Things I wish I knew before taking deep dives

We spend a lot of time in our lives on a handful of activities that become our hobbies, interests and passions. Yet despite how much energy we put towards them, we rarely stop to think about what we would need to do to maximize our performance within those hobbies.

As an example, many people spend a lot of time working out, but often with bad form, doing the wrong exercises, and on the wrong diet to hit their goals.

Personally, I have spent a lot of time exercising, playing soccer, thinking about food, reading, and a few other things. So I’ll pick the most relevant out of these and share what I wish I had known beforehand.

Playing a sport

Since the beginning of high school I wanted to be a great soccer player. I wanted to be a key player on our school’s varsity team that was ingrained into the school’s culture, and it had crossed my mind to play college soccer. So during high school I was in the gym lifting weights 3–4 times per week pretty much without pause. I would run 2–3 times per week, I played everyday during the school season which ran from August-October and I played 4–5 times per week during the club soccer season which went from January-May. Adding all of that up over the course of 4 years comes out to a lot of soccer and training. Yet, I didn’t start on our varsity team until I was a senior, I was barely recruited to play even D3 soccer, and I ended up being cut as a walk-on from the WashU team.

I was at a disadvantage because I was chubby through middle school and was shedding baby fat while some kids were playing good soccer at a high level. Nevertheless, given the amount of time I put in during high school, I should have been better. So considering all of the time and energy that I put towards soccer (and it could be for any sport), here are the things I wish I knew.

  • Being able to bench press a lot is meaningless

Learn areas of muscle you should focus on for your particular sport and hit them hard instead of worrying about how big your biceps are or how much you can deadlift.

  • The most important thing should have been playing soccer

I was so focused on the lifting and running because it was easy. I could go in there, do my thing and although I was challenging myself, I knew exactly what the outcome would be. I didn’t play as much as I should have because getting strong and fast seemed too appealing

  • The things you’re bad at are not going to go away by themselves

I never had the best first touch and always had some issues dribbling. But instead of playing with the ball for 30 minutes everyday, I would work on my long passing which is so much less important. I did it because, again, it was easy. But being hyperfocused on the things you aren’t good at is critical

  • Play with people better than you

Playing with people that are worse than you accomplishes nothing except making you feel good about yourself. Take the challenge. I think the reasons why are clear

Reading

Over the past year I have become very into reading. There’s so much knowledge in the world on so many different things from people that have lived through different experiences and times, and that have different passions than us. The best place to find this knowledge is through stories and advice via other people. We don’t often have that luxury, though, so reading is the next best thing. Blog posts, news editorials and shorter content can be quite useful, but I have primarily stuck with books since they take a deeper dive into a topic and there are millions of reviews and recommendations that allow you to spend your time reading things that are worthwhile.

When I embarked on this quest of books about a year ago, I just jumped into it without thinking much, so here are the things I’ve realized:

  • Audible

Audible is awesome. You can pay a monthly fee and get audiobooks on your phone that you can download on Wifi and listen to whenever you want. And you can share accounts with your friends so you pay listen and can listen more.

The trick: listen at 2x speed. They talk slow on Audible and 2x speed is totally manageable to listen to. You’ll learn a lot more quickly. Just make sure you’re able to focus while you’re listening or 10 minutes will go by and you’ll be super lost.

  • Taking notes

Different strategies work for different people, but for almost everyone, I’d recommend doing something to help remember the content. There were some awesome books I read in the summer that I barely remember because I didn’t write anything down. So some people put stickies in the book, others circle things. For me, I write notes on my phone while reading/listening that I can go back to. I also started writing a medium post after each article that I read to sum up and gather my thoughts. I’ve been enjoying that so far. I write down things I want to remember, interesting facts, ideas I want to explore later, references the author makes to other good books, etc.

  • Be thoughtful about what you read

It’s easy to just pick up whatever is near you or whatever the first book recommendation that you get is. And if you dive into online recommendations it can be quite overwhelming, but if there are certain topics you want to learn more about, then drop all other books and dive into those. For instance, I read a book called The Undoing Project that talks about Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky who were some of the founders of behavioral economics. I was intrigued by the book (I’d recommend it, although not as much as the following I’m about to mention), and decided to read both “Misbehaving” and “Nudge” by Richard Thaler. Taking that dive into the topics was awesome and I learned a lot. There are lots of self help books as well. One thought I prescribe to when looking at books to read is to see what people that I respect a lot (or if you know yourself well, people you want to be similar to) recommend.

I read one recently that Steve Jobs raved about (Autobiography of a Yogi) and it gave me some insight into Jobs’ personality. Quite interesting.

  • Invest in speed reading

I have actually not done this myself and am going to start ASAP. But, it’s easy to become a faster reader (there are tons of articles on it), and if we read so much, why not learn how to do that as soon as possible so that you can read more books (similar to 2x speed on Audible).

Working out

I talked about sports, but exercising, specifically is different. I have been lifting and running since back in middle school. But I still don’t look the way I want. I’d say two big reasons for that. One, I haven’t been doing the right exercises, and two, I haven’t been eating the right things.

So when I got to SF I joined a gym and paid for some training sessions. I just had my first one a few days ago and I learned so much. I found out I had wrong form on some stuff, figured out what I should be eating in the mornings, how much protein to get, what I should eat after workouts, etc.

The point is this:

  • Don’t just start working out

You don’t have to pay tons of $ for a trainer, but on the other hand, what’s $300 for something you’re going to spend 5 hours a week for many years doing. Learn the right form and exercises.

  • Base your workouts on your goal

If you want to put on weight, don’t just go to the gym and lift. You have to eat a ton of protein or you’ll accomplish nothing. It can relate to any type of goal, but revolve your workouts entirely to that.

  • Invest in good equipment

You’ll be spending a lot of time in the gym (or running). Get good shoes so you’re not in trouble years down the road. Get comfy clothes that you feel confident wearing. Get get earbuds that don’t fall out (I still need a new pair of wireless).

  • Don’t worry about what other people think

Whether you’re overweight, look like a champ, or are too skinny, when you’re deciding about going to the gym and once you’re in there, who cares. When I see someone just bench pressing the bar, or someone overweight going for a run, I break out into a huge smile. Everyone has to start somewhere and I have so much respect for those people. Who cares if people look at you and laugh. The good ones won’t. And what’s the shame in saying, “Yeah, I’m not as strong, or healthy as I’d like to be, so I am in the gym working on it.”

I’d be happy to talk more in depth about any of these things or my experiences. Can also send over a reading list for anyone interested. Maybe I’ll make one public at some point soon.

Thank for reading.

Year 1, Article 6.

Cheers :)
N.B.A