Friday Musings: Shamrock's Formula for Optimizing Growth

Frank Shamrock is a mixed martial arts legend. After a tumultuous upbringing littered with Foster Homes and run-ins with the law, he found his peace in a love for physical combat that prompted years of passionate study and exploration. Shamrock would go on to become the first UFC Middleweight Champion and retire as a titleholder after successfully defending his belt four times. You could attribute his success to an inner fire and great athleticism, but Shamrock insists that more than his fighter’s spirit, it was his simple approach to training: Plus, Minus, Equal.

Shamrock’s formula for success is one we can all apply in any field where we desire improvement. His secret was to create an environment that pulled him towards constant growth by using a plus, someone better than you, a minus, someone you are teaching, and an equal, someone relatively near your skill level. Each of these dynamics create a different relationship with your craft that prompts investigation, perspective, and heightened mastery.


Whatever it is you are after, there is someone who has already made all the mistakes along the way. They can point out the pitfalls and clarify the best path. Don’t think you can just copy methods or make it up as you go. Before you think outside the box, you’ll need to master the principles. Finding a mentor offers an invaluable humanization of the often monotonous parts of skill mastery as well as a vivid picture of what the future could look like. The opportunities to find a plus are more abundant than ever. You can pick up mentors online, begin the IHD online courses, pay a teacher, or even begin a part-time job where your boss is invested in your development. As a fitness coach, writer, and professional, nothing has been as crucial to my development as writing for Breaking Muscle. Through these efforts, I gained access to phenomenal editors, superior coaches, and amazing business vision. CEO, Omid Rahmat, has been the most valuable mentor of my business life, offering invaluable insight into the online world, business strategy, and creating professional content. Finding a plus is the first step in any successful venture.


I loved college. Not for the reasons most do, but because I honestly could not learn enough (I know. I’m a total nerd). Occasionally, I’d have a friend in a class who approached the subject with a very different perspective. I’ll never forget taking 20th century World History with Brad Copelin, my roommate. Brad would blow off class for two months and panic when the test approached. I’d spend an evening teaching him everything I knew in my thorough, obsessive way. He’d get a B and I’d ace the exam. It changed how I approached studying forever.

Many people don’t know that I spent 5 years of my life as a classroom teacher. I loved analyzing political theories, debating controversial topics, and creating a more accurate historical picture of how our world came to be. My role as a strength and conditioning coordinator is mostly that of teaching students how to move better and coaches how to understand best training practices. As a writer, I’m constantly turning over subjects, breaking down components and noticing their relationships. From these experiences, I whole-heartedly agree with that old saying: “If you really want to learn a subject, teach it.” The preparation, alone, tends toward an obsessive, auditory self-quizzing that aids memorization. However, true growth follows communicating subjects to people of different learning styles. They’ll have questions and perspectives that poke holes in your simplistic conclusions and force mastery of principles that allow you to break down complex parts and create unique analogies.


For over a year, I’ve done a 5-minute 1-arm kettlebell swing test at least once a week. I lived in the upper 150's until my wife tried it one day. She got a low 150 on her first attempt, then 160 on her second. Now, I'm consistently in the 170's and will hit the low 180's every now and then. I had to be shown that I was capable of more.

“One misconception about highly successful cultures is that they are happy, lighthearted places. This is mostly not the case. They are energized and engaged, but at their core their members are oriented less around achieving happiness than around solving hard problems together. This task involves many moments of high-candor feedback, uncomfortable truth-telling, when they confront the gap between where the group is, and where it ought to be.” 
― Daniel CoyleThe Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups

Throughout history, those communities whose geography created extreme isolation have tended to be far less advanced. Conversely, innovations blossom in places of cultural convergence where there is more competition of ideas. Competition is not a curse word, in fact, the ability to compete is an essential skill. Competition often brings out our best performances. Find someone relatively close to you in skill level and don’t be afraid to compete with and learn from them.

No professional relationship and few friendships have ever been as valuable to me as working with Justin Lind. While I don’t claim to be his equal, our closeness in age, fields of interest, and skill have spurred immeasurable growth. We care about the same values but have very different strengths and weaknesses that prompt increased understanding and exploration. Every time I talk to him, I’m overwhelmed with creativity and new possibilities. Likewise, sharing projects creates a sense of accountability that promotes consistency of productivity.

Whether in sport, as a writer, a speaker, a comedian, a mother, or in any other realm of life, we need growth. Tony Robbins considers the two essential needs of the human spirit to be growth and contribution. Author of Tribe, Sebastian Junger, posits that humans need 3 things- authenticity, competency, and connection- in order to be fulfilled. Competency and connection are just another way of saying growth and contribution. Absent of these needs we fall into malaise and depression, so it stands to reason they should be a primary concern. Creating structures and an environment that promotes growth is an essential step towards becoming the person we want to be and building a more fulfilling life. For more momentum on your journey to better living, check out the Mind-Mastery Course and accelerate your growth!



Shane TrotterComment