Be the Pudgy Guy
A Diatribe Against Effeciency Culture and Ripped Physiques
How ripped should you be?
I confess that once upon a time in a land called “my college experience,” where I had (seemingly) endless discretionary time and a dining hall meal plan, I spent not a few hours training to compete in triathlons. I trained the swim, bike, and run . . . every day. And I got lean. There were muscles that bulged through my skin during those years that I have long since forgotten existed. My ability to expend and consume calories was finely tuned. If anything, I tipped toward Congolese marathoner in my overall build. I’m not sure I was healthy, but I could be fast on land and sea for a few hours at a time.
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But this is the thing, I thrived in a very specific, finely tuned environment. My ability to consume calories, get sleep, and exercise were calibrated with precision. In fact, in the history of the world, even for a punk college kid, there are few people as blessed with as readily available provisions as I was during my triathlon training. Now, I’m a slightly (read that as you will) overweight dad of four teenagers and holding down a few jobs to pay the bills. My environment is not set up for triathlon training anymore, and I don’t want it to be. I have more important priorities now.1 But I still exist in an efficiency culture that values lean principles.
But, how ripped should you be? How efficient should you plan to be?
My family geeks out on the television show Alone. The premise is that several contestants, isolated from one another, are dropped off in frozen-tundra-like locations, expected to survive on a few items they bring with them. At this point in the series, all of the contestants are trained survivalists. They spend a TON of time thinking through the ten items they bring with them. They also spend a ton of time preparing physically for the ordeal. Now, do you think they show up cut and lean or pudgy and carrying a few extra pounds? If you chose door number two, you’d be right. In fact, a vast majority of the finalists every season get there because they enter the competition intentionally overweight. If they can’t catch fish that week, no worries, they have some fat stores to rely on. If they can’t bag the caribou, no worries, they ate thirteen lasagnas2 before they left and some of them are still hanging around their midsection.
So, what is the difference between an Alone contestant and Joe-triathlon? The difference is the environment in which you are competing. Alone contestants are trying to survive as long as possible and are preparing for scarcity. Joe-triathlon is preparing for a closed course, time-limited competition with an abundance of provision on either side.
Which is more like real life?
Covid and Supply Chain Considerations
When Covid hit, I indulged in a bit of catastrophizing. All things equal, if supply chains are interrupted, grocery shelves are empty, and we need to go without for a bit, what should my physical goal be? Lean and cut3 or carrying a few extra pounds in as healthy a way as possible? The answer clearly is carrying a few extra pounds if you expect an unexpected availability of food.
I’ve been writing too long for an email already. I know. Thank you, if you’re still reading. I do have a point. It is simply this: lean only makes sense in life, business, and leadership if you are in a very specific environment of very certain abundance. Where there isn’t this abundance (or promised abundance), redundancy and surplus (pounds, money, budgeted time) make far more sense. So don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t the jacked guy in the gym or whatever that equivalent is in your business. Be the intentionally pudgy guy who outlasts everyone when the unexpected happens.
The Grimké spring semester is rounding out its second week. We’ll gather for our first intensive in a few weeks. I could not be more thrilled to be a part of what God is doing through this seminary. I think we’re changing the face of seminary education (no hyperbole there). And my colleagues are some of the finest men on the planet.
I continue to coach men from a variety of backgrounds—marketplace leadership, church leadership, young, oldish, stable in their vocations, starting out, etc. Those conversations are my precious hours each week. I can’t explain what a privilege it is to get that kind of window into the development of leaders. I love it.
Several of you mentioned that you want to hear about my experiments in social media glut and deprivation. I haven’t forgotten. The experiments continue and the data is piling up. I’m looking forward to sharing some of my results soon. Maybe next time.
I mean this. At one point I wanted to be strong and fast. Now, I want to live to see my grandkids and I want to be strong enough to lift them onto my shoulders for as long as possible.
Listen to Joe Rogan interview Jordan Jonas where Jordan tells how he drank olive oil to pack on the pounds pre-competition.