Nail the basics – and nothing else is necessary. Fail the basics – and nothing else will help.

I have good news for you, and bad news for lazy people.

By and large, there are no secrets, shortcuts or silver bullets. The stuff that actually works is simple and you probably already know it.

This is true in nutrition, exercise, psychological self-development, learning new skills, and virtually everything else worth doing.

For most people, it’s not an information problem – it’s a laziness/discipline/self-regulation problem. The basics are simple, and account for most of the result. True to Pareto principle, 80% of the outcome is thanks to maybe 20% of the variables, in this case a few basic guidelines – assuming you follow them consistently. There’s no reason to go for the long tail before you capture the head first.

Note this shows how much additional value you’re getting every step of the way.

In fact, looking for silver bullets is a clever type of procrastination.

People Motte-and-Bailey themselves into inaction with some version of the following argument:

“Surely it is reasonable to want to do it efficiently. It makes sense to search for an optimal way instead of blindly delving into potentially futile effort.”

Yes, but if that search is for something that doesn’t exist, or at the very least isn’t necessary and provides only marginal improvement over common knowledge, then it is procrastination indeed, and a dangerously sneaky form of it, only marginally less self-destructive than “waiting to feel like it”.

An honest search for a good cost-benefit ratio turns into “Waiting for Godot” (or waiting for god mode – an elusive, because imaginary, magical recipe that will make it so easy it will feel like cheating).

You know what has the worst results? Doing nothing.

There’s a whole zoo of exotic procrastination types out there, and I’m an expert on them. That’s because I’ve been there, everywhere before you, so now you don’t have to.

Variou fads latch onto this tendency and scam people, promising shortcuts and miraculous sweat-benefit ratios.

No such stuff exists. There are no shortcuts.

Work mean, eat clean, get lean.

That’s it.

Rejection of effective simplicity is either dishonesty or laziness.

“I’m still stuffing my face with five cakes a day, because I haven’t figured out the exact macronutrient ratios and potassium per kilogram of body weight I should be eating down to three decimal numbers” isn’t a defensible line of reasoning.

Nor is “I’ll start working out when I find the perfect exercise programme that makes me a greek deity in two five minute sessions per week”

“I’ll learn that language I’ve been wanting to learn just when I find the perfect book or lecturer so that it’s not any actual work”

“I’ll save the developed world from demographic catastrophe and have kids as soon as I find a guy who looks like Brad Pitt and is a billionaire and will love me for my alleged personality.”

It is crystal clear people with this attitude don’t really want to do it.

It is analysis paralysis and perfectionism, used half-consciously as an avoidance mechanism.

Then there’s the special case of blaming the imperfect knowledge of authorities: “It’s not that I don’t WANT to do it, it’s that the science isn’t settled and I want to do it right. It’s not my fault I’m fat, those dumb scientists keep changing their minds about this stuff all the time.”

But they don’t – at least not about the essentials. There’s no controversy or 180 degree retractions about the benefits of moderate exercise and eating vegetables.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t space for fine tuning when you’re an elite athlete, and scientific frontiers of physiology and psychology yet to be conquered. But for 99.99% of people, there’s no reason to ever go there.

Trying to micromanage the long tail, unless you’re an absolute specialist and your living depends on it, is generally not worth the effort. Indeed, that’s where the science is anecdotal and a bit unreliable at best – it’s super easy to actually harm yourself with unproven substances (especially in combinations) and eccentric exercise regimens. Let Tim Ferris do that to himself for your benefit instead.

Right now, you have everything you need – provided you actually use it.

Most of the benefit is in the low hanging fruit, and it is absolutely incredible how few people pick it, and follow two or three completely straightforward guidelines that so disproportionately improve lives.

If there are as yet unknown magic recipes, doing the obvious stuff in the meantime can’t hurt.

More often than not, when you do learn more, you find out the basics are good enough.

Scooping out the last bits of Nutella from the trickiest corners of the jar takes more work than the first two big spoonfuls, which capture most of the content – which I realize may not be the optimally pre-suasive mental image, but you get the idea.

Instead of buying whichever cadmium-soaked root or berry Chinese scam artists decided to push on gullible westerners as the panacea of the week, stick to the basics – but stick to them. Then reap the “compound interest” and momentum effects.

You already know what to do. Move your ass and don’t pig out.

Shortcuts are for suckers.
No silver bullets.
Nail the basics.

Once again, the crucial ingredient is discipline to actually do what you know you need to do.

Judging by the enthusiastic feedback and viral popularity of the now classic article on the topic, I’ve successfully identified the weak spot of the equation for a lot of people and launched a psychological tactical nuke into it. Good.

Enjoying the reading? Buy me lettuce.