Wrecking Good Plans

I had a moment of clarity this morning. I had just blown my first workout in my garage weight room, and during the inevitable post-mortem analysis, I identified my nemesis! It turns out, most of my failures (which are numerous and we don't need to list out) track back to the same source. Here it is:

When I make plans, I'm kinda smart. When I execute them, at critical times, I'm mentally impaired and an idiot.

This concept is not unfamiliar. Aside from worrying about what I'm going to have for dinner, I do about three things: computer work, running/exercise, and stock investing. The investing one is the key source of insight. It turns out there are a lot of intelligent ways to invest your money. The hard part is not freaking out and selling low or getting excited and buying high. This problem is well known and a lot of people write about it. Here is the popular illustration.

Hey, but if I buy at the arrow and sell at the max, I could still make a tiny bit each time...

The trick is that you have to realize that you, like everyone else, are probably going to catch the stupids when times get interesting. Instead of deciding that you are superior to your fellow man, you need to assume that you are going to freak out and try to give future crazy you the tools they need to be less stupid. Sometimes it works.

This morning, I was supposed to do a lifting "complex" called Cosgrove's Evil 8. Complexes are where you do the reps for one lift, then do the reps for the next lift all the way through the sequence without putting the bar down. I hear this type of workout burns a whole bunch of calories. I was supposed to start with 6 reps of each, then 5, then 4, all the way down to 1, then stop. Instead, I did three cycles of 6 reps and then called it a day because I didn't want to yak in the garage.

Ahhh, well if it's a cute yak, that's different!

Later I realized that I blew my workout for the exact same reason I blew my marathon last week - I thought I was smart enough to change the plan mid-workout. The first set felt light and I thought I could improve the workout mid-stride. The first five miles felt pretty good (when my shorts weren't trying to fall off) and I tried to pick up the pace. A few miles later, the wheels fell off.

Now, this wasn't the first time I've noticed the whole "don't change your workout" thing, but this was the first time I made the connection to investing - where instead of being kinda silly it's considered an extremely serious hurdle to success and something to prepare for. It turns out software development has this too, but that discussion is boring(er).

New plan! It is no longer funny to deviate from the plan. It means whatever I did that day, it wasn't my workout.