Our dumbbells are falling apart

Not literally, but now that they’re 25 years old, the dumbbells in our weight room have taken quite a beating over the years.

Yesterday, picking one up from the rack, a hockey player pointed out, “It’s good that they’re old, they make me work harder.” Apparently, the sight of old, rickety dumbbells does that for him.

It turns out there’s something to that sentiment. It’s the same idea Daniel Coyle wrote about in his book, “The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills“:

“We love comfort. We love state-of-the-art practice facilities, oak-paneled corner offices, spotless locker rooms, and fluffy towels. Which is a shame, because luxury is a motivational narcotic: It signals our unconscious minds to give less effort. It whispers, Relax, you’ve made it.

The talent hotbeds are not luxurious. In fact, they are so much the opposite that they are sometimes called chicken-wire Harvards. Top music camps — especially ones that can afford better — consist mainly of rundown cabins. The North Baltimore Aquatic Club, which produced Michael Phelps and four other Olympic medalists, could pass for an underfunded YMCA. The world’s highest-performing schools — those in Finland and South Korea, which perennially score at the top of the Program for International Student Assessment rankings — feature austere classrooms that look as if they haven’t changed since the 1950s.”

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