I’ve recently discovered something quite fundamental that separates most olympic athletes from other outlets of physical fitness: their dedication to mobility.
Mobility can be boiled down to having strength while maintaining flexibility. Or, strength through a wide range of motion.
When you think of a stereotypical body builder (not necessarily an athlete), you think of someone who lacks mobility. There’s the classic image of someone putting a sticker on their back, and asking them to get it off.
If you haven’t seen it, they can’t get it off. They can’t move their arms more than the distance of the next lift. They typically have a specific lift they are able to do very well, but are unrounded (as opposed to being well-rounded) in their skills.
The stark contrast is an olympic gymnast, who has incredible strength (though maybe not as much in static lifts) while maintaining incredible mobility and a range of performance skills.
These gymnasts are not one-trick ponies. They can get on the rings, on the floor, the trampoline, the vault, the Pommel horse, the balance beam, etc., and demonstrate skills that you and I would have a hard time imagining ourselves doing.
Mobility allows athletes to have strength when pushed into physical positions that are not “normal” static positions. When an athlete wants to explode with strength, they usually need to do so in many different dynamic positions. Contrast that with a body builder, who typically focuses on very specific ranges of motion and static lifting.
These two comparisons aren’t exactly “fair” as there are many advantages and disadvantages to either, as well as many different types of athletes all throughout a range of strength and mobility.
However, I want to illustrate a dichotomy. Given the option of either incredible strength and lack of mobility, or good strength and a full range of motion, I would choose the latter.
Okay, sure. Great conclusion. Why am I even talking about physical strength and flexibility?
It directly applies to you and me. Not just in our physical ability, but in our work, relationships, and all aspects of life. Increasing mobility implies being above average at all of the things that matter - while lack of mobility means great advantages in one area and very little in another.
If you want to do well with your career as well as have a great marriage, family life, friends, and overall legacy, then you want mobility.
If you want to do well in your career (or whatever you’re optimizing for) and let everything else fall by the wayside, you want a lack of mobility.
Chances are, there’s more to your life than work
I call this the “secret to Indiehacker success” because it’s a career path that requires multiple skills and wearing multiple hats. It’s not something you can do if you’re only good at one thing.
There are a lot of aspects to running a real business that require good skills to maintain:
- Product & Design
- Marketing & Media
- Customer Service
The list is long and diverse.
You can’t simply be a good designer and run a business. Similarly, you can’t simply be a good developer and run a business. It requires more skills that take time to learn.
Having multiple strengths in multiple areas allows you to capture the upside of running a business by yourself. This advice is similar to Scott Adams’ concept of being well above average at multiple things instead of being the best at one thing.
Being diversely skilled allows you to be unique and valuable. Being the best at one thing isn’t as good as being able to provide incredible value for others. Also, providing real value for others requires a diverse skillset.
Not only that, but being the absolute best at something is incredibly difficult, while being above average in multiple areas is relatively achievable.
Your work is a very important part of your life, but you probably have a family, friends, and other hobbies and obligations that require your time and wide-range of skills.
Marriage is a skill. If you think the “perfect” spouse is out there that will never cause any issues or disagreements, you would be mistaken. They are just as imperfect as you are, and learning to communicate effectively is key.
Parenting is a skill. When your child is born you have very little idea what to do with them and how to raise them. If you don’t learn how to raise them well and you let them grow up without instruction or direction, they probably won’t end up very successful or productive.
Having and maintaining friends is a skill. Neglecting your friends (or family, for that matter), and not investing time and energy into long-term relationships will leave you stranded when you need someone at your side.
Faith is a skill. Reading the Bible (understanding it) and applying it to your life, and making progress in the things of God requires time, effort, and attention. It’s something that can be very productive if you get better at it, and is mostly a waste of time if you’re not good at it.
Health and fitness is a skill. Knowing what foods to eat, what foods not to eat (PSA: please avoid vegetable oils), how much to eat, how to cook and prepare foods, and how your body responds to different foods takes some amount of knowledge and focus. Taking time to stretch, build muscle with resistance, and increase your physical mobility takes quite a bit of knowledge to have productive results without injuring yourself.
Maintaining mental clarity and sanity is a skill. If you don’t monitor your thoughts, and care too much about what other people think about you, then you’re going to have a hard time getting anything done. Having productive thoughts enables you to be exponentially productive in reality. Along the same vein, if the content you’re consuming is garbage, then your thoughts will be garbage.
Finances are a skill. It’s not just about how much money you make (though, I do recommend increasing income as a way to improve your life), but how you spend, save, and invest your money that allows you to make progress long-term. Learning and practicing the skills needed for this takes time and knowledge.
All of these aspects of life are important for your long-term health and wealth. If you want a fulfilled, balanced, and happy life, then you’ll want to be investing in all of these areas.
That means there are a wide range of skills you’ll want to be good at in life. You’ll need some wide-ranging knowledge and mobility to make them all happen successfully.
Not only do we need those skills, but often we need them all multiple times a day. We need to be able to get off the vault, and hop on the rings at a moments notice.
Aggregate performance, not individual performance
The wild truth about the list above is, if one of those areas is lacking significantly, it brings down the performance of all of the others.
I’ve mentioned this concept many times on my blog, but if your marriage is falling apart it’s hard to parent correctly, or maintain mental clarity.
If you’re unhealthy and can’t move without pain, you’re going to have a hard time with just about everything. Similarly, if you have no money skills, just about everything listed is pretty hard to maintain.
The sum total of all of those skills is what creates balance and progress in your life. If each of these things require time and attention, then you need to allocate your time and attention effectively.
Not only that, but you’ll also need to be able to switch hats quickly without getting overwhelmed or frustrated.
When watching sports, there are two types of performances. There’s individual performances which is a single athlete performing their best, and aggregate (or team) performances which is the total performance of all individual athletes.
No matter what, individual performances matter. But, when looking at the complete picture, some individual performances can compensate for a lack in others, and there can be some strategy involved to winning as a team even if someone loses individually.
You might think “wait, I thought he said we need to be good at all of this”. Yes, you do need all of those skills. No doubt every professional athlete has the skills to be great, but that doesn’t mean they’ll always perform perfectly.
The goal of your life is to create balance by emphasizing the aggregate performance. It’s okay to be less than great in certain areas at certain times. It’s okay to emphasize certain aspects of your life in certain seasons.
But, if you completely neglect one area of your life, then you’ll get cut from the team. And getting cut from the team means you don’t get to demonstrate great skills that make you unique and fulfilled. The balance gets skewed beyond recovery.
The team needs you as much as you need the team. Focusing on your individual performance is how you can contribute effectively (and it’s the only thing in your control), and communicating and working with the team is how you can win overall.
Working towards mobility allows you to have strength in multiple areas of your life. It’s what can create balance and progress, and what allows you to be successful overall (not only in one area of your life).
You are a complex human being, with needs, wants, skills, and a unique scenario that applies to you. Similarly, your skills need to be diverse and above-average to be able to compensate for the complexity of your life.
Create flexibility in your life by building skills in multiple areas. You don’t need to be the best, just good enough to continually make progress and maintain a healthy performance.