What gives you away when you least expect it?

As documented previously, I’ve been doing boxing training for the last 4 years or so.

My classification is (just about) heavyweight, and whilst I certainly won’t be troubling Anthony Joshua any time soon, I do love the mix of fitness, discipline, skill and movement the sport provides.

Leaving London I knew one of the things I’d miss most were my weekly training sessions with the stern but softly spoken Paulo Muhongo. After a bit of time getting settled in New York, I joined Work.Train.Fight down in SoHo.

Rolling up there at 10am on a Sunday morning I had a feeling I was a bit rusty and the US food portions had taken their toll, but class number one was even more of an eye-opener than expected.

Under the tutelage of trainer Chris, my class partner John and I toiled on the spin bike, cranked out a few burpees and did a few shadow boxing routines to get warmed up. After 10 minutes I was drained and realising just how much one’s stamina can drop after a few weeks of relative inactivity (putting together flat-pack furniture clearly does not count as exercise, despite me trying to tell myself the opposite).

Far from being a sadistic cardio massacre though, Chris took us down a far more technical route that I anticipated.

Before we’d even got the gloves on, he was onto me – nudging the left hip back, tilting the chin, checking my feet. Observing every micro movement, what I thought was a reasonable boxing technique had been quickly deconstructed to be rebuilt almost from scratch. I was off-centre, off-balance and as of now, off the burritos.

Trying to keep my frustration in check, I took his feedback on board and got it back together again.

He threw a few encouraging words my way and then from nowhere – “hold it!”.

“Look at your reset. Look. It’s a give away, a tell tale sign.”

At first I didn’t know what he meant. I carried on what I was doing in the mirror to figure it out, and then I realised. Every time I threw a combo or even defended myself I reset back to my starting position in exactly the same way; back foot half a step back, small slide with the front foot. I could be as varied or unpredictable as I liked with what I was doing consciously, but my unconscious mind was resetting to my starting position to what felt safe, comfortable. The start position should be standard, but the route to get back there shouldn’t.

A skilled opponent would notice this and exploit it, just like a hypnotist can put someone into a trance by interrupting patterns from learned behaviours, like a handshake. The one thing I hadn’t given thought to was what would be my downfall.

It got me thinking – what other reset habits do I have in my life, and to what degree are they telegraphed?

Often these resets cause us no harm, but in which situations would having an obvious reset pattern be detrimental? Playing a board game, negotiating a business deal, writing a blog post?

And we’ve all got them. What are yours?



If you like to box, come and find me at Work.Train.Fight on Sunday mornings – I’ll be trying to reset in a way Chris hasn’t seen before.

When you’re not killing it

Tiga (from Tiga’s Facebook page)

This post by well-known DJ and producer Tiga popped up on my Facebook feed last weekend.

There’s a lot packed in to just a few sentences: ego, aloofness, self-deprecation, humility.

Tiga’s post got a huge response. This was likely in large part due to his sizeable fanbase as well as his eloquence, but it was also because of its rarity. You just don’t see people in the entertainment business talking this way very often.

I really respect him for sharing his off-night publicly but it made me think this kind of thing shouldn’t make such a large impact.

It should be seen as… well, normal.

None of us like to admit we were wrong, we failed, or we just didn’t perform well. This is especially uncomfortable when it’s concerning our trade, profession, or something else we hold close as part of our identity. It makes us feel vulnerable and questions our value. But we should do so more often.

Whether by coincidence, fate or the law of attraction, a series of tweets by the author James Clear got my attention the very same day as I saw Tiga’s disclosure.

The 15-tweet thread also includes:

The results of success are usually public and highly visible, but the process behind success is often private and hidden from view.

When your screen is filled examples of the strongest, richest, and smartest, it’s easy to overvalue the outcome & undervalue the process.

I believe a lot of us are guilty of this. I know I am.

However, I’d extend this message to cover the process that leads to both success and failure.

Recently I’ve been investing time into building web apps using Ruby on Rails. I’ve been following a few video tutorials to help me build ropey clones of Reddit, Pinterest and several other of your favourite websites.

Where I’ve learnt the most is by failing (i.e. my app throwing an error or some kind). I have to rewind the video, re-trace my steps a few times over, and find out what caused the error before trying to fix it.

It’s slow and painstaking but the process towards understanding failure makes me more likely to either fix it more quickly in future or avoid it completely.

A web developer known as Levels (who has a pretty sizeable cult following) recently took this a step further by documenting an entire startup build via broadcasting it on Twitch.

Maybe the process isn’t very pretty to watch in its entirety, but making an impressive outcome more transparent enables others to learn, develop and get comfortable with failing and making mistakes. We can better respect and understand the process, rather than just marvelling at or dismissing the outcome. It encourages us to appreciate the practice and sometimes even think ‘I could do that’.

I believe we’ll see transparency around the process appear more in everyday life — from the way food is produced to how laws and legislation comes to pass.

Where this transparency may have the most fascinating impact is in the creative industries.

A lot of people in this area seem to be very afraid of opening up the process rather than just showing off the (selected) results. A previous post of mine touched on this in a slightly different but connected context — hunkering down or fronting up.

By being transparent we may expose some of our tricks of the trade, but to paraphrase an old adage “it’s what you do with it that counts”.

We now have platforms taking us inside the processes to learn to play video games, code websites and even build houses.

Maybe the world’s top DJs could take us deeper inside their process: away from the selfies, hotel suites and big tracks dropping at a festival; to the filtering and preparation of the music, the practice and honing of the craft, and knowing where, how and why they may have made mistakes along the way.

Despite what may show on the surface we all have times when we’re not killing it, whether as a rookie starting out or as a seasoned professional.

Openly sharing and learning from each others’ mistakes will improve our aptitude, help us find new ways of doing things, and relieve some of the status anxiety that’s everywhere around us in an connected age when we only measure outcomes rather than valuing the process.

After all — we’re only human, right?