“Life is not designed to make things easy for us, but present challenges that help us grow.”
– Terry Laughlin
This episode is special to me. While I didn’t know it at the time, this ended up being Terry Laughlin’s (@TISWIM) final long-form interview. Terry passed away from cancer complications on October 20, just two weeks after we recorded this interview.
Terry was the founder of Total Immersion Swimming and co-author of Total Immersion: The Revolutionary Way To Swim Better, Faster, and Easier. He had a profound impact on me — teaching me to overcome a lifelong fear of water and swimming (read all about it here). But more than that, he’s been an inspiration for the way I’ve done anything since.
Terry coached three college and two USA Swimming club teams from 1973 to 1988, improving each team dramatically. In that time, he developed 24 national champions at all strokes and distances — the first national champions produced by four different teams.
In 1989, Terry founded Total Immersion Swimming and turned his focus from working with young, accomplished swimmers to adults with little experience or skill (like me). But it’s not just about swimming; Terry’s elegant method of deconstruction and logical progression is the epitome of what I strive to do when I’m talking about learning any skill — from investing to learning languages.
It’s with a heavy heart but much gratitude that I was able to interview Terry before he passed. Please enjoy, savor, and digest what Terry had to impart. And be sure to check out Terry’s gift for listeners of this podcast: a free seven-day membership to the Total Immersion Academy online training center.
- Listen to it on iTunes.
- Stream by clicking here.
- Download as an MP3 by right-clicking here and choosing “save as.”
QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.
Scroll below for links and show notes…
Selected Links from the Episode
- Total Immersion Swimming
- Total Immersion: The Revolutionary Way To Swim Better, Faster, and Easier
by Terry Laughlin and John Delves
- Total Immersion: How I Learned to Swim Effortlessly in 10 Days and You Can Too
- Deep Eddy Pool
- Magnolia Cafe
- Barton Springs Pool
- World’s Oldest TI Swimmer — Paul Lurie
- Woodland Pond at New Paltz
- A Legend Relearns Swimming — Helped by a 95 Y.O. Coach!
- Going Deep: Bill Boomer’s Scientific Approach to Swimming by John Tuscano, Penn Live
- West Point Academy
- Searching for Bobby Fischer: book and movie
- The Art and Science of Learning Anything Faster
- TI Basic Drills: Superman Flutter, Laser Lead, Fish, Skating, FlowSwim
- Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment by George Leonard
- Esquire, May 1987 with George Leonard
- Y Combinator
- How to Live Like a Rock Star (or Tango Star) in Buenos Aires…
- Pressing the Buoy and Not the T by Terry Laughlin
- Total Immersion: Balance, tiswim
- Total Immersion Self-Coaching Series: Streamline, tiswim
- Corsica to Sardinia: A ‘Bucket List’ Swim by Terry Laughlin, Total Immersion Swimming
- Understanding Your Pathology Report: Prostate Cancer, American Cancer Society
- da Vinci Surgery: Minimally Invasive Surgery
- Treatment of Metastatic Castration-Resistant Prostate Cancer, Cancer.net
- Better Basketball
- How Efficient Is Your Swimming? by Terry Laughlin, Active
- Relearn to Crawl: Four Steps to Better Swimming by Bill Gifford, Men’s Journal
- Terry’s gift for listeners to this podcast: a free seven-day membership to the Total Immersion Academy online training center
- My first foray into podcasting: Episodes 1 and 2
- How I was introduced to Terry and Total Immersion Swimming after many failed attempts to overcome my fear of water. [08:27]
- Swimming has gone from something I dreaded to something I try to do as much as possible — and it’s empowered me in ways beyond what I could have anticipated. [12:27]
- How I fulfilled the bet that drove me to seek Terry’s help in the first place. [14:10]
- In his nineties, Dr. Paul Lurie proves you’re never too old to learn — and even improve existing skills. [16:10]
- How Paul Lurie helped swimming legend Marilyn Bell relearn how to swim in her seventies. [20:04]
- Even Terry didn’t begin as a “natural” swimmer. [22:01]
- Terry’s epiphany about technique while teaching at U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. [25:31]
- Where did the bones of Total Immersion Swimming enter the picture? [31:55]
- How Bill Boomer, head coach of the men’s swim team at the University of Rochester, changed Terry’s way of thinking. [37:28]
- Terry tells us about the break he took from coaching to explore other career avenues. [45:44]
- Why did Terry return to coaching? [48:21]
- Where did the name “Total Immersion Swimming” come from? [50:24]
- Terry talks about opening his first swim camp. [51:03]
- How would Terry start training a reluctant swimmer? [54:58]
- Understanding first principles and embracing the counterintuitive across disciplines. [59:21]
- On avoiding error points in meta-learning, the two error points common to beginning swimmers, and why Terry considers kickboards to be useless as teaching implements. [1:02:49]
- Helpful drills and exercises for instilling basic swimming principles. [1:11:12]
- What Terry learned from George Leonard about the possibility of learning mastery of a skill even at an advanced age. [1:13:48]
- How would Terry teach someone to persist through a plateau on the path to mastery? [1:17:44]
- What has helped me continue through some of my own plateaus? [1:21:18]
- The story of Phil — who went from most challenged student to matching the level of Total Immersion Swimming’s best coaches in 18 months. [1:24:51]
- What contributes to effective self-coaching? [1:29:39]
- Terry talks about the origin of his cancer diagnosis and explains the circumstances. [1:38:13]
- How Terry coped with his diagnosis. [1:41:11]
- Expressing appreciation for the life-improving toolkit that Terry has given me, and which I’ve shared with countless others. [1:45:19]
- After thirty years with incredible success, why does nobody else teach Total Immersion Swimming? [1:49:17]
- Terry shares the five first principles of intelligent, improvement-oriented swimming. [1:50:33]
- How these principles helped me overcome my personal swimming shortcomings. [1:55:09]
- Four action items Terry suggests you try next time you’re in a pool. [1:57:26]
- Parting thoughts. [2:00:33]
- Chris Sacca
- Chris Ashenden
- Kevin Rose
- Paul Lurie
- Alice Laughlin
- Betsy Laughlin
- Marilyn Bell
- Bill Boomer
- Randy Reese
- Eddie Reese
- Ray Bosse
- Sarah Fryer
- Lorenzo Beltrame
- Josh Waitzkin
- George Leonard
- Rick Torbett
Posted on: October 29, 2017.
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