MTOD #7: The Greatest Physical Quality of All


What is the greatest physical quality of all? It’s not strength and it’s not flexibility. Nor is it any of the other eight attributes that are often deemed important: Agility, Power, Speed, Stamina, Accuracy, Balance, Endurance, and Coordination. Nope.

It’s adaptation.

The great business teacher Leon Megginson once said:

Change is the basic law of nature. But the changes wrought by the passage of time affects individuals and institutions in different ways. According to Darwin’s Origin of Species, it is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself. [The individual and] civilization that is able to survive is the one that is able to adapt to the changing physical, social, political, moral, and spiritual environment in which it finds itself.

The best mover is not the strongest or most flexible or the one with the best balance or the highest jump. The best mover is not the one who can hold a one arm handstand the longest. These things are all valuable, and there’s not anything wrong with improving in these areas…

But if your goal is to improve yourself as a mover, and have longevity and wellness into old age, you need to preserve and improve your capability to adapt to varied physical demands.

Strength, Flexibility, Agility, Power, Speed, Stamina, Accuracy, Balance, Endurance, and Coordination…ALL of these are simply a means to an end: To become more adaptable. 

Perhaps even more important is adapting strategies to thrive in a culture where the entire infrastructure and social norms force us into a mold of sedentism. It’s not important how much you bench press if you are sedentary for 12 hours a day and suffer complete social isolation.

But adaptation isn’t just the most important quality of movement; It’s the most important quality for LIFE.

  • Have you adapted your movement to thrive in a modern culture of sedentism and lifestyle?
  • Have you adapted your nutrition to reduce toxic additives, and maximize your calorie-to-micronutrient ratio?
  • Have you adapted your relationships and social connects to avoid social isolation so you can thrive in a modern world?

If not, you might make yourself obsolete and/or extinct.

In that light, my mission for Wellrounded Athlete is to help you become as adaptable as possible – in mind, body, and LIFE – so that you thrive in the modern world.

I like this quote by Tecumseh, the great Shawnee Native American leader:

Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.
Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none.
When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision.

Those are the words of a man who sought to ADAPT and thrive in a constantly changing world.

Or as Ido Portal would put it, “Isolate, integrate, IMPROVISE.”

Improvisation = adaptability.

First, we may need to use isolated techniques and methods, then begin integrating them together and only then can we develop our highest expression of improvisation and adaptability.

But never forget. Adaptability is the goal if you want to be a good mover, have longevity, and generally thrive in whatever circumstances you encounter.

The truth is, the greatest physical quality FOR YOU is the one that is limiting your adaptability the most. If you’ve been a yogi for 10 years, maybe it’s strength. If you’ve been a weightlifter for 10 years, maybe it’s flexibility.

But maybe it’s balance, or primal movement skills, or swimming.

Ask yourself: in what physical quality am I LEAST adaptable? Start improving that.

Strangely enough, for me it’s probably my visual skills. I’ve worn glasses since I was a kid, and my vision worsened throughout college – no clue why. But not in the way you think. When I finally went in to get formal testing done and start vision therapy, I was diagnosed with intermittent esotropia, strabismus, ambyopia, and suppression of binocular vision. He was surprised I wasn’t crosseyed, and almost found my issues interesting and unique enough to do a study on it.

But for me, it means that my vision is a constant stressor for me. I have to be constantly vigilant to keep a singular, fused image, and it’s mentally and physically exhausting. Who the hell cares if I can do a one arm handstand if I’m crosseyed and could be spending that time on vision therapy?

I did vision therapy for three months (six times a day for 10 minutes each…HUGELY inconvenient). Turns out, reprogramming the brain and the neuromuscular system of the ocular muscles is a pain in the ass and extremely time consuming. I had to carry around a case of vision therapy equipment with me wherever I went. My vision did improve, but not as much as I was hoping and I still struggle with those same issues. I pretty much stopped vision therapy for a year and a half out of frustration.

And actually, as I’m writing this I’m realizing that I need to start again and prioritize it over much of my other movement training. Why? Because it’s the single biggest thing that will increase my adaptability and quality of life. 

What’s that thing for you? Find it, and start working on it.

I stumbled across this cool PDF the other day, compliments of Management Innovations eXchange. It’s 12 impediments to adaptability in business….but the information is relevant for a mover (or anyone):



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