In Life, Like Software, There Are No Silver Bullets

April 11, 2011

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In folklore, the silver bullet is supposed to be the only kind of bullet for firearms that is effective against a Werewolf, witch, or some monsters.

- Wikipedia

What was the “Next Big Thing” when you were starting out?

Was it one of the following technologies?

  • Object-Oriented Programming
  • UML
  • Design Patterns
  • Agile Development
  • TDD

Each arrived with hype and fanfare. Early adopters told anybody who’d listen that the development world needn’t worry any more for it would soon be saved. Projects succeeded, others ended in failure. Eventually, the hype passed and the early adopters moved on in search of their new arrival. The rest of us took the useful principles these new technologies introduced, added them to our armoury and carried on regardless.

There are no silver bullets

At least, there’s no replacement for sensible development principles.

Take unit testing. Unit testing gained traction as part of the agile development process – but today, few would admit to skipping unit tests whether they use ‘agile’ development or not. It works so it has become widely adopted.

Likewise with our health; smart eating, hard work and dedication has out stayed any amount of ’4 minute abs’-style revolutions. Getting strong requires hard work, just like it did in Arthur Saxon‘s day. Losing 100lb requires hard work. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise. The useful thing is – once you realise this, it becomes a whole lot easier.

Kaizen – the art of Continuous Improvement

The discipline required for continuous improvement means we’re often battling with ourselves to keep ahead of the curve chasing an endless cycle of blog posts, conferences and code that can overwhelm even the best of us. The work-code-sleep cycle holds us back.

  • We wake up late and skip breakfast.
  • We grab dinner on the way home
  • We sit at our laptops all-night, procrastinating.

Sound familiar?

I’ve been battling this for years and I know I’m not alone. You put off taking care of yourself in favour of ‘hard work’ but everyone is looking for a way out whether they realise it or not. Fitness magazines make the solution seem so simple whether its ’7 minute Abs’, ’6 minute Abs’… “It’s like you’re dreamin’ about Gorgonzola cheese when it’s clearly Brie time, baby”.

Look around you. You don’t need this over-hyped garbage. You don’t need to follow the masses and traipse from office to couch to bed. It’s not working for them and it’s not working for you either.

The software industry is not alone with its tendency to hunt for silver bullets. The fitness industry is just like that too.

Low Fat Food != Healthy Food

Fat plays a crucial role in the body’s health and performance. Fat has a bad name but quality fats are essential macronutrients.

The fact that low fat food is promoted as being ‘healthy’ is criminal, especially when it’s packed full of so much salt and sugar.

Start reading labels, learn what is in the food you are eating. You wouldn’t stand sloppy code so don’t make do with a sub-quality diet. Eat smart and know that healthy fats do exist. Monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and even saturated fats should all be consumed in even quantities.

You Don’t Need Expensive Supplements

If you want to lose weight, you do not need expensive supplements. A healthy diet combined with exercise is enough. This doesn’t mean stop eating and run yourself to oblivion. It means exercising to a plan and eating smartly.

You Can’t Out Train A Bad Diet

Diet is 80% of your success. Improving your diet gives your life an automatic upgrade. Include more vegetables, fresh fruit, nuts and lean meats to your menu and remember real foods comes from the ground, the sea or from animals not from a box or a bag.

You Don’t Need to Spend Two Hours a Day in the Gym

You can start working out right now in the comfort of your own home.

I have outlined a introductory workout in a previous post.

These workouts require minimal equipment and you can be done in 30-45 minutes max. Concentrate on compound exercises such as pull ups, overhead dumbbell press, squats, pushups. These exercises work multiple parts of your body at the same time making them incredibly efficient and incredibly effective.

Don’t make the mistake of looking for expensive solutions.

Practice. Always Practice.

Successful folk don’t wake up one morning and find they’re capable of achieving incredible things. They don’t discover the secret in a blog post or at a conference. Success takes hard work, commitment and most importantly effortful study.

Merely doing doesn’t count so step away from the text editor, find a problem that you don’t quite understand and do all it takes to grok it. It’s the only way to improve.

Effortful study means constantly tackling problems at the very edge of your ability. Stuff you may have a high probability of failing at. Unless you’re failing some of the time, you’re probably not growing professionally. You have to seek out those challenges and push yourself beyond your comfort limit.

-Coding Horror

We look at guys like Jon Skeet and wish we had his skills.

If only it was so easy. He committed to making it happen by dedicating himself to his craft every single day.

Or how about Ryan Reynolds in Blade 3. Do you think he got to look like this by signing up for a 4-minute abs commercial?!

Not a chance. He worked at it. Of course he had personal trainers, dieticians and got paid a bucket-load of cash but he worked to improve himself every single day.

And Now, It’s Your Turn.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Want to get active? Start now. You’re online. Google the first physical activity that comes to your head and you unlock an unlimited library of infomation. Let’s pick… I dunno. Let’s pick Parkour.

Parkour is a utilitarian discipline based upon the successful, swift and energy-efficient traversing of one’s surrounding environment via the practical application of techniques, based around the concept of self-preservation and the ability to help others.


First up, the two greatest Parkour videos on the interwebs.

Parkour Dojo – A Parkour Primer

Parkour Messageboards

Parkour on UrbanDictionary

And there’s more. Pages and pages of the stuff. And the same goes for any other activity.

Be like the sponge. Absorb!

Avoiding Mental Fatigue
Activity increases blood flow, not only to our working muscles but to our brains. This in turn will affect the amount of oxygen being transported to the brain.

Increased oxygen to the brain = increased concentration.

When you’re working hard on a project, remember to take time every twenty to thirty minutes and get active, even if it’s wandering to the bathroom or kitchen. The amount of information you’ll be able to retain will increase, your quality of work will improve and you’ll be able to understand difficult concepts quicker, too.

Find something that excites you. Do that.

People have had it worse than you and made it work. I know that you can too. But it’s not enough for me to believe it, you need to believe it. Take control. Create ‘Yourself version 2.0′ – stronger, faster leaner. There’s no reason not too.

Don’t wish. Make it happen.

Fitness Hack is a collection of like-minded individuals intent on making the most of the limited time we have. But when it comes to success, only YOU can make it happen. You’ll never be as young as you are right now. Choose your mission, commit to success and KNOW that it’s achievable.

You don’t need a silver bullet.

Make your choice. What are you going to conquer in 2011?

Thanks for reading!

This site is intended to provide health & fitness advice for web developers, designers, programmers, software developers and any other regular computer users. You can subscribe to Fitness Hack updates using RSS or email. You can also follow my own mission to lose fat, get strong and run fast on Twitter.

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Photo by Todd Ryburn.

  • George Titsworth

    Great post man! I agree, the most important part is just to start something – whatever you find interesting RIGHT NOW. I always seem to have problems when starting a new software project. I over-plan, lay out too many options, drown in features. I always get over the hump by just picking a design/feature and starting to code. I may realize that I designed it totally wrong or wrote horrific code, but at least I moved forward. Fitness is the same way with me. Just choose something and go! You can fix/improve tomorrow.

    As for my 2011 goals. I’ve decided to go down a running path this year, with my end goal to be a half marathon. Let’s rock it!

    • Anonymous

      Hi George, good to hear from you!

      That’s a great point and I try to adopt the ‘just get started’ approach. If it’s worth sticking with, you will. You’ll also factor in any necessary adaptations. There’s a useful book by Seth Godin called The Dip – it talks about when to stick with something and when to quit. Totally applicable to most physical activities, too!

      All the best with the running. I did my first 10k last year (it was a military version so lots of obstacles) – surprisingly enjoyable – even for a sprinter like me! I have a roadrace 10k in May, too!

      Thanks for dropping by!

  • Ant

    Not going to lie, great idea of your blog! Makes you stand out, keep up the good work.

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