Stasis is Impossible
Skill Cryogenics isn't real
You’re either getting better or getting worse.
My high school sweetheart’s dad was a 6’3” former professional bodybuilder from rural Georgia who eventually transitioned into personal training at the gym he owned.
I first met him when I weighed 120 lbs [soaking wet], wore skinny jeans, and had hair down to my shoulders.
Tbh, I was terrified.
To his credit though - he didn’t care about any of that.
For his time and place in history, he actually had a worldview that was much more progressive than I would’ve expected if I had been the kind of kid who thought about worldviews.
All he cared about was my ability to take care of his daughter.
He could tell from our conversations and my grades [he asked] that I was smart enough to figure out a career so he didn’t worry about that, but he eventually told me he wanted me to come learn how to train with him.
He said that the value of strength training was twofold:
If you look strong, you can preemptively handle many potential difficult situations
If you are strong, you can actually handle many difficult situations
So I came with him to my first gym and learned to love lifting.
I’ll always be thankful for that.
And then one day as we’re talking about rest, recovery, and how to fit training into a world not conducive to discipline he says this profound thing:
“You’re either getting better or you’re getting worse.”
“Sometimes it’s unavoidable to miss training days, but don’t lie to yourself about what’s really happening”
He then went on to talk about how sometimes an action that makes you better one day will make you worse another day via overtraining or too many rest days and similar nuances around what “getting better or getting worse” meant in different situations.
His daughter and I eventually broke up, but this lesson has stuck with me for 13 years now.
Stasis in Tech
What he was ultimately talking about is the myth of stasis.
We “learn” something and then we’re an “expert” in it.
We operate under the mantle of “SME” for a specific niche.
I do it now as a source of advice for friends and fellow founders dealing with e-commerce, retailers, and B2B sales problems. Others do it with investing, technology, payments, product, data analytics, or whatever.
The advice helps and obviously this is just how humans pattern recognize to solve new problem sets.
Truly, this is a real and useful way to think of the accrual of knowledge as a result of the persistent execution of clustered activity.
But it’s not a permanent font of wisdom.
That hard-earned knowledge starts decaying the instant you stop operating.
Of course, some lessons have more permanence than others.
And you’ll continue to get better as long as you operate and iterate with the intent to learn.
Yet the axes along which you get better are a direct function of the things you’re operating on. There’s spillover and cross-functional work and growth and broadly applicable principles and everything else optimistic that people talk about when generating career optionality, but we are what we repeatedly do.
Or not do [in this case].
When the top idea in your mind shifts to focus on the next thing, your edge starts to dull on the first thing.
Two months later, that field has changed. New players have emerged. New tactics are in play. New innovations have occurred.
Your industry expertise turns into historical context.
Still useful, just in a different way.
Less applied. More theoretical.
Macro, not micro.
The rot is passive, but unyielding.
Eventually, without more work, even your historical context becomes irrelevant.
So if you want to get better, then get better.
Or if you decide it’s time to work on something else - be honest about your expertise.
Don’t lie to yourself about what’s really happening to it.
I hope this added value to your day.
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