Can a person be proficient at more than one thing? Is that even healthy? Maybe it’s time to break from the herd.
Years ago, I helped Phil produce a little booklet called The ABCs of Executive Endurance. The premise of the book was that busy executives could excel using the same MAF principles as elite athletes.
While this booklet is long out of print, it came to mind while listening to Phil on a recent Fitness Confidential podcast with host Vinnie Tortorich. They were discussing “odd jobs.”
The discussion was about how society likes to pigeon-hole us into narrow careers and professions. Phil expressed how much he loathes having someone in a social situation ask him the common question, “So, what do you do?”
How does one casually explain to the dude in the adjacent airplane seat that you are a world-renowned health and fitness guru, coach, nutritional expert, author, clinician, lecturer, researcher, brain-injury consultant, supplement formulator, businessman, musician and songwriter, among other things?
This was interesting in part because I have been asking myself the same questions recently. What do I do?
I thought back on all the things I’ve done as a working adult — employment I’ve done for pay. It makes for an interesting resume . . . Newspaper editor and reporter, college instructor, graphic designer, lumberjack, magazine editor, wrangler, essayist/author, carpenter, web-content editor, ranch manager, photographer, wild-burro trainer. Most recently in my advanced middle age (I’m 61) I’ve been coaching high-school cross-country and track, and guest-teaching at the local high school. I also edit the MAF website, do some freelance writing and occasionally privately coach endurance athletes.
The thing is, I don’t call myself any one thing — I don’t go around saying I’m an author or a rancher or a photographer, animal trainer, teacher or coach, or website editor. Though choosing any one of them sometimes makes the answer easy. I am just me and these are things I do. And yes, there are a few of them. Some people say I do some of them well.
Phil might say one’s ability for wide-ranging knowledge or learning is a “healthy feature of our amazing brain.” It’s like multitasking And, we don’t ever “retire;” we might stop spending time doing something in one area and do more elsewhere.
In the podcast, Phil and Vinnie discussed this societal myth that we are taught as children — to be successful we must choose a profession or career path and stick with that one thing throughout our education and working lives. Until we retire. This is not a healthy approach to life. Why does anyone believe this?
We also see this in athletes who miss out on the joy of competing later in life. They hang up their bike or running shoes due to burnout or its fitness cousin, overtraining. In some the problem is the intense focus on one discipline, or lack of cross-training. Some of them blame age.
The untruth that goes hand-in-hand is the belief that if you don’t give one thing your entire focus, then you can’t possibly be “good” at any one thing. People don’t take you seriously as a photographer if you are a ranch hand, for example. Likewise, if you’ve been a track sprinter all your life people will not take you seriously if you take up soccer.
Tell it to Usain Bolt.
While I’m best known for my feats in the odd sport of pack-burro racing, over the course of my own athletic career I played American football in high school, competed at water polo and flag football on college intramural teams. Later on, I raced distances from one mile to 100 miles, competed at duathlon, snowshoe racing, cross-country skiing, winter multi-sport and mountain-biking. Oddly. I’ve never done a triathlon!
All of this led to a discussion about yet another hot-button myth: Retirement — the big reward for doing the same thing all your life!
Phil’s response to this was: “Retirement is a bad word.”
This all reminded me of a piece I’d written for MAF a few years ago — a profile of endurance executive, triathlete and adventure racer William “Bill” Coppel, titled “Well-being vs. wealth.”
During the interview for this article Bill — who has spent a lifetime in the financial “securities” industry — told me retirement was essentially designed to move older people out of the work force and make room for younger workers in the economy.
Moreover, in this interview, Bill noted: “The relationship between happiness and money is indirect. However, the relationship between well-being and human performance is related directly to people’s happiness.”
Bill also notes the endurance sports angle.
“People are looking for ways to spend their time to create experiences,” he says. “Time is more valuable than money and money cannot buy you time — people are doing these things because they are trading currency for experience.”
And there in the proverbial nutshell I found the answer to the burning question of what it is we’re all doing.
Human performance and endurance are the themes of Phil’s work, the MAF company, and my own professional journey. MAF is a vast concept because it’s designed to help everyone do everything by helping people personalize their health and fitness, using a variety of exercise, dietary, nutritional, and other tools.
MAF is your guide to human performance. The topics we discuss and products we offer are merely components to this central theme.
It’s way more than a training program or a diet. Are you onboard?