What do Batman, Sauron and chickens have in common?
There are three things I have been toying with writing about lately, and how they pertain particularly to progress in training and diet. These three are efficiency, control and patience. Which sounds like some new-age, get-in-touch-with-your-cosmic-side thing, but this has real practicality. If you look back over these past few months or year, what aspects of your life could benefit from more/less efficiency, control or patience? I am not saying you need MORE of each either as some people tend to lean in extremes from each other in all three areas.
However, if I were to make a guess, I would say many people need more efficiency and patience and a little less control, and I'll explain why with three examples. Irregardless of the examples I use, each of these three areas can pertain to whatever aspect of your life you need help with. Some people have their diet on lock-down, but only for a few weeks at a time. Others are super efficient with time management but lack patience for long-term results. These points are most certainly steered towards cooking, diet and training because these are three areas you can totally screw up but still manage to live your life. After all, when has an undercooked steak, mismanaged diet or improper exercise selection brought someones life to a screeching halt? (That would have to be one seriously poorly programmed set of curls!). This doesn't mean we shouldn't still strive for improvement despite the fact that our diets, training and lifestyle will always fall short of perfect. Rather, as my mom says, “Seek excellence, not perfection.”
Note: My mom also says the Dark Knight Rises wasn't a good movie(what?!), so you need to take that with a grain of salt :)
Efficiency: Doing more with less?
I can't say for certain that efficiency is doing more with less as it is just streamlining what you are already doing. I know people (as we all do) that are so inefficient that the most basic things in life seem to take up all their time because they have no plan, purpose or system in place. The grocery store takes 1 1/2 hours, cooking is an all-day affair, filling out an application for a new job is a three-day process. Without actually knowing (because it might be creepy), most people probably have a system for how they shower. Shampoo the hair first, rinse it out, add in conditioner and letting it sit while soaping the body. Whatever. But if every time you got in the shower you washed your feet, then your hair, then the body, then rinsed, then conditioned etc. in no order, it would take forever. Systems aren't just for Type-A personalities, they work for everyone and the reason is that most activities benefit from a natural order or flow.
Cooking is probably one of the most frustrating and seemingly aloof activities that we engage in from day to day. It is(or was for a long time), an absolutely necessary part of our lives and benefits from making the most out of what you have in the least amount of time. Lets say you want to roast a chicken, an efficient person could literally get this ready in less than ten minutes. But if you forgot to pre-heat the oven and cut the chicken on the cutting board before the veggies necessitating an extra wash and dry time you just added 15 minutes to the process. Just by changing the order of steps.
Here's my one example for streamlining cooking a chicken (which everyone can do) and making it the most efficient process possible.
You need: One whole chicken, lemon, olive oil, salt and one vegetable, herb and spice minimum.
Pre-heat over to 400 degrees.
Cut your veggies into half-thumb sized portions (typically one or more of the following: carrots, onion, parsnip, celery, garlic etc) and cut lemon in half.
Place the veggies in a large roasting pan or skillet and toss with some salt and oil.
Trim excess fat (or not, if you are in a rush) from the chicken and rub with a little olive oil, salt and then your herb(s) and spice(s). I typically like paprika, chili powder, cumin, pepper, basil, oregano, thyme or parsley.
Place chicken on top of veggies in the roasting pan. Place both lemon halves inside the chicken.
Cook for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until 155-160 degrees. Let rest to allow temperature to reach 160-165 degrees......about 15 minutes.
However, I've decided to make things more efficient lately. I was going to stop buying chicken stock to make all my rice and soups with. After all, I've already got the chicken carcass, why throw it out and then pay extra money for the store-bought stuff?
Instead, whenever the chicken is done cooking and cooled enough, I cut the meat off the bone, put it in a large pot with at least a chopped up onion (cut this sucker any way you want, it doesn't matter here) if not additional carrots, celery etc and then I cover it with cold water. Then it is simply a matter of bringing the pot to a simmer and letting it go for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
I was suggesting this to one of my friends recently and they remarked that they don't have time to make their own chicken stock. The thing is, there is literally an addition of 1 minute of extra “active work” to make the carcass a stock. Then it is back to reading, playing video games, watching tv or whatever. Sometimes I'll even leave the house and run errands while it simmers. Risk taker, I know.
The entire process of preparing the chicken for roasting and then transferring it to a stock pot is probably 15 real minutes of work. 15 minutes! The rest is down time where life simply carries on as normal; but I think many of us get caught up in the perception that the time it takes to cook is work. I believe these people are also the ones who wait for their laundry to wash at the laundromat when they could be off grocery shopping, running errands in the meantime or at least reading(seriously, how you just SIT there?). This “perceived” wasted time actually becomes wasted just because you accept that it does or convince yourself there is no alternative. Instead, think about implementing a plan and brainstorm what can be done during your downtime, you'd be surprised how much you can accomplish.
I've realized that many times when I tell someone how to cook something, no matter how ridiculously simple, they want a written recipe. I could say “get a steak and some salt” and they'd still want me write it down. I actually believe following recipes (except in baking) is what makes cooking so time consuming and inefficient. Stopping to measure ingredients, re-checking measurements and cooking times etc are time killers. To become better at something and more efficient requires practice. Follow a recipe ONCE, and then do not go back to it. It's ok to screw up, that's how you learn that taco seasoning doesn't go well with everything, believe it or not. But Sriracha does, so that's ok.
Having said that, in an attempt to help with efficiency, I am going to start posting cooking videos to help people see how easy cooking can be when you allow for some spontaneity and stop following directions.
Control: I need both more and less
Ever wonder how some people look so calm during a traffic jam? They don't honk, gas and break constantly or try to speed down the shoulder. All around them though, people (including myself) are getting irritated, angry and doing all the honking, swerving and gas/break that is getting us nowhere. Our loss of control is making us furious while someone else just accepts it and moves on because they know certain things can't be controlled. The issue with extreme control is the lack of viewpoint. Lord of the Rings did a pretty good job of making us understand Sauron's down fall was his singular, narrow view. Sauron was essentially one large, all-seeing eye focused so much near the end of the story on Aragorn's attack on the Black Gates that he couldn't see Frodo destroying the ring at Mt. Doom until it was too late.
Note: That was a lot of nerd......and I'm not comparing anyone to Sauron...but it would be pretty cool if I was.
Whether you get the reference or not, the point in real life is that there is so much that can be accomplished when we have control over our lives but our intense focus ultimately becomes a crutch when we have no perspective.
Assessing what you can and should control and giving up what you can't or shouldn't control will make life much easier and less stressful. This is exactly why people pay trainers and coaches for diet advice, personal training and rehabilitation. When was the last time you knew someone who hurt themselves in the gym, didn't seek out advice or help from an outside source and attempted to “work their way” around it and actually made a complete recovery? Ummm...almost never? We have nearly all been there and the reason we fail at our diets, training or rehab (if in fact we do) is because we lack the perspective to actually assess, implement and then stick to a plan. As an example, many coaches (myself included) seek out or pay for diet and training advice from other coaches because we know we don't have the control and perspective to stick to a plan we actually need. Instead we would just do what is fun or what we're good at and make no progress.
This is apparent in many other careers. The out-of-shape health care worker, the mechanic with a hunk of junk car or the cook who eats cereal after all his shifts(this was totally me). Simply having the knowledge is not enough because in many cases, we need to put the control in someone else's hands to make us accountable. Maybe we're too tired or stressed to think about what we need to do or motivate ourselves to go through the motions. If so, ask yourself, do you need to seek someone out for exercise programming, nutrition, cooking lessons or something similar? Some people PAY to have a professional come to their house to help them organize their closet space, but if that's what it takes then the results speak for themselves. Do you NEED to be told to stop doing pushups and bench pressing if your shoulder is killing you? No. But giving up the control to someone else and asking for help might be the push you need to actually follow through. My advice here would be to give up control of one thing in your life, even something that seems difficult. Is there any area you're struggling with or made no progress in, yet relentlessly attempt to control it? If so, I am talking to you.