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Do First. Understand Later.
Training is my sandbox for learning bigger lessons.
I am not a religious guy. I know little about it. As soon as I discovered a disinterest in it, I stopped paying attention to it (until recently.) In fact, what put me off religion was that you absofuckinglutely should not ask questions. Instead, shut up and do.
And yet, here I am, many years later recommending a similar approach. Life has a great sense of humour.
Let me explain.
Information and products and services. All are intent on two things. One, your money. Two, quick fixes.
In the world of fitness, nutrition, and health, quick fixes are often the wrong answer. They do work, sometimes. And only when you have a lot of things going right for you. Else, most often, you are doing things that seem amazing when viewed from a 3-month window. But awful when you view it from a 3-year window.
You are stuck in the middle. Surrounded by the best, the first, the most functional, the fastest, the deepest, the squishiest, the whatever - all clamouring for your attention.
What do you do?
The Turkish Getup
In Simple and Sinister, Pavel talks about the benefits of the Turkish Get-up (you go from a lying down position to a standing up position with a load in your hand). Old-school strongmen would teach the TGU to wannabe apprentices, and tell them to go away. And to come back when they could do the movement with a heavy enough load.
Dan John discusses an anecdote where the gallery keeps asking questions to the expert, who refuses to answer them. Why? Because the questions you deem important today are actually irrelevant questions. When you practice and apply, you will work through most of the surface-level questions. And only after will the more pertinent questions arise.
A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct.
– Frank Herbert, Dune.
Unfortunately, we live in a scenario where there is a ton of information. Conflicting, confounding information. The era where everyone and their aunt are experts.
So, you are hesitant to dive into something that might be a waste of time. Especially when the right answer is out there, if only you can dig around enough and ask enough questions.
The questions though are seldom the right ones.
How long will it take me to lose 10 kilos?
Will I be able to run 5k without losing my breath?
While these are important questions, these are the most obvious and average of outcomes that one gets from a deep commitment to physical fitness. You short sell yourself and your efforts by aiming for these results ONLY and not being open to the experience.
Research your own experience.Absorb what is useful, reject what is useless, add what is essentially your own.
– Bruce Lee
To research your own experience, you need to experience things your way. While the right direction is useful, even getting the direction wrong is going to be part of your learning.
We are so focused on getting things right, because we are averse to "wasting time". But there's no such thing as wasting time. The better your mindset, the more you are going to learn something about you, and what works for you.
By putting in the time, by imagining, by creating your own workarounds, you become an expert. You explore a creative part of you that will remain undiscovered if you keep following the book.
But you must learn to follow the book too. Only if you understand the rulebook will you be able to break/bend the irrelevant rules.
Do first. Understand later.
You learn. You ask better questions. You answer most of the questions yourself.
You explore. You problem solve. You discover.
You learn to frame the problem better.
You become aware of various schools of thought.
You can now distil what to pick from where, and make your own crazy flavour.
All this begins when we give up understanding. The only way to understand few things is by doing. The only way to take a shortcut to the end is to avoid shortcuts.
This skill is something I got right, in the world of fitness and nutrition. It was easy because I was clueless. I mean, I didn't know what carbs were. I thought fitness meant bodybuilding. Knowing my ignorance made me powerful. So, I found something and I did.
And that's a learning I emulate as much as I can. Every time there's a new concept, from Dan John's 10000 swing challenge to learning Indian clubs, I do first. And after putting in enough reps, I pause and reflect.
It is much easier to do in contexts where you are clueless. It is much harder to do in places where you think you know something.
In fitness and nutrition, I use the simple device of harking back to an old memory. That helps me get closer to a blank slate. After which, I experiment on myself. While there are tons of experiences and patterns that I have today, I do not use them immediately. It closes my thinking.
The lesser room one gives for their ego, the easier things are.
Do first. Understand later.
Asking questions is mandatory. But do first. Until you know better questions to ask.
Figure out your own answers. Balance that with getting an expert to answer them as well.