How to Do Anything Better
How to attack any goal, why you have to act before you feel better, and where to start.
Hello, good people! Let’s jump right into today’s Stuff.
ONE FROM THE AGES
Philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, on happiness:
“Happiness is the feeling that power increases - that resistance is being overcome.”
Source: Thus Spake Zarathustra
ONE FROM TODAY
The Czar of Habits, James Clear, giving the best advice there is:
“People generally have more control over their actions than their feelings.
But we can influence our feelings by taking action.
Take one small step. Move the body first and the mind will follow.”
Source:3-2-1 Newsletter, March, 4
ONE FROM US
After almost a month of steadily declining, my wife’s grandfather went to the hospital for Covid-19. They were able to improve his Covid symptoms within days but discovered some underlying issues - blocked arteries, diabetes, etc. He had bypass surgery and has recovered very well. In the time since, he is renewed. He’s going to nutrition classes and working with a trainer. As he excitedly recounted the details of his new regiment, his wife, Nanny, as she is affectionately known, told me how she wished she could exercise and begin going on walks as well, but her body wouldn’t let her. My spidey senses went into overdrive. Did she just say “can’t?” Ah hell nah!
I began to explain how valuable even the most modest program could be. She could just do a few reps of getting down on the ground on all fours and then rising. I offered to do a basic assessment and build her a program to develop her strength in this and other movement skills. Early on, she might do the movements with more rest and while using a chair to brace herself and then we’d gradually wean her off of assistance. She countered that she wouldn’t have the upper body strength to brace on a chair or bend her knees at the angles that I demonstrated. I countered that that is perfect. That is where we can start.
Nanny is a great-grandmother. Her reservations about jumping into a training program are understandable. But I found this interaction to be representative of a basic problem-solving skill set that is essential yet rarely taught. Whether for high-schoolers trying to learn algebra or couch potatoes who want to take on a Spartan race, all training is just progression and regression. It is no less reasonable for an 80-year-old woman to begin a fitness regime than for an aspiring athlete. All humans flourish through growth. Regardless of your age or circumstances, you will not be your happiest without committing to some self-improvement. And there is no more natural or fun way to do this than by learning new skills.
When looking at new skills, we tend to focus on the end result, but this is almost always the product of consistent effort. Justin can do handstands and impressive skateboard tricks today, but he started in the same place that everyone must - standing on a board and trying to keep his balance while pushing himself along faster and faster. Likewise, babies don’t go right to walking. They first nod their head, then master rolling over, army crawling, upright crawling, holding onto things and picking themselves up a billion times, balancing without assistance, and then, finally, walking. All training is just progression and regression. When you find you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, break the skills down further.
Your training approach can be as formal or informal as you want it to be but we can all train in every sphere of life. We all can and should do physical exercise that stretches our current physical limits. We all can learn a new game, a new instrument, a new skill. That’s where the good stuff is.
Once you’ve identified a skill that you’d like to master, the next step is to research it. Figure out how people have traditionally trained for that skill, or find a mentor. You’ll probably want to rush through those pesky fundamentals, but they are there for a reason. Jumping ahead too fast almost always leads to more frustrations and back-tracking. When I wanted to learn chess, I researched chess teaching apps and paid for one. I spent months just doing basic skill drills and mini-games.
After a bit of research, make a plan. Incrementally add complexity, difficulty, length, etc. Schedule specific evaluation days where you can modify the plan to increase or decrease difficulty (progress or regress) based on how well things are going. This process doesn’t have to be extremely formal. I’d recommend leaving yourself open to adaptation because you always learn a ton in the early stages of training in any new skill. But the principle remains: commit to a working block, show up, then progress and regress as needed.
Which brings me to execution. Don’t try to find time each day. If you don’t know exactly when and where you will train each day and what specifically you will be focusing on, then you will not keep training for long. In the beginning, prioritize consistency over intensity. It’s better to commit to only 10-minutes per day and build a long term habit than to occasionally find time for a manic burst. Consistency is the number one variable.
Persistence may be the greatest challenge. I’ve written extensively about willpower, but suffice it to say that you have as much as you believe you have. If consistency is the number one variable, then we must be psychotic about maintaining our plans.
While on break from college, I met my old high-school football coach for dinner. He was explaining his approach to his new exercise plan and he let slip, “99% is a wimp.” This stuck with me and was integral in helping me set the discipline necessary to overcome an obsessive anxiety disorder. Self-help author, Rachel Hollis, takes a similar approach that she frames as never breaking promises to yourself. Adapt as necessary. If you have an infant and a two-year-old, you might have to split self-development time into short blocks or attach them to fluid cues (I do X at first nap, etc.). But following through is a way of being. You either always do it or you’re always falling off. Make rules. Follow through.
Unsure of where to start? As James Clear suggests above, just take the first step and magic tends to happen. There is so much information out there, that it is easy to become paralyzed by a fear of doing things wrong. Mediterranean diet or Nordic diet? Paleo or Weight Watchers? But throw all the overanalysis out. More often than not, you know the most important first steps. Here are some you can do right now to get started:
TV out of your bedroom
Buy an alarm clock and charge your phone outside of your bedroom
Throw away chips, soda, and junk food
Buy fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and a large water bottle
Delete social media apps
Buy a book (my book list; Justin’s book list)
Subscribe to Audible
Sell your car
Buy a bike
Eliminate relationships that bring you down
Join a community of people who already share the values you desire (more on this to come)
Learn about environmental design
Thank you very much for reading. Please share if you think someone else would enjoy this.
If you’d like to read more related to the topic of skill acquisition, I suggest Josh Waitzkin’s, The Art of Learning. Also, our 30x30 program is a great way to start building good habits and mastering the principles that underlie sustaining them. Just 30 minutes per day for 30 days. Try a free intro day.
Life is too short to be normal,
Absolutely certain, i still remember how shocked i was when i did the first day of 30x30 program. Action precedes motivation and even a full breath can change your mood, and later you understand elephant-path-rider analogy and how to use it in your favor and its amazing, i think i kind of understood it couple months ago whit Justin message exchange, but still trying to implement it.
One thing i did was to start recording accomplishments and failures, trying not to overestimate my productivity (i normally establish time periods instead of specific tasks) and every week i do kind of evaluation.
Nevertheless, i have doubts about organization of areas, nowadays i can say that i dedicate my time to study geopolitics, training, civil society issues and mix; till now i often dedicate my day to couple o three areas, fully dedicating some days to someone. Though i have prioritized them, i don't know, if some different organization would be more effective, like focusing one month in one special area, minimizing the others, or per weeks, or maybe it is better to keep as till now.
Though i know i should try to check it, i ask you if you have experimented with that and how do you see it?