Thursday, January 31, 2013

Lessons from DUNE (Part II)

Last July, I posted Lessons from DUNE (Part I) which shared the lessons of "The Law of the Minimum", "Motivation is Overrated", and "Sustainable Growth". In the second installment, I present four more lessons for life and lifting, inspired by the words from Frank Herbert's science fiction masterpiece "Dune".

Add some spice to your life!

Lesson #4 - Learning To Learn
Many have marked the speed with which Muad'Dib learned the necessities of Arrakis. The Bene Gesserit, of course, know the basis of this speed. For the others, we can say that Maud'Dib learned rapidly because his first training was in how to learn. And the first lesson of all was the basic trust that he could learn. It is shocking to find how many people do not believe that they can learn, and how many more believe learning to be difficult. Muad'Dib knew that every experience carries its lesson.
- from "The Humanity of Muad'Dib" by the Princess Irulan

Thankfully, some of the first skills we learn are some of the most important (such as walking and talking) and we learn them quickly. Unfortunately, as we age, time and trauma have a way of beating our natural impulse to learn right out of us. Sometimes the best intentioned friends, parents, teachers, and coaches contribute to the death of confidence and curiosity. If we punish mistakes, which should be a natural and welcome part of the learning process, we do not motivate and we do not teach. As I've written about before, competence precedes confidence - building competence takes time and encouragement.
Like the great Muad'Dib, if you want to be the best, surround yourself with most supportive and competent coaches in the galaxy - teachers that are more concerned with your well-being than a paycheck. Know that you are capable of success. Know that every experience, good or bad, carries a lesson and learn from it.

Lesson #5 - Fear Is The Mind-Killer
"I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain." 
- The Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear

I used to believe that if I wasn't a little nervous before I trained that I was not training hard enough. But, if there is  excessive apprehension or anxiety when lifting, it will affect tension and technique negatively.
If we are truly "in the moment" there is little time to waste in fear. 

When we are in the grips of fear, one means of managing it can be the breath (See The Centrality of Breath (Part II) for more on the subject). 
Fear and its friend "doubt" exist in the future. They do not live in the present but they do beckon us away from it. Fear is the mind-killer, the killer of now.

Lesson #6 - Know Your Purpose
"Always do it for an overriding purpose - and know your purpose!" (said by Baron Harkonnen to Count Rabban)

As Dan John is fond of saying "The goal is to keep the goal the goal." It's a lot easier to say than it is to do!!  Having an overriding purpose is so important - without one, people tend to flit from one goal to the next, to the next, and to the next, never making substantial progress in any single direction. Trust me, I know what this can be like.
Have an overriding purpose in the gym, at work, at home, and in life. Can't think of anything? Then, start with big general goals like, for example, "Get strong" in the gym, "Be a better husband" at home, and "Make a difference" at work and in life.
Eventually, if you stick with it, you will need to establish more clear goals for your training and life but, a goal of "get strong" should at least keep you in the power racks a few times a week and out of the Zumba class. If your goal is to be a better husband, maybe you can keep yourself from flying off the handle the next time your better half asks you for the 100th time when you're going to fix that screen door... You get the picture, I hope.

Lesson #7 - Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands (the SAID principle)
"The mind can go either direction under stress - toward positive or toward negative: on or off. Think of it as a spectrum whose extremes are unconsciousness at the negative end and hyperconsciousness at the positive end. The way the mind will lean under stress is strongly influenced by training." 
- Bene Gesserit Axiom

There was a period of time, that I would absolute pound myself into the ground every time I went to the gym. It worked great and I gained strength and size... for a while. And then it did not work. Eventually my Herculean efforts became less and less Herculean - I found that training myself to exhaustion trained me to be exhausted. Don't, don't, don't make your hard work hard. Train to make it "easy" - easy like "Easy Strength" (a la Dan John and Pavel), or "easy like Sunday mo-or-ooorning" (a la The Commodores - one of my favorite songs).

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