Back to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
I enjoyed every minute of my first jiu-jitsu session in five months, until a few hours later when my central nervous system gave me the middle finger, told me he wasn’t working for me anymore and stormed out via the nearest exit.
It took me two whole days to fully recover and the same was true for my training buddy.
We couldn’t believe that just five months ago we were training almost every day and now we could barely recuperate after one session.
The hope of adaptation
Luckily, we understand the law of adaptation. Our bodies will adjust and the pain will subside.
When you learned to walk, you didn’t berate yourself for falling, you kept at it until your body adapted. Regardless of your body type, balancing ability or leg length, you eventually became a walker.
The same goes for learning to drive or riding a bike – you naturally accept that, with continued practice, you’ll learn.
Knowing that your mind and body will adapt, cultivates hope and indicates that anything is possible with enough persistence. You just have to choose the thing(s) you’re willing to suffer for.
However, in order to optimise the adaptation process, it’s important to establish persistence and a routine of high quality practice.
Some of the most critical techniques I have found for developing these traits are:
1. Ease in
I have two friends who started the gym last year.
One eased in by lifting light weights progressively and still enjoys training, the other lasted a week after thinking he was Mo Farah and sprinting for 15 minutes on the treadmill for five days straight.
Don’t demoralise yourself by charging in like a bull at a gate.
2. Don’t set the bar too high
Like walking, driving or riding a bike, you may not become world class but you can easily become good at anything.
He may not be Jake Shimabukuro but Josh Kaufmann is pretty good after only twenty hours ukulele practice…
Start by aiming for good, focus on world class later.
3. Small persistent progress over large bouts of sporadic practice
I cannot explain this any better than James Clear did in Atomic Habits:
“Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. The same way that money multiplies through compound interest, the effects of your habits multiply as you repeat them. They seem to make little difference on any given day and yet the impact they deliver over the months and years can be enormous. It is only when looking back two, five, or perhaps ten years later that the value of good habits and the cost of bad ones becomes strikingly apparent.”
Competency never increases in a straight line. The more you compound consistent progress, the quicker you will get out of the valley of disappointment and into the steeper end of the curve.
You will see more progress over time in small daily practice than one large weekly session because you’re utilising the magic of compound interest and seizing the benefits that sleep has on the learning process.
Do not be disappointed by slow progress. You will fall into the valley of disappointment, but knowing the learning curve gets steeper with continued practice over time should be enough to keep you going.
The more you enjoy your practice, the more likely you are to fall into a positive spiral of pleasure and performance.
If habits are the compound interest of self-improvement, then enjoyment is the compound interest of habits.
The more you enjoy, the more you practice, the more you practice, the better you become and the more the habit will stick…
If you find yourself procrastinating, you’re probably not enjoying.
5. Mould your identity around your goals
In my opinion, the most powerful principle for adaptation and cultivating new habits is creating an identity around your desired result.
Everyone says how hard it is to buy me a birthday present because I don’t drink, I don’t smoke and I don’t eat chocolate. Instead I write, play guitar and practice martial arts. How many presents can you buy someone who doesn’t care for material things?
Being known as the guy who finds happiness in simplicity benefits me in three ways.
- It tricks my ego into becoming that person, helping me to cultivate good habits and avoid bad ones.
- Other people support my good habits and don’t try to coax me into bad ones based on their perception of me.
- It polarises people in my life, repelling negative individuals and attracting positive souls. Misery loves company but my perceived identity means I don’t get an invite.
Moulding your identity around your goals will make the adaptation process much easier.
6. Insist on quality adaptation
Use the four simple steps that Josh Kaufmann mentions in the video (in point 2) above to ensure the quality of your practice is at least sufficient for adaptation.
Insist on quality practice to ensure you adapt in the desired way. Anything short of this could lead to unwanted adaptations.
Moulding your identity to become the person who holds him/herself to high standards is the most prominent way to internalise this concept.
As Josh Waitzkin says: “when you’re not cultivating quality, you’re cultivating sloppiness.”
Adapt and overcome
The fact that we are adaptation machines should excite you. It means that with enough focussed attention, you can become good at anything.
With this new found hope, I implore you to start something that you’ve always wanted to do, cultivate the adaptation process and never give up, just as you did when you learned to walk, ride a bike or drive.
I believe in you!