I’ve always been pretty mediocre. Except for the ages of 6 to 12. I was gifted back then and things were easy at school. By the time I was 13, I was already contaminated with the talent idolization virus: people were either talented or not at something, and if they were talented, things would come easily and if they sucked, they should find something else or be relegated to second-class citizenship.

This led me to a very predictable pattern:

  1. Choose an activity that seems cool
  2. If it’s easy, keep at it
  3. Continue until it gets difficult
  4. Abandon or stay in infinite loop
  • I played guitar until I learned a handful of songs. Sweet Jane. Then I stopped trying to improve and simply played my songs over and over again. I still do. Infinite loop. I never even learned how to make guitar faces. 
  • So you want to be a hero. I also remember playing video games. Back in those days, I couldn’t wait to get up on a Saturday morning to start playing King’s Quest and Hero’s Quest until one of my parents stopped me or the power went out (the Shining Path had a predilection for bombing electricity towers). Or until the games got difficult, and I would call my friends who had already finished the game and ask for specific directions. Cheating.
  • I learned how to drive when I was 18. I went from zero to good driver in the first year. The following 20 have been a mindless repetition behind the wheel. I am absolutely positive that I’ve gotten worse and will continue to do so as I age. Just look around.

Same story with my workouts: infinite loop, zero progress

I hear a lot of people say: practice makes perfect. Bullshit. Absent-minded practice, infinite loops are fruitless. I have myself as anecdotal evidence. And in the gym, the evidence was stronger. I’ve been working out since I was 16. I “learned” the basic weight-lifting exercises and some rudimentary ways to put together a program from Muscle & Fitness and the gym instructor. I repeated for 20 plus years.

Then my girlfriend dumped me.

I was miserable until I forced myself out of bed and into the gym (a hack to change my state) and I did the math: for the cost of one date, I could have three personal training sessions. Three.

You think you’re in great shape, but truth is: you suck

That’s what my trainer told me after he performed the initial assessment on strength, flexibility, and range of motion.

Best thing anyone has ever told me.

In that instant, my delusional self crashed down to reality. And I understood, for the first time, that the way to improve is to have someone better than you show you the way, tell you the truth, and then practice with purpose.

This time I don’t have the talent virus. This time I have a compass.

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