The burpee year is beguiling. It is a simple enough idea – although you probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn how many questions people can generate before starting. (For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, it start on April 1st with one burpee, and escalates by one burpee per day until we perform 365 on 31st March next year). The first 20 to 30 days are easy. Suspiciously easy. Disappointingly easy. Almost too easy for a lot of people. Definitely within reach for the vast majority. Even the detrained and out of shape can manage this, albeit they need to pick their burpee variant carefully and they may find it to be as much a physical challenge as a mental one.
But this “too simple” thing is intriguing. It shouldn’t come as a surprise but when I hear people say it, it does catch me out really often, in every walk of life!
In a lot of group settings (or on your own if you listen to the negative voice you carry around with you) the simple solution is wrong. You must have missed something; it is too simple. Somebody wants a training programme that will make them bigger, stronger and faster? Anything that doesn’t fill a 30-page magazine supplement, with half a dozen different approaches in it and littered with technical sounding expressions will just not do.
To be fair, I’ve asked for advice, or been on a course and been offered a solution and frankly been disappointed at its simplicity. Not just simple sometimes, annoyingly, something I already know or which is somehow common sense or obvious.
Why does it bother us?
1) We mistake simplicity for ease. In my experience, if it is so simple that we’ve overlooked it, we seem to find it too simple to allocate an appropriate amount of resource (physical or mental) to. Possibly, that mistaking of simple for easy leads us to think that it is somehow beneath us.
2) And this is a real kicker. If it is simple then we should have seen it. And if we should have seen it, we could have been doing it already. And if we could have been doing it already then perhaps this situation is somehow our fault. In fact, you know what? Screw you, I’m not buying that. I came here for help, not for you to blame me…
3) Doing simple things makes us feel childish and, well, like a bit of a knob!
Granted the simple things aren’t sexiful. But foundations seldom are.
I have a friend (I know, shocking isn’t it!), a very high level Kung Fu practitioner, who started a Kung Fu class for members of a local health club. It only lasted a few sessions. Apparently members didn’t want to spend ages in the horse stance (amongst other stress positions). And yet, the flashy bits require a high level of base strength, flexibility and awareness of where your body is in space. The development of these things is simple but it is not the stuff of movies (that’s why they use training montages – even Rocky had a montage!), it is time consuming and it sure as heck is not easy.
Accomplishment, whether major contract wins; long, successful relationships, or world cups etc etc are won through the simple things done well and done often. The grind. The day in, day out application of self-discipline. With practice that self-control becomes stronger. Those choices cease to be choices at all, they become habit. And the simple things become easy, and crucially, they become just what we do, even when it hurts.
In burpees as in life?