Uncommonly Good At The Common
I’ve tortured myself right and proper. My mind has always had compulsive thoughts steadily running through at hyperspeed. Even as a kid, I was a neurotic type with an overactive internal voice narrating every experience and how it affected me.
For most of my adult life, I’ve tried to not only pick up as many skillsets as I could for work, professional growth, and physical training but also then obsessively add more to each. I was always trying to make things more complicated, always looking into more details. It never really got me anywhere, just drove me crazier and more frustrated with myself. I’d try to get to some next idea with every - thing, but really I’d get nowhere in total.
Grasping at so much, I couldn’t process it all. Instead of finding some deeper layer, I’d just sit and stagnate. I was completely overloaded and overwhelmed, all my own fault.
Then, I tried acting from the opposite point of view. You know, doing the opposite of every instinct I’ve ever had kind of thing. It worked for George Constanza:
Instead of adding more to make my daily life complex, I doubled down on a daily routine, especially for my mornings and evenings. Nothing complicated, just the guts of that I need to start and end focused, calm, and on task. Doing the plain, common things in the morning really well, put me in a much better place to learn, create, and work. The came easier because of where I started from. Instead of feeling like I missed the mark of some complexity, checking off the simple gave me peace and certainty.
My physical training, whatever the focus was, always missed something, I thought. I needed to find the source code to better performance and function. It was in the pages of sport science textbooks or wrapped in some idea I hadn’t taken apart yet.
Then I abandoned the search and refocused, on the base foundation. I identified the base first, then I looked at where there were cracks. How well did I know how to brace for lifting or other athletic movements? What was the quality of my breath? Did I have the skill to create balance and stability in every type of motion, both slow and quick?
Then I just kept asking myself - how can I do the common things uncommonly well.
I stopped adding, really I took most out. I only need to study the handful of parts, that I already knew were there, to make the whole so much better. I found myself able to not only practice but improve in new things like Muay Thai and jiu-jitsu. And I found I could start lifting weights again with more ease and less support than I needed even when I was at my strongest.
My physical practice is always the model I use as proof. But then I broaden the model to the other paths of my life. My writing practice, my business practice, my personal practice.
I’m still crossing things out. I still find myself writing more in my mind before I’m aware I’m doing it. But every time I do come back to looking at the common, which are really the pillars everything stands on, my vision gets a little clearer.