A year ago in my first column as editor of AQUA, I told you that I had learned to swim during the previous summer. That wasn't exactly true. Oh, everything in the column was correct; I did take to the pool after an injury, I did read about technique and I certainly got lots of helpful suggestions from my friends. I was regularly swimming half a mile by the end of the summer.

What doesn't ring true for me now — over a year later — is that it seems like I thought I had mastered swimming. I'd learned how to do it and I could cross it off my list.

But shortly after I wrote that column, I signed up for a twice-weekly Master's swim class, just to sharpen up my technique, meet some like-minded people and have access to a great aquatic center. It only took one class for me to realize how much I had not yet learned. Several of my classmates were training for Ironman Wisconsin (and they have since completed the awe-inspiring event). Many of them have been swimming together — with the same coach — for six years. I was the slowest, sloppiest swimmer in the pool. And not by just a little bit; the next slowest swimmer was at least twice as fast.

I think you can see where this is going: "The more you learn, the more you discover how much more you have to learn." And that truism is truer than ever as we head into trade show season.

I've been going to trade shows regularly for about eight years. I know, that's kid stuff compared to the hours many of you have logged on the concrete aisles of myriad convention halls. Still, I'm long past the stage of thinking, "Yippee! I'm going to the Widget Show in Cleveland!" But I'm also past the stage of thinking I've seen it all and there's nothing more to learn. There's always something more to learn or a new way to look at "the same old stuff." So you've been to the marketing seminar 17 years running. But this year, maybe you'll sit next to the bright young dealer who is new to the industry and full of original ideas. Or maybe you'll strike up a conversation with a factory rep who has just the pump you need for a water feature you're designing. And as the "backyard living" trend continues to pick up speed, you can expect to see a wider range of companies and a wider variety of products at the shows this season.

Just in case you were wondering, I'm still the slowest swimmer in my class. But these days I swim at least two miles, twice a week, and I'm gaining on the guy in lane three.

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