No Magic Pill

Knowledge + effort + time = success

Knowing when to quit

Posted by Ben on Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Yeah, I know, for all the hoo-hah I raise about making plans, setting goals, ordering priorities, and so on and so forth, sometimes you just have to throw in the towel, retreat to the comfort and security of your happy place, and regroup. Hey, it happens. Unfortunately, a lot of people see this as taking a step backward, as a defeat, as giving up. It can be each and/or all of those things, but only if you let them. There’s nothing wrong with taking a step back—it can help provide some perspective on the overall situation, or at the very least keep you from sticking your foot in that bear trap. There’s nothing wrong with a defeat—it can teach valuable lessons to use down the road as long as you don’t interpret a defeat in battle as a defeat in the war (for you kids of the 90s, think of it as a “sike!”). There’s nothing wrong with giving up—some endeavors are exercises (heh heh) in futility (like getting me to like reality TV) when taken to their endgame.

The genesis for this thought was my thrust-and-parry with computer operating systems over the past couple days (in microcosm) and several years (in macrocosm). Apple was the only graphical user interface (GUI, or pretty picture thingies) that my high school had. I moved to PCs in college and never really looked back. Despite its incessant bugginess and random hiccups, I learned a lot about Windows and what it takes to keep it up and running. Ten years of trial-and-error is a great teaching tool. However, for one reason or another, one of the laptops in the house just will not behave with Windows, so I’m in the middle of (finally) doing a full, clean installation of Ubuntu (Linux). After monkeying around with it in demo, I like it a lot, yet that laptop does not. The past couple days of troubleshooting have led me to think that it’s actually a physical problem with the hard drive since the other computers continue running Windows flawlessly while this one in particular won’t run anything for more than a couple days without burping (or full-on barfing all over itself).

The same can be applied to my short-lived distance running career. I started out with the best of intentions and the least of actual knowledge. Over the course of two years or so, after several chronic injuries and one massively acute one popped up, I figured out through both research and trial-and-error that my body is literally not built for distance running. Good to know. I tried something that I thought would work, and it did for awhile, but in the end, it was more detrimental to my health than it was beneficial. Same thing for just about all training programs (some are just utter crap that should be avoided at all costs, like most of the BS that commercial gym “trainers” put people through): try it out, do what you’re supposed to do (don’t think you can eat like a horse and expect to lose fat just because you hit the treadclimber for twenty minutes three days a week), and see if you get the results you want after a significant time period (read: 3-4 months, not 3-4 weeks). Chances are, you’re not going to die or meet your soul mate in that month, so experiment with yourself (I didn’t go there, peanut gallery), see what works, make sure it’s at least somewhat enjoyable (if not, you won’t keep doing it), and keep at it. If you don’t like what you get out of it, do something else. It’s not a marriage, just a training and/or nutrition program.

People are inherently afraid of the unknown, which explains page after page of people flooding fitness forums asking over and over and over and over again about what’s the best program (answer: the one you’re not doing) and fretting mercilessly over the minutiae of each and every one of them before setting foot in a gym (invariably, this mindset leads to training ADHD, the jumping bean who keeps hopping from one program to another every couple weeks and wonders why he/she isn’t getting results). Hey, honey, just go try it. If you’re worried about what other people thing, find or figure out something you can do at home (all of my training can be done outside the gym, but I choose to keep going because of the occasional energy bump I get that’s not entirely associated with the occasional eye candy, plus I don’t yet have a place to construct the man-cave to house the equipment I do and don’t already have). Just go pick up and move some weight(s). If it’s easy, pick up something heavier and/or more often until you can’t safely do it anymore. Repeat. Adjust weight and repetitions as necessary. You’re welcome.

Body bits: ditch and one-up the machines, lose the pain (neck/shoulders, back), more tweaks to improve grip strength, breaking news – gyms tailor training programs around health conditions (um, shouldn’t they’ve been doing that already?), music helps athletic performance (duh).

Edibles: bad news for Guiding Stars et al, what Brad eats, labels of origin (maybe this will make some foods less appealing), no more tea bags (note the space in there :P), eating for the (fall) season, DIY energy bars, more on alcohol (and Chicken Littles), more doctors embracing low-carb, some pitfalls of over-processed foods.

Mind matters: the blank slate (FYI Steven Pinker is a great read on this kind of stuff, namely The Language Instinct), the anatomy of happiness, sports participation helps mental health (probably by distracting people from bad habits more than anything).

Kiddie corner: promoting culinary adventure.

General health: grow awareness for men’s health issues (I’ll try to post a separate blog for this as it gets closer), “FDA approved” should scare more than comfort, Mark’s potpourri, “sumo virus” alert (no, it has nothing to do with diet and much to do with poor hygiene), employee wellness making strides.

Geek-out:
—Transportation: the Flintstones meet the 21st century, ten highways that should go away, Lamborghini’s future, Staples goes hybrid, low-fare buses booming, an EV with a 345-ton towing capacity (sort of), world’s fastest bicyclist (sales skyrocket in down economy), motorcycles (Ferrari dream, Honda’s hybrid), pedal-powered blimp blows, SpaceX’s Falcon 1 finally reaches space (go team, military uses, what’s next), more space tourism.
—Nature: ocean dead zones bigger than expected (Wiki “North Pacific gyre”), another reason why carbon trading won’t work.
—Tech stuff: Hubble burps and sighs, Phoenix winding down (maybe), great space walks, Guitar Hero’s backward payments, cell phone contracts face extinction, a temple to worship science (eh).
—Miscellaneous: happy anniversary to commercial radio (it’s been all downhill since then), largest prime number so far, head-first slides may be faster, politics and religion are technologies.

Git r dun:
—Declaration of change.
—Some advice from Dustin Pedroia.

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2 Responses to “Knowing when to quit”

  1. Redlefty said

    Ah, I see you still read TED.com. It made me laugh that there was an economic editorial posted there about an hour after I wrote almost the same thing on my blog. I beat TED, ahahahahah!

  2. Ben said

    You should moonlight for them, though I’d be less likely to read them then ;)

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