His argument hinges around careers, networking, and personal development. I’m going to take the idea a step further and drag it by its toenails, kicking and screaming, into the realm of health and fitness.
Animals in a zoo
To varying degrees, we all loosely resemble zoo animals.
We wait for our masters to feed us. We need permission to undertake anything important. We grow too lazy and complacent to climb over the fence.
We’re like this mass of bumbling humanoids, bearing semblance to our once primal nature – but not quite the same.
Sure, physically we’re different. Our health suffers because of physical and chemical dependencies – some so subtle they’re nigh undetectable, and others about as subtle as Gary Busey at a cocktail party.
But the real kicker lies in our psyche.
We’re creatures of comfort.
I won’t begin to act like I know for certain how humans behaved “back in the day.” However, we probably didn’t sit around the fire waiting for someone else to find food and bring it to us.
Nope – this article will not take a turn into the whole tired if only we still lived back in our nomadic hunter-gatherer days when our food was fresh, we got plenty of sun and exercise, and everybody had six packs argument. That line of thinking is excruciatingly boring, pretty humdrum by this point.
This article is not about nutrition. Or theoretical squabbling about how the fossil record indicates a devolution in our physical health and capabilities.
It’s about something much more interesting, more important. More practical. Less philosophical and more…
When did we stop killing?
I work closely with another fitness blogger helping to manage the community he’s built around his blog. And I thoroughly enjoy it. The people are wonderful, the opportunity to help others with advice I’ve gained through years of experience is rewarding, and the overall feeling of contributing to something bigger than myself is encouraging.
There’s a problem though. A persistent pattern.
One of the hats I wear is coach (ie answering emails for several hours a day).
Disturbingly, the vast majority of emails we receive are from individuals who want us to hand them success. They’re looking for consolation for certain (bad) decisions or habit patterns. Nobody wants to admit fault.
Type II diabetes runs in my family. My parents were obese so they never taught me how to eat right. My boss is a jerk so I overeat at night. I want to lose this last 15 lbs but I don’t want to eat fewer calories or exercise more, any recommendations?
I’m always happy to help, and my coaching 100% of the time takes the hard line of reality. There’s nothing productive about sugar-coating a situation. Progress can be uncomfortable. It may require somebody telling you something you don’t want to hear.
But it’s progress.
The little push actually gets you moving forward again. So we all win.
But the question that keeps resurfacing in my mind is this: when did we stop killing? When did we stop hunting down our goals as if we needed to eat them to survive, electing instead to sit back and wait for others to push us? Why do we need this extra push when we clearly know what needs to be done?
Why the heck should it take a stranger to point out the glaringly obvious solution before I am finally willing to admit it to myself, even though I knew the right answer all along?
It’s an interesting question.
One I don’t quite know the answer to (if you do, let’s start a discussion in the comments).
This self-delusion may be an ego preservation mechanism, which to a degree, some like to argue, could be healthy for us.
Whatever the answer, I do know this: we need to become killers once again. We need to ruthlessly track, pursue, and outsmart our goals. Here’s how:
1. Take responsibility for your failures: There is a difference between asking for help and not owning your actions. One requires honest inquiry and the other involves playing the blame game. Blaming outside influences for your choices, while convenient, is unproductive and actually a little dishonest. With yourself.
Of all people to lie to, don’t lie to yourself.
If you’re trying to stick to a training regimen for example, yet you routinely skip days when you don’t feel like training, at least admit that you’re being lazy. Don’t tell yourself that the subpar results are a product of your non-athletic genetics or some other cop-out like that.
If you’re trying to lean out yet you routinely splurge on desserts after dinner or you continually find yourself stress eating for emotional reasons, stop telling yourself that despite a perfect diet you’re not losing any fat. That you’re big-boned or genetically inclined to be fat. Only you really know how much you cheat.
And cheating is fine – as long as you admit that it’s your reality.
Where people tend to go wrong is when they don’t admit it to themselves, and sure as hell don’t admit it to other people, then complain about their lack of progress as if they’re a special case, an exception to the law of thermodynamics.
As James Altucher puts it…
It’s your fault when you go hungry. Former world chess champion Mikhail Botvinnik said in his book, “100 selected games” that the only way to reach the highest level of success is to develop the ability to critique your own failures.
2. Minimize risk while maximizing reward: If I were a nomadic hunter, my ideal prey would be a large dopey animal – like a wild cow or something. Maximum reward (meat) for minimal risk (I probably wouldn’t get trampled and the hunt will last only as long as it took me to find the cow).
Unfortunately, I’m not even sure such an animal existed (were there wild cows?) that would be so easy to kill yet yield so much meat. And if it did exist, a more ferocious predator like an abnormally large lion would probably get it first.
But if it was as easy as just saying you’re going to always go after the biggest, slow-moving, maximal-reward targets then we’d all be making $900k/year as dermatologists – going through the motions on a proven track to success and out sprinting everyone else to the prize.
The problem is: there are so few dopey cows in the world.
The odds of getting one are super slim. You’re almost guaranteed to be beat-to-the-punch by a lion. The solution is to diversify.
To eat what you kill, minimize risk so you don’t die on the hunt. You do that by diversifying every part of your life. The outcome of this is that if you forgot to bring your knife on the hunt, you still have your gun. – James Altucher
3. Be patient: The life of a hunter is inherently discouraging. You could go for days, weeks, months, years before you finally track down your prey.
Looking to gain muscle and look like an Adonis statue? That takes years or work – persistance. Looking to lose 15 lbs? It may take you 12 months to reach that goal sustainably. The truth of the matter is: the quest for our ideal bodies is a lifelong pursuit. We will always be dissatisfied with the way we look – even when other people think we look great.
Models are some of the most insecure people on the planet. What does that say to you?
It’s just reality. Nobody has it better or worse than you. Everyone struggles with their self-image at some point. Everyone rides the roller coaster.
To truly be successful on our hunt we have to realize that’s it a journey. I use the Road To Mordor analogy because that’s what it’s like. It could take years before we walk the Ring to the top of Mount Doom.
4. Specialize (have a goal to begin with): If you are operating on loose assumptions or going after loosely molded ideas then you’re going to have a heck of a time reaching any sort of satisfaction. Hunters go out hunting specific animals.
Hunting birds is very different from hunting deer, for example. You don’t just decide to walk into the woods with a rifle and expect to walk out with a kill.
A well-executed hunt requires planning, skill, and patient execution… but above all, it requires a specific, predetermined goal. A goal that will influence every decision you make.
5. Don’t depend on other people to get you from point A to B: Stop waiting for permission. Asking for help is good. Relying on someone to care about your goals is not. They’re different.
We are inherently self-serving and self-preserving creatures. If somebody happens to want to step out and really help you in a big way along your journey – spectacular. However, don’t count on it.
Take responsibility for yourself and get after it. Ask for help when you need some guidance but at the same time be reading and relentlessly self-educating. Help yourself.
The best part about this is: people are more attracted to other people who help themselves.
For example, I’m much more likely to help someone who reaches out to me who is clearly driven toward their goals and willing to put in the work. They don’t necessarily need me to reach their goals but I see an opportunity to use what I know to speed their process up a little bit.
This is a win-win situation for everyone.
But on the flip side, the last person I want to help is the individual who superficially reaches out in desperation, who blames others for their problems, and who my time has a high probability of being wasted on because they have no real desire to learn and push themselves forward.
If you don’t care about your goals, why should I?
So to wrap this up:
Have you killed anything lately?
If not, why?
And what are you going to do about it?