The “More of the Same” Fallacy- Why What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

The other day I was telling a friend of a friend about my work as an online personal trainer- how I design workouts and diet plans for my clients, consult .  His response: “Great for you.  Sounds like a bad deal for the clients.” 

His reasoning was that the main thing clients need from personal trainers are a) being shown how to exercise with proper form, and b) motivation to come to the gym in the first place.  He was also, not coincidentally, only an occasional exerciser.

Nor was he the first person to say something like that to me.  Last year I was speaking to a woman who had recently lost her first ten pounds.  She said she didn’t see the need for personal trainers and nutritionists- after all, she said, “All you need to do to lose weight is eat less and move more.”

And then there was the guy who had just started blogging a few months ago.  When I told him I was growing my own blog through search engine optimization, he was insistent that this was a bad idea.  After all, he reasoned, guest posting was working just fine for him. 

These people were all novices, and they were all correct- but only with regards to novices. 

A few months later, Miss “eat less and move more” contacted me to ask why she had stopped losing weight.  What she- and in fact, all three of them-  failed to understand was that as you get further along- at anything- the game changes completely. 

What Beginners Don’t Understand About Being Advanced

These two understood the challenges of a novice trainee- eat less, exercise more, learn good form, and stay motivated.  Their mistake was in assuming that more advanced trainees deal with the same problem, only they deal with it better.  Novice trainees struggle to get motivated, and advanced trainees struggle harder to get even more motivated.  Newbie bloggers guest post, and more experienced bloggers write bigger guest posts.

The reality is entirely different.  It’s more like this:

When you first start exercising, you have to build the habit of going to the gym consistently, and you have to learn to do all the movements.  After a while you know the movements well enough, going to the gym is second nature- it’s simply never an issue anymore.  After that you have to take a serious look at program design- the exercises you’ve selected, your training frequency, intensity, and total weekly volume.  You also need to cycle calories.  Then once you get that dialed in, you have to start incorporating more advanced techniques like auto-regulation and cluster sets.

When you first start a blog or online business, you’ll probably grow it by guest posting.  After a while this doesn’t scale very well, so you have to switch your focus- probably to SEO and/or advertising.  Then after a while you need to start looking beyond raw traffic and incorporate advanced data analytics, mailing list segmentation, and split-testing. 

You probably got your first job- or three- by writing a resume and submitting it to a bunch of companies.  And for a while, you can keep getting better jobs by gaining more experience and writing better resumes.  But after a while you’ll hit a ceiling that you can’t break through by simply writing better resumes.  You’ll need to stop submitting resumes and start asking people in your network to recommend you for jobs.  At the highest levels, you may even stop asking- the companies will come to you, based on your reputation.  Many corporate executives haven’t written a resume in decades.

Everything in life works like this.  As you get better and better at something, eventually you’ll hit a plateau that you can’t get past by simply iterating on your current growth strategy. 

As You Grow, Your Strategy Needs to Change

There’s a seductive appeal to the idea that you can reach the heights of success by simply staying the course- that you can get your dream job the same way you got your first job, that you can get ripped the same way you lost your first ten pounds, or that you can build a ten million-dollar business using the strategy that brought in your first hundred thousand dollars.  Sadly, life just doesn’t work that way.

Every few years- sometimes even every few months- your growth strategy needs to change.  In many cases the people you learn from need to change too- the books you’ve been reading no longer apply to you, the mentors you’ve been consulting can no longer help you, or you’ve outgrown the very role models you were striving to emulate. 

Too many people fail to realize this- and so their initial progress is followed by a frustrating period of months, years, or even decades of banging their heads against the wall, wondering why things just aren’t working anymore. 

Don’t make that mistake.  When your progress levels off, understand that you’ve hit a transition point, and you need to learn new strategies and new methods to keep moving forward. 

Always remember: what got you here won’t get you there.