Minimalist Strategy

By: Rolando J. Vivas

I was 17 years old, and in my room there was only a mattress on the floor, a radio, and an encyclopedia, I really enjoyed the feeling of being close to the ground, sleeping at the foot of a window and seeing the sky at night, during the day I spent a lot of time reading only that encyclopedia, I was accompanied by the radio programming (I spent years with the same station, without changing it), all day and all night, I usually wore black shirts (my dad said I looked like “photography” or that I always wore the same clothes (after all, Frank Miller’s best drawings were only in black and white), I had a pair of pants and only a pair of industrial boots that lasted me for years, in cold weather I only wore a quilt, so making the bed took just a couple of minutes, dressing the same, there wasn’t much to decide on, food was simple, I had developed my own diet of sandwiches when my parents worked and left me alone all the time, late, noon I made ham and cheese sandwiches, at night, tuna sandwiches, more or less at that time I developed the habit of drinking only water (to this day it is almost the only thing I usually drink), so many of the things around my life had reduced them almost to a minimum.

I really like listening to what is called minimalist music, few instruments, few chords repeated ad infinitum, it’s more about attitude than aptitude for me, so I go crazy with Philip Glass’s furious and cacophonic piano lines, heavier and more rabid than the Ramones’ punk rock (Philip Glass even has a piece called “Mad Rush”), and there’s Glenn Branca, another minimalist musician who was fascinated by turning up the volume on his guitar and playing again and again the same chord without stopping, which led him to create these powerful hypnotic mantras that usually go beyond simple music and seem to enter our being, the type of music that causes “something” in people, that you might like or not, but that in the end does not leave you indifferent, another example of musical minimalism? The band named Wire and their first album Pink Flag, in which the British band sought to take rock to its minimum expression, by doing this, they basically invented hardcore punk, quite furious, quite basic and very minimalist.

The gym is another opportunity to get intensely minimalist, because of course, there are times when we feel indecisive, distracted, and what better time than this to apply some minimalist principles? Even the legendary master of high intensity training Mike Mentzer (one of my mentors) promoted it, a single exercise, a single series until “failure” that is, until we are truly no longer be able to move the weight, usually for this, I usually choose a basic compound exercise, “compound” because it incorporates several muscles, “basic” because almost all other exercises are derived from it, for example, the squat, the bench press or the deadlift, I choose one of these exercises, and I only execute this during the entire training for 10 sets and nothing more (although after series 5 it would seem that we could go on forever), in this way I transform a regular exercise period of 90 minutes into 45 minutes (half the time) very intense, without breaks and distractions, there are studies that confirm that moving our attention from one thing to another generates a “residue” that creeps up every time we change activities, and reduces our ability to concentrate or execute, thus, by doing the same exercise for 10 sets, it guarantees us maximum concentration and execution, by the way, it is not something to try every day.

The best exercises and the ones that often give the best results, are brutally minimalist and hence their effectiveness, running, jumping rope, doing squats, doing planks, Do you recommend doing 3 sets of one minute planks? Better to do just one, for two minutes and that’s it, what’s next? Being able to add the intensity with being monothematic at certain times helps us to give the jolt we need to break the inertia, to advance to the next level, during  work, I could spend just one full day meeting customers, updating the product catalog, doing nothing but distributing items to stores, or I could just write (or read all day, or only to read a book without stopping), that way I concentrate to the maximum, and avoid all distractions, I enter the “state of flow”, as the psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihály would say, one of my favorite writers, who describes this state as something almost hypnotic, completely absorbed and in control of the activity that we carry out and obtaining enormous satisfaction from it, making the hours turn into minutes, almost magically.

When you manage to drive a nail into the wood with a single blow with the hammer, thanks to the appropriate concentration and intensity, it makes no sense to keep hitting more, unless we want to break the wood, so if we are able to do only one activity, so intensely brutal and with deep concentration, it only takes a moment, in a state of flow, and we no longer need anything else, sometimes less is more.