Careful Not to Break Yourself

Move fast and break things sounds cool until the thing that breaks is you

Early this year, I set a goal to get six-pack abs. It means I need to cut my body fat percentage from 22% to around 10-13%.

I reached 14% by May, but then I hit a plateau. Not only did I not cut any more body fat in the next couple of weeks, but I also started to lose strength and became weaker. Given that I wasn’t very strong initially, I decided to stop cutting and focus on strength gain instead.

I used to be very serious with Stronglifts 5x5 training a few years back, until I hurt my lower back. So this time around, I set a few rules for myself:

  1. Always choose not to get injured over the ego of lifting heavier.
  2. Take recovery seriously because it matters more than the training.
  3. Aim to stay consistent for over 6-8 months because strength gain happens slowly.

When writing them down, I can’t help but think about them as rules for getting great at work. There’s a stark similarity between how to get stronger in the gym and how to perform better at work.

In today’s fast pace, competitive environment, it’s easy for us to overwork ourselves to get more done. We expect to see more results by working harder and longer. Unfortunately, that’s nothing further from the truth.

Everyone is talking about burning out and quiet quitting. The struggle is real. And here are the three rules to help you stay motivated and on track with steady growth:

  1. Always choose not to burnout over the ego of doing more. Like getting injured in the gym, it takes a long time to recover from getting burnout. When you’re done with what you’ve planned for the day or the week, hold on to the urge of adding more to your todo list. Getting one to two more things done is not worth the risk of getting burnout.
  2. Take time off seriously because it matters more than the execution. To get stronger, the training is only a small part of the equation. Real growth happens during recovery. To get great at work, it’s crucial to take a step back to rest, review, and reflect from time to time. Taking time off doesn’t only help you recharge; it also enables you to connect the dots and see opportunities that you tend to miss when burying yourself in the weed.
  3. Aim to stay consistent for a long time because your big, hairy, and audacious goals take time. The name of the game—whether it’s to build strength or to do great work—is consistency. That’s why it’s essential to avoid burnout and take time off. If you have a big goal, the way to win is to make sure you can play the long game.

Now you might be thinking:

Getting stronger is far from performing better at work because you’re not competing with anyone in the gym. But in the job market and in business, you need to move fast in order to survive.

I agree with that statement to a certain extent and would love to explore ways to move fast sustainably.

The point I like to make here is this: While speed is valuable, it has its limitations. Moving faster in the wrong direction means getting further away from the destination.

Move fast and break things sounds like a good idea until the thing that break is you.

Footnotes

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