Trained or Untrained

Trained or Untrained –

I have always been a fan of receiving training and an even bigger fan of being able to apply what I’ve learned in any role or challenge. I remember the excitement when attending my first motor trade 5-day residential training course. I listened carefully, paid attention, discussed and engaged where I could. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience though I did notice a few cynical members of the group whom, when quizzed, considered themselves beyond the need for training. They had joined the company from within the industry and didn’t want to waste time at a residential training course when they could be on the forecourt selling vehicles.

Now my background outside of work had always involved martial arts. I started boxing when I was 8 years old at London’s famous Repton Boxing Club in the East End. A place built on discipline. Discipline that took street ‘scrotes’ and turned all of their attitude, hatred, insecurity and aggression, and turned it into focussed skills, ambition and determination. I later moved into Chinese martial arts, where a structured approach to the hierarchy meant that you did what you were told, when you were told to do it, again, without question. My experience of both led me to the firm belief that this discipline, technique, attitude and drive had always benefitted me and turned me from being a lazy underachiever, to someone who, when focussed, usually achieved the goals I set out to achieve.

I went from this training course back to my dealership and commenced on a career that would see me achieve high levels of income through the application of the knowledge, skills and behaviours instilled into me and onto a fast rising career. I attribute all of my success to the training, support, guidance and coaching provided to me along the way. I can absolutely guarantee this – I couldn’t have done it on my own.

Fast forward a few years and I’m in my dream job. I don’t know why but when I moved into the training field, I just knew this was where I was supposed to be. All of the challenges beforehand had been for the sole purpose of giving me the right mix of experiences in order to deliver a high standard of training.

One of my first ‘realisations’ in my new role was that regularly I was confronted by audiences that simply didn’t want to be there. Experienced salespeople who had little faith or belief in what you were going to take them through and simply wanted to be back on the sales floor selling.

This gave me a dilemma. I genuinely wanted to (and still do to this day) provide some level of training that benefitted the delegates. I wanted them to go away thinking “that was a worthwhile day”. And so I set about trying to understand this and develop my knowledge, skills and approach to deliver it.

Over the years I have researched, studied and explored many theories and processes to explain this resistance to training and can now quite easily explain the whole ‘cognitive dissonance’/ belief system paradigm. However, I found it explained much more simply in a great movie starring the great Denzel Washington.

‘Man on Fire’ is a story of a washed-up alcoholic mercenary who takes a job body-guarding, the daughter (Pita) of a Mexican businessman. Through the course of the story, ‘John Creasy’ (Denzel‘s character), builds a caring relationship with his charge and ends up coaching her for an upcoming swimming competition. In a pivotal compilation scene, we see Creasy take Pita through a series of training exercises in order to improve her ability to get away at the sound of the starting gun and reduce her time by a considerable margin. At the end of this scene, after smashing her target, Creasy turns to her and says, “how was that?”, to which she responds, “it felt tough”. “There is no such thing as tough” says Creasy. “There’s trained and there’s untrained. Now, which are you?” “TRAINED” comes the response.

For me, this scene says it all. Yes, there are delegates who have attended the courses I’ve delivered over the years who are already successful at what they do. Yes, they achieve their targets, yes they possess the knowledge, skills and confidence to consistently get to the desired results. But here’s the thing, every piece of behavioural science published will demonstrate that our behaviours adapt all of the time. Often through shortcuts and derision. So, if you’re NOT training to enhance existing skills, develop your approach and attitude, then you will simply degrade your results over time.

Professional sports people demonstrate this time and time again. The world’s top football players who are paid many thousands of pounds each week do not simply sit back because they are the best in their field, they train, every day. Because without training, coaching, directing and support, they will soon find themselves overtaken by those that are.

Today I often start my online training courses with the question “who is earning too much money at the moment?” I have yet to receive the answer “yes, I am”.

We know through studies such as the Ebbinghaus Curve that knowledge retention and behavioural change are difficult to create and maintain without consistent ‘interventions’ and negative behaviours can soon creep in.

As training methods change and people start to embrace digital channels, bitesize learning and micro learning, the ability to remain ‘trained’ has never been easier. This means one thing; the competition will get better and therefore your own training and development becomes more important.

So remember, in the words of the great John Creasy “there’s trained and there’s untrained”, now which are you?

Thanks for reading!

– Alan Scott –


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