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The Four Pillars of Elite Human Performance

The Four Pillars of Elite Human Performance

My thoughts today are brief; recruiting for the 2018 signing class is in full swing, thus, the overwhelming majority of my time is currently spent on matters relating to said recruitment. Length aside, I trust this article provides value, however short it is. Nothing I share here is new or groundbreaking, and such is the point. In a world full of biohacking, fad diets, and extreme forms of exercise, I believe it is time that we speak again to the basics, a return to the fundamentals, if you will. I am of the belief that four pillars of elite human performance, ranked in order of importance:

1. Sleep
2. Diet
3. Exercise
4. Stress Management

form the bedrock of success, in all areas of life. Furthermore, I believe that these four pillars must be mastered in order to fully extract the benefits of still higher-level performance pursuits. Mastering these four pillars provides a scientifically proven, time-tested, whole-body hardware and software upgrade that will transform not just individuals, but teams, organizations, businesses, and the world at large if adopted en masse. Imagine the productivity, for example, of a 25-person company where all 25 employees sleep well, eat clean, exercise consistently, and take the time to upgrade their software. I would bet on their success over a similar company where the employees were a physical and emotional mess. But my goal today is not so much world change, more so to bring the individual back to focusing on the power of the fundamental basics. So powerful in fact are these four, their benefits simply cannot be challenged, for to do so would be as though challenging the laws of nature itself.

While the gurus will say to question everything (and I would agree, on most occasions), the efficacy of the aforementioned pillars simply cannot be questioned. I digress. They can be questioned, and they can be challenged, but those attempts would be futile; anyone with the arrogance to disagree is, quite simply, wrong. While we may debate whether there are four pillars or three, or that diet is more important than sleep, or that perhaps other pursuits such as practicing gratitude, reading, or journaling provide a better benefit, we must agree that proper sleep, diet, exercise, and stress management provide myriad benefits to those seeking elite performance in life. You may not rank them in your top four, but to challenge their individual benefits is a losing proposition, indeed. 

But we do not want the basics. We loathe simplicity. Americans, in general, have a funny habit of making life more complicated than needed, particularly in the realm of human performance. Perhaps it is human nature, or perhaps it is learned behavior. While the origins matter not, we cannot escape the truth; by and large, the majority attempt walking before crawling, and we are apt to run before we walk. My goal today is to bring us back to a level of sanity, to a thought process that focuses on the basics, the premise that in order to attain still higher levels of human performance, we must first learn to master the vital few. I believe that proper groundwork is needed to build to higher levels - without the four pillars of elite performance, the lure of complicating life with more advanced techniques is as though chasing after the wind. As per one example: while supplementing with glutathione is a worthy endeavor, what good is it without first mastering proper sleep habits? Will supplementing provide a benefit? Sure. Would optimizing your sleep provide a greater multiplier? Absolutely. A poor diet supplemented is still a poor diet. Poor sleep habits masked by caffeine? You know the answer. 

Of note - I define performance with a broad and open-ended brush, as this article is not meant to focus on sport and athletic performance alone. Musicians, writers, husbands, wives, artists, business executives, all white and blue collar types in general, professors, students, parents, friends, those who drive or fly for a living, and yes, athletes and weekend warriors as well, are all included in my definition of elite life performance. Everyone, no matter their standing in life, their profession, or their goals, is at all times a slave to the four pillars, and they would be wise to obey their masters.

By performance, some specific examples: the recall ability of a professor at the lectern, the ease with which an athlete graces the field, and the ability of a business associate to connect with potential clients during a presentation are all dependent in some way on the four pillars, and this is a fact that we cannot escape. Do you want to be a more successful athlete? Sleep and diet surely help. Do you want to be the best version of yourself for your friends and family? Exercise. For parents, stress management is a must to fully engage and connect with your children; the results of not doing so can be devastating to their development (and your health). 

Thus, we must return to the basics, to the fundamentals of elite human performance. Sleep. Diet. Exercise. Stress management. Often the biggest gains in performance come from the simplest of "hacks," and the effects (both positive and negative) multiply over time. Start now, start today. Even better, start yesterday. Return to the basics, and keep it simple. Focus on proper sleep (quality and quantity), diet, exercise, and stress management. You will perform better in all areas of life, and the investment in becoming a better version of yourself will pay dividends both personally and professionally. The sacrifice is well worth the additional performance benefits. 

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