The One Pushup Workout?

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How could one pushup per day make a difference?

It should be clear that the physical benefit of one pushup per day is negligible. Daily, every active person does more that contributes to strength and fitness more than one measly pushup. However, what do people say about exercise regimes? Most often they seem to claim not that their biggest problem is a particular exercise or physical limit of repetitions, rather, there’s a chorus of reports about the incredible difficulty of establishing healthy habits and kicking bad ones.

“Know thyself.”

– Socrates

People seem to know what their limitations are, but not necessarily how to overcome them. When it comes to choices about their behaviour, people declare with confident authority things like “that wouldn’t work for me” or “I need more structure”, or even “I need someone to yell at me”. Many people claim to need a deadline to get something done. It’s empowering to know oneself. In fact what if we were to take this much further? If needing more structure is so frequently the limiting factor to successful behaviour design, perhaps we should tackle this more seriously.

Talking to people about habituated practice and behavioural regimes, it seems for many people, it’s not the doing of the intended thing that is difficult, it’s sticking to a practice. Consistency brings compound results, so what would happen if we turned the knobs to eleven on habit formation, even to the near exclusion of everything else? What if we tackled head-on the habit-formation part of the problem and removed all other confounding elements from the plan? What would that look like?

I once started an exercise regime where I forced myself to do only 1 push up per day for a month.

Only 1? Yes. Not because I couldn’t do more, but because previously, doing more would always escalate my practice too quickly and I would be sore and ultimately reluctant. This chain of events broke the habit before it had solidified. They say it takes about a month to establish a habit, after this time in my new regime, I permitted myself to cautiously escalate the effort expended.

Doing only 1 pushup per day kept the habit as easy as possible and made it virtually impossible for me to skip; it was so easy I could do it anywhere, any time, I couldn’t come up with a lame excuse. If I ended up in bed having forgotten, I could handle getting up to do one measly push up whereas a full workout would be sweaty etc.

It was annoying to do only one, but I told myself I was learning to make my practice both daily and solid. In fact doing only one pushup per day was more difficult than doing more. That second pushup was so tempting. But I considered it a failure of discipline to give in to temptation and do more than one.

The lesson was about self-imposed structure, focus on habituation, acknowledging the greatest threat for my habit formation was over-committing because the escalating burden of commitment lead in the past to broken commitments and failure. Not everyone has this as their limiting factor, but for me, as someone who often pushes too hard and is impatient for progress, reducing the commitment was the path to developing that solid structure.

It was also an interesting thought experiment. Why is it so much more difficult to do one pushup per day than, say, a dozen? I think because of a deeply-held mistaken belief about myself and what caused my behaviours. The key insight was to identify, confront and ultimately transcend this mistaken certainty about myself. What if the intense frustration of doing only one pushup was precisely as strong a force as my own self-limiting ignorance and the corresponding disruptive likelihood that I would give up as soon as my ego had snowballed the commitment beyond my resolve, fluctuating as it does over days and weeks. It struck me that perhaps these two forces were one and the same: the frustration of doing only one pushup and the tendency of destructive escalation of commitment. Two sides to the same behavioural coin. There’s a tempting symmetry there. Either way, the key was clearly a new model of deep self-knowledge.

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. “

– Mark Twain

What lasting changes have I observed from this process?

One side-effect of this practice is that I have greater confidence that there is a path forward that can be found by isolating the key problem and putting laser focus on it. Sometimes an insight is required to identify this key problem but I usually find it hiding in what I “know for sure that just ain’t so”. Habit formation was not an obvious key piece of the puzzle at first.

Secondly, I have a clearer sense of what my commitments are. I do not make commitments blithely. It’s corrodes my resolve to be entangled in mind-games about what constitutes adherence to a commitment. I don’t want to embark on a commitment that could become a broken promise to myself or others. Without that sense of myself (as aspirational or realised as it may be) I know I am less likely to take each step on my path. It’s important to my identity.

Pen and Paper Meditation

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No thoughts, intentions or expectations. It’s not a doodle, if that implies being idle. It’s not a work of art, if that implies work. It’s what happened with my pen and paper while I was living in my body just now.


Horns of Paradise

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Horns of Paradise : Ron Trammy Wilson

Racer : A genuine new thing

By: | Topic: Apps, Design, Digital Agencies, Games, Music, Software, Strong Like Water, Tech | Comment »

Since working on Racer and launching it a few people have said, ‘oh it’s like such and such a game’ but I’m yet to find something that is truely as unique as this AND is in a browser. Racer is a multi-player, multi-device Chrome Experiment. A retro-style slot car game played across screens. On phones or tablets, Android or iOS. Anyone can join. No apps. No downloads. Just the mobile web. It’s now up for The FWA Cutting Edge Project of the Year. If you think it deserves it please cast a vote!


And if you’re interested here’s the making of video which goes into detail on why it was so tricky to build.

Here’s Racer being demo’d at Google I/O 2013 – live demos are always nerve wracking, thankfully this one went smoothly.


Also awesome and cutting edge is that there’s also an installation version that runs on the same code base as the mobile game. The table was at Google I/O 2013 and another Google event ‘Zeitgeist’. Here’s a couple of pics of the table:


In addition to the table version, there are two flight case boxes containing a line up of mobile devices ready to play. This version also runs on the same code base. Here’s a pic of the cases and me demo’ing it at Cannes 2013 in the Google tent :



One final plug to get your vote on if you like it thanks!

Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen

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Pastor T.l. Barrett And The Youth For Christ Choir do their version of the traditional spiritual. Also check Louis Armstrong’s version. Edited: traditional spiritual, not Louis Armstrong original, thanks for the correction, @jedws.

DK played this on the latest Solid Steel, nothing like a sweet bit of gospel to wrap a set.

Autechre and the washing machine

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A little late to this one… It is timeless though. Someone that clearly understands Autechre.

Introduction to Strong Like Water Philosophy

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Philosophy has been an undercurrent of Strong Like Water since its inception but we have resisted tackling it because it tends to use a lot of words, time and frequently fails to reach satisfying conclusions.

That’s only because it’s so slippery.

The hairball that is philosophy seems to come from the lack of common ground and common words people use.

Philosophy is full of declaration of what things really are, of revelations of truth or of declarations of fallacy.

It seems to me that most of the topics in philosophy over time, especially questions about the nature of the physical world, which have reached satisfying consensus are those which have been taken over by science and have ceased to be philosophical questions. I will provide examples in a future post.

In fact some of my least satisfying moments in studying philosophy have been occasions where the speaker, writer, professor or drunken student interlocutor has been ignorant of the relevant scientific evidence that bears on the question being debated.

Philosophy walks a tightrope between science and mysticism.

The Strong Like Water philosophy is presented as a reflection of existing ideas from history and the present day, bundled and spun, maximized for fun and utility.

This is the way I hope to avoid using excess time and attention on your behalf and it’s a system you can use to keep me honest. Now let me clarify this “utility”.

Utility is usefulness, but without the assumption that the use is a great need. A buggy whip has utility because it can be put to work as a tool. When you drive your buggy to town, you give the horse a little signal with a flick of the wrist.

It’s not useful, however because nobody drives a buggy in the 21st century. A bike pump would be very useful but never more than when I have a flat tyre to inflate. Its utility is similar to its purpose, though not the same. Purpose implies design. Like purpose, however, a thing’s utility is unaffected by my need, while its usefulness is really where its utility and my needs align.

So to conclude this first post, I think the approach I recommend with philosophy, at least how I present it, is to consider this: what can I do with this philosophy? How does it change the possibilities I see before me if I adopt it?

It will sometimes be difficult to approach a novel or unfamiliar idea (which is where the pay dirt is) without resolving all the inconsistencies that it infers when trying to incorporate all the many thoughts that seem to fight for the same mental real estate. But do you need to resolve them for it to be fun or have utility?

If you can fall back to the yardsticks of utility and fun, you can cut straight to the chase: is it worth thinking about?

All time classic : Guy J – Lamur (Henry Saiz Remix)

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Be it in a a club or driving across the dessert at 100mph, epic tune.

Who’s afraid of code?

By: | Topic: Software, Strong Like Water, Tech | Tags: | Comment »

Coding is so powerful because it’s essentially formless, like water. It’s creative and it’s robust. Code is the most tangible form that logical thought can take, and when that ghost is let loose in a machine, magic happens.

If you can patiently break down a problem and build up a solution with very tiny parts, fragments of thoughts, you can program a computer to do anything you can imagine. is a new non-profit created to promote computer science education in the US. Why is code not just an irrelevant geeky niche?

It turns out you should stop listening to your aunts and uncles tell you that all those “programming jobs” are going to India and recognise that software has been going gangbusters while the rest of the first world industries complain about hard times.

A new car ships with more lines of code than Microsoft Windows.

Check out Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates and plenty of others who have changed the world with code.

Test Your Sub-bass on You and I by Pangaea

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Originally published on Hessle in 2008, this is absolutely the best thing for clearing the bugs and dust out of the bass bins. At decent volumes, this bassline is probably fairly good at unscrewing any nuts and bolts not glued in place.

The magic kicks in at 0:58 so crank and brace yourself.

Buy You and I by Pangaea MP3

Protip: if you want a good sound out of a youtube clip, make sure you use HD videos. The audio quality is generally matched to the video quality.

I’m listening to this right now on a pair of Shure SRH440 closed headphones which I can highly recommend for the price as long as your ears are not particularly big or protuberant (unfortunately mine are both).

If your budget or ears are bigger, you might go for these:

But then again, for working in a distracting environment or long flights, I’m most impressed by these:

In the interests of full disclosure, if you follow my advice and/or links on these headphones I stand to get a kickback and that would be much appreciated.

Return to Stillness Like Water

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Part of the strength of water as a metaphor is that like our mind, it can retain the effects of disruption and propagate them. However, like our mind it can always return to stillness.


Bruce Lee on Technique

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Bruce Lee

"The highest technique is to have no technique."



“The highest technique is to have no technique.” — Bruce Lee




Bruce Lee Quote of the Week

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Any technique, however worthy and desirable, becomes a disease when the mind is obsessed with it.

— Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee: “Be Like Water”

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Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend.

— Bruce Lee

Be Strong Like Water

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What kind of strength does water have? Is water strong?

Here’s a quote from a site about water called Be Like Water:

Like water, be gentle and strong. Be gentle enough to follow the natural paths of the earth, and strong enough to rise up and reshape the world.

– Brenda Peterson