Anthony Mychal Hybrid Blueprint

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Smart one you are.

 

Video exampler: here

Video tutorial: here

Recommended prerequisites: tornado kick

Description: The 540 kick is a jumping and spinning inside crescent or hook kick that plagues most trickster’s lives. It took me over one year to learn this trick, and I’m not the only victim to that harsh of a learning curve. Hypothetically, you’re supposed to spin 540 degrees in the air. Realistically, no one cares.

Just like with the tornado kick, I recommend building up a base of inside kicking. And just like with the tornado again, it’s your choice whether you go with inside crescent kicks or round kicks. Martial artists seem to prefer round kicks. I prefer inside crescent kicks simply because it makes martial artists mad, and being a rebel makes me feel special.

Slide by slide breakdown

540 Kick by Anthony Mychal

The 540 is the takeoff. The 540 is the takeoff. Good take off = good things. Bad takeoff = bad things. Just as with every trick it seems, my weight and momentum starts on one side ready to be shifted to the other.

540 Kick by Anthony Mychal

Here we go. This is what blocking is all about and is a huge concept in every trick, but especially something like the 540. Not only do I want height for the 540, but I also need rotation. In order to make this easier, I’m going to get some horizontal momentum going so I can sling it vertically. Part of this is getting that left leg out in front of my body a little bit. It’s almost butterfly twist like.

540 Kick by Anthony Mychal

Momentum shift has begun and here’s where things get cool. See my right arm and right leg? Left arm and left leg? Each side is going to synchronize the arm and leg.

Note the wide arms. Bear hug something. I guess. But remember: you get more rotational sauce if you start with wide arms and then bring them in close.

540 Kick by Anthony Mychal

Left leg is planted firmly with arm firm and my right side (both leg and arm) are coming across my body to set up for an ideal jumping position. Head and eyeballs facing forward, which is big. Your head anchors your body, and for the 540 kick, you want yourself anchored forward. Pick a target in front of you and use it as a reference point.

540 Kick by Anthony Mychal

Right leg continues to rotate inward. Arms still high and wide, but look at that right arm of mine: it’s still facing my target. This slide is just moments after I ditched eyesight on my target in order to turn. Don’t forget about your target, you’ll find it again soon enough.

540 Kick by Anthony Mychal

This looks funky and it’s very hard to describe with text. At the beginning, my feet were facing forward. But look at my right leg. It actually planted facing the left edge of my house, which is slightly ahead of my shoulder rotation. I could talk about blocking again if I wanted to: the key to carrying momentum is to always make your next move just a little bit ahead of your center of gravity and momentum.

Also important is that it’s out in front of my body — my leg isn’t right next to my other leg. From a depth perspective, my right leg is closer to the camera. Again, blocking. 

Anyway, the arms arc downward just as they do in a vertical jump — they’re on their way down because they’re coming right back up.

540 Kick by Anthony Mychal

At the takeoff, you want to drill into your brain: find target, kill target. The goal is to get your body situation in a position where you can kick your target, and so that’s what we’re trying to do.

See the left arm and left leg? They’re doing the same thing. Both are lifting up to get me in the air.

540 Kick by Anthony Mychal

More air. The first part of the takeoff was all about going horizontal and rotating about yourself so that you could eventually use it to propel yourself in the air. Now’s the time to make use of all that cheddar, so get yourself up. Arms up in the air, first leg up in the air.

540 Kick by Anthony Mychal

I always point my fingers on tricks because I’m stupid. Don’t worry, it’s my pointer finger, not my middle finger. Here’s the good stuff though. Everything went up and my eyes are now fixated on my target that I’m going to be kicking. Find your target with your eyes. 

540 Kick by Anthony Mychal

I promised you that my legs and arms would synchronize, and this is no different. Leg has started on its way to kick the target. Note that it’s pretty straight and would classify more as a crescent kick. With this, my hips are rather square to my target. If I was throwing a round kick, things would be different and the hips would be turned over more. Just something to keep in mind if you’re a round kicker.

540 Kick by Anthony Mychal

Still facing the target as the kick comes through. Non-kicking leg has dropped so that my kicking leg can come over the top without interference.

540 Kick by Anthony Mychal

After the kick? Still looking at the target. Non-kicking leg is bending, which makes rotating through the move easier.

540 Kick by Anthony Mychal

For the 540, I like to keep myself forward for as long as possible. My upper body sometimes gets caught behind when I do this, which you can see in the slide above. If I wanted to take my momentum with me as much as possible, I’d carry my arm with my leg.

540 Kick by Anthony Mychal

At this point, you might realize that my torso is at an angle. The torso naturally leans back for me during the kick, but it’s not something I consciously think about. And following up from last slide: if my goal was rotation, I’d be coiling right now. But as you can see, my one arm got left behind. It’s not ideal, but — hey — throwing tricks is rarely ideal. I’m not here to show you perfect tricks that I land once in a decade.

540 Kick by Anthony Mychal

Things are just chugging on from earlier as I deploy the landing gear. I stopped it here because it looks like I’m posing for the Ginyu Force.

540 Kick by Anthony Mychal

I land here, and I “technically” complete the 540 degree rotation. Again, I don’t really care much about the rotation. Just make it look good.

Recap cues:

  • Takeoff is huge, get horizontal momentum going to your advantage.
  • Eye up target.
  • Swing arms down and back straight up. 
  • Lift lead knee high.
  • Eye up target a second time.
  • Kick target.

Troubleshooting:

Bad kick? Maybe you just need to practice. If you haven’t put in some hours training basic kicks, start there.

Low kick? Actually kick. Don’t think of the 540 as a leg lift over your non-kicking leg. Get some sauce behind the kick, and don’t be afraid of it.

Just sucking in general? Look, the 540 is a very complex move. It took me over a year to learn it and I was dissecting every video I could find and comparing it against mine. You have to put in your time. The best suggestion I can give is to train your tornado kick to hell and back. The better your tornado is, the better your 540 chances are. Try to integrate a 540 takeoff (more aggression) into a tornado kick.

Your next conquest:

  • Jacknife

See the rest of the tutorials:

 

Anthony Mychal Reset Button

I loved the original Nintendo. Beyond Mario and Zelda, I played games like Blaster Master and Deadly Towers. In these games, there were no save slots. You played the game until you either won or died. When you died, you had to start over from the beginning.

I usually died.

I think I beat Blaster Master once. I was in my twenties. It took me months (also in my twenties and with a friend) to beat Deadly Towers. When we got to the boss (nearly impossible) we knew we’d never make it back. We also remembered that it took us months to get to the boss. So we cheated. We looked up how to beat the boss. (It’s not my proudest secret.)

Something fascinates me about the original Nintendo. You put a game in. You press the start button. These are givens. They have to be givens.

But that reset button…

You could just hit the start button twice. Turn it off, turn it on. But they made the reset button.

They knew you were going to lose. Going to get so frustrated. Yet maintain enough hunger that you’d want to play again so quickly that hitting the start button twice wasn’t an option.

I have a lot of Nintendo games I didn’t beat. I have no Nintendo games I never played. I probably hit the reset button on all of them at some point.

What I like about the reset button is that it’s a fresh start…but not really a fresh start. Hitting the reset button is different than playing a game in for the first time.

The reset button takes you back to the start screen, but you aren’t a complete newbie. You have some playing time under your belt. You might even know how to beat the first few levels in record time. (Maybe not record time…)

You’re starting fresh, but you’re not new.

Few of us hit the reset button in life. In training.

We keep playing the game despite being lost and confused. You aren’t dead, but you don’t know what to do. You retrace every single step you took.

Nothing.

Sometimes the best thing to do is hit the reset button. Start fresh. You might have to do things you already done. You might feel like a loser. But the reset gives you a fresh perspective. You might notice something you missed previously. Might talk to one villager in a different context that ignites something inside.

This is different from game over because with game over you have no choice: you have to reset.

It takes a bit more courage to reset when it’s not game over. You hold in that reset button. Teeth clenched. Is this the right move?

Game over is your ally. It smacks you in the face. You were’t good enough, but you’re free to try again from the start if you’d like.

Unfortunately, there’s no game over for us. We play and we play. We rarely ever stop to think: alright, alright…I lost. Let’s try this over from the top. Let’s scrap everything and do this differently the second time around because it’s scary.

All of the progress…gone.

But it’s not. It’s there. Somewhere. And even then, consider the point of it all. You’re stuck. Whatever you were doing didn’t work. Whatever you are doing isn’t getting you anywhere.

Why not start fresh?

Sometimes we need game over because, otherwise, we’d never have the stones to hit reset.

This is your game over…if you need it.

Old Clothes Anthony Mychal Trick Tip

Ever have a bunch of old clothes that you just can’t throw away? You know you’ll never wear them. Ever. But you can’t let them go. The thin film of dead clothes grows into a thick boulder of even deader clothes over the years. Junk smashing other junk. 

You’re left with baggage. Less room. More crap. Dead crap at that — crap you’re never going to use. It doesn’t make sense, this habit. It’s not the smartest quirk to have.

And that’s why your body throws it’s old clothes away. Whatever it knows it’s not going to use, say bye-bye. There’s no need to have useless junk taking up space and energy when both the space and the energy could go elsewhere. A more important elsewhere, to boot.

Your body is greedy. It’s always trying to survive in a way better suited to the world you’ve shown it.

Want it? Need it. The body is more likely to keep it around (or create it) if you need it.

Don’t need it? You won’t have it. Your body doesn’t keep old clothes.

You have a lot clothes when you’re young — clothes you regularly wear. Balancing and vestibular awareness. The juicy fluid in your inner ear. Spatial reasoning. Constructing a virtual pathway in your brain. Kinesthetic sense. Knowing where your body is in space. Spatial-temporal awareness. Knowing where you are in relation to other objects. 

You roll. Squat. Jump. Fall. You weren’t afraid of landing impact. You weren’t afraid of the universe rotating your consciousness as you somersaulted sixteen times in a row. You know, just for fun. For kicks. You, in all of your youthful plasticity, soaked up these abilities as you did these things. You bought the clothes. 

Your body is cool keeping these clothes around because you wear them. Because you do find it enjoyable to somersault sixteen times in a row for no real reason.

Today? Unlike when you were six? Sixteen somersaults make you spew your supper into the foliage. You don’t have those clothes anymore.

Put your arm in a cast and your muscles wither away. Put your balance, spatial reasoning, kinesthetic awareness, and that whole bag of treats into a cast (don’t use them) and they wither away too. 

They become old clothes. Never worn. Baggage. 

Every day you don’t put wear these clothes they collect dust. Every molecule of dust inches them closer to the corner of the closet where old clothes slither in soot. And what do you know about old clothes? What happens to them?

Your brain is plastic, just like your body. Use these abilities or lose these abilities. 

The best time to start was yesterday.

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Click here to visit the tricking tutorials page!

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Image credit: old clothes

 

Anthony Mychal Eat Opposite Handed

I blacked out. At least, it felt like I blacked out. But really? It was just trying to eat with my left hand. As simple as it sounds, I was so focused that I was oblivious to the world around me.

My girlfriend and I usually eat dinner together and watch TV. A smart nutritionist will tell you not to eat and watch TV, but I’m not a smart nutritionist.

Normally, I eat and watch TV just fine. I taste my food. I know what’s going on during the show. (We just finished watching Breaking Bad because apparently we were the only two people on Earth that hadn’t seen it.)

A few weeks ago I started eating with my opposite hand, as suggested by Steven Kotler. He recently wrote a book called The Rise of Superman. It’s about extreme sport athletes, and how extreme sports have progressed so quickly in difficulty and risk.

Kolter’s answer is a little something called flow. Flow is a magical state. You’re zoned in on something and you lose your mind completely to the goal at hand.

Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.

- Wikipedia

Extreme sport athletes are flow junkies. They can’t get enough of it — they even become addicted to it.

Addiction? Energized focus?

Sure, sign me up. 

A simple tip from Kolter to create flow: eat with your opposite hand.

I know, I know. We went from extreme sport athletes hitting flow states while scuba diving naked over Mount Everest (or something) to me sitting in my underwear watching Breaking Bad holding a fork in my left hand. E

xit out of this window now in anger if needed.

Beyond training to resist the caveman-death-grip-and-stab technique, I noticed something: I couldn’t pay attention to the TV anymore.  All focus went to understanding the utensil. Even the taste of food suffered. I found myself witlessly washing everything down the hatch, thinking only about how to maneuver my hand to effectively jab the next vat of vittles on the plate.

What’s next? Brushing teeth? Wiping the, erhm, waste?

You bet. (Hold off on anything that involves sharp objects though.)

It might not be the most impressive physical capacity you ever develop, but consider taking a trip to left hand land more often. Your brain might thank you in the long run. Forming new neural pathways. Prodding plasticity. You know, that whole chestnut.

And even if it doesn’t, you’ll at least be one step closer to ambidextrous. You never know when able to use your opposite hand might come in handy.

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Another good book on flow is Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

See me eating out of the bowl…?

 

 

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This week’s question comes from no specific email because it’s a question found in a lot of emails. If you aren’t skinny-fat, does anything I say apply to you? Maybe you’re more along the fat side. Maybe you’re more along the skinny side. Whatever. Why do I single out skinny-fat?

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Skinny-fat syndrome is about two things:

  • losing fat.
  • building muscle.

You’ll probably find some useful giblets tucked away in my particular fat loss and muscle building lens no matter your starting point.

What I write (aesthetics-wise) is geared towards skinny-fat people because I used to be skinny-fat. A big part of dealing with skinny-fat syndrome is managing the mental game of being both skinny and fat — the schizophrenic idea of being perceived as both lanky and bony when, underneath the clothes, a different story is told.

It probably sounds stupid to anyone not skinny-fat, but I don’t care because everyone skinny-fat understands what I mean.

On the physical side, I’ll start with fat because it’s less unique than the muscle conundrum.

Fondling body fat

Fat loss (it seems) is one of the more universal body composition problems. There’s little-to-no ability to spot reduce where you lose fat. Fat loss is about creating an environment that encourages your insides to set the fat inside your fat cells ablaze. Your body decides where the fat melts first and last.

There might be some black magic to fat distribution. Males tend to carry more in the upper body. Females tend to carry more in the lower body. There’s also stress, which might make you store fat in a specific place.

Extreme glucocorticoid secretion (when you’re a teeming ball of stress all day, this is what happens) seems to make you prone to store more fat around your waist and midsection. Mentioned that more here.

This is one of the reasons why The Skinny-Fat Solution deals with soul (life, confidence), which is apart of stimulation and supply which influence signaling. More here.

But, really, I wouldn’t change any of my fat loss philosophy. Skinny-fat? Fat-fat? Whatever.

The muscle side is a different story

Things are a bit more unique on the muscle end. Two reasons.

First, skinny-fat guys often have skinny roots. They have smaller body frames. Smaller bone structures. Less muscular. It takes a lot more convincing and coaxing to gain muscle. Especially compared to the genetically gifted.

For skinny-fat guys, it’s important to use powerful muscle building methods. To understand powerful, look at the absence of power: zero gravity.

Astronauts wither into nothingness when they go to space.

So I use a heuristic opposite of lack of bone-body loaded and withering into nothingness: exercises that load the body and skeleton in a supragravitational way are better for convincing the body to build muscle.

Bigger organism hit = bigger stressor = more convincing to the body = more justification for the investment. It’s why two of the best exercises for the upper body are chin-ups and dips. And also why I recommend going capsule corp style and building a home gym (if you don’t have access to a gym). Barbell and bodyweight and other free weight training is your best friend.

Second, there’s the issue of underlying body frame. It’s one thing to say “x” type of exercises are good for muscle building, but muscle is a callous. You don’t get callouses on your toes from using your hands.

You can pick and choose—to a certain degree—where you’re going to hunk down muscle. I try developing the body a certain way because my proportion drove me nuts.

The "A" Body Type of Skinny-Fat Syndrome

Skinny-fat guys are built like an “A.” I’ve always been drawn to the “X” physique, so the top half of the “X” is a “V.” The “A” and “V” have opposite shapes.

Take a skinny-fat guy that has a more “A” frame, strip the fat off, and you’re still left with an “A” frame. Similarly, take the “A” frame, add muscle in equal proportions everywhere and, viola!, you’re still left with an “A” frame.

I hold no allegiances to any sport or method. I don’t slave to powerlifting. Or Olympic weightlifting.  I use exercises that are (a) effective and (b) play to the goal at hand.

For instance, my fundamental four exercises for those that want to build an “X” and also perhaps dabble in the gymnastics and bodyweight world are:

  • Front squat
  • Snatch grip deadlift
  • Weighted chin-up
  • Weighted dip

I’d call these my “frenzied four” or something if I had a brain and was decent at marketing.

Not only do I think these four will take care a lot aesthetic hiccups, they’ll also do you well athletically. Start front squatting 1.5 times your bodyweight and snatch pulling 2 times your bodyweight, and strength isn’t going to be what’s stonewalling you athletically.

Although these four are my babies, a skinny-fat guy might want to be weary of dips. Dips hunk mass onto the lower chest. Some even consider the exercise the best chest exercise around. But when you have an out of proportioned chest and have lived for years under the shroud of “bitch tits” things change.

So the conclusion of sorts

So it’s not that what I recommend wouldn’t work for anyone non-skinny-fat. It would. But the information is more suited towards decisions that a skinny-fat person interested in building their body a certain way should make.

Some hate the idea of building your physique a certain way. It usually comes from those that try to overly “sculpt” themselves. I get that. I don’t do that.

You have to put down a lot of clay when you start to sculpt. But I also think that you can but down lots of clay in general areas. Front squats, snatch deadlifts, chin-ups — these aren’t fu-fu exercises.

I’m not recommending advanced body part splits with zillions of isolation exercise. I’m simply saying that it’s probably a good idea to think about the future if you have no master beyond your own imagination. And you can do that by biasing the exercises that have more play in building your body the way you want it to eventually turn out.

There are more avenues here, like whether or not to cut or bulk first. (I wrote about that before though — see here.) But I think that gives the gist of my feelings on the topic.

Myelin and skill

Give up. Quit now. Stop. You’re stuck with the abilities you have now for the rest of your life.  If you aren’t good, you’ll never be good. Greatness is born, not earned. You can’t improve. Ever.

The born with – stuck with mentality was the commanding consensus on both skill and ability for a long time. The script has been flipped thanks to the discovery of myelin

Greatness may not be born at all, but rather learned over time with a certain kind of practice.

If you aren’t good, you simply need to make yourself better.

How?

By developing the skill.

By practicing the skill.

Drive to the grocery store

You’re at your house and you need to get to the store. There are a lot of routes you can take, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that you pick one and you take it.

You take that road over and over and over. You get better and better and better driving that specific road. You know how to cut the corners, turn the wheel precisely around the bends, and barely stop at the stop signs where police don’t sit.

This is myelination.

(1) Every human movement, thought, or feeling is a precisely timed electrical signal traveling through a chain of neurons—a circuit of nerve fibers. (2) Myelin is the insulation that wraps these nerve fibers and increases signal strength, speed, and accuracy. (3) The more we fire a particular circuit, the more myelin optimizes that circuit, and the stronger, faster, and more fluent our movements and thoughts become.

-Daniel Coyle, The Talent Code

Movement is a precisely times sequence of electrical signals sent throughout your body through your nerve fibers. They take a specific route that you tell them to take. Your body optimizes this route with insulation. More insulation makes for faster signal travel.

So skill? It’s all about you insulating the right pathway.

What is a skill…?

Everything is a skill. Moving your finger is a skill. Squatting is a skill. Pressing is a skill. Putting is a skill. Throwing is a skill. Gripping is a skill.

Simple skills are packaged together to create complex skills, but it’s still all about precisely timed electrical signals. Doesn’t matter if it’s simple or complex.

We often take the idea of a “skill” for granted, seeing only what we can’t do or what’s tough to do as skill.

Consider holding a pen and writing a sentence. This is a complex skill. Most wouldn’t even think of it as a skill at all though. We’re taught how to do it when we’re young ,and we repeat it so many times that it becomes easy.

That’s really the sauce of skill though: taking something complex and wiring it into your system so deeply that it becomes an unconscious happening.

As Daniel Coyle writes, in The Talent Code – the definitive book on myelination and skill – myelin doesn’t care about who you are, it cares about what you do. (By the way, every human being needs to read The Talent Code. Follow it up with The Sports Gene for the other side of the story.)

This is good because we can go from scrappy kids that can barely hold a pencil to older (still probably scrappy) kids that can form sentences and create artwork with the same pencil

The downside of myelin?

It’s good that myelin only cares about what you do.

But it’s also bad.

Because myelin doesn’t recognize correctness, it just insulates the pathway.

Ski slope myelination

You’re at the top of a ski slope with nothing but fresh powder below you. The path you take is your poison…until one is created. Once you create a path, your skis unconsciously follow the formed grooves. With every run, the path gets optimized.

This is good, right?

Absolutely…

…if you took the right path from the start.

If you didn’t? If you took the most off beaten, longest travelling, totally askew pathway? Myelin doesn’t care; it only knows what you do.

Myelin isn’t going to create the best path, it’s only going to optimize the path frequently traveled.

Practice only makes perfect if you’re practicing perfectly. Practice simply makes permanent. The only kind of practice that makes perfect, as the old adage goes, is perfect practice.

This is big because your body isn’t an Etch A Sketch. You can’t just shake yourself into a clean slate.

Myelin wraps, it doesn’t unwrap. 

The grooves you make down the ski slope are there to stay. If you don’t groove the right pathway, it’s extremely tough to learn a new pathway. This is why motor repatterning requires immense volume and time. (As those of you that have my knee pain book know.)

As Buddy Morris once said:

“It takes 500 hours to invoke a motor pattern before it becomes unconscious. It takes 25-30 thousand reps to break a bad motor pattern.”

- Buddy Morris

If this doesn’t make you skittish about practice, I don’t know what will. It makes me scared. I don’t want to ingrain any bad patterns.  You shouldn’t either. But ingraining bad patterns isn’t the same thing as making mistakes. 

Make mistakes…small ones

Skill is about building a pathway. You don’t want a bad pathway, but you have to reach. Perfect practice makes perfect, but that doesn’t equate to consistent absolute perfection.

Perfect practice is all about the sweet spot.

“The sweet spot: that productive, uncomfortable terrain located just beyond our current abilities, where our reach exceeds our grasp. Deep practice is not simply about struggling; it’s about seeking a particular struggle, which involves a cycle of distinct actions.”

-Daniel Coyle, The Talent Code

There’s a range. You want to reach, but you don’t want to reach too far. When you can juggle two balls, you try to juggle three. Not fifty. Trying to juggle fifty would only confuse. It’s too far beyond the sweet spot.

“The trick is to choose a goal just beyond your present abilities; to target the struggle. Thrashing blindly doesn’t help. Reaching does.”

-Daniel Coyle, The Talent Code

And while moving from two to three balls, you shouldn’t expect absolute perfection. You’ll screw up, but that’s what learning is about: making small mistakes, recognizing the mistakes, and then fixing them. Sound like antifragility, no?

Practice makes permanent, not perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect. But perfect practice doesn’t mean perfection. 

This blows my mind, will it blow yours?

Skill is my baby. I could read book after book on how the body wires itself. I don’t know whether it comes from tricking or being a general physical-personal upgrade junkie.

A deep appreciation births for what your body is capable of when you understand just how intricate skill development is.  Skill is complex. Skill is a biological phenomenon. 

It’s not only about insulating, but also timing. Timing is vital because neurons are binary: either they fire or they don’t.

“Fields had me imagine a skill circuit where two neurons have to combine their impulses to make a third high-threshold neuron fire—for, say, a golf swing. But here’s the catch: in order to combine properly, those two incoming impulses must arrive at nearly exactly the same time—sort of like two small people running at a heavy door to push it open. That required time window turns out to be about 4 miliseconds, or about half the time it takes a bee to flap its wings once.”

-Daniel Coyle, The Talent Code

I’m giddy just thinking about the precision our body has.  And I’m also giddy about the complexity. Skills aren’t binary like neurons.

Psychological arousal can kill skill. You’ve probably heard of the difference between gamers and non-gamers. Non-gamers are heroes during practice, yet can’t turn it on during the game itself. Why? Because their skill isn’t tuned to work alongside the high physiological arousal of competition.

During practice you can be lazy and relaxed. Your heart rate is lower. There’s no pressure. Your body works differently in that kind of environment.

Same goes for scenery. I’m sure many tricksters agree that scenery matters. If you learn a trick at a park always facing a certain kind of backdrop, when you move away from that backdrop you won’t be as confident.

There’s more here. I could go on forever, but I’ll spare you the time.

Realize the joy of having a body

You’re a transformer. You’re piecing yourself together. You’re plugging wires into sockets and then enhancing the connection between your pieces. Neurons that fire together wire together. What gets taxed gets waxed. 

“Traditional theory said that hardware was a limit. But if people are able to transform the mechanism that mediates performance by training, then we’re in an entirely new space. This is a biological system, not a computer. It can construct itself.”

-Ericsson in T Code

Reading about skill is one thing. So is admiring skill. ESPN’s Body issue came out recently, and I’m transfixed. It’s amazing to see how the body’s of different athletes look knowing that, underneath the hood, the wiring has some sort of influence on the output. It’s fascinating.

But do yourself a favor.

Don’t just gawk. Go. Maybe it’s time to start adding rolls to your training. Maybe it’s time to go play the violin.

It won’t always be easy. According to Coyle, “The best way to build a good circuit is to fire it, attend to mistakes, then fire it again, over and over. Struggle is not an option: it’s a biological requirement.”

Expect the struggle. It’s what gives you strength.

Go lay some myelin down in your own body.

 

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Photo credit: ski slope

 

chow cheat code mychal vegetables

There’s been a steady climb with my vegetables consumption over the years. It started with nill. Hated ‘em. Found out a way to like ‘em (which is a cheat code in itself). Now? I have a simple way to deal with my vegetable eating.

  • Step one: find a bow that’s about the size of your head. Mine says it’s three liters.
  • Step two: fill the bowl with vegetables.
  • Step three: eat that bowl full of vegetables in one entire day, any way you can.
  • Step four: repeat day after day.

What about the cost of all these veggies? Isn’t this insane? Unfeasible?

Look, I’m just as cheap as you are. I don’t take my health as seriously as I should. I sacrifice my health for “teh gainz” at times. But I always eat my vegetables by filling most of the bowl with cheap things. Cabbage and carrots are my fillers, lately.

I usually grab a head of cabbage, cut the thing in half, slice it up, and throw it in the bowl. This leaves me with some wiggle room. Whatever else I have, I’ll throw in there. Consider using the wiggle room for the more  top shelf produce. Buy some exotic things to get a variety of nutrients into your body.

And yes, this is all raw. It doesn’t have to be, but it usually is for me. I’ve grown into eating most of my produce raw just because I’m lazy.

I recommend this strategy for a few reasons:

First, the nutrients. Most people need more nutrients from food. I know a lot of people take multivitamins, but I believe there’s a difference between food and pill, regardless of what the labels say.

Second, the bulk. Eat this bowl full of vegetables (the size of your head) every day, and I bet you don’t eat as much of the other junk you normally would. This is another reason why I eat it raw. Downing raw vegetables is infinitely more filling than cooking them down into soup.

Third, well, poop. 

All in all, there’s a strange correlation between my vegetable consumption and my overall hold on my body composition. Correlations aren’t causation, but this is one of the tips I’m not afraid to Force choke someone over.

It’s simple. Don’t over think it. Bowl. Size of your head. Fill. Eat. Repeat.

 

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Consider this post a test. Do you like these short form nutrition and kitchen tricks? Let me know in the comments!

 


Video exampler: here

Singles and slow-mo: here

Recommended prerequisites: butterfly kick

Description: The butterfly twist is considered to be a butterfly kick with a 360 spin. For my money, it’s only 1/4 of the butterfly kick and it feels like a completely different trick, which is why you don’t even need to know how to butterfly kick clean in order to have a nice and fancy butterfly twist.

Slide by slide breakdown

Butterfly Twist by Anthony Mychal

The takeoff is butterfly kick magic. Revisit that tutorial here if you need a full refresher. Weight is all on my right leg and arms are back, too. Everything is back right now.

Butterfly Twist by Anthony Mychal

I get momentum from a little spin, as do most people. My spin is pretty mild though. See how I’m pretty much straight up and down? That means I’m coasting into the trick. I’m letting this takeoff give me momentum, but I’m controlling things. When I was first learning this trick, one of the mistakes I kept making was going hyper speed into the takeoff. Keep your head calm, keep your body relaxed.

Butterfly Twist by Anthony Mychal

After the turn, everything is back as the lead leg swings out. Pace is starting to heighten here to prepare for the violence. If you’re comparing your video against mine, be sure to examine what your shoulders are doing in relation to the swinging leg. Although everyone is different, I like to keep my shoulders back a bit when I throw the swing.

Butterfly Twist by Anthony Mychal

Ah, just like in the butterfly kick, that lead swing leg opens before it plants into the ground. Everything is still back, but I’m getting ready to dip into the U and play that funky music.

Butterfly Twist by Anthony Mychal

Dip into the U. Not only does this get you height it also gets you rotation provided you dip across your body. I harp on that in the butterfly kick tutorial, so recheck that if you have to. My body starts in front of my legs (my torso is closest to the camera right now). It’s going to dip across my front leg and my torso will end up closer to the house.

Butterfly Twist by Anthony Mychal

Just as planned. With the U dip not only down and up, but also across my front leg, my torso is now on it’s way to be closer to the house than my lower body. (Wasn’t the case last slide.)

This is the butterfly kick’s last moment of similarity. The goal here is to lift the back leg as high as possible. Doing so not only gets you height, but it also keeps your body horizontal to the ground. I know it doesn’t look like I’m lifting it high, but I’m trying to. Compared to not  lifting it at all, it’s a big difference.

Also: arms. For any twisting trick, one of the keys is to keep the arms wide at first. This gives you more power for the spin itself because you can coil them inwards to your body. Tricking is all about transition of momentum. Wide arms at the moment of takeoff is a good thing.

Butterfly Twist by Anthony Mychal

The only thing that happened since the last slide: me jumping and then coiling my arms to my body tighter. One thing to consider is stalling the twist, which is something you might hear others tell you to do. Stalling the twist basically means getting as much height as you can before initiating the twist. Once you start twisting, your height gaining is all but over.

Butterfly Twist by Anthony Mychal

And to show the stall, here’s another video. The first part of getting more height and stalling is actually coming to full extension. See my jumping leg? It actually…uhh…jumped? This is tricky to do for starters. If you’re having trouble with height or with getting horizontal, check your jumping leg out.

Butterfly Twist by Anthony Mychal

In this slide, you can see my torso is still facing the ground and yet my entire body is off the ground. If you hit a position like this, all that’s left is coiling your arms to your body and turning your head. Seriously. As for how to coil? I usually think about bringing my right arm to my heart and striking over top my body with my left elbow.

Now, this stalling business isn’t exactly easy and I have two classifications of stalling. One is to truly do a butterfly kick and then twist over. That’s a mega stall. For most of us, when we need to stall, that’s a little bit beyond what we’re looking for.

My friends and I discovered, one day, that stalling for us was all about taking a glimpse at the grass right after takeoff and right before spinning. Just a fraction of a second hello! to the grass, not a memorizing stare down.

Butterfly Twist by Anthony Mychal

Your legs will do funky things in the air. I’m not consciously thinking about them, nor do I ever unless I’m trying to do a specific trick. Your body will settle into something comfortable over time. You have enough to think about already, so for the legs it’s all about throwing the back leg up high and jumping with intensity. That’s your job.

Slide above? Check my head. Your head leads all rotations. Where the head goes, the body follows. I’m tight and my head is searching for the ground right now so I can spot my landing.

Butterfly Twist by Anthony Mychal

Landing spotted and I eject the landing gear. I’ve been doing this trick long enough to have most of it unconsciously programmed, so don’t take too many notes from these final slides. I unravel almost to stand upright at the end, which likely won’t happen. Key point is to look for your landing. Spot your landing, and then reach for your landing.

Butterfly Twist by Anthony Mychal

Once you spot your landing, you can unravel from the coiled position.

Butterfly Twist by Anthony Mychal

Recap cues:

  • Swing, dip, jump.
  • Dip in two axes. First, down and up. Second, across your lead leg.
  • Lift the lead leg high and fully extend and use that jumping leg for all it’s worth.
  • Once you got your height, coil your arms and look over your shoulder.
  • Spot your landing.

Troubleshooting:

No height? 

  • Try to slow down your takeoff. Sometimes a quick takeoff can lead us more horizontal than vertical.
  • Lift that first leg high.
  • Come to full extension on the jumping leg.
  • Say hello to the ground for a fraction of a second before twisting.

Body not horizontal?  Look first at the back leg and how high you’re lifting it. After that, make sure you aren’t bringing your torso up out of fear. Saying hello to the ground helps this, too.

Landing on your knees? You probably have the motions down, but the comfort isn’t there. You need practice and confidence so that you can make use of your body 100%.

Landing on your back? Commit to the spin. Coil. 

Your next conquest:

  • Hypertwist

See the rest of the tutorials:

If you’re wondering how to ask a question, sign-up for this thing. I send out weekly notes with personal, honest training reflections and tips, book reviews and suggestions, and the most recent blog posts from my personal email address. All you have to do is hit reply and type away. 

The question:

I’ve really struggled with a proportionate body. I’m not fat. I’m flabby. I don’t have a huge belly, just a lot of flab there. I run, I lift, I play sports, but it seems I can’t juggle the right amount of cardio (because that’s what they say makes you lose fat; especially post workout cardio) with the right amount of lifting and eating and gaining.

I just want a lean and muscular body that’s athletic. Period. It has occurred to me on multiple occasions that my regime is not cut out for how I function: daily lifting routines focused on one to two body parts per day followed by a short post workout cardio thing isn’t enough and doesn’t leave me satisfied. Going on a run, doing sprints, and doing compound lifts satisfies me mentally. I just struggle with how to arrange a new routine like this and gain muscle and be lean.

The answer

What pops out to me right away is this: you want (a) a lean body, (b) a muscular body, and (c) and athletic body. Let’s do ourselves a favor and see each of these things as skills, because that’s truly what they are.

Learning how to eat and train and live in a way that enables you to be lean hinges on habits, and the execution of these habits manifest themselves with a certain physical output. Your body is a reflection of your lifestyle, so to speak. Since you want three things, consider building three sets of habits.

Three skills.

Anthony Mychal Juggle

I’m going to assume that, right now, you don’t know how to do any of these skills. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be on your list. Let’s flip things to put them in perspective.

Say you wanted to be a musician. You go up to the lead guitarist in a band and say, “You don’t understand. All I want to be able to do is play the guitar, trumpet, and drums. Why is this so hard for me?” And the answer is probably because you’re trying to learn how to play three different instruments at the same time.

Suffice to say, I think you need to pick one skill and find out how to make magic happen. After that? Move on to the next thing.

I distinctly remember, in my life, these periods:

  • Early teens: flexibility and tricking
  • Early 2006, late teens: losing fat
  • Early 2007: gaining weight

The idea here is that, after 2006, I never had a problem losing fat ever again. Why? Because I knew the “skill.” I knew the set of habits I needed to implement in order to get the work done. After my tricking stint, I knew what I needed to do to get better at tricking. After 2007, I knew what I needed…you get the point.

And it’s not all peachy, either. I mention “weight” rather than muscle (in 2007) because I truly didn’t learn the “skill” of muscle building. I simply knew what I needed to do to gain weight (because I got more fat than muscular during my initial bulk). It was a “failure,” but it wasn’t a failure because every piece of non-information leads you to information.

Now a days, I juggle lots of things. But behind the scenes of this juggling is the very fact that I learned how to do each thing solo before introducing them into the complex juggle.

Here’s a little snack from Buddy Morris:

“If you correct one thing at a time and you have an 85% success rate, correct two and it drops to 37%. Best of luck with three!”

For my skinny-fat guys, I tell them they should learn how to lean down first. I should start calling this first goal, “The David Project,” as I think the focus should be to carve yourself into the ideal starting point — almost like a reboot. You won’t be hugely muscular, but you’ll be lean. Prime the barbell and bodyweight exercises that will be the foundation for the rest of your life, yaddah yaddah yaddah, I’ve said this before, just visit the archives and browse around.

Anthony Mychal David Greek Sculpture

Why is this important? There are physiological reasons that I think I think make sense, like having better partitioning. Getting the body to think more about muscle while focusing on losing fat means the body will be ready and familiar with thinking about the muscles when you start eating more nutrients. But beyond all of this, the reason behind my fat lost first mind is simple: the art of losing fat is timeless.

If you try to bulk first and you fail (not uncommon), then where do you go? You’re fatter, and all you know how to do is get even more fat. Even if you learn how to build muscle, you still have to learn how to lose fat eventually. What happens when you try to lose fat and don’t yet understand the skill? You might drop so low as to lose a lot of your hard earned muscle (although this is mostly short term).

Since skinny-fat guys have lived their lives with enough physiological fat baggage. The idea of being even fatter without a developed fat loss skill is juice not worth the squeeze.

Now, the real question here is this: do you have what it takes?

Being able to sacrifice goals in the short term for long term accomplishment is something that falls under the bucket of delayed gratification and, what I like to call, training like an adult (or, not training like a golden retriever).

Maybe you live in a seasonal climate and right now it’s sunny outside. You have your three goals on the table. It might be in your best interest to focus on flexibility or tricking, if that’s something you want to do.

Maybe you can make some nutrition changes during this time, too. Simple ones, like drinking only water and eating a generous heaping of raw vegetables instead of any bread products. But I wouldn’t expect to be in fat loss cram mode. I’d just let whatever effects come knowing that, right now, you’re worried primarily about tricking.

“What about Joe Bill Hill? He lost fat and gained muscle. Why can’t I?”

The people that can consciously lose fat and gain muscle simultaneously (known as a recomposition) are people that already know how to gain muscle and lose fat, in my opinion. In that situation, you’re simply juggling two skills you already have.

Others can recomp, primarily out of ignorance. There are beginners that come into this fresh, and a beginner body is, empirically, a bit more plastic in it’s ability to lose fat and gain muscle simultaneously.

Really, it’s just perspective. If someone came to you complaining about not being able to play three instruments, you’d probably tell them to just play one for now. If they started to whine and complain and say, “But I want to play all three!” what would you say to them?

And now the real…

It’s easy for me to say this because it’s retrospective. I didn’t connect the dots moving ahead because I had no dots to connect. I just happened to be interested in different things at different times in my life. Ignorance was bliss.

Otherwise, I’m just like you: a glutton that wants everything overnight. And I’d probably try to do exactly what you’re trying to do. In fact, I have before. That doesn’t mean it’s the smart thing to do though. You can get good at things slowly and take the long term mindset, or you can burn out from a lack of consistent progress.

If you want to be ambitious, more power to you. Just know that, in the end, it’s really hard to learn how to play three instruments at the same time.

 

Antifragile Goku

Born with a power level of two, Goku was an anomaly of the typically strong Saiyan race. He was considered a weakling (especially compared to the likes of Broly, who had a 10,000 power level at birth), which is why he was sent to conquer the relatively weak inhabitants of planet Earth.

With time, however, Goku becomes one of the strongest fighters in the world. We learn, not long after, how Goku grows into a premier physical specimen: Saiyans get stronger after every battle.  After being broken down, they build back up in a way that surpasses their former abilities.

Saiyans, when deprived of stress, weaken. Turns out, Saiyans aren’t much different than us. In order to get better, we have to embrace disorder and stress.

The three layers of stress impact

It’s widely accepted that the numero uno goal of the majority of living species is to pass their genetic code into future generations. You have to live long enough to do this, so built into human biology is capacity to survive, primarily by adapting to the stressors in the environment routinely faced — something known as epigenetics. 

The specific stressors shape who you are. You need stressors in some quantity, even “bad” stressors! 

Take three boxes, for example.

  • Box one is labeled handle with care.
  • Box two has no label.
  • Box three is labeled please mishandle.

Box one is fragile. Disorder is harmful. You’re walking around the fine china store. Earthquakes, sudden trauma, and four year old children that can’t keep their hands to themselves are all bad news. It’s like being Damocles with a sword dangling above your head. Best case scenario: nothing happens, everything stays the same.

Box two is robust. Disorder is moot. It doesn’t help you, nor does it harm you. You’re in the shoe store now. Unlike the fine china store, the shoes can fall off the shelf without damages. It’s like being a phoenix. No matter what kind of disorder you face, you come back to your original form.

Box three is antifragile. Disorder is positive; without disorder, it’s weaker than it has the potential to be. The hydra is antifragile because when one head gets cut off, two grow back in its place. The hydra enjoys disorder because it comes back stronger.

This triforce of fragility, robustness, and antifragility (including the examples) is credited to Nassim Taleb and his book, Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder

Why we need stress

One of Taleb’s primary points is that, traditionally, we have no conception of antifragility. We ship no boxes that say “please mishandle.” Most everything we’re familiar with is more along the lines of the major award in A Christmas Story and lumped into a thought bucket that says: all disorder = bad.

Antifragility Primer

Treating an antifragile system like a fragile system has drawbacks. With antifragility, a lack of stressors weaken the system. Putting the fragile mindset — one that fears disorder — atop ourselves ends up making us weaker.

Consider that your body, at the very moment, is striving to maintain a semblance of stasis. Your temperature is around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Your heart rate, and other common “health” markers, are all floating about a range of ”good” that your body has decided on over time.

Most physical and mental upgrades come about from disrupting this range of good and forcing the body to adopt new norms. We aren’t fine china. When we shake ourselves, we make our system sturdier.

Antifragile in body

You might have heard this before: you don’t get stronger during training, you get stronger recovering from training. When you train, you’re breaking yourself down. You’re tearing down the energy stored within your muscles and putting it to use, you’re also damaging the muscle fibers themselves. You’re throwing your body out of stasis.

Antifragile Body Anthony Mychal

If the disorder isn’t too severe, your body rebuilds itself beyond the level at which it previously was built. It’s almost like the body says, “Wow. That was crazy. You know what? I’m going to rebuild just a little bit better than before just in case I need to deal with that stressor again.”

So when you lift 300 pounds and break yourself down doing so, your body doesn’t build back up to being able to lift 300 pounds again. That’s the phoenix. But we’re the hydra. Instead, we build back up to being able to lift 305 pounds. Then 310 pounds. And up and up and up over time. Muscle tissue is the same. You tack on more and more and more, so long as you continue to deliver the disorder.

Antifragile in brain

We are physically antifragile, largely unconsciously. Mentally, we have the potential to be antifragile, but it requires some consciousness reconfiguration, especially because we come from a microwave culture that instills a mindset of ease and speed.

Taleb has a stoic backbone in his thought and decision making processes, and stoicism is the route to an antifragile mind.

Anthony Mychal Stoic

Modern stoicism appears as apathy more than anything else, but the root of real stoicism is all about learning how to face and deal with hardship in a way that isn’t totally destructive to your own being. In other words, stoicism is about robustness. You don’t want to be fragile; you don’t want to crack under stress.

“Choose not to be harmed and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed and you haven’t been.”

-Marcus Aurelius

The layer atop this is learning from hardships and failures. Although failures might not clue you in on what you need to do, they have insight in that they tell you what not to do. And often times, finding out what not to do is more important than finding out what to do. Most successful people don’t really find out how to win, but rather how not to lose. There’s a difference between the two.

As Ryan Holiday explains in The Obstacle Is The Waya chunk of Marcus Aurelius’s writings (considered one of the forefathers of stoicism) was “a formula for thriving not just in spite of whatever happens but because of it.” Being mentally antifragile is learning how to make negative experiences into positive ones.

Antifragile in skill

Not long ago, it was thought that people couldn’t get more skilled — if you weren’t born with it, you’d never have it. This idea is falling apart thanks to the likes of Daniel Coyle’s The Talent Code, Robert Greene’s Mastery, and Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers(For the alternative view and power of genes, I recommend The Sports Gene by David Epstein.)

Antifragile Skill Anthony Mychal

From piano to pitching to tennis, we call these things skills. The adage we’ve been brainwashed into believing is that practice makes perfect. That’s only sort of true, because practice only makes perfect if you’re practicing perfectly. It’s more so that practice makes permanent — you need a certain kind of practice to make you better.

“The trick is to choose a goal just beyond your present abilities; to target the struggle. Thrashing blindly doesn’t help. Reaching does.”

As described in The Talent Code, this environment for practice is known as the sweet spot, and it’s about being in a zone just beyond your skill level. You need to make mistakes, but you also can’t be too far beyond your comfort zone.

Play it too safe and you don’t push the envelope enough to get better. Play it too hardcore — greatly try to train at a level beyond your capabilities — and you’re too out of your league to get better. Hence, “the sweet spot.” Not security, but also not suffocation.

Antifragility and nonlinearity

So far, we’ve deified the once vilified “disorder,” which is a component of stress. Although we’re antifragile, our ability to cope with stress is finite.

No, stress isn’t inherently bad. Stress is good. Some stress, at least. And more stress isn’t always better. This is the inverted-U at work. This is where most people begin to tremble, as it trashes black and white thinking.

Pathogens aren’t good. We get that. But if you only inject a little bit into your blood? You can make your body stronger by forcing a gradual and continual adaptation and immunity. At the same time, if you inject too much, well, you’re going to be ill.

There’s a range of good for body, brain, and skill.

  • Train too much too soon, you’re looking at injuries and tendonitis.
  • An abundance turns post-traumatic growth into post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Train beyond the sweet spot where you’re so far beyond correcting your mistakes, and you won’t get any better.

Antifragility is nonlinear, but that doesn’t mean it all ends up in a vat to avoid. What we’ve failed to do is respect the idea that the vast majority of bozo’s out there don’t know what they’re doing with their body.

You have people that are so far gone (in physical terms) that jump (literally) into P90X, where they’re hopping around and doing so called “plyometrics” without any preparation. You have couch potatoes that run marathons without any preparation.

These people buy the Bugatti and expect to drive it around like a pro, milking the labor without the love. This is a rant for another day because these are good people (usually) with good intentions (maybe) that end up destroying themselves because they have no idea of what it means to own and upgrade and maintain a fully capable exo.

The fugue of modern fitness

This is what it means to live in the fugue of modern fitness: you don’t know what you’re doing, but you know you should be doing something, so you do anything just to feel good about yourself.

The majority of things we perceive to be bad aren’t often absolutely bad, rather bad pending the structure they are applied to. Again, this is nonlinearity and the inverted-U.

Yes, rounding your back can be bad, just like a pathogen…if you inject too much at once. But in the long run it can also be good if you respect your body’s ability and slowly build. If you’re at ground zero and pretend to be the guy that’s been sticking himself with the pathogen for ten years, then you’re in the fitfugue.

Yes, “bad” things can be good. It depends on context, relativity, and other things I could italicize to show you that they are important and hold meaning to me that you probably don’t yet understand because they aren’t things I’ve been able to put into words quite yet.

Antifragility is not black and white; don’t make it binary.

The difference between two cups

Implications here are two fold:

  • Those that don’t understand this end up making themselves more fragile, as the lack of stress weakens them.
  • The type of stressor matters, because developing immunity to the chicken pox is different than immunity to measles.

Normally glass cups are fragile, but I want you to assume they are antifragile. One antigragile cup (II)  is protected as if it were fragile. The other antifragile cup (III) gets dropped on concrete, pavement, thrown against a wall, etc. first from 10 feet, then 20 feet, then 30 feet.

Antifragile Cup

The reason for the heights is because, initially, a 30 foot drop would break the cup. Being antifragile doesn’t mean being invincible.

These individual stressors take their bite out of III, but in the end they end up making III much better than II because III has adapted beyond specific stressors. These specific and general adaptations are another dimension of antifragility, and I liken it to gaining experience in an RPG. You can boost your overall EXP, but they you can also level up EXP for specific attributes like attack and defense. This dimension is deeper than necessary here, so I’ll save that for later.

Here, however, you see that III is much stronger than II, and much better off. You also see that II can’t copy the current “training” of III because III is simply on a different playing field.

You aren’t who you were yesterday

You’re facing stressors every day, and your body is working hard to adapt to these stressors every day to become the best organism it can be given the environment its in. In this sense, you are never the same person two days in a row. 

Remember:

  • Antifragile things gain from disorder
  • Antifragililty is not infinite
  • Antifragility is nonlinear
  • Antifragility applies to muscle, myelin, and minds

And to conclude the conclusion, I’ll share a thought from The Talent Code that — for whatever reason — captured something within me, that also happens to embody antifragility: you’re a biological system, not a computer — you can construct yourself.

Perhaps the overwhelming question is, then: what are you telling yourself to construct?

 

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Photo credit: glass cup

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