BL&T No. 103: Taking the Guesswork Out of Training


This post originally appeared in my newsletter, Borrowed, Learned, & Thought. BL&T is sent weekly on Mondays. In every edition, I share lessons learned in agency leadership, life, and e-commerce. This post does not include all the details shared in the newsletter sent via email. Subscribe here.


"To some, routine can sound like where creativity and innovation go to die—the ultimate exercise in boredom. We even use the word as a synonym for pallid and bland, as in “It has just become routine for me.” And routines can indeed become this—the wrong routines. But the right routines can actually enhance innovation and creativity by giving us the equivalent of an energy rebate. Instead of spending our limited supply of discipline on making the same decisions again and again, embedding our decisions into our routine allows us to channel that discipline toward some other essential activity."

From "Essentialism: The Discipline Pursuit of Less" by Greg McKeown [Book]


I'm pretty excited about a masterclass that Dana and I started to level up training for our dog, Gizmo.

We've had Gizmo for five months to the day. Apparently, his birthday is on Christmas, which makes him about eight months old.

Overall, he's a good dog. Most of the time, he listens to the few commands he knows and has learned how to ring a dog doorbell when he has to go outside. The challenges are when he doesn't listen and when he gets overly excited, usually in the evening. Excitement might look like a re-enactment of the Kentucky Derby around the house, mouthing (aka biting), jumping up on us, or all of the above.

Until now, Gizmo's training has primarily consisted of Dana finding miscellaneous videos on YouTube. Outside reinforcing these concepts when we can, we're not training him on a set schedule, so he's not continually improving or learning new things. Gizmo may be a dog, but in hindsight, I’m realizing the key to his growth is not too far off from the lessons I've learned throughout my fitness journey.

Years ago, I can remember feeling lost when I went to the gym. I wasn't sure what to do, so I'd do what few movements I knew or find comfort on the treadmill or elliptical. Without a program, I had difficulty building a habit and seeing results. Some training is better than no training, but the benefits I've found from following a program are:

  • It takes the guesswork out of what exercises to do and when creating less friction to putting in the work.
  • In fitness, results take time, so making progress through a program provides positive momentum to keep going.

All of that said, we have been training Gizmo without a program. Starting this masterclass has already helped us be more disciplined about making the time and building a routine around training him.

We're only four days into the course, but so far, it is comically similar to the strength training programming I've become accustomed to following. Our current daily session is to do three sets of ten reps for two different exercises. The aim is to do the session three times per day. The exercises get more advanced as we go and change every seven days.

If anyone is interested, the ten-week course is called The Total Transformation Masterclass. The methods taught are based on the approach used for training service dogs.

I'm already enjoying training and spending more focused time with the little dude. I also love knowing that if we put in the work, he's more likely to become an obedient pup.

Project Debriefs As An Agency Ritual

Switching gears a bit, Barrel Co-Founder Peter recently tagged me in a tweet about our updated process for project debriefs. The tweet reminded me of an in-progress essay I started a few weeks ago about how we've evolved project debriefs and re-integrated them into the agency. The engagement on Twitter inspired me to finish it up!

You can read the essay here: Project Debriefs As An Agency Ritual

Thought Starter

Where is my lack of a system holding back progress?

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