One dozen
The number of disciples Jesus had
Your last age before you are a teenager

These are all different ways of leading you to the number 12.

If we stick with the mathsy ones at the start, imagine you are only taught to parrot those four ways of equalling 12. Without an understanding of the processes that allow numbers to operate on one another to create other numbers, I could offer you all the cash or Krispy Cremes in the world to show me another way to equal 12 and you couldn't do it. The thought of those wasted doughnuts bring a sugary tear to my eye.

Anyway, this is a basic example of how the answer is completely secondary to developing the ability to produce it. A skill is the same.

Somebody could teach me to enunciate a joke in Japanese (I don't speak any) with the appropriate expressions, tone and gestures. Outside of that one joke, the content of which I wouldn't understand, I wouldn't be much of a Japanese-speaking stand-up comic.

We need to stop training ourselves this way for sports; learning more jokes and more ways to get to 12. Even in the sports with the smallest number of variables – solo sports without direct opponents or teammates to take into consideration – variability in training in the crucial way to build a high-performing athlete. An athlete that really gets what they're doing.

Varied training builds skill levels more quickly.

I recently stumbled across this idea in a new form. Dr Wolfgang Schöllhorn calls it “Differential Learning”. There's a cool video here of a shotputter training conventionally for a period before switching to the differential learning approach where he throws differently, badly and in every other way he can think of. Check out his results. 

This is a sport where the same size and weight implement is thrown from the same size and material circle. The wind doesn't even appreciably influence the throw. The results go far beyond this n=1 sample number too.

And what's more, training like this doesn't just build skill faster, it also cultivates far better retention than traditional learning where the learner does the same thing over and over hoping to take it towards perfection. There have been experiments where not only does the skill from differential learning decline more slowly with a period of no practise but skill levels increase after practise stops.

It is postulated that the nature of constantly trying to find solutions to varied training engages the learner in such a way that they still create solutions unconsciously for a period of time after stopping practise.

Getting better while you're doing f#ck all! That's gotta sound good to anybody!

Now I will leave you with a question that you may find rather uncomfortable.

Do you have the guts to give this sort of approach a proper go for a significant period of time?

You may be reading this thinking it is a no-brainer but many will find it to be far from easy in reality. To do this will require most people to change the way they have gone about training for many years. It will feel unsettling and highly counterintuitive. It will require time and thought to create a varied training schedule. You may even fear that in being so scattergun with training drills you skill levels may abandon you or at least slip.

Take this fear as the sensation of being more awake to learning and performing.

The comfort of similarity is warm but dulls us.

Be prepared for nothing and ready for everything.

Vary and thrive,


Arton "Jokes don't make a comedian" Baleci
loat Sting - Sports Performance and Reha