Let me tell you a story about the 4-minute barrier for the world record one-mile run. For nearly a decade, the record stood untouched at 4:01.4.
People thought running a mile in under four minutes was literally impossible. Then, in 1954, Roger Bannister ran a mile in 3:59.4. The next month, John Landy broke the new record. And over the course of the next two years, fourteen more runners joined the ranks of sub-4-minute milers.
Roger Bannister broke a psychological barrier that existed in most athlete’s minds. Once runners believed an impossible goal was actually possible, they worked on making it attainable. And then, well, they attained it.
To date, the record for most Judge Apps reviews in a year is 105, a record set by Riki Hayashi in 2011. And I’ve written 82 in the first six months of 2016, including 18 from a single event.
This prolific pace has not been constant throughout my judging career. In the entirety of 2015, I wrote only 15 non-advancement reviews. So what changed? How and why did I start writing so much?
Earlier this year Riki wrote an article about flash feedback encouraging judges to submit more reviews by freeing themselves from long-winded standards for content. I read the article and realized that I should submit more reviews.
Yes, it was that simple.
I don’t have some special talent or any great secret. When I’m at an event, I write stuff down. If something exceeded my expecttions, it’s probably a strength. If something fell short, it’s probably an area for improvement. If something was unexpected, I analyze differences in approach. Then I talk to the judge about what I noticed.
If there’s something to discuss, the conversation evolves into a review. Sometimes it doesn’t, and that’s okay too. Feedback should provide clarification for a moment in a judge’s experience, and the written review preserves that clarification for future reference. If clarification is unnecessary, redundant, or unhelpful, it doesn’t meet my basic criteria for reviews.
My primary goal is not to review everything in sight to break Riki’s record. I didn’t even know there was a record until six months into this adventure. My enjoyment of feedback and discussions with other judges motivates me to keep reviewing.
But I also realize that not all judges are motivated by the same things. Some judges struggle with writing reviews, a feeling I can relate to because I used to struggle with reviews as well. My point is not that everyone has to write 100+ reviews a year to contribute good feedback to the judge program. For most judges, life circumstances make that number impossible. The purpose of a recognizing a milestone like Riki’s 2011 record is the motivation and inspiration inherent in the breaking of a previously unbroken barrier.
Of course, sometimes it might seem de-motivating to labor with a task and then see someone else make it look easy. But if that’s how you feel, think of a personal increase in review writing as a psychological barrier like the 4-minute mile. Rather than attempting to break the world record, most runners are focusing on their own personal bests. Maybe you don’t write over 100 reviews a year; maybe you go from 10 reviews to 15, and that’s fantastic. You can focus on setting a personal record, or you can set your sights on some of the program’s milestones.
After all, records are made to be broken.