“If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.”
Some people are physically or mentally or emotionally “weak” strictly because of the wrong environment. Seldom do we look at a fish who failed to climb a tree and think, “what a weak-ass pathetic loser.” But society will observe a person with apparent weakness and attribute the failure to that person’s degree of effort or even moral code or value of life. What if they’re just a fish out of water? I’m arguing they are. Hear me out.
I believe most people who fail at lots of levels of life have more greatness in them than all of “The Greats” combined. Why? Because I’ve seen proof once we take them off the tree and place them in their right body of water. I’ve worked with people who START real fitness in their 30s, 40s, or 50s, and who go on to perform greater athletic feats than those who started as child prodigy athletes whom I came to know in high school or college.
NFL wide receiver Tyreek Hill was so proud of his performance on Nordic Leg Curl in his 20s that he posted the video and challenged a lot of peers to try them out:
It’s noteworthy, for sure. A professional athlete repping out 10 near-full range-of-motion Nordics is serious. Other young top athletes and influencers picked up the trend over the past year.
At almost 40 years old, I can do 15 strict ones beyond full range-of-motion (touchpoint is below knee):
I expect to do cleaner ones for 20 reps when I’m in my 50s.
It’s not a brag. It’s an illustration on how consistent training in the right environment supersedes and completely destroys what we think of as “gifted” or “elite.” I’m certainly not going to run a 4.2 forty or out-vertical jump Tyreek, especially given I outweigh him by 60lbs. But my point remains: targeted training in the right conditions brings about performances which are superior to even “gifted” or “elite” standards. And I wouldn’t dare relegate this to athletic pursuits. I strongly believe the greatest musician on earth never had a chance to play, the greatest mathematician never had access to a school, the greatest writer never accessed literacy, the greatest architect died at birth. The greatest greats perished in obscurity, fish attempting to climb trees, or fish with no water. No amount of will and drive and resourcefulness will turn a lock without key, drive a nail without hammer, or run a car without power. Wrong tools don’t become right tools by positive thinking or grit.
Stay with me.
Fish in water.
Fish out of water.
I work with a lot of people who have autoimmune conditions. Onlookers may view some of these people as weak. I definitely hear others or even the individual with the struggle infer as much. Any autoimmune condition is not as obvious of an affliction as a gunshot wound, since the crushing inflammatory triggers are all rumbling underneath the surface. So the average person may even treat those with different inflammatory conditions like they are hypochondriacs or overreacting or exaggerating. But I have to come to view them as the strongest people on earth.
To illustrate, picture a Dwayne Johnson or Jason Mamoa. They are good examples of fish in water, right? Presumably, just something about their Polynesian backgrounds, Samoan and Maori respectively, responds very well to most foods and most physical activity. When foods don’t cripple you and chronic fatigue doesn’t plague you, the outcomes are pretty obvious. There is a positive feedback loop to continue getting athletic levels of protein and nutrient density. There is a positive feedback loop to continue thriving with strenuous exercise and challenging physical feats. Dwell on this long and hard. And contrast against people who have had a well-founded lifelong reinforcement of fear of food. They don’t respond well. They don’t have great nutrient uptake. They have pain and inflammatory triggers from the common foods or pollens or other items in their environments. Physical activity compounds the energy drain. Fish out of water, right? Fish climbing tree. Hell, fish trying to land on the moon.
And I do see this, by the way. I work with people who do begin to thrive as we identify and remove/mitigate the inflammatory triggers. They can develop a newfound positive feedback loop. But I want readers to really understand the massive disadvantage. While a Dwayne Johnson had been getting his fill of hundreds of grams of protein since youth with piles of fish every day, the “scrawny weakling” you’re quick to write-off was getting 3 to 12 grams of incomplete proteins per day via pastas and whole wheat sandwiches; and the kid was struggling to assimilate any of this food anyway while he was developing allergies and asthma attacks from the foods. The fish in water utilized nutrients and activity to DEVELOP. The fish out of water was spending precious physiological resources on rashes or headaches or attention disorders or emotional disorders or joint pain.
And then we have to run the tape forward. Multiply negative reaction by the years on earth. Multiply the positive response by the years on earth. It’s so incredibly unfair, unwise, and unkind to look at these two disparate examples years later and call one “strong” and the other “weak.” One is merely a fish in his proper habitat. The other is trying to climb a tree.
Therefore, I implore the reader to reevaluate “weakness." Let us reevaluate weakness. I don’t see it at all like the typical point-of-view of popular culture. The way I see it is we’ve expected some fish to climb trees and shamed them for their inability. Meanwhile, we heap praise on another fish who is doing nothing extraordinary at all except swishing his tail in placid waters. Well, yeah, of course he is. In fact, as we reevaluate, an idea comes to my mind that a lot of what we term "strength" is really weakness. These thriving "Greats" are perhaps the weakest among us, never having had to beat the odds, so much as simply go with the flow.
Moreover, I want the reader to reflect on himself or herself. There’s this tendency to forget our very real designs. We make-believe that we must be meant for tree-climbing when we’re destined for greatness in swim. We struggle to grab a limb when we could be darting through waves and soaring through surf. There’s a quote that amateurs refuse to abandon their one big bright beautiful idea, while professionals have no problem letting go of theory after theory after theory. It’s a concept echoed by the authors of Strengths Finder, wherein they argue people burn up precious time by applying effort and energy in areas simply not suited for them. And I think there’s something to all of these ideas, namely, that “The Greats” through grand luck tripped and fell into their vocation and their calling and their pond. And “the weak” have put in ten times the effort only to find no pond.
Many who look strong are weak. Many who look weak are strong. Maybe most. Maybe all.
This is a call to action. Let us reevaluate weakness.