Thursday, June 30, 2011

Kurtosis and Black Swan Events

Okay I am going to talk out of my head and if any of you are mathematicians you can surely correct me.

I want to talk about kurtosis and Black Swan events. Kurtosis in math is a probability and statistical study in variance. The basic premise is, the higher the kurtosis, more of the variance is the result of infrequent extreme deviations.

So one stock market crash will affect our economy more in the next hundred years than the little things that happen every month. Or in exercise, doing 10 pull ups is more of a work out than jogging 10 minutes. Or you can be a great parent every day with your kid, it's that one day you hit your child that marks them forever. I could probably make the same connection with getting shot, it's never happened to me but I'm certain it happens in a heart beat and it will be the one thing I remember forever and changes me.

Now the observation of this event, seeing it's impact, and the rationalization of it in hindsight is the Black Swan Theory. Black Swan meaning "a rare bird in the lands, and very like a black swan." So it means you don't see if often but when you do, you remember.

I know there are books out there that talks about constant repetition to get to some overall improvement. This is true, but this is just to keep you in the game and in pace with everyone else who is good. Sometimes those Black Swan events, those "aha!" moments will be a huge contributing factor. Or the practice is to maintain what you learned in the "aha!" moment.

For athletes, that event could be the day they competed in an obstacle course, and they are dead tired at the end and got a great work out. Then they realize wait it wasn't all that running and crawling that killed them, it was that one wall they had to climb in the middle of the course that did them in! Or that one huge hill in the middle of your run, or that heavy weight you did at the end of your work out. All the other stuff did just a little, it was that one intense moment that did it all. 80/20. The thing you did the least did the most.

For my training clients, they get huge gains, and great work outs, 40 minute of the program is just stretching and warming up. Last 5 mins is also stretching. It's that middle 15 minutes where they get all the work in.

Or in a conceptual sense, they didn't gain all that much from me teaching them the clean or snatch or kettlebell swing, it was the day I taught them the concept of periodization that changed how they viewed working out.

So in martial arts the same thing happens. I think it's the reason why some people take 15 years to get a black belt and some take 4 years. It's whether one had that Black Swan or "aha!" moment or not. And if they did, how early on they had it.

This changes the idea of needing years to get good, or all that practice or training every day. It's about efficient, less frequent but more productive training.

For me I got a lot better, by several margins when I realized what the goals of martial arts were. It was like an hour to teach it to me, yet it had more impact on me than thousands of hours of practice. If you can isolate those moments, cultivate it, you will get more with less. Training smarter not harder. There is a saying, it's smart to be tough, but tough to be smart. Really practice just helps me to not forget that moment. But it's never mindless.

Sometimes it's good to watch hours and hours of programming on diet or read book after book. But sometimes, if you are lucky, smart, or just in the right place, you get that one moment where someone says one thing that takes 15 seconds, but it changes everything for you.

If you can cultivate it, culminate it, arrange it, you will be a great student and teacher. Believe me, it can be arranged. Just like a surprise party or a giant prank.

It's not about how much, or how long, its normally about how intense or productive. You can work on an essay or in my case a blog for weeks, but you really get it all done in one day. Kurtosis in action. Forget routine work outs or training at the same time same days same length of time. Make it chaotic, productive, and intense.

Also with food. Don't eat the same thing every day or a lot of bad cheap food. Eat whenever you are hungry, eat a variety, and eat smaller but more nutrient dense portions. As opposed to eating a lot of unproductive foods.
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