Mindset, martial arts, and creating change
By Sam Yang - Get similar updates here
If you're into productivity, life hacks, mindset, business, martial arts, BJJ, health, fitness, or just curious about who I am -- check out this podcast interview I did with Jason Bridger-Berkeley of LetzTrain, where I discuss some of my personal philosophies, habits, and things I work on with my own clients. I'm a fan of Tim Ferriss, Dave Asprey, Napoleon Hill, Tony Robbins, and Malcolm Gladwell -- but my viewpoint is first and foremost from the perspective of a life long martial artist. I read as much ancient texts; from western stoicism and eastern philosophy, as I do scientific studies and productivity hacks.
From training with Rubens "Cobrinha" Charles Maciel, using post-it notes to optimize creativity, that change is incremental, recognizing you are probably your own biggest obstacle, and how you must prioritize your time and energy wisely to get anything done.
THERE'S A LOT MORE TO CONSIDER THAN DIET AND EXERCISE
On waking up early, brainstorming, and post-it notes
"All right, so I wake up at five, start getting ready to come in, I start brainstorming. I find that five in the morning when I first wake up and my hormones are going, I'm starting to wake up, and even things I was thinking about the night before, starts to come together and I start brainstorming on post-it notes. I like post-it notes because it forces me to make it bullet point, so I have to be concise, and I'll just bullet point all these ideas that I have that I may want to speak to clients about or write about. Then I'll drink some coffee..."
(*Note - I drink bulletproof coffee. You can read more about it here.)
On working with clients
"Then I go to work, my work being training clients and then it's kind of a mix of speaking with them and also, you know, speaking to them about certain ideas of trying to change their behaviors that they may have that's making them not as healthy as they could be. Then from there, working out. The exercise portion -- it's like the physical embodiment of productivity."
Integrating martial arts into my life
"Around noon I go train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at Cobrinha BJJ. As people who train Jiu-Jitsu probably know who it is, if you don't know Jiu-Jitsu he's just one of the best guys out there. I train there for about an hour to three hours depending on the day. That's Monday through Friday. And then I try keep the weekends a little more relaxed. I'll do some stretching on the weekends, and then I'll do all the technical martial arts stuff on the weekdays."
"Well, there's two things I think of, the first is just like a set of attitudes you may have about a certain opinion or just about life in general. The second is the way mindsets may be used in politics or war or strategy or any type of decision making. Which is like a set of beliefs and laws and principles that you obey to get the best possible optimal decision made every time and then you weigh everything. The second way is the way I really think about mindset. The best possible mindset to come up with the best possible decisions at any given time."
How martial arts is an art of productivity
"I think I was always curious, breaking things apart and I was always trying to figure better ways to do things. I always look for overarching ideas, because I was too lazy, I didn’t want to come up with a specific thing for each individual thing and so I’m always looking for that, whether it was martial arts. Actually martial arts really made me think about it. There has to be better way for me to do this, there has to be.This guy, okay I could be faster than him, this guy I could be stronger than him, this guy I could be more technical than him, but trying to improve everything at once -- schoolwork, trying to understand each subject the best I can, it just seemed like too much work. I just tried to come up with a more overarching thing that I could apply to everything. What's the best mindset to tackle any learning situation or obstacle? What are systems I could create to do better at school? From there in high school I turned it all around and I went from like, I wasn't terrible I went from Bs and Cs to like, As, and then I kind of stayed with that."
"I think around high school was when I really started to try to systematize it. I remember I was taking notes about, "What are the overarching themes about school? What problems does every teacher assign? What type of questions?" Because they're the ones writing the tests, so it's always going to be biased toward their personalities, "What do all these tests have in common?""
Less about one defining moment and more about small moments adding up to create change
"Sometimes I'll have this "A-ha!" great moment. I think for me and for a lot of people it's just like a gradual progression, so gradual you don't notice it and the next thing you know this is just how you've been living for so long."
On being coachable
"A lot of athletes if they've played for a long time are coachable because they're conditioned to understand, "Here's the authority, he's giving me objective ideas because I'm too biased about this play or this situation," they learn to listen to them and trust them and they create this collaboration. I think people who come to me realize that they're missing a certain aspect of it, and here's a guy who can help me with that aspect, which is the mindset aspect. I think that's why they seek me out in the first place because they've tried everything already so they're seeing if maybe there's a mental component they're missing."
Accepting that you are your own biggest roadblock
"There's no secret conspiracy that wants you to fail. There is no super villain that's trying to sabotage you. If anything, you're probably your own worst super villain or your own worst roadblock. Think about it this way, if I were to ask a client or you, Jason, "How would you sabotage somebody from making a physical change or getting the gains that they're looking for?" What are some of the things you would do to sabotage this person, and maybe you're like, "I would mess with their sleep. Maybe I would dehydrate them or make them eat too much sugar or maybe I could convince them not to go heavy enough." You know we could go make them overtrain them, undertrain them, tell them, "You know what? You never have to use the kitchen, you can just buy food, buy healthy food." Never let them rest, no recovery time or make them really inconsistent or make them only workout in bursts. "Here's Rocky IV! Only work out after you watch Rocky IV, the training montage." Then ask yourself, "If that's what I would do my enemy to sabotage them, how many of those things are you doing to yourself?" Flip it around. Then you might see. "You know what I am eating a lot of sugar." If you think about it from the other perspective, if you were going to sabotage somebody else, it's much easier to be objective."
Focus on increments not end goals
"So, this is really important, because people love to focus on goals and there's nothing wrong with goals. Coming from martial arts, I like to use the analogy of a fight. I want to win a fight. I'm at Point A. Point B is winning the fight. If I fixate on winning the fight then everything from Point A to Point B, I kind of wing it. I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to do. Yeah, I want to knock this guy out, I'll make it up as I go, and if I want it bad enough it'll happen. Sometimes, life's not like that. Just because you want it bad enough doesn't mean that you're going to get what you want. Instead, focus on these incremental things that you can do, and do all those things correctly.
Sometimes if you aim for increments, the effect will be winning the fight. If you aim for doing all the little steps that it takes to, let's say lose weight, then the end result will be losing weight. Whereas if you just fixate on like I got to lose 20 pounds, and then you just wing it, and every day you're kind of trying a different diet, you know, you might not get there.
It's like Point A might be, "I have an idea for a business." Point B might be running a fantastic business. You can read all the motivational books and whatever, yeah you're really pumped to get to Point B, but you have no idea how to get there. You don't know how to set up a corporation, you don't know what licenses you need, all those incremental steps. Actually, you don't know how to run a business!
So, just thinking of Point A to Point B bypasses all the other things that you need and I think that's the seductive idea that I could bypass all these things and get there. I don't really need to know health, and I don't really need to know nutrition to lose weight. I don't need to know how to run a business for me to run a business, because that would take a lot of time. I would rather watch a really motivational YouTube video."
Don't focus just on weight, it's not the best indicator of size or health
"I have to convert that idea to fat loss because a balloon could be bigger than a rock, but a balloon is lighter than a rock..."
(*Note - I get cut off here but the point I think that got missed but needs further explanation is, it's not just about your weight -- it's also about: what are you made of? Are you made mostly of muscle or fat? When we falsely only use the scale, you have heavyweight boxers like Mike Tyson or Muhammad Ali as obese, and a skinny to slightly above average weight gamer with no muscle, heart health, skinny fat, and close to pre-diabetic -- as being considered healthy, according to the scale. If you care only about aesthetics, this also assumes that this out of shape sedentary person is more attractive to the public than world class athletes. Common sense tells us neither is true. We have to use a more rigorous standard of measuring health, and we must also look into lifestyle.)
Importance of sleep
"I tell people, try to get seven to nine hours, somewhere in the middle of eight, right but if you can get nine that's even better. Professional athletes sleep 10 to 12 right? I mean, we work, we've got important lives, so we can't get that much sleep, but try to get at least seven, seven is also very optimal."
(*Note - For more on the dangers of not enough sleep, read about it here.)
Exercise in the morning
"Even if they have an ability in their schedule to workout before they go to work, I think that's also very beneficial to get that done early in the day as opposed to later. In the morning I feel like it helps you feel like you've already achieved something and then you head into everything else so heading into everything else like work or taking care of your kids and feeling like you've achieved something, it does a lot of good things for your attitude about the day whereas if you do it at the tail end of everything then it's now, it's extra, it's a chore."
It's not about exercise, it's about habits
"There's nothing I make them do, everything is suggestions. I can't control your behavior outside of the studio once you leave. What we do is we carefully track their behaviors, their habits so we'll talk about the habit of, let's say eating breakfast every morning, right? Then two weeks out we'll see how well did you do with that? If you did well with it, then we add another habit, like okay now we're going to do a consistent three times a week exercise after breakfast or something. If they didn't do it consistently, we'll try to see if there's a way we could make it easier. Whatever increments I can work with. I'm not looking for perfect scenarios, I'm just looking for realistic and practical ones."
Don't sabotage yourself, focusing on quick "burn" doesn't create permanent change
"Sometimes they don't believe in doing it that way, they're just like, "Well let me just come in and get a burn and that should take care of itself," and everything I'm working for is permanent change. In two weeks you, I don't know, for a wedding you lost all this weight, but I don't know how many behavioral changes you've made in that two weeks. After that end date, what do you keep? For me, it is not good enough that it only lasts two weeks, it has to last indefinitely."
No one needs personal trainers, they need productivity managers
"People who are in the business of making physical changes, like a personal trainer or weight loss expert or whatever, they have to also become experts at productivity and time management. I have people write down when they first come in, what are all the time obstacles you have? Time is like this pie chart, you're going to need a certain chunk of it to be healthy. Can you allocate a certain chunk? If you cannot, where can we take some time off of? Where are dead ends we could get rid of? It's like, "Oh I didn't have time, I got too busy." If that's the number one thing that, especially if you've worked at a health club, you always hear that, and it didn't make any sense to me why we didn't tackle that. We tackled the things that made, like, a 5% difference, right? Why not the thing that makes 95% difference?"
[Via LetzTrain - Mindset, Martial Arts, And Creating Change.]
My name is Sam Yang. I'm a martial artist, entrepreneur, fitness nerd, information geek, and productivity nut. For more useful information, join my newsletter. You can also connect to All Out Effort on Facebook and Twitter.