Moderation Is for Cowards: Get Obsessed or Get Nowhere

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From the desk of Harsh Strongman
Subj: Moderation is for cowards

There is some truth to the idea of moderation. You cannot be “on” 100% of the time; otherwise, you’ll burn out quickly; you need to work effectively and rest effectively.

Breaks from work, rest days from the gym – they are not a man being lazy; they’re *needed* for optimal results.

That being said, most of the time when you hear “everything in moderation”, it’s not meant in the ‘efficient on and off-cycle’ sense, it’s meant as an excuse.

People will take up a goal in the moments when they’re highly motivated (read: emotionally charged), and after a while, when the emotions are gone – they want to give up and ease back into their old way of doing things.

Due to a lack of real desire to change, low willpower, and years of inertia (i.e., habits built over a long time), their body wants to go back to its “old state”.

Yes, your body gets addicted to however you live. If you live an active life, and suddenly drop activity, you will feel restless and want to be active again. Anyone who’s had to take two weeks off the gym for any reason knows this.

Most people are in the opposite situation though, and start getting cravings to indulge in their bad habits.

These cravings weaken resolve, and most people give up. They lack the personal accountability to say, “I’m too weak to do this, so I’m backtracking to where I’m more comfortable”, so instead, they find refuge in the socially accepted norm of “everything in moderation”.

Ate clean for three days but now you’re feeling tired of it and want to eat some bread and chocolate? Just say moderation in everything. Now you can proceed to eat a 2000 calorie pizza, undoing five days of work without feeling bad about it.

“Everything in moderation” is an excuse losers use to justify their weaknesses.

– Harsh Strongman

It sounds extreme, and that’s because, in theory, the idea makes sense. In practice, it’s a cognitive dissonance tool people use to rationalize their weaknesses.

If you still don’t agree with me, just take a look at people who use this phrase often: you’ll see that they never get anywhere.

People who use moderation to justify their mood-based eating habits are always fat. I know some people who have been dieting for years, and they all still look the same as they did two years ago.

People who use moderation to justify skipping workouts have the same issue. Many of them go to the gym “on and off” for years, but they always look the same.

Hell, I’ve seen people use that phrase to justify addictive and destructive habits like drinking and smoking as if smoking “only” one cigarette or drinking one cup of alcohol per day was exempt from harming your body.

Moderation is a socially acceptable excuse to do whatever you want and a mental rationalization to avoid feeling guilty about it later.

If moderation was everything, why are all of its practitioners never getting anywhere?

Where are the moderation people in the top 5%? They aren’t. They’re in the back seat where they belong.

You will never find an instance of someone who became very good at something – truly, demonstrably good – who get there via moderation, who got there without being obsessed.

Get Obsessed or Get Nowhere

Anything in life worth doing is worth overdoing. Moderation is for cowards.” – Shane Patton

No one in the top 1% or even the top 5% (which I hope you’re trying to get to – otherwise what are you even doing on this website) got there in their field or category without some degree of obsession.

The level of obsession gets more extreme as you move to the top.

Do you think top athletes practice with “moderation”? No. They practice for hours, and almost every single day.

Do you think the top painters in the world painted for 2 hours a day and took weekends off? M. F. Husain produced over 40,000 paintings in his 10+ year painting career.

There is no place for moderation for those who want to get to or even stay at any high degree of competence and performance.

No one ever got to the top by accident, and those who “took it easy” when they got there were quickly thrown back down by someone else who was obsessed.

“But but but … I’m not an athlete or a pro! I’m just a guy who does this as a hobby.”

You, my friend, are missing the point.

The point is not that I’m telling you to get obsessed because you need to get to the top, the point is that IN REAL LIFE (not theory) if you want to get ANYWHERE – you need at least some degree of obsession.

Let’s say you’re an obese man who’s trying to lose weight. Well, if you want to actually drop weight, you need to be utterly obsessed with it until you get there.

You don’t need to obsess about it for the rest of your life, but it needs to be priority #1-3 till you are happy with your body.

Your fitness goals should be on your mind every single day.

You should be reading about diet, nutrition, exercise; you should be hitting the gym like a maniac, and you should be eating a good clean and green diet.

Once you get to your desired level of fitness (let’s say muscular at 15% body fat), you can finally “take it easy”.

Moderation is useless when it comes to moving forward, but it can help you stay where you already are.

If you’re a fat man eating junk food like instant noodles in moderation, you will stay fat, but you probably won’t get much fatter.

If you’re a fit man eating junk food in moderation, you will stay fit (assuming your lifestyle is good), but you probably won’t get much fitter.

In other words, GET OBSESSED if you want to get somewhere.

And once you get where you want, you can loosen up a little and have some fun.

But the fun always comes after the work.

As the great Musashi said in the Dokkodo, “Never stray from the way” – until the way ends and you’re happy where you are.

Have at Most 3 Obsessions

You can only be obsessed with a few things at once – your time and attention aren’t scalable.

You cannot be learning to eat well and learning to swim and learning to code and learning to paint all at the same time – your brain is not a parallel processor.

You can take a structured program like Live Intentionally that will help you fix your routine by changing multiple things at once, but that only works because the changes I put in there are related to each other. For example, eating well, getting exercise, and sleeping enough are all really just one priority – fixing your body.

You cannot be pursuing many unrelated things at once.

You need to focus on 2-3 things at most at a given point of time – give it your all for a few months, and when you are happy with where you get, then you can start being more moderate and pick different things to work on and be obsessed with.

Eventually, you can get back to your old obsessions for more progress, as needed/wanted while maintaining what you have already achieved in other realms of your life.

Keep doing this and you will find yourself spiraling up, and much to the frustration of the moderation-all-the-time-people who never progressed and stayed within one standard deviation from the average.

Action Summary:

For your health and career: Always be obsessed (no significant breaks). If you’re young, health can take the occasional setback to capitalize on interesting career opportunities, but this needs to be temporary.

For your hobbies and things you want to improve at: Be obsessed with one thing for X time (generally a few months – till you start to get a bit sick of it) and then change your focus of obsession to something else while you roughly hold on to your progress with the former (maintenance).

For things you don’t care about much: Moderation in everything like the rest of the losers.

Focus on 2-3 things (at the same time) at most: for most of us, health and career will occupy #1 and #2, while #3 is for rotation.

If your health and career are not in order, I recommend focusing solely on those with undivided attention until you find yourself in a more stable place.

Remember, you can’t build an empire on a lousy foundation. And good health and sound finances are the cornerstones of a good life.

Keep this cycle of obsession up for enough time and you’ll find that you’re significantly good at many things (multidisciplinary) simply because you took the time to go all-in into each subject at some point in your life, while everyone else wonders how you are “good at everything”.

(That’s when you smile and say: It was all luck and good genetics).

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