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If You Want to Reach Your Full Potential, Do This Twice Per Year
The difference between moderate and overwhelming success.
Habits are a trendy thing to talk about these days.
Part of this solely is because of Atomic Habits, by James Clear, but part of this trend is just that habits are important. The success you have on this day next year is largely predicated on the habits you follow between now and then. If you want to be good at something, it’s a good idea to do that thing pretty much every day.
But what if you want more than that?
What if simple “daily discipline” isn’t enough for you?
The truth is that if you want to excel, it’s not enough just to be disciplined.
There’s one habit that I think has been the source of most of my progress over the last few years, but it’s not a daily habit.
It’s a bi-annual habit.
That habit is “sprinting”, and today we’re going to talk about what it means.
People often say that “life is a marathon, not a sprint”.
Life isn’t a sprint, but it’s not a marathon either.
Life is like interval training. There are periods of intense bursts, followed by periods of intense rest.
There are periods in your life where too much stuff is happening and you’re overwhelmed, and then there are other periods where you’re bored because not enough is happening.
But you’re not supposed to be constantly moving in life. You’re supposed to be “Tabata-ing”.
When it’s time to sprint, you should sprint. When it’s time to rest, you should rest.
Does this mean there’s no value to endurance training? Absolutely not. You should still practice things every day and be disciplined.
However, if you really want to excel, you need to learn how to sprint. You just need to know when and how to moderate intensity so that you are maximizing skill development at the right times.
In sports, we call this “peaking”.
How to sprint for skill development.
Currently, I’m embarking on a “sprint” period for my skill development in writing and Jiu-Jitsu.
Here’s what’s happening:
First, over the next 8 weeks, I have a lot of travel planned. I’ll be doing 3 training trips, competing 3 times, and teaching 5 seminars (one is already down). I’ll be on the road constantly for the next 8 weeks.
Then, in April, I signed up for the Ship30 writing cohort, so I’ll be doing that as well to work on my writing, in addition to doing Medium, my newsletter, and my ghostwriting.
Over the next 2 months, pretty much everything I do 6–7 days per week will be extremely focused on my short-term goals — the goals of winning the competitions, teaching good seminars, learning a lot when I travel to train, and creating as much good writing as I can.
This will culminate with a month-long trip to Texas for training in late April/early May.
After that, I get a break.
And what’s after the sprint?
I have a very goal-oriented mindset, so it’s easy for me to springboard directly from one intense endeavor to another.
There’s always something to be chasing. I get shiny object syndrome about goals.
However, when I “sprint” after goals or chase things for an extended period of time (4–8 weeks, for example), the best thing for me to do is to go against this intuition. The best thing for me to do is sleep a lot.
That doesn’t mean that no work happens during the rest period (just like how you’re still allowed to rest during a sprint period), but the focus of the rest period is to slow down and recalibrate.
The things I am about to set out to try and achieve are specific goals that I have been working toward for a long period of time, and this sprint period is designed to chase those goals and help me improve myself along the way to doing so.
After the sprint period is over, my objective is to slow down and set new goals for the next sprint period, which will be this fall.
So how often should you “sprint”?
Last year, I tried to maintain a sprint for 11 weeks, and it just about broke me.
I can always tell when I’m hitting one of these dark periods because I feel empty intellectually and creatively. I’m just tired — all the time.
From late February to early May of last year, I competed in Jiu-Jitsu 5 times, I taught 5 seminars, and I traveled once to train in Ohio, where I re-injured a herniated disc in my back and was bedridden for 2 days and off the mat for a week. The injury was without a doubt caused by overuse and sprinting too hard.
This period also resulted in a substantial decrease in my writing productivity. I started doing things just because I have to, not because I wanted to.
In the end, I realized this and I spent the rest of the year recovering from burning myself out. I didn’t feel “normal” until August.
That’s why I’m changing the way I’m going about this sprint this year. I’m going back to the method I used in college — 6–8 week sprints followed by breaks.
Last year, the intense fatigue and burnout symptoms started after about 7 weeks, so this spring’s improvement sprint will last about 7–8 weeks, depending on how I’m feeling. I won’t push much harder than that.
I have a competition 6 weeks from now, and that’s going to be my last one for a while. This means I won’t have to be at peak performance after this event for at least several weeks. This is good because I don’t want to sustain a peak, I want to drop off a little bit and then rise higher the next time.
During these several weeks, I’ll strive to rest my mind and get my life back together.
Then, I’ll come back even stronger.
I’m not totally sure if this idea of sprinting is toxic workaholism or if it’s a habit that more people should adopt.
What I am sure of is that the periods in my life that have had the longest sustaining development have been preceded by or taken place during periods where I am putting my head down and working as hard as I can.
When I was younger, I used to view my high school wrestling season as one long sprint where I was trying to be as best I could for as long as I could.
I viewed finals week in college the same way, and the same with different training camps I’ve done for Jiu-Jitsu tournaments.
The point is this: daily discipline is great, but it’s kind of not enough.
Don’t be a jogger, be a sprinter.
Sprinters eat first, and they eat more.
Don’t view yourself as a warrior clogging your way through life, view yourself as an athlete striving for the best and tastiest fruit you can reach.
This is peak performance.
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