Modifier, not enabler

​Our environment and the conditions we’re exposed to determine our performance in a plethora of activities. That’s obvious, right? An elite-level sprinter won’t smash the world record if he eats junk an hour before the race and skips his rituals and warm ups. That’s an example of how we perceive our ability to perform. If certain criteria are fulfilled, we can do well. If not, we can’t do well. Black and white. Either-or. Conditions either enable high-level performance, or they don’t.

But that’s false. Our external environment and the conditions we operate amongst aren’t enablers, they’re modifiers. To illustrate what I mean consider how you’d perform at your favourite activity in the following scenarios:

– Two hours of fragmented sleep last night.
– Ten hours of undisturbed sleep last night.
– Suffering from a hangover that’d take a grizzly bear down.
– A week’s worth of clean eating.
– High on cannabis.
– Loaded up on cocaine.
– Dealing with the unexpected death of your significant other.
– Performing after spending time with loved ones. 

Nursing a hangover would probably shave a chunk off your competence. Quantified, it might times your ability by 0.75 or 0.5. But after spending time with the people you care about, your performance may be modified: multiply it by 1.1.

It’s a significant switch in our frame of reference. If we can make it, it means that something is always possible, no matter what happens around or to us. Lack of optimum conditions no longer means an inability to make any progress at all. It just means we won’t be able to do as much as we could, given an ideal situation.