I drew this sketch after reading references from Dr Craig Richards in the British Journal of Sports Medicine and Bernard Marti, M.D., a preventative-medicine specialist at Switzerland’s University of Bern.
The best shoes are the worst: top-of-the-line shoes are 123% more likely to get injured than those with cheap shoes. Other research showed that those paying double the price, got double the likelihood of injury and pain!
In a rather simplistic analyses – shoes, specially those with all the reinforcement and cushioning, allowed us to run in un-natural ways. By having these cushioning, the worlds best suspension device, our feet, couldn’t react and feel. Unnatural running styles such as landing on our heels causes injury. By buying expensive trainers, you’re buying the marketing campaign, profit margins and pain.
A stand out quote was from on of Nike’s founding partners; Nike is “distributing a lot of crap”.
We’re born to run
The book jumps into science of how humans were built as long distance running machines.
- We have arched feet and short straight toes which help running.
- A nuchal ligament behind the head for stabilising the head when moving fast – other animals with this; dogs, horses and humans – running animals.
- Big butts for stabilising (we don’t use them unless running)
- Achilles tendons – big rubber bands to maximise endurance. I’m paraphrasing a lot here, but we’re built for endurance long runs.
If that’s the case, then why? Was it to catch animals in the wild? If so, that doesn’t make sense, most animals in the wild can outrun us.
What do six remaining hunters in the Kalahari desert have in common with Deep Work Studio?
The book tells a story of an odd ball researcher who tracked down six remaining true hunters in the African Kalahari desert. One day they invite him to hunt antelope, by running it down. Antelope run faster than humans. On top of that, when chased they hide in a herd to recover. To not be single-out and chased again. To understand how they hunt successful, there are a few principles to understand. These surprised me in how they linked back to our work:
We’re built for endurance running, not sprints.
Most animals can run very fast by inhaling a large amount of oxygen as they move their strong back legs. The whole body is a an air machine pumping them as they go fast. However, although this gets them away from prey faster, it causes excess heat which can’t be cooled.
Humans on the other hand have a respiratory system built to keep us cool. We can breath out of sync to running and endure vast amounts of exercise over a long time period.
The hunters would chase a single Antelope. Every-time it darts into trees to cool off or tries to hide in a herd, they’d single it out again and keep it running. This can be a game over many hours, whole days, but eventually us humans will keep running and the antelope will hit exhaustion. Fall over, hunt won.
We’ve built our work at Deep Work for endurance. My co-founder Andrej tells stories of 4-day design sprints at AJ&Smart. Intense days working at full speed for 8-10 hours with a few little breaks. The result, they’d get the job done, run-away like the antelope, but would be near exhaustion by the end. With Andrej this eventually lead to burn-out. It’s also how most people are expected to work.
We shifted our Hypersprints spread over six days with only four to five hours of work a day. It was taken from Cal Newport’s Deep Work principle that we can do intense work for a shorter periods before getting too exhausted and we should stop. The same way if we were to sprint run everywhere, we wouldn’t have the energy and ability to run all day.
By slowing things down and enduring long days of running, Kalahari bush hunters catch at Antelope. By slowing down for long weeks of work, at Deep Work we produce better work and can go on forever.
The hunters work together – young, old, men, women, they’re all in together.
If you imagine our nomadic ancestors this makes logistical sense. You move with animals you are hunting and eat when you can. However, it goes deeper than that.
Reading through the book I noticed some trends that corresponded to another piece I’ve been researching – the first principles of better meetings and a book by Rutger Bregman called Humankind.
Bregman shares a theory on why Homo Sapiens outlasted Neanderthals. Side note: we did not evolve from Neanderthals but lived alongside each other. Neanderthals were in almost all ways better than us; more intelligent, stronger, bigger, etc.
The theory goes that we domesticated ourselves by being more social. By being more social we shared more information. To put it into an example:
In more intelligent Neanderthals, one in a twenty Neanderthals might discover fishing. Compare that to Homo Sapiens and one in a thousand might find it out by a stroke of luck. That means you’ve got 5% Neanderthals fishing compared to 0.1% Homo Sapiens.
However, as social animals that practice compassion and kindness (the key theme of Bregman’s book) homo sapiens would share his new found knowledge of fishing with five others. In doesn’t take long with that sharing until all 100% of homo sapien’s have learnt to fish and neanderthals are stuck at 10% fishing.
When tribesman hunt antelope they share information such as tracks and awareness with each other. They collaborate together with the old upfront running down the distance with the young and fittest at the back ready to sprint out when necessary. It appears the same time we became evolved into weaker domesticated humans we got two things vital to our success: the ability to run long distances and work together as a team.
Back to Deep Work – this is why we need better ways of collaborating. Teams that work together on a common goal, sharing as much information as possible, to solve the biggest and most important problems for the world.
Promotion! Check out our free better meeting tools to get teams collaborating and doing Deep Work.
I highly recommend both books mentioned here. Running, collaboration and kindness is what makes us tick as humans. Both have inspired me with our purpose in the future of work at Deep Work. And, to do a little more running.
I recommend Scott Jurek’s website for six tips and best practices for beginnings and expert runners alike – he gives a quick guide and a fair assessment not to jump straight to barefoot running alongside some brillaint training tips. http://www.scottjurek.com/run
The complete guide to Deep Work: https://blog.doist.com/deep-work/
A shorter guide to get started quickly: https://memory.ai/timely-blog/how-to-do-deep-work-effectively
If you enjoyed this, or have any comments (a lot of this is joining dots and making outlandish assumptions) please reach out to me in our community on Discord: