The Easy Way
My Christmas present this year is a gym membership and several months worth of sessions with a personal trainer. [My other present is a telescope which will be unlimbered this weekend as the the night-time temps are in the 60s already.]
One of the great things about having the trainer is that she knows what to look for and is helping me correct flaws. For example, I have a very strong chest, but weak back muscles. It makes me walked and sit hunched over. The training to correct these types of things is exceedingly difficult. I’m having to force weak muscles to perform actions that they just don’t want to and force the strong muscles that want to help to not help.
The rough part is that the success of this retraining isn’t obvious. In fact, there’s very little obvious benefit… and a fair amount of pain. But this process is extremely important. The saying practice makes perfect is wrong. Perfect practice makes perfect. Imperfect practice makes wrong.
It’s not cool. My muscles are not expanding. I don’t look sleeker. I don’t seem to have more endurance. My trainer assures me I’m making excellent progress. She also reminds me that until I get these fundamentals down, anything else I do in the gym will most likely be wrong and only emphasize the problems (making my chest muscles stronger, while ignoring the back for example).
I know this is required, but it’s really hard. I want to go pump iron and run until I can bench press a small truck and leap small buildings. Instead I’m learning how to sit down with 20 pounds of weights hanging from my hands.
Intellectually, I know this is the right way. But, I’m reminded of Ed Gruberman.
As I was laying on the gym floor, moaning, I reflected on how this is also like critical thinking and any knowledge. It feels good to learn something cool and learn it quick, but is it actual knowledge or is it just something that feels good? If you choose to learn something quickly, but superficially, then you are much like Ed Gruberman. You may have some knowledge, but you lack the ability synthesize new knowledge and critically examine how that knowledge is acquired.
If instead, you work at acquiring the basics before leaping to the really cool, but really difficult stuff, then you will be able to synthesize new information. You can critically examine others’ new ideas for flaws or exciting potential. It’s harder, it’s longer, and it may not be as satisfying… at first. But your work will pay off, when you get asked to be a part of something really great, because you are good at what you do and you have that knowledge.
It didn’t come easy, but when it came, it was right and worth something. It wasn’t a superficial and useful bit of information that you don’t know how to use properly.
I’m now going to go reflect on this in a really hot bath.
Have a good weekend.