Week 1 and 2 – Finally caught up!

Man these posts are long. Hopefully after today, only reflecting on one page of The Daily Stoic at a time will help. I also wonder if right now, I have so much to note down from watching at Altis because I’m still in an observational stage. As responsibilities grow, I suspect I’ll pick up on less things, but will see things more deeply, and have more personal insight.

So less bulletpoints, bigger bulletpoints.

January 7th : Seven Clear Functions of the Mind

“The proper work of the mind is the exercise of choice, refusal, yearning, repulsion, preparation, purpose, and assent. What then can pollute and clog the mind’s proper functioning? Nothing but its own corrupt decisions.” – Epictetus, Discourses, 4.11.6-7

Choose to be good. Refuse temptation. Yearn for the best you can be. Be repulsed by post-truth (#MAGA). Prepare yourself for all that life can throw at you. Have a purpose greater than yourself.

These are all under your control, for they are all products of your mind. Recognizing this fact opens the possibility to control it. This is the best way to achieve your potential.

January 8th : Seeing our addictions

“We must give up many things to which we are addicted, considering them to be good. Otherwise, courage will vanish, which should continually test itself. Greatness of soul will be lost, which can’t stand out unless it disdains as petty what the mob regards as most desirable.” – Seneca, Moral Letters, 74.12b-13

Be wary of what the masses flock to. Popularity implies neither importance nor does it imply itself unworthy of consideration.

I love that it suggests, with “…continually test itself”, that the solution isn’t to run away from these temptations. Willpower should be thought of as a muscle, and only through bouts of stress can be it strengthen.

January 9th : What We Control and What We Don’t

Best of all, an honest understanding of what is within our control provides real clarity about the world: all we have is our own mind. Remember that today when you try to extend your reach outward – that it’s much better and more appropriately directed inward. – The Daily Stoic

This one is hard to fully accept, but key to the Stoic philosophy, and brings us back to a general mindset needed for continual sport success. Whatever external event we encounter is still only considered terrible by our minds. We give it those attributes, which means we can also take them away.

I feel that one should not forget that being passionate has its benefits too. Few things stoke a fire to act like strong emotions. If your house burns down, you probably still have so much to be thankful for, but standing there like the Neutral people of Futurama could look like you won’t do anything about it. I think the key here is balance. Fires can burn you. One mustn’t forget that passion comes from the latin patior : to suffer. Fires also burn out. When it does, and it will, what will keep you going? There are far too many stories of Olympians and World Champions who, once reaching the apex of their sport, fall into deep depression, because they realize they have nothing left to live for. They end up directionless. For more on this, take the time to read Tom Hall’s great essay on this subject.

January 10th : If You Want To Be Steady

How do they accomplish this elusive goal? (…) It’s not by eliminating outside influences or running away to quiet and solitude. Instead, it’s about filtering the outside world through the straightener of our judgment. That’s what our reason can do – it can take the crooked, confusing, and overwhelming nature of external events and make them orderly. – The Daily Stoic

Similar to the comments of two days ago, escape is not the solution, but rather “the straightener of our judgement”. What better than sport to provide continual challenges against which to strengthen both body and mind?

I also feel that a clear mind perpetuates a clear mind. If your mind is currently under turmoil, I can understand it isn’t easy to start this positive cycle.

Epictetus’ quote for this day (Discourses, 1.29.1-3, look it up) is wonderful for another reason. It is never the external that creates good, only our minds. This is also true of evil, and it wouldn’t be hard to believe that the same external can create both, depending on how one’s mind behaves that day.

Finally, I also relate back to my favorite Final Fantasy villain, Kefka Palazzo. I can’t find the article anymore, but it talked of how Kefka, a true active nihilist if there ever was one, probably could not actually ever exist. All the great evil men of our times, in their own ways, twisted as they may be, believed they were doing good.

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From watching practice…

  • Pick your battles. Are there things that can be improved? Sure. How much will you gain from improving them? Contrast to how much could you lose from focusing on them? Warm-ups shouldn’t be too cerebral, we want all their “mental gaz” for the actual track session. This changes if we have more load, or if nursing an injury.
  • Don’t only watch video review at certain speeds, they can all teach you something. Dan even watches on reverse at times!
  • When trying to teach something (vertical force production), first try to teach it by manipulating the environment to make it hard/impossible to not do it (tighter wickets, keeping speeds submaximal)

Today’s ACP lecture was with Mike Young of Athletic Lab, a great mind on how technology serves to supplement our practice, whereas it often feels (as it is so trendy now) that it some use it to replace, or patch up, bad practice. Very much enjoyed it.

  • Technology must fulfill 4 steps to be considered :
    • Reliable, accurate and valid
    • Seamlessly integrated – you should not notice you’re even using it
    • Sustainable – if it takes effort to get compliance, consider something else
    • Actionable! Don’t gather info if you won’t act on it.
  • Technology can do 4 things for us :
    • Enhance our desired stimuli (VBT seems to transfer more, flywheels have a stronger effect on eccentric strength)
    • Auto-Regulation – biologically-mediated periodization, daily 1RM measurements with VBT, velocity cutoffs for sets
    • Driving Intent – immediate performance feedback can help ensure best execution of exercises (contrast with skill learning, where less feedback is preferable, at least once past the beginner stage)
    • Monitoring readiness – probably the one that is easiest to do without technology. Just talk to them! Though sometimes, it helps to have something more objective to double check your hunches and protect against bias.

From the poolside…

  • Thinking again to Mladen Jovanovic and risk calculation and complex systems…Careful of being too reductionist. Just because you’ve broken an event down to all these components, and improved on each bit, it won’t necessarily come together the way you planned!
  • Be balanced between extremes, and that doesn’t mean “stay in the middle”. Those people are boring. Know how to navigate all ends of these spectrum. (huh, again like Mladen’s complementary pairs)
    • Slow-mo/Fast-mo
    • Horizontal vs Vertical Forces (definitely parallels with paddling here)
    • Sympathetic vs Parasympathetic (can you turn on as needed? can you turn OFF as needed?)
    • Can you be a scientific artist? A technological cake baker? A hood scholar?
  • Personal though to future ACP attendees : I understand if you’re content to just listen in on us, but you’d gain so much more from having a conversation. Ask questions, and shoot your thoughts back after you’ve been answered!
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