Dear 20 Year Old Me

You pernicious, angry little shit.

Saw this a few days ago, courtesy of the inestimable Krista Scott-Dixon.

What would *I* say though? Specifically about ‘fitness stuff’, I mean? Would I be happy with dot-points about “BELIEEV IN URSELF”? I doubt it. 20-year-old me believed plenty. That was part of the problem. What he lacked was focus.

Anyway. This is what I’d say.

Dear 15-years-ago-me,

Here’s what you should do.


That’s it.

Acquire as much knowledge as possible about what you’re doing. What you’re doing will change a lot — you’ll try running, powerlifting, strongman, gymnastics, yoga, and other stuff. Some of it for years.

Look INTO these things. See how bodies move when they do them. Learn their interoceptive cues. Learn how it feels to get their basic movements right. Reflect on these. Where are my scapula? Where is my head? Where is my spine? Where are my feet? Where are my knees?

Look at other people’s leverages. There is no one squat, there are a constellation. Watch them get it right. Or, much more commonly, watch them get it wrong. Why is it wrong? LEARN.

Listen: sports and ‘physical traditions’ in general persist because there is a way to do them for many years without trolleying yourself. How else are you supposed to have a community of people who care about them? They’d die out. There are 80 year old weightlifters and 90 year old gymnasts. There can’t be these people within these traditions unless they build.

One way of building is focus and time pressure, and you know what that means. COMPETITION. A competition in anything isn’t really about how well you do compared to other people, it’s about being seen to do. Your environment has changed. You will be observed. Find somewhere to throw down, and peak for it.

When you learn to ask questions about how these methods of manipulating yourself through space and under load really work, you’ll find a number of things happen. How you talk about it changes. How you think about it changes. And a curiosity builds. An ‘embodiedness’. It’s wonderful.

Piss off any residual thoughts about abs, and delt caps, and whatnot. All that silliness will happen by itself. What do you think you’ll look like when you can hit a proper back lever? Or deadlift 500lbs? How you want to look is intimately tied up in what you can do, and the best thing you can do is ignore it completely. Women in your real life who’ll pay significantly more attention to you because you’re So Damn Pretty are, mostly, streaks of bin juice.

Don’t snap anything. You’ll meet an awful lot of people who think that getting hurt is part of the process. Perhaps. But this often means getting hurt more than you need to. These people are often a bit dim.

And people who are actually proud of getting lit up, well, they’re actively stupid, and their mindset sucks. There is no cachet in being bust up. Hardcore is coming back tomorrow, not taking 6 weeks off because you couldn’t keep your head.

So, what are your skills going to do for you?

Well, what happens when you’re 35 and you have tight shoulders and a sore back because you’re sitting up analysing data all day?

Or you’re 50? Or any other damn age?

You’re going to fall back on these skills, on this mindset, when you’re busy and life is trying to stamp your face into the curb. It’s no trouble to deadlift 250lbs if you used to pull 500. It’s no trouble doing heavy rows safely if you spent years learning to protect your back when you do them. It’s no problem rowing at a 1:50 pace if you spend a few years trying to crack 1:30.

The point is: deep skills totally redefine the effort you can put out casually, which will often be all you have time for. This gives you control over your bodyfat (you know how much you like beer, right?), your flexibility, your strength, your general physical comfort with being alive. You’re going to claim your right to that NOW.

Last thing: people will tell you not to rush in order to do the above. This is imprecise language. What they mean is don’t sacrifice precision for speed. Now, everything above is an argument in favour of precision — now we’ve established that it’s central, you should DEFINITELY get as much precision as fast as possible, because that’s how you work. You know you. Speed is absolutely necessary, or you will lose focus literally forever.

And grow your hair *slightly* longer. You look terrifying. You’re two hairs away from being Russell Crowe in Romper Stomper.




P.S. Oh, and few other things you were right about:

  • Your suspicions are correct, you will not get less angry. You will probably brood a lot less, and women will think it is a lot less interesting when you are a big sulky child as you get older, but you will still — a lot of the time — be essentially furious. Remember the time you did the personality test at the university open day, and it said you were ‘99% disagreeable’, and you got into an argument with the guy administering the test? Yeah. Your focus will just start having utility for other people.
  • Also, all the people who told you that you would grow out of heavy metal and screaming and breaking things were always the milquetoast middle-class divs that you thought they were.

P.P.S. This thing is coming called Instagram. It is CANCER. Ignore it.

P.P.P.S. And don’t use so much Nose Tork. It makes you crazy.

A single golf clap? Or a long standing ovation?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.