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Be Supermedium and 5 Other Life Lessons

A Green Beret and entrepreneur's thoughts on health, fitness, and living better.

Be Supermedium and 5 Other Life Lessons
Jason McCarthy and I talking about gear not stuff after doing the Heavy Mile.


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  • The Don’t Die event is nearly sold out! You should get one more note about the last spot or two tonight. Thanks to all those who showed interest. For those who had date conflicts, we plan to run the same event at the same time next year. Hope to see you there.

Before we dive into today’s topic, a quick note: Monday’s post featured four lessons about life and work that I learned on a ride-along with Las Vegas Metro Police.

I had Heather Hatfield, a police officer in Baltimore, read that story before it went live. Her email response included this note, which is worth running.

I'm glad you went on a ride-along and I wish more people would. I think it can be just as beneficial on your ride-along to focus on the people that the police interact with. It goes back to your 2% newsletter topic months ago about how to find gratitude in your daily life.

The people police and EMS deal with are often having the worst days of their lives. Maybe a loved one died or maybe they hit rock bottom due to addiction and committed some desperation crime. If you really want some perspective about what NOT to worry about, interact with people who are truly struggling. I bet you'd/they'd come back to your/their own lives and be like wow, I actually have it pretty good.

Perspective is good. Thanks, Heather.

Now onto today’s topic …

Two friends recently sat down for a great conversation.

Jason McCarthy, a former Green Beret and founder of GORUCK, appeared on Peter Attia’s podcast to talk about Special Forces training and rucking.

It was a great episode and I suggest you listen to it in full.

Today’s post is pulls a few points Jason made that I think are relevant to us 2-Percenters. We’ll apply his points to health, life, work, and more.

We’ll cover:

  • The benefits of being supermedium.
  • Why speed is security and how to do more with less.
  • Why you should carry more weight longer and do it with a smile on your face.
  • Three lessons Jason learned from his experience on the podcast, in the military, and founding GORUCK.
  • A quick five-step protocol to optimize your very first ruck—and get started NOW.

Let’s roll …

You can never be too strong—but you can be too big

In short

Strength is an asset. Size often isn’t—even if it’s muscle. Be supermedium.

The details

Jason said this about his thoughts on fitness when he entered the Army, “I thought that you were supposed to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Rambo.”

But he quickly found the opposite was true.

Green Beret Selection course—and most Special Forces selection courses—aren’t what you may have seen on Discovery channel documentaries. They’re not bunch of big recruits getting screamed at as they lift logs in the surf.

Selection was a mostly silent, solitary endurance event.

Jason would have a map, a 45- to 60-pound ruck, and a compass. He’d have to navigate anywhere from 10 to 20 miles through the dense North Carolina pine forests alone in the dark.

In other parts of his training—like the Robin Sage course—small teams of soldiers are air dropped into the middle of the woods at night for the ultimate test of their ability to conduct unconventional warfare.

“Everyone’s ruck weighed 125 pounds, plus we had equipment,” he said. “Then we had to do an 18-hour infiltration. You can’t think. You can barely move.”

He told Peter:

What I found is that you can never be too strong, but you can be too big. The more weight you have on your body (in the form of muscle) that’s not functional (for the mission at hand), the more weight you have to carry around with every step. And that makes you slower (and burns more energy). You don’t want that.

This point is backed by history. For example, movies often depict ancient Spartan warriors as body-builder-like physical specimens. But a military historian at the University of Oxford pointed out:

“Ancient Greeks actually thought bulked-up athletes made useless warriors: sluggish, indulgent, dependent on strict diets, and unable to bear toil and deprivation.”

This dovetails nicely with what I told Brady Holmer in our recent post swap. I wrote:

I think we’re at a point in the health, longevity, and fitness world where people are assuming more muscle is always better. I don’t think that’s the case. I think enough muscle is good. And higher levels of relative strength are probably better.

Takeaway: Be supermedium. Figure out how strong you need to be for your favorite activity. Reach that level of strength—maybe a little more. But don’t add weight for the sake of it—even muscle.

Focus on “relative strength.” That is, be stronger for your body weight.

This is one reason I love rucking. It helps people find an ideal amount of strength and endurance but doesn’t add muscle just for the sake of it. It builds a jack-of-all-trades, supermedium body type.

Speed is Security

In short

Learn how to do more with less. You’ll be quicker and more agile—in fitness, business, and life.

The details

Jason said about the Robin Sage training exercise: “The packs would be 125 pounds. We’d go 18 hours. And it was just horrific. It’s so slow.”

He explained that the weight on your back becomes all you can think about. You can’t think about strategy. You can’t operate. You can’t pay attention.

Jason said:

(Military) commanders are susceptible to risk aversion. They want you to bring (all of your gear) in order to be prepared for this mission.

But there’s this other maxim that says ‘speed is security.’ With fewer things, you have some risk, but you also have speed. So that’s a worthwhile thing for people to consider. How do you achieve mission success? Do you actually need 125 pounds of gear?

That’s an obvious metaphor for outdoor activities like backpacking, backcountry hunting, trail running, and more. Pack what you need and be willing to go without a few comforts to move faster.

Speed is security is also a metaphor for business and living.

In my recent book, Scarcity Brain, I wrote about how humans default to addition. When we want to accomplish something or solve a problem, we tend to only look for what we can add.

“People systematically overlook the option of subtraction and doing less,” the lead scientists on a Nature study on this topic told me.

To improve our life, we think we need a bigger house. Or a newer car. Or some fancy new stuff. Or a new diet. And on and on.

Same goes with business. We try a new system or new software. Or hire another person or agency or institute a new program.

We add stuff, steps, and processes that incur debt—financial debt, stress debt, time debt. All kinds of debt. Yet these additions don’t always give us an outsized return.

They often lead to bloat, slow us down, and distract us from the ultimate goal.

Consider universities—they’ve experienced a 44% increase in professional administrators since 2000. Yet they’re not more efficient or producing better students (many argue the opposite is true).

The takeaway: Next time you want to improve something or solve a problem, think “speed is security” and consider subtraction. Write down a few ideas for how you could make the improvement or solve the problem through subtraction or by doing less.

Subtraction isn’t always better. But we often don’t even consider it—and that’s a problem.

Carry more weight longer and do it with a smile on your face

In short

To prepare for the unknowns that are part of life, optimize what you can control.

The details

The point of military training is to throw recruits into unconventional, unknown situations to see how they react.

(P.S., Read this for more on the epic value of encountering the unknown.)

Jason told Peter, “I couldn’t control unconventional warfare or the unknowable problems the Army would give me.”

So he focused on controlling and optimizing what he could:

The best thing I could do is set myself up for the optimal physical response I could have to anything. I found the best thing I could do is be in great shape. I could be a great teammate by just being in great shape—carrying more weight longer and doing it with a smile on my face. That was the variable I could control.

To do this, he took up swimming, yoga, and more in addition to his military training.

When the going got tough, he asked for more weight and kept an upbeat attitude to raise group spirits.

That’s another great metaphor for living.

Life is always going to throw curve balls your way. You have no idea when these curveballs are coming, how fast they’ll be, or how they’ll curve.

But you can do things now that make you a better batter.

  • An annual Misogi might give you perspective on modern stress and handling it.
  • Staying in shape can set you up for success if you ever get diagnosed with an illness.
  • A strong spiritual and mental foundation can help you handle the swings of life and work.
  • Learning to ask better questions can boost your communication skills during any crisis.

You get the point. Get creative with this. Control what you can—carry more weight longer and do it with a smile on your face.

Jason’s three big takeaways + five optimal steps to start rucking NOW

I texted Jason after listening to the episode.

I asked, “what are a few big takeaways based on that podcast conversation and what you’ve learned from the military and founding GORUCK?”

Here’s what he wrote: