When's the last time you participated in a sporting event? (Football, Ultimate Frisbee, rock climbing, running biking, wrestling, whatever) When's the last time you trained for that activity?
When is the last time you trained for that activity with someone else?
There are a few levels of engaging in an activity. You can observe, you can participate, and you can make investments to improve in that pursuit. (Think watching YouTube videos of sky diving, paying to skydive, but doing it tandem, and finally pursuing your skydiving license.)
I am learning Krav Maga right now. Every week we cover a new topic, and every few months, you have the opportunity to take a test to advance to the next level, or belt. I am right now in level one (watch out, world...) and am looking forward to the test at the end of the month.
I've been getting bored in the classes of late, because I felt like the material was not pushing me from a technical perspective, and I just wasn't working as hard as I wanted to be during the class. I'm a big fan of pushing myself hard and trying hard, but I was often working with partners who did not inspire me to really push myself.
I recently had the chance to train with another level one student who pushed me very, very hard. Inspired by how hard he was making me train, I made him train just as hard. We both acknowledged at the end of class (after I managed to not throw up) that the perceived quality of the class dramatically improved when being paired with a dedicated training partner.
He and I will not always be able to train together, but I have been reminded of the power of being the guy that pushes you to train hard. He pushed me hard, and I had an opportunity to get a lot out of that hour because of it.
This makes me think of training for climbing - I've climbed with a lot of people, and the instances where we have decided to spend the session training hard always feels vastly more productive than a relaxed climbing session. Sometimes I've been the guy that surprised my partner by pushing them way harder than they expected, sometimes my partner forced me to dig deep and train harder than I thought I could.
The take away, however, is this: don't settle for simple participation. Drive improvement and change. Most of that improvement and change comes from wanting it. If you are hungry for improvement, that will rub off on your training partner. If it doesn't wear off, get another partner.
Be the guy (or girl) that inspires others to train hard.