Against Convention

Convention is a set of agreed, stipulated, or generally accepted standards, or social norms.  They are generally held to be true and usually for good reason – some kind of precedent has been set and then communicated such that society (or a group of like people) believe in the norms and live to them, defend them and even proselytize them.  And so as I think about High Performance and “convention” I am struck by the thought that there might be inherent conflict between the two concepts. If indeed convention is believed to “normalized” for a set of behaviors, then what is one to do when you take the alternative path in pursuit of high performance and in the process of so doing you are instructed, chided, and dissuaded from trying / doing it differently.  What is it that would drive you forward in spite of these warnings ?  Are you inherently smarter?  Do you know something that others do not?  Are you reckless?  Seems sort of hard to make sense of what to do.  Ok, yes, I have thrown around a lot of SAT words in this paragraph (it was sort of fun to do that) and we all know there are no simple answers but here are examples that show convention might not always work.  Here is one example.

Convention would tell you that in exercise you are supposed to take days off, you need rest to recover, don’t push it too hard, sleep a lot as this is the time that the body recovers and builds itself back and most of all do not exercise when the body is compromised (sick or broken).  And I do believe that this is indeed sound and sage advice.  But it is, in my experience, just one view – not the only view.  There is actually an alternative. One whereby you set long term goals, goals that require daily diligence, goals that are achieved by incrementally adding load at modest rates and doing so with no pause.  In this way the body and mind stretch to compensate.  They do not resist and they can operate under just about any condition.  So, for example – say you decide you want to run 2,000 miles in a year.  Well if you start at one mile a day and work your way up the ability to run 20 miles in a day, then in a few short years your body will be ready for a consistent 40 miles a week. And in my life I have seen examples of where daily exercise (going against convention) becomes empowering and energizing and allows for possibilities not previously contemplated. 

One living example is me – Over 10 years ago I set on the path to see if it was possible to make exercise a daily event, integrated into my life.  And to do so in spite of expected obstacles such as travel, work, illness, injuries and other stuff.  The rule was that I had to exercise at least one hour a day (it has now become 2- 3 hours a day) and what I found out was with a few tricks along the way (like filling out my fabled daily spreadsheet), I was able to accomplish my goal.  Was it every day – not really but quite close.  In the past ten years, I have taken off 26 days from exercise and if I look at the past eight years I have missed a total of four days.  I feel stronger and more resilient than ever and I have figured out that I can run farther and faster, bike longer and harder and do pushups with the best of them.  Now a cynic might argue that I would be even better with rest.  Could be true.  And I would argue that it does not really matter. What matters is that along the way I have found out that the body and mind are more resilient than we give them credit for.  They have, with the proper increase in strain and stress over time, the ability to take on loads not previously thought possible.  And if you subscribe to the concept of active recovery, whereby there are days that you go at a lower intensity, then you truly have a recipe for success. One that can allow for full engagement and one that works for people who are compelled to do more and to use their capacity to the fullest. 

As this has been a life’s journey, one full of so many experiences, highs, and lows, success and failures I dare not recant it for you in this post.  I will from time to time detail experiences from the journey as they are indicative of and living proof of what is possible.  A lot of notable people have written quotes that tell us again and again “that anything is possible”  and truth be told we do not believe them or our behaviors would be different.  So, I offer one for consideration “ it is only impossible because we did not try hard enough”.  I am a self-proclaimed believer but only because I make it so…….I hope you do the same

Sally till the end +25 seconds.  Only got to 176 pushups on the 4:17 song – I think I gave up a few holding in that low position on the last Sally pushup.  Overall, though, I will take it!


Have fun and as always we here are Loving Life!