Kindred Spirits Embracing Small

When we visited my stepson and his family in Pasadena last weekend, he talked to me about Precision Nutrition, a nutrition course and coaching curriculum he is following. As he described a few of the lessons and practices from the course, in addition to being intrigued, I could feel myself relaxing into what he was telling me. The course is more about lifestyle than nutrition alone, and the first “assignment” involves setting aside five minutes a day for yourself. That’s all, just five minutes, and you are fully launched into a transformation process that might take as long as a year to complete.

Nathan and I compared this initial challenge to the bushel of books on Amazon advertising fast turnarounds and nearly instant results–“The Thirty-Day Guide to Complete Health,” “Instant Weight Loss,” “Four Steps to Success,” “30 Days to Productivity, to name a few. The very proliferation of these guides to meteoric success should make us question their ability to assure, much less effect the successes they promise. In the first place, if a fast-and-easy method actually exists for becoming productive or losing weight, for example, why the need for so many books with nearly identical promises on the same subject? Not only that, but if these various methods work, why the additional promise of speed? Step-by-step success is reinforcing in itself. Why the double guarantee of speed and results?

I suppose that for many consumers the promise of speed equates with ease. And these days, ease is what most of us search for in any endeavor, no matter how complex. After all, who would undertake a diet or productivity plan that even hinted at any degree of complication. Especially when we’ve been conditioned by our culture to demand ease in just about everything we do. Hence all those kitchen and household gadgets promising facility and speed to those who purchase them.

Lately, though, I’ve noticed a reassuring trend toward simplicity and slowness. We’ve gotten ourselves so wound up in busyness, productivity and multi-tasking that some of us have become aware of the costs, and are trying to slow down. Books have been appearing that don’t so much tell us how to slow down, but explore—slowly—the process and consequences of slowing down. I’m not referring to Marie Kondo here, but to books like “How to Do Nothing” by Jenny Odell, and “The Longing for Less: Living with Minimalism,” by Kyle Chayka.

Whether or not the creators of Nathan’s nutrition and counseling course had this in mind, they have understood on the deepest level the connection between slowness, smallness and success. They’ve understood the lasting rewards of taking it small and slow. And they’ve understood the cumulative results of small successes. Without even knowing John Berardi and Phil Caravaggio, the creators of Precision Nutrition, I feel a deep kindredness with them. I think I’ll send them a copy of my own book, “Small: The Little We Need for Happiness.” I’d love to become part of their universe, as they have now become part of mine. No matter how long it takes!

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