In Search Of Brilliance

Marginal gains are a waste of time...

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Often we hear about athletes (and business people) who are looking for marginal gains to increase their performance and get an edge on the competition. Its been around for a long time but then became fashionable again in the last 10 years with the rise of the Sky cycling team headed up by Dave Brailsford. The straight forward theory is if you can eek a few small percentage points out of several different areas then they can add up to reasonable improvement and enough to make the difference in winning and losing. Now for the highly trained elite this is clearly a sound strategy and Sky highlighted just how much even professional sport can be improved using these methods - but how applicable are is margin gains to everyone else? 

In my experience of working with talented individuals and teams in both the sports and business fields I think margin gains are a waste of time. And the reason is simple - the vast majority would be way better off getting the basics right first and getting some massive gains before they even consider working on sharpening the edges. A good example of this is in the Triathlon world……..I often see people spending fortunes on bikes, wearing compression gear all day, taking the latest vogue supplement or changing from one training modality to the next whilst their sleep is awful, their diet is terrible and they have no consistency to their exercise. Much better (and easier and cheaper) to get to bed early, eat clean, unprocessed food and train with some regular, basic structure. And big improvements will follow. 

However this “back to basics” process is not sexy or exciting. It doesn’t satisfy the quick fix mentality so common in our lives today and “snake oil” will continue to sell no matter what. But do yourself a favour. Don’t believe everything you are sold - especially if it costs a lot of money. 

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