As an adult, I hired a swim coach because I wanted to compete in triathlons and I was a pathetic swimmer who would gasp for air after a lap or two.
The lessons were at a NYC pool from 7pm-9pm during the week - a time frame when I am typically hungry and cranky and I remember wanting to bail on my way over that first day. We all filed in and our coach gave a brief description of himself and the program and then blew this obnoxiously loud whistle, a Pavlovian symbol to jump in and start swimming as best or poorly as we knew how. If you know me at all, I can barely get into a pool without cringing the entire way as the cold water literally feels like sharp needles to me. I was so annoyed and remember thinking, "I'm paying for THIS? Where's the empathy? Where's the coaching? I hate this!"
What I didn't realize is that "jumping in" despite it being late, despite being tired and crabby, despite being a pathetic swimmer, was the ceremonial ripping off the bandaid that was needed to get me from point A to point B. Let me tell you that I thought I was going to drown that day AND I was hands down the worst swimmer in the class. It was ego flattening and embarrassing.
My coach Doug gave me techniques to work on. I had to kick faster and harder, stop criss-crossing my arms in front of my body, pull back with my hands cupped, bring my arms tighter to my body, and turn my head differently to breathe more effectively. I was totally overwhelmed, but I practiced anyway. In 6 weeks I ended up being one of the top 5 in the class.
Then I met Doug to practice in a dark lake somewhere in upstate New York to get used to "real water". It was cold and raining that day. I also have irrational fears of alligators and sharks. He paddled out on a row boat and blew that loud stupid whistle which I was now trained to respond to. I swam to him and around that dark water lake for an hour fearing for my life. (I also finished in the top 10% of the triathlon.)
Doug taught me so much. You can't be given the answers if you want to learn. You have to jump in, fuck it up, and still take the coaching. It's not pretty, organized, or comfortable. You may hate it. The breakthroughs are often subtle, but the practice is what builds your resilience. To practice when you DON'T want to, when you don't know exactly how, when you are full of doubt, fatigue, and often some pain...this is what gets you to the other side.
This is the golden ticket.