Beware of Geeks with Formulas

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Looking at my life, most of the things I became serious about started with a formula. In basketball, I decided I wanted to go pro someday and I formulated that if I shot 500 baskets a day every day I would indeed go pro. Now the 12-year-old version of me didn’t follow through on this, but man did I cling to that formula! In high school, I got into bodybuilding (the reason I chose to quit basketball) and I would spend hours every week formulating the perfect diet and workout program. I was religious about it. This point in my life is where I started learning that life doesn’t respond to my math simply because I think it is right. On paper, my diet was perfect. But in real life, even though I did follow my diet, I got 3rd place in my competition and the there was no way the 2 guys who beat me worked harder and had better formulas. I was sure of that!

A formula, essentially is an arbitrary and made up calculation or step by step plan based on one’s perception of reality. During this time, I began studying a guy in bodybuilding named Frank Zane. Now Frank Zane was a Mr. Olympia winner and he was very unorthodox. He didn’t work out the way anyone else did, he didn’t diet the way anyone else did, and he didn’t supplement the way anyone else did. Frank talked more about his mind than he did his bodybuilding “formulas”. It baffled me that a guy who focused so little on methodology could be such a tremendous winner. As I studied the real Greats more and more I noticed many of them had the same attitude. They listened to their bodies, worked on their minds, observed the data available, and then acted upon what made most sense at the time of the decision.

I began to realize that formulas aren’t the way to success. Every minute of life is case by case and there is no blanket system for anything to simply plug into and get the right answer. The equation is always different. The reason this is important is because we base most, if not all, our decisions off formulas that other people used and taught us because they subjectively were satisfied with the results they achieved from this particular formula. In other words, if I give you a formula or equation for your finances and I tell you that if you follow my equation you will get the results I got, you would be foolish to simply follow my formula because it worked for me.