When I was seven or so, I asked my dad why he thought communism was so bad. The answer I got was stock: “If everyone is provided for, then some people will take advantage of the system by not working.” I remember waiting for the other shoe to drop. But I no longer think there is another shoe.
This is not a political screed, in case you’re feeling the urge to bolt. I’m not here to debate communism’s advantages (free hugs!?) or disadvantages (lining up for days to get a hug). Really, what I’m getting at is a common form of pessimism:
Other people—given the opportunity—will diminish, rather than add to the collective. They won’t work if they don’t have to work. They won’t exercise if we don’t pressure them. They won’t donate their time or money unless they’re financially incentivized. The Tragedy of the Commons, if you will. But I won’t. That example is made up, anyway. There was never any commons.
My expectation is that there will always be a percentage of people who won’t work—or work out—given the option. And I. Just. Don’t. Care. They’re a minority and could probably use more support, not less. Most people, given the skills and opportunities, will do cool stuff, help other people, and make the world a better—or at least more interesting—place.
If there’s someone you can’t help, then the next best thing is to help the people around them. Economics don’t reliably trickle down but vibes sure do.
In previous newsletters, I’ve shared my childishly simplistic ethos; i.e. be on “Team Good.”
Maybe this is impractical. Maybe good doesn’t scale as well as evil. Actually, that tracks. But it doesn’t matter. I believe that you have to start with your values and work to embed them into every action.
An extension of my optimism is a fundamental trust in everyone’s motivation. Certainly when it comes to health. So, when people tell me that they need more motivation, my mind immediately starts searching for what they actually need. This tends to come in two pieces:
- The ability to create a bridge from the present moment toward the future aspiration. This is skill-based, not motivation-based.
- Assurance that they are already doing a good job—on the stuff they’re already doing a good job on. That’s it! That’s the primary value of an expert, by the way. Not to teach them radically new stuff; not to tell them how true fitness is impossible without them. We start with what’s working and coax out even more of that.
Does that sound redundant? Obvious? Tautological? It’s not. People tend to assume that the things that come easily don’t count. You are people. You probably do that. The result is that you may also not give yourself credit for the more humble actions you take—like drinking water or, light exercise, or eating the odd vegetable.
That ain’t right.
Those things add up in very real ways. So, if you’re a person who does those things but finds the idea of a hardcore workout (whatever the hell that is) to be intimidating, then just imagine the battle between:
Current You vs Dehydrated, Completely Sedentary, Definitely Scurvy You.
My money is on Current You.
If you want to build your house with bricks, you do so by integrating easy, highly consistent habits. A single brick is not a big deal. That’s the whole point. So, just keep stacking those small wins.