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Fast Growth Is Overrated — Here’s Why

Fast Growth Is Overrated — Here’s Why

We live in a world obsessed with what we do.

  • What did you earn from your job last year?
  • What place did your team finish in the standings?
  • What trophy did you win? What award did you get? What measure of social status did you receive?

In moderation, this focus on what is fine. I like getting results just as much as the next person. I like performing well. I like being on top of my game. Achievement can be a good thing.

However, our obsessive focus on what we’re winning can also blind us from understanding how people become winners. If you focus too much on the finish line, you miss the strategy going on during the race.

As I continue to study top performers from all areas of life — athletes, artists, entrepreneurs, and more — I’ve begun to see similar patterns emerge among these people. Today, we’re going to venture into the world of weightlifting to uncover one of these patterns.

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The Incredible Success of Yuri Vardanyan

Yuri Vardanyan is widely considered one of the greatest Olympic weightlifters of all time. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Vardanyan routinely set world records in the sport, and his run of success from 1977 to 1985 is stunning. (1)

Here are Vardanyan’s results at the World Weightlifting Championships and the Olympic Games during that time span:

  • 1977 World Championships – Gold
  • 1978 World Championships – Gold
  • 1979 World Championships – Gold
  • 1980 Olympics – Gold
  • 1981 World Championships – Gold
  • 1982 World Championships – Silver
  • 1983 World Championship – Gold
  • 1985 World Championship – Gold

Now for the important question:

What methods did Vardanyan use to achieve such an incredible run of success? Are there any lessons we can learn from him and apply to our own lives?

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yurik-vardanian
    Yuri Vardanian receiving the gold medal at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow. (Image Source: RIA Novosti Archive.)

    Volume Before Intensity

    In 1992, after his own weightlifting career had finished, Yuri moved his family to the United States. His son, Norik Vardanian, began to make a name for himself in weightlifting a few years later.

    Today, Norik is the number one ranked weightlifter in the United States and is hoping to qualify for his second Olympic Games in 2016. Recently, Norik posted a training video (here) of a successful attempt to set a new personal record on the front squat as his dad watched on, coaching him.

    Here’s what he said:

    “200 kg (440 lbs) PR front squat for 5 reps. These are the only types of PR’s my dad allows me to attempt… reps. He is not a big fan of 1RM in training. He had told me years ago that his best front squat workout was when he did 200 kg for 5 reps.”

    Pause for a moment and consider how this training approach differs from that of most people in the gym (and in many other areas of life as well).

    If the best training method for an Olympian is to focus on doing a volume of work and mastering repetition after repetition, why would it make sense for you or I to train by lifting the maximum amount of weight possible? And yet, this is often a trap we fall into.

    The problem with the “Go Big or Go Home” philosophy is that when you don’t have the underlying foundation of strength to handle the intensity of the effort, you’re just setting yourself up for failure.

    This is why I believe you should focus on volume before intensity.

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    Fast Growth Is Overrated

    So many of the problems I have run into as an entrepreneur, as a writer, and as an athlete have been because I have tried to grow too fast. I was focused on getting a particular result so much so that I ignored the fundamental habits that would have made my growth sustainable.

    Fast growth forces you into a higher cost environment, and if you don’t have the systems and ability to handle those costs, you’ll end up paying for it.

    • When I tried to push myself to lift bigger weights in record time, my body got run down and injured.
    • When I tried to force my business to the “next level” without knowing what I was getting into, I got stressed out and stepped on people’s toes without meaning to.
    • When I tried to push down the accelerator and double revenues, I fell flat on my face with a product launch and didn’t have a system that could service customers properly.

    Intense growth and intense effort are great — if you have the foundation to handle the intensity. This is why Yuri Vardanyan focuses on five-rep maxes. He’s building the foundation.

    Put in your reps and build the capacity to do the work. There will be time for maxing out later. First, build the foundation.

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    This article was originally published on JamesClear.com.

    FOOTNOTES
    1. Despite being the gold medal favorite, Yuri Vardanyan did not compete at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles because the Soviet Union boycotted the Olympics along with 14 other countries.

    Featured photo credit: Yasunobu Hiraoka via flickr.com

    More by this author

    James Clear

    James Clear is the author of Atomic Habits. He shares self-improvement tips based on proven scientific research.

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    Last Updated on September 24, 2020

    17 Ways Learn New Skills Faster and Enjoy the Process

    17 Ways Learn New Skills Faster and Enjoy the Process

    In the movie The Matrix, everyone was intrigued with the ability that Neo and his friends possessed to learn new skills in a matter of seconds. With the incredible rise in technology today, the rapid learning in the movie is becoming much more of a reality than you realize.

    The current generation has access to more knowledge and information than any before it. Through the internet, we are able to access all sorts of knowledge to answer almost every conceivable question. To become smarter, it’s more about the ability to learn faster, rather than being a natural born genius.

    Here are 17 ways to kickstart your Matrix-style learning experience in a short amount of time.

    1. Deconstruct and Reverse Engineer

    Break down the skill that you want to learn into little pieces and learn techniques to master an isolated portion. The small pieces will come together to make up the whole skill.

    For example, when you’re learning to play the guitar, learn how to press down a chord pattern with your fingers first without even trying to strum the chord. Once you are able to change between a couple of chord patterns, then add the strumming.

    2. Use the Pareto Principle

    Use the Pareto Principle, which is also known as the 80 20 rule. Identify the 20% of the work that will give you 80% of the results. Find out more about the 80 20 rule here: What Is the 80 20 Rule (And How to Use It to Boost Productivity)

    Take learning a new language for example. It does not take long to realize that some words pop up over and over again as you’re learning. You can do a quick search for “most commonly used French words,” for example, and begin to learn them first before adding on the rest.

    3. Make Stakes

    Establish some sort of punishment for not learning the skill that you are seeking. There are sites available that allow you to make a donation toward a charity you absolutely hate if you do not meet your goals. Or you can place a bet with a friend to light that fire under you.

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    However, keep in mind that several studies have shown that rewards tend to be more motivating than punishment[1].

    4. Record Yourself

    Seeing yourself on video is a great way to learn from your mistakes and identify areas that you need to improve. This is very effective for any musicians, actors, speakers, performers, and dancers.

    5. Join a Group

    There are huge benefits to learning in a group. Not only are you able to learn from others but you’ll be encouraged to make progress together. Whether it’s a chess club, a mastermind group, or an online meet-up group, get connected with other like-minded individuals.

    6. Time Travel

    Visit the library. Although everything is moving more and more online, there are still such things called libraries.

    Whether it’s a municipal library or your university library, you will be amazed at some of the books available there that are not accessible online. Specifically, look for the hidden treasures and wisdom contained in the really old books.

    7. Be a Chameleon

    When you want to learn new skills, imitate your biggest idol. Watch a video and learn from seeing someone else do it. Participate in mimicry and copy what you see.

    Studies have shown that, apart from learning,[2]

    “Mimicry is an effective tool not only to create ties and social relationships, but also for maintaining them.”

    Visual learning is a great way to speed up the learning process. YouTube has thousands of videos on almost every topic available.

    8. Focus

    Follow one course until success! It’s easy to get distracted, to throw in the towel, or to become interested in the next great thing and ditch what you initially set out to do.

    Ditch the whole idea of multitasking, as it has been shown to be detrimental and unproductive Simply focus on the one new skill at hand until you get it done.

    9. Visualize

    The mind has great difficulty distinguishing between what is real and what is imagined. That is why athletes practice mentally seeing their success before attempting the real thing[3].

    Visualize yourself achieving your new skill and each step that you need to make to see results. This is an important skill to help when you’re learning the basics or breaking a bad habit.

    Take a look at this article to learn how to do so: How to Become a Person Who Can Visualize Results

    10. Find a Mentor

    Success leaves clues. The best short cut to become an expert is to find an expert and not have to make the mistakes that they have made.

    Finding out what NOT to do from the expert will fast-track your learning when you want to learn new skills. It is a huge win to have them personally walk you through what needs to be done. Reach out and send an email to them.

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    If you need help learning how to find a mentor, check out this article.

    11. Sleep on It

    Practice your new skill within four hours of going to sleep.

    Josh Kaufman, author of The Personal MBA, is a noted rapid learning expert. He says that any practice done within this time frame causes your brain to embed the learning more rapidly into its neural pathways. Your memory and motor-mechanics are ingrained at a quicker level.

    12. Use the 20-Hour Rule

    Along with that tip, Kaufman also suggests 20 as the magic number of hours to dedicate to learning the new skill.

    His reasoning is that everyone will hit a wall early on in the rapid learning stage and that “pre-committing” to 20 hours is a sure-fire way to push through that wall and acquire your new skill.[4]

    Check out his video to find out more:

    13. Learn by Doing

    It’s easy to get caught up in reading and gathering information on how to learn new skills and never actually get around to doing those skills. The best way to learn is to do.

    Regardless of how unprepared you feel, make sure you are physically engaged continuously. Keep alternating between research and practice.

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    14. Complete Short Sprints

    Rather than to force yourself into enduring hours upon hours of dedication, work in short sprints of about 20-30 minutes, then get up and stretch or take a short walk. Your brain’s attention span works best with short breaks, so be sure to give it the little rest it needs.

    One study found that, between two groups of students, the students who took two short breaks when studying actually performed better than those who didn’t take breaks[5].

    15. Ditch the Distractions

    Make sure the environment you are in is perfect for your rapid-learning progress. That means ditching any social media, and the temptation to check any email. As the saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.”

    Before you sit down to learn new skills, make sure that potential distractions are far from sight.

    16. Use Nootropics

    Otherwise known as brain enhancers, these cognitive boosters are available in natural herbal forms and in supplements.

    Many students will swear by the increased focus that nootropics will provide[6], particularly as they get set for some serious cramming. Natural herbal nootropics have been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic traditions to improve the mind and learning.

    Find out more about brain supplements in this article.

    17. Celebrate

    For every single small win that you experience during the learning process, be sure to celebrate. Your brain will release endorphins and serotonin as you raise your hands in victory and pump your fits. Have a piece of chocolate and give yourself a pat on the back. This positive reinforcement will help you keep pushing forward as you learn new skills.

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    The Bottom Line

    Learning a new skill should be exciting and fun. Whether you use online courses, real world experience, YouTube videos, or free online resources, take time to learn in the long term. Keep picturing the joy of reaching the end goal and being a better version of yourself as continual motivation.

    More Tips on How to Learn New Skills

    Featured photo credit: Elijah M. Henderson via unsplash.com

    Reference

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