Lesson #1: You are the average of the five people you hang around.
You will move (or not move) like your five closest movement/training partners. Choose them well.
Want to be a better mover? Examine your social circle. Seek out the five best movers and athletes within a 5-20 mile radius of where you live, and regularly learn with/from them.
I suggest they be of at least 2-3 different movement disciplines to maximize learning and “cross-pollination” of movement skills.
Lesson #2: Choose your tools well.
Marshal McLuhan, the great media critic, is known for saying, “the medium is the message.”
What he meant was that the channels we receive information of any form (TV, print, computer, face-to face, etc) actually carries implicit messages that are powerful, yet invisible to (most) people.
How does this apply to movement?
Because the same is true of the tools you use in your movement. A corollary for movers might be, “the tool is the technique,” or “the medium is the movement.”
The tools we create and use reflect our understanding of the world and encourage us to function in a certain paradigm…just like certain forms of media encourage certain ways of thinking.
The visionary farmer Joel Salatin brilliantly said, “the worst thing in life is getting good at the wrong things.”
Do not use the wrong tools – you’ll get good at the wrong things.
You might get good at useless, harmful, or unimportant physical skills. Of course, this is relative to your personal goals so what’s useless to you might be useful for someone else. But there is a set of fundamental human movements that we all must cultivate and maintain – no one can neglect them without suffering.
So what makes a good tool?
A good tool allows you to isolate, integrate, and improvise. It allows you to move like a real human and doesn’t block your potential to integrate and improvise.
As Henry David Thoreau wrote, “Men have become the tools of their tools.” Don’t be that person. Choose your tools wisely. They are the air you breathe…they are your invisible movement environment in which your movement practice will live or die.
The world is complex, and life is an improvisation. Choose tools that reflect that reality.
Paradoxically, the complexity of the tool reduces the complexity potential of the movement.
Or said differently: simple tools lend themselves to more diverse and complex movement.
Simple tools = complex movement.
Complex tools = simplistic movement.
Consider the movement possibilities you have with a barbell, versus the movement possibilities of a single plane, fixed-axis machine like you find in abundance at globo gyms.
That’s why barbells and dumbells are so useful. A barbell is a glorified stick. A dumbbell is a glorified rock. But they’re good tools because they allow you to add load to fundamental human movements. You can do a lot of things with sticks and rocks.
Lesson #3: Make continuous small improvements.
When I was going through Poliquin Group’s PICP 1 and 2 coaching course, I learned about the 1% rule. A good goal is to make 1% strength gain every training session. In 10 training sessions, you’ve added 10% to your strength.
What if you improved your strength, speed, or movement intelligence by just 1% every day? Not that big of a deal. But if you make a 1% improvement every day for 100 days, you’re suddenly 100% better – you’ve DOUBLED your ability.
The human body will not make perpetual linear gains year after year, but the idea of small continuous improvement still holds.
Go to bed every day just 1% better. That’s it. ONE percent. Anyone can do that.
Lesson #4: Have a beginners mind.
Shoshin is a principle from Zen Buddhism that means, “beginner’s mind.”
From Wikipedia: “[Shoshin] refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would.”
Or as the Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki said, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”
Teachers are invaluable. But it’s also invaluable to consider: “How would I approach this movement if I was the first person to ever attempt it? How many variations are possible?”
Explore the possibilities. Related: MTOD #9: Develop Lateral Skills
Lesson #5: Seek appropriate novelty.
Earlier in this post I partially addressed this but I want to expound on it a bit more.
Whether you’re trying to get out of a rut, stimulate creativity or simply go deeper into your learning:
Seek new environments, new tools, new people, and/or new mental frameworks.
Alone, any one of these could transform your perspective. Taken together, they offer a potent, mind-expanding cocktail.
Don’t think in front of a screen, and don’t move inside a box.
What you need to think deeply: park bench, pen, notebook
What you need to move deeply: mindfulness, creativity, ONE useful tool