The majority of problems emerge from pretty predictable places. These things are not—or should not be—surprises. Sure, extreme edge-cases exist. But without the benefit of hindsight, most black swans are really just red herrings. That’s why my advice is to place most of your bets on the highest percentage outcomes. Like a professional gambler, you’ll lose from time to time but come out ahead in the long-term. If you can just stick to the plan, that is. You have to resist the urge to go for one… final… score. So cliché!
The Pareto principle states that ~80% of outcomes emerge from ~20% of causes. What I want to get you thinking about is the three most likely candidates for any category. What are the major—and most predictable players within that 80%? Who are the Top 3?
1) Recognize what eating habits are related to stress; 2) recognize what eating habits are related to quantity; 3) recognize what eating habits are easy to improve.
That’s it! There are also more basic things but everyone knows that adequate sleep is important. And that people with deadly shellfish allergies should not eat shellfish. Likewise, there are fancier options. We could try to individualize for nutrient timing or genetic polymorphisms. But we’ll be spinning our wheels without really owning the Top 3. That’s when people skip past the basics and start putting butter in their coffee.
As a quick aside, the impact of excess calories and saturated fats doesn’t magically change when they’re inside a mug instead of on a plate.
1) Factor in previous injury history; 2) whether you’re increasing training volume in a progressive way; and 3) whether you have more than one way to perform a given task—like squatting, tying your shoes, or taking a deep breath.
Have you considered your boo-boos? Have you added to your workload patiently and progressively? Are you aware of—and able to address—any major asymmetries or compensations (AKA. only doing things only one way)? If so, you are doing well. Super-duper well.
There are more basic things, like daily movement or sleeping adequately (sleep again!?) Likewise, there’s a fascinating world of physical preparation and athletic performance out there. But none of it matters if you keep getting sidelined.
1) Know what’s deeply important to you; 2) ask what you can realistically see yourself doing; 3) place small bets.
The things you truly care about are motivating all by themselves. Being relentlessly practical about what you can/will do means that you’ll choose reliable behaviours. You’ll swing for the fences less but rack up singles every day of your life. Finally, placing small bets means being curious and playful while developing a superb ear for the early signals of success.
There are more basic things like daily movement, reasonable nutrition, and adequate sleep (again, again!?) but you know all that stuff. Likewise, there are fascinating insights from neurobiology and behavioural economics. But you can’t chart a course without a north star and you can’t manufacture epiphany. The highest percentage items are simple, highly repeatable things with minimal drama or volatility.
Putting it all together
If you are clear on what you want, you will find a reliable level of motivation waiting for you. If you notice the places where decisions clearly impact outcomes, you will have the power to make great choices. The only remaining question is whether you know what versions of action fit into these situations.
Here’s an example from Bang: when we put exercises together for our members, our Top 3 is safe execution; adequate challenge; and skill development. When we put these things together, good things emerge organically. People know what to do; they know when they’re executing well; and are open to challenging themselves. No poking or prodding is required.
In my experience, members aren’t asking for the moon; they’re asking for a process they can trust and a return on their effort. I love that we make this happen.