How to take the right approach to maximize your life.
As I read into the subject of business and particularly finance, a topic that has interested me quite a bit lately. I recently learned about the difference between comparative advantages and absolute advantages.
Unknowingly, I’ve mulled over this topic time and time again when it comes to health and wellness and my own writing. And it’s nice to finally put a name to the face.
Absolute advantages are just that — absolute.
If you’re stronger, faster, or leaner than me, you would have an absolute advantage over me. The problem with absolute advantages, however, is severalfold.
First, when looking at your health in terms of absolutes you can marginalize yourself very quickly. All it takes is one poke around Instagram in a field of performance you’re interested in, and in absolute terms, you won’t stack up. That doesn’t mean relatively-speaking you’re not good at that particular thing. In fact, it probably means you’re doing great, and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters!
It wouldn’t make sense to keep reinventing yourself every time you weren’t the best in the world at something, that’s just too much pressure! Therefore, from a comparative standpoint, the best bang for your buck is to hunker down on your strengths.
Consider also, your return on investment.
When I write programs for my clients, I often think about their comparative advantages — in terms of what’s going to make the biggest impact on them. I like to see my clients succeed, and my job is to put them in a position to do that.
I consider what my clients are good at, and what they will struggle with. I aim to provide them with a compromising prescription that considers a comparative advantage to both the successes and struggles they need to work on.
Therefore, the inputs must be as effective as possible for that person. Essentially I ask myself, “what will yield the maximum results in the shortest amount of time for this client?” And then I go to work, writing them a customized prescription.
Working on weakness — the right way.
We need to work on weaknesses and target problem areas, we can’t just do things we are good at, that’s a given. As a coach, my job is to find the right way to do this. While there’s no simple explanation, I can provide a brief example:
Say John has shoulder issues, and he can’t comfortably get under a barbell to perform a squat.
I could spend the first half of the session foam-rolling and priming the shoulders to eventually get into a squat, wasting half of our time together or I could take a moment and consider John’s comparative advantages;
The first substitute that comes to mind would be a deadlift, but I know that John is a very proficient squatter, and from an anthropometrical perspective he doesn’t have as much success with deadlifts. Therefore, I still want John to execute a squatting movement.
I would then consider a safety squat or even a trap bar deadlift with more bend in the knees. I would do this in an effort to maximize John’s training potential — playing to his comparative advantage over doing something less stimulating.
These modifications and minor tweaks make all the difference when selecting the appropriate exercises to maximize results during a training session. This is a broad example, and when considering rehabilitative or corrective exercise selection, this process can become quite involved.
The advantages are bigger than just exercise selection.
Rather than keeping the focus narrow, let’s expand our focus back out for a minute. Think about the innate characteristics of your training regime.
After training in a particular domain for a long period of time, your body will become more adept at expressing your genetics fluently — taking less time and effort to get greater results. I remember reading about a study where elite athletes were capable of reaching peak endogenous benefit from exercise much faster than novice athletes. Meaning it took less time for the elite lifters to get the same benefits as the novice lifters doing the same routine.
When my 23&Me results came in, I was not surprised to find out I had the ACTN3 gene, which is associated with elite strength and power. I truly believe that my lifestyle augmented my body’s ability to express those genes fluidly— making strength and power more a part of who I am.
When considering comparative advantages of strength training, I think about the implications of switching to long-distance running. My genotype, the one I cultivated for most of my life, would be neglected because I wouldn’t be playing to my comparative advantage.
Therefore, the opportunity cost of training incorrectly would mean I would be spending a lot of time participating in training activities that aren’t suited to my nature. I interpret this as having to work 2–3 times as hard to get the benefits or results that I would if I had just stuck with strength and power training all along.
By sticking to the things you were meant to do, you’ll find that you can maximize the results and enjoyment you get from your wellness routine. You’ll put in less effort and get better results! Work smarter, not harder!
For someone just starting out on their journey, they may wonder what sorts of things they have a predisposition to. I would suggest that exploration and cultivation play a much bigger role than anyone gives credit for.
Keep exploring and doing the things you love, and it is my belief that, over time, you will find a path that is best suited to you and your body’s needs.
Think hard about your comparative advantages, keep your head down and worry about yourself, and finally focus on things that fill your cup and make you happy.