In his early days, Dan Chambliss was inquisitive, well-read, and curious about the world around him. Growing up in a home that valued reading and learning, Dan was able to create strong connections across multiple disciplines that helped to broaden his view of the world and to gain deeper understanding of the nature of the human spirit.
Dan had very little interest in sport when he was young and in his own words, struggled with the basic motor coordination needed to participate in many different forms of team sport. Although he didn’t consider himself even remotely close to being an athlete, he somehow ended up becoming passionate about swimming. He worked endlessly on improving his skills in the pool and began to thrive which helped him to understand the power of perseverence and the importance of developing a greater belief in himself and what is possible when he set his mind to it.
As you listen to this episode, you will hear the passion that Dan has for the work that he does and his lifelong quest to better understand the power of group dynamics in helping to shape a person’s character and their pursuit of excellence both personally and professionally.
I came across his research in Angela Duckworth’s best-selling book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. In her book, she outlines Dan’s amazing work with the US Olympic Swim Squad and shares what he learned not only by observing swimmers of all abilities, but in particular the elite swimmers. By studying how the best swimmers in the nation pursued mastery of their craft, he learned deeply about how they connected with their coaches and teammates and the importance of developing strong relationships when striving to be one’s best
Dan has been a member of the Hamilton College (Clinton, NY) faculty since 1981 and earned Master's and Ph.D. degrees from Yale University; in 1982 his doctoral thesis received the American Sociological Association’s prize for the best recent dissertation on medical sociology. His research interests are higher education, formal organizations, social psychology and research methods
He is the winner of the ASA's Theory section prize for his work on organizational excellence in his widely-reprinted 1989 article, “The Mundanity of Excellence: An Ethnographic Report on Stratification and Olympic Swimmers,” and is author of the book Champions: The Making of Olympic Swimmers, which was named the 1991 Book of the Year by the U.S. Olympic Committee.
This episode was just a mini-dive into Dan’s life and his work, he’s done so much more and has made a huge impact in his field. You can click on his Twitter link below or any of the links seen in this introduction about him.
Dan continues to remain open and curious about the world and strives to read and learn every day. When I asked him about the legacy he hopes to one day leave behind, with great affection he said that he wants to always be remembered as a teacher, not a researcher, a writer or an academic, but to be remembered as a teacher who always wanted to make a difference in the lives of the students he taught.
He is a wonderful person and it was a genuine joy to interview him on my podcast. I hope that wherever you are in the world, that you find some gems from this episode that you can apply in your own personal and professional life.
Connect with Dan:
Special thanks to Bronx band Conversing with Oceans & Alex Bondarev for creating the podcast music.