“I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” ~ Abraham Maslow
We’ve all heard this quote, usually in snarky paraphrase by someone who has all the answers but is providing none help. And as much as I refuse to acknowledge it in the moment, they’re usually right.
It is all too easy to fall in love with something – a product, a process, a diet, a routine, a guru – and just start swinging that hammer at everything in sight. I do it all the time, and man it feels great. You’ve found a thing that is going to help you with so much of what you’ve been working on (or saying you’re going to work on) for as long as you can remember.
There are a number of problems with this, chief among them is that this hammer is just that – a hammer. A brute force, easy answer to everything around you. A square peg to fill all the holes in your quest to be who and what you want to be.
And when it starts to fall apart, which it inevitably does, this shining solution to all that ails you starts to lose its luster. Not only do you recognize all the areas where your new favorite thing fails you, but you may even start to doubt its usefulness in the task it was designed to do… hammer that nail.
Thus is the problem with actively trying to improve yourself. You’ve got limited resources – time, money, attention, ability to just make another damn decision. The idea that you might find that one answer to all your questions is just too good to let go of.
But you don’t just have one tool. The more you search, the more you find. Everyone has a solution to offer and, with a little time on the internet, you can learn everything there is to know about it. That’s the good news. The bad news? All hammers, a thousand of them. And you, my friend, are the nail.
So what do you do? How do you choose?
Ok, so let’s break the metaphor (I make no promises but, give me a break, it’s the name of the blog) and find something concrete to stand on. Let’s talk about how I got here.
Early in 2014 I wasn’t doing well. I was eating poorly, getting no exercise, drinking too much, and not sleeping enough. I was hobbling myself, completely unprepared to handle the many stresses of life, and it showed. I was struggling everywhere – as a husband, a father of two children under 3, a friend, an employee. Something had to give.
So I took charge. I resolved to make an effort to improve everywhere I had been failing myself. I gave up alcohol completely and started focusing on getting better sleep, eating better, staying hydrated, and being more active. This was my foundation, solid ground on which to do some real work and strive toward my potential.
From there I started making a real effort to be a better husband and father, and the kind of friend that the people in my life deserved. I worked my ass off at my job. I started going to the gym and lost a bunch of weight.
But at some point along the way I started to truly grasp the number of options at my fingertips, and I wanted to try them all. I felt good, better than I had in a long time, and nothing was stopping me from trying any of them. So I started to try them all. A little here, a little there, but never for long enough or strict enough to realize any of the specific benefits.
My exercise routines were all over the place. I spent some time running, taking part in my first 5k. A bunch of time was spent in the gym with Occam’s Protocol as laid out in The Four Hour Body by Tim Ferriss with some success. A little time with Jim Stoppani’s routines. A lot of time just making up routines that amounted to little more than spinning my wheels. Some kettlebells work. Some high intensity interval training (HIIT). Cold therapy. That’s a very small part of a very long list. And those are just the things I tried, never mind all of the things I kept thinking I was might try.
My diet has been just as erratic. Keto, high protein/low carb, high protein/high carb, slow carb, juicing, Bulletproof fasting (sooo much butter coffee), and inevitable bouts of just eating all of whatever was in front of me. No matter how I eat, the results tend to be the same, which is to say, not much really changes. This, again, is a result of not sticking strictly to any one thing for long enough to get anywhere.
And supplements. Oh the supplements. No need to outline them all here, but there have been a lot.
What didn’t help anything was my ever-changing goals. Did I want to just lose fat? Gain muscle? Increase overall fitness? Or endurance? How about compete in a physique competition? How do you work towards a goal when it’s a moving target?
I say all that to say this, it’s time to make a decision and stick to it. Time to pick a few of these solutions to everything, a subset that seem to work well with each other and instinctively make sense to me, and give them the effort and attention they deserve.
And that’s where you come in. The purpose of this blog to drive my personal development. I’m going to make choices, and I’m going to define ahead of time how long I’m going to try that thing or set of things. And then I’m going to try to document the results so we can talk about and compare them.
This won’t be limited to physical development, either. I also intend to share my efforts to become a better person in general, though perhaps in a less structured way.
The goal is no longer some desired end-state. The work is the goal. Do the work.
So I hope you’ll join me as I endeavor to fill my toolbox with hammers and get to work.