Better Before More

We live in a world obsessed with more–more money, more bling, more status, more friends, more clicks, more views.  It’s gotten to where our linear thinking has reduced us to a point where we can only think in terms of numbers, and as such, more is always better.  Quantity has trumped quality.

The best videos on YouTube are measured in terms of the number of views.  Your success as an individual is frequently measured not in the quality of your work but in what you can charge for it.  More money is instantly equated with a superior product, regardless of whether it actually is or not.

I started this mailing list as a way of reaching out to my clients and other interested people, but also as a way of promoting myself.  I may not feel the need to be the best, but I do feel the need to make a living–and feel good about what I’m doing while I do it.  I began subscribing to other lists to see how others go about marketing and promoting themselves.

In a nutshell, I’m doing it all wrong.  My posts are too long, I say too much, I don’t push the sale at the end and I don’t have enough subscribers.  Again it’s all about volume.

One of the lists I subscribe to seems to suggest that you have to sound like an asshole.  I guess the idea is to promote the idea that you’re cooler than your reader, thereby making him want you to like him, which prompts him to buy your stuff and thereby earn your attention.  Again it’s all about volume.  Who cares if you piss off ten people if you bring in twenty-five?  Just keep banging out content on a regular basis, flood them with quantity and don’t worry about the quality.

The truth is this works.  I know first hand several people who work much less than I do and make comfortable livings following this very formula.  “Come on Dave, no one really wants to read.  Keep your emails between 150 and 250 words and direct them to your sale.”

I don’t know why, but I just can’t do this.  Yes, I want to make sales.  Yes, I want you to sign up for my workshop in July and yes, there will be yet another plug at the end of this email urging you to do so, but before we get there I have to offer something of substance.

Today I’m asking you to take a look at how we value the numbers first and that maybe sometimes that’s a mistake.  Part of the huge success of Crossfit is that they recognized early on that we are obsessed with quantification and comparison.  The first thing you learn about Crossfit is that every workout is quantifiable and that they keep score, not only so that you can see how you’ve improved over time in the same workout, but so you can see how you stack up against everyone else.

As pack animals it’s very important for us to know where we fit in the pecking order.  This type of quantification makes it easy for us.  Ultimately that’s why we like the numbers, they’re an easy way to organize people and decide who is better than who.  Without the numbers these types of valuations require all kinds of subjective criteria that can quickly become relative and the waters start to get all murky.

Numbers are simple.

But there’s a problem–more is not necessarily always better.  “Better before more” is one of the quotes I took from Chip last weekend.  The idea was influenced by the likes of Dan John and Tommy Kono.  Dan John is an elite level strength and fitness authority with several books to his credit, including his latest, Easy Strength.  Tommy Kono is a Japanese-American, who in the 1950s was a world champion weight lifter.  He continues to coach and share his knowledge.

In terms of exercise, more is not better.  Consider; a workout calls for forty push ups, you’re relatively fit and able to knock out ten push ups with perfect form, however the prescription is forty so you continue to do push ups of diminishing quality.

When you’re done what do you have?  Ten high quality push ups and thirty sloppy ones.  What will have more influence over the overall quality of your push ups–the ten good ones or the thirty not so good ones?

Tommy Kono has said you become what you practice.  In the long run lots and lots of poor quality movements will only engender poor quality movement.  Poor quality movements lead to injury and ultimately this is the sin of high rep exercise.

This is not to say that you can’t or should never do high reps, but you should earn those reps.  Don’t practice a forty rep set of push ups until you can do forty push ups with high quality form.

How can this apply elsewhere in your life?  Where can you see that you’ve sacrificed quality in pursuit of quantity?  Do you sacrifice quality of life for the quantity of your paycheck?  Do you trade the quality of your friendships for more of them?

Ultimately, what you value, whether it’s more or better, is entirely up to you.  But ask yourself, are you aware of the distinction?  Is the choice you’re making conscious?

These are the questions we’ll be asking in July when Chip comes to Birmingham.  Since we’re beginning to understand that what happens in the gym is really  a reflection of our outer lives, consider this a rare opportunity to explore you.  Discover your own quality, it’s greater than you think.  Learn to think outside the box and see how it feels to free yourself from the artificial prison of numbers and quantification and explore the unbound territory or movement potential and play.

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1 Comment

Filed under Fitness, Martial Arts, Motivation, Movement, Personal Development, Personal Training, Recovery, Strength, Strength Training

One response to “Better Before More

  1. Samantha

    I’ve just let a community of my peers where we were discussing some of the same concepts you are writing about here. It is hard for us to have patience in this hyper-stimulating culture, but it is the best, and maybe the only, way to Truth.
    Thanks for reminding me that these ideas are smart and current, and not just in Waldorf schools.

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