Jack is a very well behaved dog and knows many commands. When I’m out with Jack I am often complimented on how well he listens and behaves. I’ve become accustomed to someone complimenting me on Jack’s behavior and then inevitably saying, “I wish my dog was as well behaved.”
When I ask the person what kind of training their dog has received the response is almost always, “I took him to an obedience class when he was a puppy.” To this response I gently say, “Expecting your dog to be trained based on attending one class, or even a couple, is like sending a child to kindergarten, never providing any more education and expecting them to be educated. Jack behaves the way he does because he has been attending training on an ongoing basis for years and I reinforce the training at every opportunity.”
The same thing occurs on the ski slopes. My wife Carol and I are both avid skiers and ski instructors. This year, Carol celebrated her 40th year with the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA). As you might imagine, Carol skis exceptionally well and it is not at all uncommon for someone who sees her skiing to say, “I wish I could ski like that.” When asked as to whether that person has taking lessons, the response is similar to those I get with dog training. “I took lessons when I first started” or “I took a few lessons many, many years ago.” Here too, one or two lessons doesn’t do a whole a lot. In Carol’s case, she started out with regularly scheduled lessons for the first several years. She then became an instructor and continued to take lessons on a regular basis. (In fact, she and are required to attend training to maintain our PSIA certifications.)
The other thing Carol and I hear is, “I’ve been skiing for <insert number of years here>.” Here too, I try to gently point out that just skiing doesn’t improve one’s skiing. In fact, in can result in ingraining bad habits. Improving skills requires working on specific aspects of skiing, ideally under the guidance of someone qualified to help bring about those improvements, rather than just ‘free skiing’. (Working on a specific skill is referred to as ‘doing drills’, and it’s one of Carol’s favorite things to do while on the slopes. It’s one of the reasons she skis so well.)
All this relates to proposals (obviously, or I wouldn’t be writing about it, right?). When Jon and I ask a person in our profession about what training they’ve received, the responses are very similar to those I’ve presented. We hear, “I took a course many years ago” or “I attended my company’s proposal writing course when I first joined”. Attending one course is, again, like attending basic obedience or kindergarten, and then not receiving any further education.
So, dear readers, have you been trained or are do you continue to train? Do you just keep doing the work or do you ‘do drills’ and work on specific areas of proposal development? Improving proposal skills and knowledge requires continual training and running drills.