One of my favourite podcasts is the Tim Ferriss Show. Among the many things Tim is successful at in addition to a podcast host, is being an author. Of his books, there is one called Tribe of Mentors: Short life advice from the best in the world, presumably about life advice that is short rather than advice about living a short life. It is based on answers to 11 really good questions that Tim needed to answer for himself at one point in his life, and of which he asked some people who he most admired to see what they would say so he could learn from the best. A sample can be heard in this podcast episode link, along with more about the questions and their sequence.
Personally, I love good, thoughtful and/or philosophical questions that are useful and not just theoretical. So in addition to reading and listening to answers from the book to learn, I thought I’d give them a try first. From answers I will give, I will analyze to see what I didn’t like, or which I thought I could improve on, to see if I can obtain a better answer some time over the next few years, decade, or even some point in the rest of my life. That’s because these questions aren’t just useless and/or silly thought experiments. No. A good answer for any one of these questions can really make a difference in one’s life, even if it wouldn’t always be some grand, life altering kind, though a few might be. At the least, I will end up with a great story for each answer. So on with the ninth post in this series, and Tim’s Question #9.
9. What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
I’m going to pick distance running as my area of expertise here, rather than my profession, for which to focus my answer, having been a distance runner of almost 25 years now, at all but the elite level, topping out at Boston marathon qualifier from someone who didn’t think he could run distance, and someone who knows he shouldn’t run distance with fast twitch muscles.
I hear a lot of advice in running. Much is generally good. Some are generally bad. However, what I don’t hear that makes a lot of it bad is that it’s given as gospel or universal when so much of it is personal. Always take the advice in consideration to try it out, and give it a chance for a while to see if it might work even if the first few times aren’t good or great, and decide if it applies to you rather than if you might be bad at it like many are humble enough to just admit that. Runners are so different that it’d be hard to find something that works across the board for everyone, or even the vast majority. I suppose if you keep some things at a high enough level that might ring true for the vast majority, but those aren’t the stuff you can apply at an operational or executable level, like interval training and fartlek. But even then… Still, what interval, progression of interval, or kind of fartlek would you do in terms of execution? Take all advice with a grain of salt. Get specific advice for yourself if you can rather than generic advice of what someone else does when they might not be anything like you in some way that matters to their advice.
That might have been cheating to answer with something I don’t hear as bad “recommendations”, but if you want to be technical about it and want a recommendation, it’s a quick build-up to longer distances when someone hasn’t done it before and might well not be ready for it. Someone who’s done a marathon or few, with time off, coming back to do a 5K, 10K, half-marathon, and full marathon, in a year might be reasonable. But if they had never ran much, or only did shorter distances, they should know it generally takes 10 years to peak in distance running. What’s the hurry? Potential injury and disappointment, whether at completion, progress, or performance level, are at stake, not to mention loss for joy of running with “everything” checked off in one year. Still, this might only be confirmation or affirmation rather than bad advice given.
I suppose if you really want to get technical about recommendations given rather things not heard or affirmation of someone’s questions, then I’d go with more mileage will help. Like with everything in life, it’s best with moderation. What that moderation is depends on the person and/or distance training for, among other life factors like time available. Still, I hear some people advise to run more mileage as a way to get better as if it were the holy grail, only solution, or by far the best solution, to improving for distance running, especially when someone has already attained some decent mileage already.
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