Best passage on swing:

A good swing does not necessarily make crews go faster, … rowers get more bang for their buck on each stroke. Mainly what it does is allow them to conserve power, to row at a lower stroke rate and still move through the water as efficiently as possible, and often more rapidly than another crew rowing less efficiently at a higher rate. It allows them to possess a reserve of energy for a gut-wrenching, muscle-screaming sprint at the end of a race. … But the closer a crew can come to that ideal— maintaining a good swing while rowing at a high rate— the closer they are to rowing on another plane, the plane on which champions row.

Brown, Daniel James (2013-06-04). The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics (p. 162). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

This is what David Allen is talking about! Not only hitting your stride in doing GETTING THINGS DONE, but also a sense of effortlessness in the doing. It has taken me a LONG TIME to pull in enough skills just to employ crappy GTD. But every year it gets better. And every tweak of my GTD system is another stepping stone.

Marvelous fun with “swing”

Your ability to generate power is directly proportional to your
ability to relax. 
Rowers have a word for this frictionless state: swing. . . . Recall
the pure joy of riding on a backyard swing: an easy cycle of 
motion, the momentum coming from the swing itself. The swing 
carries us; we do not force it. We pump our legs to drive our 
arc higher, but gravity does most of the work. We are not so 
much swinging as being swung. The boat swings you. The shell wants 
to move fast: Speed sings in its lines and nature. Our job is 
simply to work with the shell, to stop holding it back with our 
thrashing struggles to go faster. Trying too hard sabotages boat 
speed. Trying becomes striving and striving undoes itself. Social 
climbers strive to be aristocrats but their efforts prove them 
no such thing. Aristocrats do not strive; they have already 
arrived. Swing is a state of arrival.
Allen, David (2002-12-31). Getting Things Done: The Art of 
Stress-Free Productivity (p. 10). Penguin Group. Kindle Edition. 

I’m reading this book which reminded me of Getting Things Done

When I listened to GTD, I did not think much of the passage David Allen quoted on rowers and “swing.” But I’m reading BOYS IN THE BOAT by Daniel James Brown


And my mind is repeatedly pulled back to GTD, my own (non)achievement of swing in my GTD workflow.

The story is about …

The 1933 freshman University of Washington rowing team. Which, gelled as a team and won the 1936 olympic gold medal in rowing. And, it is about the hard scrabble under dogs that made up a team that jelled so well, its members openly cried as old men when describing their team experiences.

And …

The Kindle edition is $2.99. There it is, another subtle hint that it is time to start reading electrons instead of bits.

Sound bites …

  • Conibear [UW’s rowing coach]was, according to those who knew him well, “simple, direct, and fearless.” He attacked his new job with characteristic gusto— what George Pocock later called “inflammable enthusiasm.” (p. 46).
    - “inflammable enthusiasm” what a great phrase!!!
  • And he [Pocock] came to understand how those almost mystical bonds of trust and affection, if nurtured correctly, might lift a crew above the ordinary sphere, transport it to a place where nine boys somehow became one thing— a thing that could not quite be defined, a thing that was so in tune with the water and the earth and the sky above that, as they rowed, effort was replaced by ecstasy. It was a rare thing, a sacred thing, a thing devoutly to be hoped for. And in the years since coming to Washington, George Pocock had quietly become its high priest.” (p. 48).
    - Swing of one person is not nearly enough, all eight must be synchronized.
  • There is a thing that sometimes happens in rowing that is hard to achieve and hard to define. Many crews, even winning crews, never really find it. Others find it but can’t sustain it. It’s called “swing.” It only happens when all eight oarsmen are rowing in such perfect unison that no single action by any one is out of synch with those of all the others. It’s not just that the oars enter and leave the water at precisely the same instant. Sixteen arms must begin to pull, sixteen knees must begin to fold and unfold, eight bodies must begin to slide forward and backward, eight backs must bend and straighten all at once. Each minute action— each subtle turning of wrists— must be mirrored exactly by each oarsman, from one end of the boat to the other. Only then will the boat continue to run, unchecked, fluidly and gracefully between pulls of the oars. Only then will it feel as if the boat is a part of each of them, moving as if on its own. Only then does pain entirely give way to exultation. Rowing then becomes a kind of perfect language. Poetry, that’s what a good swing feels like.” (p. 161).

I’m 41% of the way through the book. I just HAD to share. Enjoy!


Fun related … video