Peripherial Power - the oblique approach

The power of incremental improvements and maintaining good average speed are some of the most potent powers you have. Like compound interest these small changes and improvements can add up to something amazing overtime.

However it can be hard to use these on the most important thing. If you are trying to get as strong as possible you will go to the gym and ton and push, push, push. Unfortunately spending 40 hours in the gym a week is not 10 times more effective than spending 4 and is likely less effective due to the risk of overtraining, injury and the inability to maintain focus and intensity over such a long period of time.

The same with your job, you want to get better fast, you want promotions and to move super quickly up the corporate ladder. Even if you get your wish, you will likely end up in a place beyond your skills where you end up making a lot of enemies and hurting your long range career.

This isn't to say that you shouldn't focus on the most important things in your life, you should and you should try and do well at them. However, it may make sense to approach things like you would peripheral items.

For example if you are focused on your career and for you health you decide to follow Pavel Dan John's easy strength, or James Clear's slow gains. You are still probably adding 50-100 lbs on your deadlift in a year. In 5 years you will be deadlifting 500lbs, which is better than 99% of the people in the world. This is a great increase to expert level, with less than 5 hours a week of work.

Say you don't want to become a great investor, but make the effort to save 20% of your salary in index funds, you will outperform 90% of investors and eventually be top 1% of net worth.

These are small things where a little effort over time is easy to apply since it is not your main focus. You say this is important, but not the most important thing, so you look for the optimum dose, the best TIMExRESULTS formula. 1 hour a month exercising is too little, 10 hours a day is too much, 5 hours a week results in great overall health and increasing your lifts by 50-100lbs a year. So find that sweet spot for things that you don't want to be best in the world at and you can still be very very good.

How does this apply to the most important thing though, where you are willing to spend 40+ hours a week on.

Break it down. Unless you practice an unbelievably specialized skill. What will make you successful in your career is a combination of skills.

If you are a management consultant - your job could break down into

  • Communication
  • Leadership
  • Analytics and modeling
  • Research
  • Psychology
  • Industry understanding
  • Project Management
  • Facilitation
If you are a soccer player
  • Conditioning
  • Ball handling
  • Sports strategy
  • Vision, field awareness
Even in track and field, say discus
  • Form
    • Spin
    • Release
    • Head position
  • Strength training
    • Legs
    • Core
    • Arms
All professions have multiple elements. Break things down into elements, prioritize the most important and find the optimum dose, and give your all to the optimum dose. If you are only going to spend 5 hours in the gym, make that time count. If you are going to spend 2 hours a week on leadership, be present and practice. You will make progress in your skills and by spreading your effort out, you will get the most efficient returns, and won't be too specialized. If you work on everything optimally you will be much more ready for the fast career development than if you focus to exclusion on only one important thing. 

This is not to say that if you are an author, you only spend 25% of your time writing and 25% on marketing, and 25% on search optimization and 25% on social media out reach. You need to do quality work that produces real value. So break down your important skills, if in being an author writing beautiful arguments that are works of art is your goal. Break it down, work on the beauty of your prose, work on the structure of your arguments, work on the clarity of your communication, do the research to make sure what you say is helpful. 

Think of it this way - say you have 4 skills for your career, and you spend time to get each of them up to 20, your effect will be much greater 20*20*20*20 = 160,000, than someone who focuses all their time on one skill, gets it up to 40, but everything else is 10 = 40*10*10*10 - 40,000, or a lot less effective in the same time. All things being equal it is better to be better, but unless only one thing is important for you, find the mix and be efficient. 


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