1% for the 1%

You hear a lot about optimization these days, at least I do. In the performance realm (business, sport, etc.), everyone is focused on optimization.

Optimization is great. It is focused on the process, not the goal. Focusing on optimization means that we are focused on the steps we need to take, which is just what we should be doing.

But optimization is really about the 1% for the 1%.

Optimization is about eking out that last 1% of performance. You optimize an already fine-tuned race car. You optimize the performance of a super-computer.

It might make sense to talk about optimizing performance (or nutrition, etc.) for Tom Brady, Mikaela Shiffrin, Usain Bolt, or Messi. But they are the 1% (more like 0.001%) at the very top where it makes sense to optimize.

We shouldn’t be trying to optimize. There are a lot of reasons that we shouldn’t be copying the 1%. We are not built like them. And honestly, it can be argued that many of the 1% would success regardless of what they ate and how they worked out.

Optimization also hints at the idea of “any means necessary”. Lance Armstrong was optimizing. Steroid users are optimizing. You get the point…

The 99% should be cultivating.

Cultivation is also about process. We cultivate gardens, and flowers. Cultivation is also a much better way of thinking of parenting. We tend to them – our gardens and our children – daily. We feed them things that will be good for them over the long term. Setbacks are an accepted part of cultivation. We focus on the process, because we really don’t have control over, and can’t know, the outcomes.

We should be cultivating our bodies and brains. It is a steady, sometimes slow, process. There are setbacks. We start from where we are, maybe with a general goal in mind, but focused on the process. We should tend to our bodies and brains daily. And we should do it with love and and over the long-term.

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