Pick it up and put it down. Anyone can do that. Right?

Wrong. A deadlift is a deceptively complex movement. You grip has to be the right width. And your foot position. If your feet are too wide? Your grip must then be wider, which means you have to get lower and into a position with less leverage. 

Your weight needs to be in the right position. It doesn’t matter where your feet are if all your weight is going through the balls of your feet. In the bottom position, you should be able to wiggle your toes. Driving the weight through your heels is a key part of a good position. And it also sets you up to start the sequence off correctly. If your weight is forward you’ll end up with bloody shins as you rise up.

It goes on. A deadlift is just a movement. It takes less than five seconds. But there’s a lot to think about.

Trying to teach a newcomer a deadlift is hard for precisely that reason. There’s so much to keep in mind. So many things they have to do that all affect other parts of the move. The temptation when you’re teaching it is to try and tell them everything they have to do. 

You can try. If you’re lucky, one of those instructions will get through. But usually, what happens is the person completely botches the entire move. Why? They’ve been over-coached.

Human beings, for all their remarkable abilities, are simple. Our working memory can hold four, five, sometimes six pieces of information at once. But our actual ability to work is severely impaired if we have to focus on more than one thing. 

The mark of a good coach is his patience and courage. Patience, because he understands the limits of human processing. He understands that we can only work on one thing at a time. So he’ll look past our grip and foot positioning, how we overextend slightly at the top, how our weight is still slightly forward. But he’ll do that because he wants us to work on the correct sequence. Nothing else. Which also requires courage. Because he sees things that could be fixed, that should be fixed, but decides to let them go. For now. Because they’re not the most important thing that needs work.

He doesn’t over-coach.

This idea goes beyond movement and training. It applies to the approach we take to our workflow and productivity. 

An example: I should batch more of my activities. I should have set periods for emails, for reading online articles, for reaching out to people and publications. But I don’t, because right now, I’m not focused on fixing that. I’m working on making space to write and research. That’s my priority. 

An entrepreneur or an employee can over-coach too. He can see all these things that need fixing in his company. Perhaps how meetings are conducted is broken. There’s not enough time being spent on product development and iterative testing. Team chemistry is fracturing under the pressure. Communication processes are outdated and negatively impact your ability to adapt to changing conditions.

If you tried to fix all that at once, you’d flop. It wouldn’t work. You’d damage yourself and the company in the process. 

You can over-coach in your personal and social life too. Perhaps you don’t see your friends enough. You’re sometimes inconsiderate of other’s feelings. You’ve fallen out of contact with your family. People message you and it takes you weeks to get back to them. 

But you’re not superhuman. You can’t correct all those flaws all at once. No. You need to summon up all your courage and patience and choose one thing to work on.

Patience helps you understand that this is a never-ending process. That you can only solve one thing at a time. And that after you’ve done it, there’ll be something else that requires attention.

Courage helps you to persist with work on one problem, even though you see all these other things that you could be working on.

If we were stupid enough, we’d try to fix all our problems. But if we’re smart, we realise that it’s easy to over-coach ourselves, and others. It’s easy to compel ourselves to work on more than one thing at a time. But we don’t.

Right now, we can solve one problem. We can hammer one issue. Which doesn’t seem like much. But once we begin to chain these victories together, we end up with an altered reality. A reality in which we and the people around us are better and stronger.