Discover more from 2% with Michael Easter
You are capable of more than you think
Misogi can help you realize that.
Dr. Marcus Elliot is a Harvard-trained physician who owns P3, a sports science facility that uses deep biometric data to improve pro athlete performance. I connected with him on a cliffside trail above Santa Barbara. We’d been bounding up a steep section with a view of the ocean. After at least an hour of running, we finally stopped to suck air. Then Elliot made his point …
“Let’s say your potential is this big circle,” he said, making a big and swooping imaginary circle on the trail around us. Then he pulled his hands into his chest and made a dinner-plate-size circle in the exact middle of the much larger circle. “Well, most of us live in this small space right here. We have no idea what exists on the edges of our potential.”
The point of Misogi (our topic from two weeks ago) is to take on a massive challenge in order to explore the edges of your potential. In doing so, you expand them.
Ancient humans evolved in uncomfortable environments. Our ancestors were often forced to take on massive challenges. Survival required challenging ourselves with extended hunts or riding out epic storms. To live was to be challenged. The world forced us to explore our edges and expand our capabilities.
But modern culture is characterized by the quick win, the fast food, the easier way out. "In modern society," Elliott said, "it's suddenly possible to survive without being challenged. You'll still have plenty of food. You'll have a comfortable home. A good job to show up to, and some people who love you. And that seems like an OK life, right?”
Then Elliott continued. “But by not having any idea what it’s like out on the edges of our potential … we really miss something vital.” In fact, the skyrocketing rates of mental health issues like anxiety can be tied to not being challenged.
To get out onto the edges and learn what we’re capable of today, we often have to purposefully invent big challenges. We need to create situations that teach us something about ourselves and what we’re capable of. Like a Misogi. In that sense, a Misogi is like a mini rite-of-passage. It’s an emotional, spiritual, and psychological challenge that masquerades as a physical challenge.
I explored this idea and why its so important in my book, The Comfort Crisis. But I didn’t explore why we undersell ourselves. Why do we not realize what we’re truly capable of?
I have a theory, which I spoke about on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast. My theory is this: As humans evolved, it would have likely been beneficial to be under-confident but over-capable. A person with those traits would have avoided danger, but, when thrust into dangerous scenarios, would have been more likely to push through and survive. Over time, those people would have spread their genes (all while the under-capable but over-confident people would have gotten themselves in over their heads and died).
So you’re not weird for doubting yourself. That trait served humans through all of time. But now it might be limiting you. What can you do to explore your edges and learn if you’re underselling your potential?
2% Top Two
One: stop the Sunday scaries
I’m still getting messages from people who are beating “the Sunday scaries” with “the Saturday scaries.” For context…
Two: Hunter S. Thompson's beautiful wave
I reread The Wave Passage every few months. It’s one of my favorite pieces of writing ever.
See you next week,
Sponsored by GORUCK
When I decided to accept sponsorships for this newsletter, GORUCK was a natural fit. Not only is the company's story included in The Comfort Crisis, but I've been using GORUCK's gear since the brand was founded. Seriously. They've been around ~12 years and I still regularly use a pack of theirs that is 11 years old. Their gear is made in the USA by former Special Forces soldiers. They make my favorite rucking setup: A Rucker and Ruck Plate.