Human Strength

Gorillas are roughly 10 times stronger than humans. If power was purely a product of physical strength, we would have a silverback in the White House, instead of a whitehair. I’m kidding… But seriously, if strength superseded everything, monkeys might be running the world making movies called Planet of the Humans. Obviously, that is not the case.

It is not the case because, despite our relatively weak bodies, we have extraordinarily strong minds. We are smarter than monkeys and lions and tigers and bears. Most of us are even smarter than dolphins, and dolphins are very smart. Our human intelligence has allowed us to solve problems, plan for the future, and develop increasingly more impressive tools and technologies, from fire and wheels to iPhones and spaceships. That is why we run this planet — not because we are stronger than some other animals, but because we are smarter than all other animals. Our minds are our special strength as a species.

I believe it is generally beneficial to double and triple down on one’s strengths rather than trying to improve upon every weakness. In baseball, if you are one of the top 10 hitters in the world, but you are really bad at fielding, you should not spend 90% of your time working on your fielding and just 10% on your hitting. You should continue to work on your hitting to see how great you can get and either spend the minimum amount of time on your fielding that gets you to the point where you can at least get by, or just sign to play for a team where you can DH (the designated hitter (“DH”) only has to hit — they don’t have to play the field).

There is a lot of obsession with physical fitness optimization these days. People like Andrew Huberman and Bryan Johnson are treated like deities by their countless followers. Don’t get me wrong — I’ve learned and employed some useful tips from Huberman, and I’m a fan of his podcast, and I respect Johnson’s goal to live an unprecedentedly long and healthy life, even if I don’t love or agree with all of his rhetoric. Interviewing people working to slow and reverse aging has always been a big part of my podcast, ever since my very first episode with Aubrey de Grey, a pioneer in the space who wrote the book Ending Aging. I would love to live healthfully to age 120+. That said, I am not “all in” on these guys or their methods. It’s all a little much for me. I’m all for developing technologies, novel drugs, and therapies that promise the potential to help us live longer, healthier lives, but I am skeptical that the difference between operating at a B+ fitness level and an A+ fitness level will move the needle much in terms of how I feel on a daily basis or how long and healthy a life I live.

It’s not like its takes 85 units of time and effort to score an 85% on your fitness and only 14 more units to score a 99%. The difference between 85% and 99% requires more like 10x as much time and effort, including a whole host of sacrifices which I’m not very interested in making (i.e. never having another slice of pizza, being a general pain to hang out with, spending hours every day in the gym, and depriving oneself of many of the simple joys in life due to a zero tolerance policy on a lot of things that are more or less harmless in moderation). Not only don’t I want to make such an extreme effort, I actually don’t think it’s the smartest approach. Everything you do has an opportunity cost. The opportunity cost of spending so much time focused on your fitness may be not spending as much time with friends and family, or working, or doing things for fun. Another opportunity cost of spending so much time physically training is spending far less time mentally training — learning, reading, writing, communicating, working, building, etc..

To over-focus on physical fitness, to some degree, is to spend an exorbitant amount of time on something we are unexceptional at as a species. It is to work on our weakness rather than doubling and tripling down on our greatest strength. I am all for physical fitness to the extent that it makes me feel better on a daily basis and gives me a materially higher probability of living a longer and healthier life, no question, but I am not for piling as much time and effort as I possibly can into my physical fitness. I’d much rather use and continue to improve upon my greatest strength, my mind.

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