By: Barbell Logic Team

There is a common saying in business and technology circles that people tend to overestimate what they can accomplish in short-term and vastly underestimate what they can achieve in the long-term. This week’s podcast on Defensive Finance highlights this maxim, focusing on a big picture plan and disabusing everyone that such an important long-term goal is easy, while highlighting the power of the long-term. We couldn’t help but find parallels between responsible finance and strength training.

“[T]he imagination extrapolates in a straight line, while real events develop exponentially, like compound interest.” Wachhorst, Wyn, “The Dream of Spaceflight: Nostalgia for a Bygone Future” Mass. Review vol. 36 (1): 7 (Spring 1995)

There is a common saying in business and technology circles that people tend to overestimate what they can accomplish in short-term and vastly underestimate what they can achieve in the long-term. When this saying holds true, it is because we tend to emulate examples of success. Examining the habits, perspective, and maxims of a successful person or business may provide a sound basis for personal success, but when we also place on that success an artificial timeline we set ourselves up for hard work in the short term, disappointment in the middle-term, and long-term goals that may seem unattainable.

The idea that we underestimate what we can accomplish in the long-run, five or ten years down the road, is in direct opposition to the myth of the overnight success. The overnight success most often arises from years, sometimes decades, of hard work, struggle, and perseverance (and very often no shortage of Providence). As an example, in this week’s podcast, Scott Hambrick gave us a crash course in Defensive Finance. His talk focuses on a big picture plan, coming from someone who has walked the path and found success. His talk should disabuse everyone that such an important long-term goal is easy, but it also highlights the power of the long-term. We couldn’t help but find parallels between responsible finance and strength training.

To get the financial advice, listen to the episode (It’s linked here). Below is the structure of Scott’s advice:

First, Build a Foundation

Scott suggests beginning by learning financial terminology. He suggests the Barron’s “Dictionary of Finance and Investment Terms” as your go-to resource. The understanding of terms is the foundation of financial information. When you can understand the language, all the other financial information becomes accessible to you.

Next, Understand the Process

Money is math. Scott says “money is essentially numbers, and it behaves in a real, finite, predictable way; and you can predict it with mathematical models.” Get a calculator, learn, then math, and then you are ready for the third step. (HP 12C Financial Calculator)

Make a Long Term Plan

Using math and the predictability of money, you can make a long-term plan. Set your goals, take a look at where you are right now, and go from there. Scott gives a “rule of thirds” as a starting place, but the picture and plan will be different if you are twenty years old than it will be if you are forty.

The key here is that you must take the long view. Wealth and financial security are attractive and attainable, but the numbers will show you that it takes decades of consistent effort. When people start taking control of their money, they tend to overestimate how much progress they can make in a year or two. But when the short-term zeal wears off, and you realize that in a few years you have only saved a fraction of your goal, the tendency is to undervalue small gains and cumulative and compounding growth. The plan works; all you need is to stick to it.

How does this relate to strength training?

First, build a foundation

There is a reason we tend to focus on form and consistency as the basis for long-term training success. These are your foundation. Learn how to lift and teach yourself how to train consistently. Similar to learning the language of finance, you are learning the tools that will carry you through the entirety of your training career. You are building a training history that will act as a reference for your long-term needs.

Next, Understand the Process

As you build that training history, it is important to pay attention to how you respond to the adaptive process. Unlike money, training does not work precisely the same way for every person. But (like money) training is predictable. You change and adapt in predictable ways to known training stresses. (i.e., Squats make you stronger.) The difference is in degree. How much stress and how much stronger depend on your unique physiology and lifestyle. Understanding how the process applies to you allows you to look at the big picture.

Make a Long Term Plan

You should not arbitrarily set massive goals and then start plugging away at them. Reasonable, numerical goals—those big PRs we all chase—are notable landmarks and can provide valuable short-term motivation. The long-term plan for training, however, is NOT a number. It’s a perspective. The value of a long-term plan is the day-to-day becoming the year-to-year becoming the decade-to-decade process of improving your position.

Your long term training plan should take you from gaining strength to gaining perspective. In the short term, strength deficits are like debt. Attack them, get stronger, become a more useful person. After that, train because training is what strong, useful people do.

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