swimming, I decided early on, with the help of Total Immersion in book form, and then later I got the DVDs, was the stroke count, the number of strokes per lap. That was my true north. Anything that I did that hurt that, I ended up either fixing or discarding, and anything I did that improved that, I would continue practicing. Then on top of that, I would test all of these various drills and realized for myself that the hand swapping drill, I'm not saying it's true for everyone, but in my case, focusing on that front quadrant swimming and the hand swapping was what most quickly returned me to a very optimal, for me, in my skill level, stroke per lap, if that made sense. And then last, and this is actually much easier now, at the time GoPro either didn't exist or was very, very early in version one, V1 type technology, but having some means of video observation or correction, I just think is so incredibly helpful. I've used that in swimming to a lesser extent, but only when we had the gear in Hawaii to do so. Of course, in my head, I've been practicing Total Immersion for a while at that point. I was like, "Okay, I feel like my technique's pretty good," and then you see it on camera and you just want to cringe. That was also true when I was in Argentina in 2004, 2005 and ended up competing in Tango. I ended up going to the world championships and making it to the semi-finals, but about three months prior to that, I remember I was two or three months into practicing Tango, felt like I'd really made a lot of progress. I'd been taking video of different instructors, different dancers, I'd been cataloging technique, I'd been writing down my specific goals for each, as I viewed it, practice session/workout, and then I would have one or two things each day that I would work on in the uncontrolled environment of a milonga, which is a dance hall.

Tim's experience swimming the Tango (01:34:45)

I thought I was not hot shit, but I thought that I was really on my road to being a fantastic dancer. Then I remember I went and I bought a video camera. This is on Avenida Florida in Buenos Aires, where they have a lot of electronics stores. I bought this camera, took it to practice, had somebody record me dancing with this woman, and it was horrible. What I was doing in my head and what I was doing on the camera were so different that they would have been unrecognized. You would never have paired my video to what I would have described myself doing. That is what allowed me, though. That harsh reality is what allowed me to really, really, really improve after that point. Are there any other types of practice or types of self-talk, any types of planning or journaling or anything that you have seen helpful or that you've observed in people who self-coach well? This is such an important skill. If you want to be an autodidact, and most of the time, even if you have access to good coaches, you will be without a coach. What are some of the things that you've seen contribute to good self-coaching? Yes, video is a very, very important tool, very helpful tool for anything movement-oriented. There has never been a time that I have been videotaped that I was satisfied with what I saw to this day. But if I can cite my own experience, because I've been my own total immersion coach all along, I have to step back a little bit and talk about how my mind was open to how much potential improvement was available to me that I had not realized at all. Going back to Bill Boomer, after I heard him talk at that clinic, I drove up to Rochester to watch him coach and see him put into practice the things he talked about and pick his brain. And one of the things that he talked about was that the keystone skill of swimming was balance. Now, I had never even heard of balance as a skill of swimming, and he was saying it was the keystone to efficiency. So he talked about balance during the clinic thing, and then when I went up, I said, "Bill, would you teach me something about balance?" So he taught me a drill that he called "pressing the T," where you would have your arms at your sides and be flutter-kicking with your head in line with your spine and lean on your chest as you do. So I did that, and I had spent 25 years thinking I had the misfortune to be born with heavy legs. It's a bad thing as a swimmer to be born with heavy legs. And I spent a quarter century thinking I was doomed. And in 10 seconds doing this drill, that whole concept was exploded because my legs were light, and I never realized that I had the power to do something to change that. Could you explain the drill one more time, please? Yeah, yeah. We teach it today. We call it torpedo, but we do it without the flutter kick. But essentially, you put your arms at your sides, and you glide with your head in line with your spine, kicking gently, and lean a little bit on your chest. And what you feel is your hips and legs become lighter. They're lifted by a lever effect. A lever effect of leaning. What's the most buoyant part of your body is your chest. Your lungs in there that hold six liters of air. That's the most buoyant part of the body. And so when you lean, it's like pressing a volleyball into the water. Press down on a volleyball, it's going to push back. So if you keep pressing, it's going to push back somewhere else, and it lifts up your hips and legs. Got it. And that's, he called that pressing the T, because the T was the intersection of your spine, and if you stretch your arms out to the side, that's where you press.

Dr. Sashas response to (and continued triumph over) his cancer diagnosis. (01:39:20)

So, I was planning on maybe talking about this earlier, but I want to be respectful of your time, and I also want to make sure that we chat about your cancer diagnosis. And I have some questions about that. But could you tell people the origin of the cancer diagnosis and perhaps just explain the circumstances? Yeah, just about two years ago, I went with two friends to Sardinia. And we swam from Corsica, which is in France, to Sardinia, and I had an unbelievably great swim. I had been not training exceptionally hard for it. It's a 10-mile swim. The water temperature was 64, 65, and it took us four and a half hours, and that was stopping every 30 minutes. So there were seven stops to have a feed, which happened to be blueberry soup. One of my co-swimmers was from Sweden and brought blueberry soup. And just an incredible swim, one of the best swims in my life. And so I came home, and within a week of coming home, I had my annual physical. And my doctor found some irregularities when he examined my prostate, and he said, "You need to get a biopsy from a urologist." I went very quickly to get the biopsy, and the biopsy turned out to be positive for cancer, and it was what's called a Gleason score of four plus three, or seven. And what's significant about that is the number four indicates how aggressive the cancer is, and four indicated it was an aggressive cancer, so it was one that needed to be treated. A lot of times today, what they try to do is just watch and wait as much as possible, because they over-treated for quite a while. But in my case, it was clear that I needed to get treatment. I went to, I found a surgeon to do a robotic, a radical robotic prostatectomy, it's called a da Vinci surgery, and was scheduled for surgery. But beforehand, he said to get some scans done, and one of the scans showed that I was already in stage four, that the cancer had already metastasized to my bones. So, no surgery. Since then, it's been treated to systemic, so it's two years since I had my diagnosis. And this, this variety of cancer I have is called metastatic castration-resistant cancer, which is sort of a nasty term. It just means that the first treatment they give you is hormones, and the hormones are meant to suppress testosterone. So I have the testosterone of a 66-year-old woman now, but it's a very nasty form of cancer, and typically 24 to 30 months survival time after you are diagnosed. So that was pretty sobering news.

Aligning Total Immersion Principles And Mindfulness

Cancer, anxiety, and purpose. (01:42:37)

How are you, what have you seen in yourself, I mean in our interactions, at least via email, text, and so on, and certainly even speaking with you, I mean you seem very upbeat and optimistic and very engaged with total immersion for instance. What changes have you observed in yourself just mentally or psychologically since the diagnosis? Yeah, I, you know, I went through a rollercoaster the first six to eight months afterward where, you know, first I felt sorry for myself, and then the news kept getting worse, like I didn't find out that I had the worst variety of prostate cancer. Right away, it took a while for the failure of my hormone treatment failed in two months. The cancer started growing again, and they usually look for two years of cancer suppression from that, and you know, my oncologist said, I said to be straight with me on this doc, and he said it's the far side of bad news. So, you know, I was going through a rollercoaster where the news kept getting more sobering, and I was feeling anger, anxiety, not depression ever, never, yeah, never depression, but I felt quite a bit of anxiety to the point where it, you know, it was out of control and I saw treatment for anxiety which I never thought I would ever need in my life. So the first six to eight months were like that, but then with the help of the anti-anxiety medication, I'm on Lexapro and Abilify, and I don't mind admitting it, it's worked. It's enabled me to reclaim who I always was, which is a person who's driven by a purpose, and the purpose is to change the way people swim, I mean literally to change the way swimming is taught and practiced in this world. I've always had such a powerful sense of purpose, and I wake up with that sense of purpose every day, and I have to say that in the past probably 16 months now, I haven't experienced any anxiety, I haven't experienced any depression, I wake up, I still wake up every morning fired up to do what I'm going to do that day, which today is your podcast.

Swimming with my instructor in Hawaii. (01:45:12)

Which I couldn't be happier about, and I'm thrilled to have you on. I mean I wish we could spend some more time together, so I hope to, I mean we had a chance, which was really exciting for me, after learning TI through the book and seeing freeze frames of you with all the diagrams showing correct direction and so on, to actually get in the water in Hawaii with Sarah and to swim with you is just such a highlight for me, such a wonderful experience. Tim, it was for me as well, and I really feel the need to say this, but knowing all you have on your plate and especially in the midst of that TV production, and knowing what I know about your hunger to learn new things, I just had always assumed, because we were friends from a distance, and we met for dinner in San Francisco one time, but we were friends from a distance with periodic contacts when you wanted to make another mention, thank you, of total immersion in one of your books. That when I arrived in Hawaii, I was so impressed to see how strong your hunger remained to improve your swimming, and I thought, you know, it's not a box he wanted to check off at all, he really cares about this, so I saw that, and I was really impressed and happy about that. Thank you. Yeah, it's really been a foundational skill for changing my life for the better, and furthermore, it's given me this toolkit, which is very clear, very counterintuitive, but very clear, with which I've been able to take part, of course, just drafting on what you're doing, but in, say, helping Sarah and watching that complete transformation take place, and helping some of my friends who I've run into who say the same thing that I said when I was, say, 25. They say, "Yeah, I just don't swim. No, I'm just not comfortable in the water," and usually what I'll say to that is, "Well, why don't we just take an afternoon and come with me to a pool, and we'll just find a lane that's four feet deep, and let's fix that?" And they're like, "What? What do you mean, fix it?" What's nice is that you feel empowered to teach others. I love that. There's nothing I like better. Yeah, and it's really just getting them to that point that I experienced with total immersion after the first day of training, which is, "Oh, my God, I can actually do this," which is similar to the experience you had with the drill you did with pressing down that you now teach as torpedo, where you realize, "Oh, my God, this story that I've been telling myself, my legs are heavy, I'm just cursed with heavy legs," is either unfounded or completely fixable. Right, and what else am I capable of changing about my swimming? And it's turned out there's nothing I can't change. Yeah, or your life. Yeah, exactly. So, I think that the way that I'm going to fix it is not only possible to fix, but in fact easy to fix with the proper counterintuitive teaching and progression, in this case, which is total immersion. I mean, it's such a demonstration, it's such a profound demonstration of possibility for me that I really encourage anyone who's listening to this, and I'll say this also in the intro, who is unable to swim or views themselves as being unable to swim or is a poor swimmer, to just try this because it will open your eyes in such a way that you not only look at swimming and water differently, but you will look at other skills in your life differently as well. I mean, after total immersion, that's when I started asking myself, "What are the other impossibles? What are the other things I've told myself I just can't do?" Like play basketball or shoot a basketball was another one. Let me reexamine that. And then I found a method that is sort of a corollary, in a sense, to total immersion, but for basketball. It turns out, I think I might be getting the name wrong, but I think it's Rick Torbett teaches basketball shooting in a way that you would find very much a close cousin to TI, and it just makes sense. And I was like, "Okay, wow. Okay, that's two for two now. What else is there?" I thought the same thing when you described your first tennis lesson. Exactly. It's a crazy thing. No one else is still teaching this way. We've been doing it for 30 years with incredible success, and we're still the only ones teaching this way. Why is that? Why is that? Why do you think that is? In fact, I think there's just a lot of built-in resistance to change in the world of swimming, as there are in many, many places. They believe what matters is how many laps you do and how strong your pull and kick is. They persist in believing that. So what is the first thing you learn when you take a beginner's lesson? It's how to kick and how to pull. That's really putting the cart before the horse if you're not comfortable in the water. Oh, yeah. That'll just guarantee, at least in my case, that you need to breathe 10 times more urgently than you did otherwise.

Important Principles of Total Immersion (01:51:52)

I want to make sure that we wrap up in the next couple of minutes. What would you like to share with people who are listening? In other words, if there were recommendations you have, certainly checking out Total Immersion is a no-brainer as far as I'm concerned, and we can get to where they can find more on that and so on in a second. But is there anything else you'd like to convey, anything you would encourage people to ask themselves or suggest that they do, since we have quite a few people listening, I'm sure, at this point? We haven't gotten too much into the how-to. Maybe I can share a few how-to suggestions that people can try. Yeah, let's do it. And some principles. I always like to go back to first principles as the basis for anything that matters, anything we care about doing well. And so I'll share five first principles of intelligent improvement-oriented swimming. First is to recognize that as a human swimmer, you are an energy-wasting machine. DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, in designing a swim foil for the Navy SEALs back in 2005, they did an efficiency estimation for a group of lap swimmers. These were not tutored or coach swimmers, but people think they're pretty okay. They swim laps a lot. And they found they were only 3% efficient. 97% of their energy was going into something other than locomotion. So as a human swimmer, you are naturally an energy-wasting machine. And in everything you do, focus on saving energy before you focus on increasing fitness. That goes back to what Bill Boomer said, "Conditioning is something that happens while you build, refine, or imprint skills." So that's principle number one. Principle number two, most of what we know about swimming is wrong. All our primal instincts about swimming lead us astray, and most of what we hear are not helpful. So you really have to exercise critical thinking. If someone suggests you try something and it doesn't seem to work, well maybe it wasn't a good idea. If they suggest you try something or Tim asks you to go to the pool with them in a four-foot shallow area, and you experience something thereby that works, then trust in your own intuition about things and don't feel that you have to believe what you hear from authoritative sources. Principle number three, it's obvious that efficiency is not natural for humans. Inefficiency is natural, but is entirely learnable, as Tim discovered in a period of eight weeks where he went from swimming 20 yards in a pool and being exhausted to swimming a mile in the ocean. It's learnable. Anyone, anyone can learn to swim with great efficiency and then improve on it continuously by applying the principles of mastery, including love the plateau. Principle number four, if you want to swim with more ease or more efficiency, think about what you can do to make your vessel sleeker. And when I finish with the five principles, I'll just mention three or four simple action items that for the next time you go to the pool, but strive for a sleeker vessel. It's a universally unquestioned truth among naval architects and scientists who study fish. So why should it be different for your body? And then finally strive, strive to swim in a way that you use your body as a whole. Resist any suggestions someone tells you to just pull or kick or separate the pull and kick in your training. Strive for a seamlessly integrated movement that is based in the core. So those are five first principles worth listening to again and writing down, I think. Number five, just before we get to the action items, just to give an example of that integration that was one of these aha moments that we've been talking about, for me at least, was the idea that you not use your legs for propulsion. If you don't think about your legs and swimming as a propeller, but instead use a very small flick of each leg to turn the hips and therefore turn the shoulders so that you're going from that fuselage right to fuselage left and back and forth. It changes the entire nature of swimming. Right. So that was just one example of integration that I found hugely helpful. Well the toe flick illustrates three other principles that I just mentioned. Human swimmers are energy wasting machines. So what are you focusing on with a toe flick instead of leg turn saving energy. And principle number two, most of what we know about swimming is wrong. What did you know about swimming before you learned TI? What did you know about the kick? I had to use it as a propeller to push me forward. And principle number four, strive for a sleeker vessel. So rather than focusing on propulsion and a bigger, stronger kick, you use the smaller, lighter kick and it really worked. So four of the five principles were illustrated by that one thing. And you know the same thing with your hand swapping. What you were accomplishing there was a pull that was a little more patient, a little slower probably, but by using your arms to reduce drag. Yep, definitely. And it also helps pull together the pieces in terms of integrating your stroke. Just that timing is one of the things. Stopping the kick which is interrupting your natural rhythm, but also having that timing in your arms naturally promotes an integrated technique that all the parts are working together. So what action items would you have for people who want to try something at the pool? Yeah, so action item and I would suggest that you don't swim long distances while trying these. If you can swim anywhere from just about five strokes to a half a lap and feel that you're doing it, that's good. You don't have to leave one end with a feeling that you're obligated to go to the other end. So the very first of these would be hang or align your head. Most important, the most fundamental thing, the first thing we always teach is hang or align your head. You could visualize perhaps that there's a toe line attached to the top of your head, pulling your spine directly forward while you do everything, the stroking part of it, that your spine is always moving forward. So get your head aligned would be number one. Number two, use your arms to lengthen your body, not to push water back. You're still going to push water back, but by using your arms to lengthen your body, you're promoting two things, a lower drag profile and a complete movement. So you're focused on completing the movement. A lot of people think about finishing the stroke back by the hip, finish it to the front instead. The third is what Tim just mentioned, which is you cannot go wrong by kicking less. Just always keep that in mind. You cannot go wrong by kicking less. Kicking is a great way to burn energy and a great way to create drag. It's a very poor way to create propulsion. Anything you do more quietly is more effective and efficient. So whatever you're doing at a given moment, in the next lap, strive to do it more quietly and it will be better. So align your head, lengthen your body, kick less, swim more quietly, four action items. Yeah, the swimming quietly is one that if I find myself getting prematurely tired, which I take as an indication that I'm being inefficient, that's usually what I'll focus on. I'll stop, I'll just rest at the side of the pool for whether it is 30 seconds, 60 seconds, and then for the next handful of laps, just try to be as silent as possible. So no splashing with the feet, with the hands, really trying to glide the arm in at an angle and to do it as silently as possible is also one of those exercises that just checks so many different boxes it seems.

Where to learn more about Total Immersion (02:01:55)

Yep. Well, Terry, this has been great. I'm glad that we were able to find the time to do this. And of course people can find Total Immersion online at totalimmersion.net where they can find videos and instruction and everything else. Is there anything that you would like people to check out or anywhere else that people should say hello? Well, first of all, I want to say thank you and I want to say you are a masterful and artful podcast host. I'm working on it. Work in progress, but thank you. I felt very well guided. I would like to do a podcast and I hope to be a fraction as good as you are when I do it. So, well, yeah, I would like to offer all your podcast listeners a seven-day free trial of our online swim academy where there's a tremendous amount of information and you will have access to every bit of it, including streaming video and eBooks and all kinds of information. It's all free. Everything we have produced is available and all they have to do is go to totalimmersionacademy.com/tim. And I would like to take advantage of that offer. Perfect. And to everybody listening, I will also put that in the show notes. So if you want to find links to that and everything else we've talked about, you can find that at tim.blog/podcast and just search Terry's name. Since I believe you are the only Terry I've interviewed so far, then you will pop right up. And Terry, it's been such an honor and a privilege to have you on. And as far as your podcasting, hosting progress goes, I think it's important to, if you want a good laugh, listen to my first episode that I did as a host and you'll realize just how much one can improve. Any skill is improvable. Oh, yeah. So I think that if you use my first episode as a hurdle, I think that you'll clear it with flying colors. You're already much better than I was then. So don't be daunted by that. And I hope to hear your podcast soon myself. But Terry, thank you so much for taking the time. I really, really appreciate it. And thank you so much for inviting me. It's a pleasure and a privilege I've really looked forward to.

Total Immersion (02:04:45)

And to everybody listening, try out Total Immersion. Honestly, whether you're a swimmer or a non-swimmer or someone who's never quite been as comfortable as you would like, I am not, if you've seen photos of me, what you would think of as built for swimming. And I told myself all sorts of handicapping stories and accepted all types of partial completeness until my 30s when I used accountability by having a friend assign me a New Year's resolution. I knew he would bust my balls forever if I didn't do it to get me to finally take it seriously. And taking it seriously meant I took all sorts of classes and so on and wasted a lot of time trying things that were really, really, really hard, like kickboards and everything else. Doesn't have to be hard. And in fact, good instruction should seem very, very clear and it should make a lot of sense. And that's what I got from Total Immersion. And I can go down a long list of my friends who have since learned how to swim. So definitely check it out. And Terry, you mentioned it already, but totalimmersionacademy.com/tim. I really hope people give it a test and share their experiences because it can really be revelatory. And to everyone listening, as always and until next time, thank you for tuning in. Be safe out there. Question assumptions. And never stop learning. Okay guys, that's the end of the first interview. And from this point forward, you will hear several clips of Terry's daughters, Fiona, Carrie, and Betsy, interviewing him in the hospital in the days before his passing. Thanks for listening. What do you want to make sure that's not written down yet? It's all in your head. So what we're talking about is what makes Total Immersion distinctive. Yeah, I got that. Yeah. Is teaching balance as the keystone skill of swimming. No one else even recognizes balance as a skill, let alone the keystone skill of swimming efficiently. Or not just swimming efficiently, of being able to enjoy swimming. Being able to swim with ease, grace, and enjoyment. And we will approach it to demonstrate that the Total Immersion way is uniquely unique in promoting all those ancillary benefits because we do it consciously. Because we're trying to develop the whole person, not just the swimmer. We're trying to grow the whole person. Brain, psyche, and body. Let me ask you a question. Is there anything you want to convey to other people about House House swimming, your approach is helping you right now, like the interval training with this. Sure, everything, everything I've practiced and taught has helped prepare me for this crisis moment in my life. Okay. Can you give some examples. Sure. Your mindfulness. Yes. Process orientation. Like the way that you're drinking right focus points focal points, say what your focus points for drinking are. That's what my mindfulness. I'm used to doing things, guided by focal points and attentive to focal points. Talk about your experience with learning to drink. I have to learn after my stroke I have to learn to drink all over again. And I'm applying the same process to learn reteaching myself how to drink that applied to teaching myself how to breathe seamlessly while swimming freestyle. So, let's your focus points break it down. So my focus points for drinking are sip, exhale, relax, swallow, repeat. And then rest interval. And rest interval. And you treat those like you treat repeats when you're swimming in the pool. Yes, I do exactly. Recognizing that what I'm doing is treat draining my brain, because parts of my brain have been injured. Parts of my brain that controls swallowing properly and not aspirating have been injured and I have to train new neurons to take over that task. Right. The only way to do it is with a conscious process, or where I connect the motor and cognitive neurons that are associated with that activity. Yes. What about the emotional aspect? I think we've got the important points.

Mindfulness (02:10:24)

The emotional aspects is to be non-judgmental. Making mistakes is essential to learning. So that when I make a mistake that I can recognize the mistake that I can analyze the mistake. Right. The only way to avoid it in the future is to recognize it, analyze it, and then come up with a strategy to avoid it. Right? Yeah. I do that by saying, recognizing that I have to exhale before swallowing. Okay. But what about the emotional aspect? To close the epiglottis. Yes. That's more technical though. I mean like fear, anxiety, anything like that. Do you feel like your practice is... I'm just in a detached, almost clinical place. You are. Okay. In doing this. So let me... Because my metaphor is you're swimming, right? You're swimming in the English Channel. You're swimming around Manhattan. Yeah. Right? And you're in rough water. Right. And you're struggling. Right. You're recovering from a stroke. To recover from a stroke is like training to swim around Manhattan. So when you enter rough water, there's a lot of turbulence around you, which there is in this room. Right. I'm recording. There's a lot of turbulence around you. How would you compare that to what's going on in your mind when you're swimming in turbulent water versus being in a room with a lot of... The rougher the water or the more turbulent my surroundings, the calmer I have to be. External turbulence and internal calm. And there has to be. The more external turbulence I encounter, the more inner calm I must cultivate. All right. Is there anything else you want us to talk about as far as the stuff you want to get? So you still had to work on... You know, I think a very, very important element in this book is the fact that I'm writing the entire book with stage four cancer. Yes. And dealing with things like strokes. Yeah. As I'm writing the book. Yeah. That's going to be in the intro. Yeah. We want that to be prominent. Yeah. Absolutely. And I want readers and potential readers to know this as they're thinking about, as they're contemplating whether to order and read the book. And how do you feel like people can apply that knowledge to themselves? I want that to be in reviews of the book. Right. But how do you feel, how do you think that knowledge, people can apply that to themselves, understanding that it's not about ideal circumstances? I think it led an element of drama. Oh, yeah. Right? I think of life drama. It led an element of life drama.

Changes And Visualization Effect Since The Book Publication

How has he changed since he first wrote the book? (02:13:27)

Can I scan your bracelet? Sure you can. Okay, hold on. How am I a different person writing this book than the person that wrote the original book? Okay. This is a big part of it. How are you a different person? Well, I'm 65 and 66. I was 45 then. Yeah. What are my life experiences that I'm bringing to it this time? So talk about that. Stage four cancer and the stuff that's come with it. And, Dad, I think it's also important to note what is going on right now, which is very serious and they've told us is life threatening. But you, you know, you said, been saying this is not the end and you're going to get through this. I'm going to get through this. Yeah. And have many more healthy years. Good. And that my, my practice and work and everything I've been teaching has helped prepared me for this. Like almost nothing else that I could have done. Yes. What I'm, what I'm teaching you in this book. Now, can I interject something? Because we talked about this yesterday.

Visualizing his brain swelling decreasing. (02:14:48)

You have significant brain swelling and we were talking about visualizing. You said visualizing a skinny brain, which was a joke. But really the idea of visualized meditating and visualizing on your brain swell decreasing. Do you want to talk about that? Have you been doing that? The physical process by which that happens. I needed to understand the physical process by which that happens in order to be able to visualize it. So did the doctor help you understand that? Sure. And that helped you visualize? Helen, Helen McHugh helped also. Okay. Helen's been very, very helpful here. Yeah. So Doug, can you- In my conversation with the various physicians who come through. She came specifically to be the medical translator? I'm not sure. She did. Did she? She said that. Okay. She said all of them. And she's very, very good at that. Okay. Let me just finish this thought. Can you describe your- of any visualization technique that you have used since you've been here? Sure I can. Okay. Which is seeing blood flow through my brain and excess moisture in my brain tissues being drawn into the bloodstream and carried out of the brain to be excreted. And how often have you been doing the visualization? Once a day, twice a day? Oh, um- On and off? On and off. Not on a schedule. Okay.

Significance Of Rest, Stress And Recovery Process

The importance of rest, stress, and recovery. (02:16:34)

Whenever you have a quiet moment. Yeah. What about the value of rest? Hmm? What about the value of rest quality over quantity and the value of rest? Because you emphasized that with swimming too. It's about quality a lot of times, not quantity. I don't know. I haven't thought about it. Okay. Well, remember when you- They tell me the most important element in my recovery is rest. And sleep. Yeah. Today, the doctor's here. So I see a connecting thread with that and your other- Yeah, no. You know the injuries that you had during the year that you broke all those records? Dad? Yeah. And remember how you weren't able to train as much? Right. So don't you see that as a similarity? Yeah, that's a good point. You actually got a lot more rest. That's a good point. Dad, could you talk towards the phone? Because it's the microphones over here. All right. That was enforced rest that year. Enforced rest actually enabled you- Right. To swim better. Right. And here, enforced rest, which we've been making sure that you get enough rest in sleep, you're doing way better today than you were before. What do you mean? Meaning we can see improvements in you from the other day. Yeah? Yes. Of what sort? You're more alert. Oh. You're awake for longer periods of time. You can speak at length. Yeah, the first day we could barely wake you up. So you needed to rest. Yeah. Yeah. So there's a connection there. Yeah, my body needed to rest the first day. Enforced rest- It was- it had undergone a lot of stress on Tuesday. Yeah. So- So it was recovering on Wednesday. Okay, so the importance of rest and recovery in some practice. From the stress of the stroke Tuesday. Right. Rest and recovery.

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