life: larger than our plans

The net is set for the fish,
    But catches the swan in its mesh.
The praying mantis covets its prey,
    While the sparrow approaches from the rear.
Within one contrivance hides another;
Beyond one change, another is born.
Are wisdom and skill enough to put your hopes on?

From the book Master of the Three Ways, by Hung Ying-ming (1:148).

Just a reminder to myself that sometimes life is larger than our plans.

The problem with fighting fires

The problem with fighting fires, day after day, is that there’s no time for anything else.

Sometimes, you just have to step back and observe.

To think; to plan; to conquer.

That’s not going to happen while you’re fighting fires.

Sometimes, you have to lose the battle to win the war.

The Difference Between Amateurs and Professionals…

…is that amateurs practice till they get it right, but professionals practice till they can’t get it wrong.

I love that quote.

Reminds me of how I push myself to obtain my IPPT golds. In the months leading up to it, I’d train like I was training for the Olympics. During the test days itself, even if I was tired or sick or just not feeling quite up to it, I’d still manage the gold.

 

To Judge a Life, Just Look at the Last Half

A beautiful quote from a beautiful book, Vegetable Roots Discourse, #92:

If a singing girl is virtuous later on in accord with her circumstances, her earlier life of rouge and flowers will not matter. The faithful wife with white hair who lets down her guard nullifies half a life of chaste endeavor. The proverb reads, “To judge a life, look just at the last half.”

A true saying indeed.

A reminder to all of us that even after what might be deemed as failure, not all is lost.

On another note, the second half of the first paragraph, about the faithful wife, reminds me about antifragility, and how it would be prudent to build antifrgile systems around what matters most to us.

Towel pull-ups improved my pull-up max by 50%!

Since completing my full-time national service in the army in 2006, I haven’t managed to do more than 12 pull-ups, generally fluctuating between a max of 10 and 12 (I could just about do about 13 in 2006), though I’ve maintained a pretty decent ready-for-eight-at-any-time standard (i.e. if you asked me to do pull-ups I’d be able to crank out eight with relative ease).

Back while I was still in the army, I’d noticed that one of my major pull-up weaknesses was forearm strength and endurance. I found that though my arms felt like they could probably do a couple more, my grip would let up and I’d drop.

In the last couple of months though, I re-discovered the towel pull-up (re-discovered because I’d read about it before but didn’t do anything about it then). And I believe it single-handedly allowed me to finally break my 13 pull-up barrier, giving me a ready-for-twelve-at-any-time standard, and a max of 15.

After a few weeks of making it part of my after-run pull-up routine (I’d generally end my runs at “fitness parks” where pull-up bars were available), I realized that I could do crank out 12 with relative ease. One night, feeling rather adventurous, I decided to see just how many I could do, and found to my astonishment that I could do 15; two more than my all-time maximum, and three more than I’d ever managed to do I the last seven years.

By improving my greatest pull-up weakness (grip/forearm-strength), I improved my pull-up max by about 50%. What is even more exciting is the fact that breaking down this barrier seems to have unlocked a lot of my pull-up potential.

For example, I’d previously avoided this thing called “ladder training”, where I’ll do multiple sets of pull-ups, with each set “climbing” up in the number of pull-ups being done (here’s more on ladder training).

I’d often had to give up halfway because of painfully fatigued forearms. But for the first time last week, I tried it  and had to give up because my whole damn upper body was killing me. It was beautiful.

It’s like playing a game where I was required to gain “tickets” to unlock a stage, and after seven long years I’ve finally gained the tickets, unlocked the stage, and finding I’m in a whole new world of pull-up fun.

Yes, it’s that exciting.

PS: Happy 2014 and happy training!

Onwards and forwards to a 20 pull-up max in 2014!