Want To Be A Great Athlete? Start By Being More Boring
An attractive girl once said to me "why don't you get your own personality, instead of borrowing his?". With hints of spite and disdain, her words stung (I'd rather the sticks and stones, than the words which will "never hurt me", thank you!). Although she's likely forgotten them, these words plagued my self-image for years.
Years on, - and the fact I'm writing an article starting with this story aside - I'm happy to say I've managed to rid the effects of an off the cuff comment made after much alcohol and mostly in jest.
Now, I'm going to ask you to be more like my personality-less previous self - boring - because it's going to help you be the athlete you are capable of becoming.
In fact, being boring is something which is the foundation of my Mindset Rx'd Seminars. Something I say every seminar is "none of this should shock you. All of it will change your life."
"While methods are many, principles are few" - Gabe Rangel
Out of the millions of words and over 100 hours of conversation I've had on The Alpha Movement Podcast, those six words find their way into my thoughts the most.
As an athlete, my desire for certainty leads me astray occasionally. I've found myself "digging in" on many sides of many front lines, from time to time:
Bands and Balls Vs. Torque and Tension.
Olympic Lifting Vs. Powerlifting
Perfection Vs. Quantification.
It's no different in what I coach either; mindset.
Gratitude Vs. Restless Striving... Serenity Vs. Drive... Embracing Hardship Vs. Minimum Effective Dose... A "Practical" (negative) World View, Vs. A Delusional (positive) One.
The more I train, learn and experience though, the more I seek the dull centre. Whilst the jaw-dropping feats of progress will always happen at the furthest edges, it's not these giant leaps which create athletic brilliance (or send man to the moon), but the thousands of hours of centrist steps in the proven laws of progress.
Brilliant moments are in fact, the product of tedium.
As athletes and coaches though, extreme movements are attractive. A camp to firmly plant yourself into means we no longer have to think - we have our mantra and our rules and it's easy to distinguish right from wrong. The angst of uncertainty no longer draws us into inaction, but action is often far away from the proven principles.
Let me explain with something far more controversial than our deepest beliefs about training: politics.
In the same 12 months as May opposed Corbyn, Trump battled with Sanders across the pond and Le Pen sought triumph over Macron in France. As a voter, you were either Right or Left, and in the opposition's eyes, right or wrong.
You got there by agreeing with one or more arguments, therefore by default disagreeing with the other side and further committing to extremity. Whilst initially gratifying to have a system of beliefs to follow, you eventually end up removing perspective from your own worldview.
The obvious yet almost completely boring truth, is that progress very rarely lies in extreme views, but in a small shift to one side.
Imagine a skier navigating a spine on the side of a mountain. To both sides is a 100ft drop. Whilst the spine itself may twist and turn (our perception of the centre is always changing), huge changes in approach will only end in a blood and Gore Tex smear on the rocks below. The skier must make tiny adjustments then, continually hopping from one side of the spine to the other in attempt to descend successfully.
To bring this to athleticism, how many athletes at The CrossFit Games have got there through a RADICAL approach to training, throwing aside all conventional training methodology in the process? I can't think of one...
Even when it comes to CrossFit's meteoric rise, it didn't do so by binning the rule book, but by combining the traditional rules in a new way. The change was less dramatic than the globo-gym dwellers are willing to admit. In fact, I'd argue that the globo-gym was in fact the major swing away from what has been successful from an evolutionary point of view. Functional Fitness is mostly bringing training back to the 'boring' centre.
When we seek to master our mindset, travelling to The Far East and donning a saffron robe isn't going to be the most effective way to create the mind which serves you. Maybe try the boring-yet-proven steps first:
-Find a way to remove your negative or positive world view and see the situation with clarity
-Envisage both the end goal and the path to get there with as much detail as you can
-Learn your language
-Take action and reward yourself for doing so