Note: There’s a bit of thinking here. But it’s thinking after doing.
The late Seth Roberts once wrote about his graduate school days, and how he got into self-experimentation. It was by way of the idea that, “The best way to learn is to do:”
And then I was in the library and I came across an article about teaching mathematics and the article began, “The best way to learn is to do.” And I thought “Huh well that makes a lot of sense.” And I realized you know that it was a funny thing that that’s what I wasn’t doing: I was thinking. And I also thought to myself well I want to learn how to do experiments. And if the best way to learn is to do then I should just do as many experiments as possible as opposed to trying to think of which ones to do. And that was really a vast breakthrough in my graduate training and everything changed after that.
There’s a wonderful thing about the frontier. It’s a place where the rules don’t exist. Anything is possible … so long as it sustains existence on the frontier.
America was a frontier—”The New World”—a place where humanity was able to experiment with new ways to exist as a society—ways forbidden by the prevailing powers in the Old World. Perhaps more than anything, frontiers lack structure and reigning institutions, regulations, and norms. It’s within this vacuum that novelty has a chance.
The Internet, too, has been a frontier. A digital plane where new business models, new ways to engage and communicate, and more could all be tried.
Freedom is found on the frontier.
The Tyranny of the Status Quo
And what’s the opposite of the frontier but the rules, norms, and prevailing powers of the status quo? Ruling states, businesses, wealth, and more exert monopolistic constraints that choke out the possibility of alternatives. The chance for novel ideas.
It is the established order of things—the status quo—that makes it hard to think differently. So what do you do?
All is Not Lost
Thankfully, the status quo is stagnant … systems wound up like a mechanical watch that can only work in a very calculated way. Rigid.
Over time, systems start opposing their proper purpose. They grow so large—or even so specialized—as to be inefficient, brittle, and unable to adapt to changing conditions.
This stagnation results in opportunity because the status quo can’t adapt to changing conditions. And it’s innate inefficiency means some are under-served. Before long, there emerges a possibility of new frontiers.
This is a Cycle
It’s this ebb and flow between the frontier and the status quo that we cycle back-and-forth, iterating and evolving over time. It’s the way of evolution. It’s the way of systems. It’s the way of life. And it’s been this way for millions of years.
You probably remember a handful people in your elementary, middle, and high school who were known as the “artists.” They were the ones who turned in the beautiful drawings, won the contests, got tapped for t-shirt designs, etc.
I was one of them. With the reputation of an artist came two common refrains. The first? “You’re so talented.” And the second: “You’re so creative.”
But both statements aren’t quite accurate.
Talent? My proficiency as an artist came from paying attention to detail and being a perfectionist. It wasn’t talent; it was focused practice.
And I’ve never felt creative. In my mind, to be creative is to be able to imagine new things from nothing, which has never been easy for me.
Only, after awhile, I realized something. I am creative so long as I have constraints. Constraints create a problem to be solved. And by attempting to solve intractable problems I could be creativity.
Constraints strip away possibility and introduce challenges to overcome. The creative person—the artist, the inventor, the entrepreneur—finds a novel way.
There are only so many TV shows we can binge watch on Netflix, photos we can scroll, books we can read, games we can play, and on and on.
Our attention problem is due to an exponential growth in things to do, content to consume, and things to distract ourselves with. On YouTube alone, some 300 minutes of new video content are uploaded every minute.
That’s one type of content on one platform.
Outside of content like video, news, opinions, and social media, there are millions of apps, each promising to do some job better, provide an ever more delightful distraction, whatever.
It’s on this infinite supply of distractions that we spend our attention. But it’s never enough. So we busy ourselves in our boredom.
And we have no choice but to limit what content we consume, directing our attention to whatever’s most satisfying or worse, what’s most engagingly distracting—ignoring all else.
I doubt you’ve ever worried about inadvertently joining a cult. “Only whack-o’s join cults,” you say, “I could never be like that …”
Of course, to be sure, who could be like that? The notion you might abandon your sense of self, adopt a doctrine of unquestionable beliefs, and in the course, cut ties with friends and family from the outside to become a card-carrying, kool-aid drinking cultist … Not gonna happen!
Because cults are for crazy people.
Except that’s not quite right. Cults make crazy people. Cults take normal people—that is, as normal as any of us are—and upend how they understand the world. They change how individuals process reality, ultimately converting well-adjusted individuals into glossy-eyed true believers.
Maybe it could happen to you.
And maybe that’s what makes cults so very terrifying.
But maybe you’re not ready to believe me, so try to see it from a different angle.
Pacifism is defined by Google as the belief that any violence, including war, is unjustifiable under any circumstances, and that all disputes should be settled by peaceful means.
But what does that mean in practice? I think many if not most of us agree: violence is to be avoided if at all possible. Except therein lay a clue: avoid violence. If the avoidance of harming others or self is the core determinant of an idea, is not the thing being avoided foundational to the concept?
When you start a new diet you’ve got a lot to work out. It’s hard. Your body and brain struggle to incorporate change, and the newness of the approach introduces uncertainty and can lead to flail. You’ve got to make loads of decisions all while maintaining control and willpower is critical. You’ve got to figure out:
What to eat — What types of food are allowed? What macronutrients are you shooting for (e.g. grams of protein, carbs, fat)?
When to eat — Are you trying to eat at certain times? Not at other times?
How much to eat — If you eat a lot of food at one meal, how does that impact future meals?
When to workout — Oh right, your diet probably has a workout attached to it. So you gotta figure out when you can get to the gym—and then what exercises to do, how often, and how heavy.
If you are dieting or are planning to start a diet, you need to understand the connection between bodyweight and glycogen, that is how carbohydrates get stored in your liver and muscles, so you don’t overestimate your weight loss as you cut carbs—or your weight gain if you add some back. Understand the connection and you’ll have a much better chance of keeping your cool for the long-haul when swings inevitably happen.
Does the world need another diet book or fitness routine? Check the news and you see obesity levels rising globally, ever more new and weird diets, and a lot of people wanting to improve their health but failing, lacking the tools, gumption, or know-how to do it.
Think about this: we have two popular diets right now that are both, on the face, downright extreme. One is based on eating big ribeye steaks every day with no fruits or vegetables (The Carnivore Diet). Another is based on eating fat and little fruits, veggies, and a little protein to maintain a constant state of ketosis (The Keto Diet).
This isn’t diet innovation, it’s flail. And with flail comes failure. So while we may not need another “new” diet, we do need a method in the madness. A method that works.
Today, August 16, 2018, after nearly a decade of waiting, Martin Berkhan has put to words a system—a method—backed by research, practiced successfully by thousands, and “perfected.” It’s called The Leangains Method: The Art of Getting Ripped ($10, Amazon Affiliate Link).
For the unfamiliar, Berkhan is the Polish-German Swede who originated 16:8 intermittent fasting over ten years ago. He’s deadlifted 700+ lb. (315+ kg) at over 3.5X his bodyweight and is, well, shredded. It’s ridiculous how lean and strong the guy is.
I’ve followed Martin via Leangains.com for years and have come to know him better than most—I even get a shout in the Acknowledgements to the book. Aside from him (now) being a friend, Martin has been my coach and teacher, often in ways that I’m not sure he realizes. Martin’s greatest strength isn’t his deadlift, it’s his focus and no-bullshit attitude. Through it, he’s acquired clarity of mind on how to be strong and lean—and then shared that clarity with us.
Before and after photos may be cheesy, and, well, when they are yours, they make you squirm. A lot. But publishing them is proof: The Leangains Method works. It worked for me first when it was in it’s infancy almost a decade back—after trying and failing at low-carb, Paleo, CrossFit, and more.
The Leangains Method still works for me to this day.
If you’re interested in The Leangains Method and want to know more, well, read on.