Revisit your baseline


written by oz chen

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“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations; we fall to the level of our training.”

Archilochus, Greek poet.

Have you ever found yourself looking at people who were once fit and wondered,

“What happened? They let themselves go.”

I assumed that naturally, I was going to be different and will avoid the same fate.

Then I look at my own body. There are no more well defined abs, and my metabolism has slow down. I used to put away plates at the buffet like nobody’s business and just be able to “work it off.” These days, fat comes on much easier in my body and is harder to shed.

Realization: I’m actually on the exact same path of those I’ve judged, just in slow motion.

It’s harder to notice those changes in myself because they’re happening little by little at a time.

Revisiting my baseline

Think of your baseline as the foundation of a house. Just as a strong foundation ensures the longevity of a house, your baseline sets the stage for your personal growth.

To maintain my physique, my baseline activity might have to increase. Instead of lifting weights 2x/week in my 20s, now in my 30s it feels more like 3-4x a week.

To maintain my lifestyle, my baseline monthly spending is going to go up. To pretend that my monthly budget will be the same in 20 years is foolish – but I had thought that way for a long time.

Just as inflation invisibly eats away at the value of money, time can eat away at effort.

Whatever might be your baseline level of effort might need to increase over time.

The baseline doesn’t just have to be measured in quantity. It can be a shift in method or mindset.

I often sprain my ankle playing basketball, so for exercise I naturally go towards something lower-impact like pickleball now. As I age, I might go more towards low impact cardio like swimming.


In financial coaching, I’ve worked with people who think their baseline of saving 10% of their income or making minimum payments on their credit card is enough to reach their goals.

Indeed, the financial baggage we’ve inherited can distort our baseline of what’s “normal.”

But if you have goals that matter to you, then the time to revisit the baselines you’re operating from may is now.

Now is the easiest time to make a change, because you never know how hard something will be later.

The advantages of starting early

There’s a sobering chart that motivates many people to start investing.

Someone who starts investing early will have a lot more money than someone who invests later.

Said a different way – someone who waits to invest will have to invest much more just to get the same result.

A first-time older investor may have more years of investing myths (“the stock market is a casino!”) to overcome. It’s going to take them a lot more to stick to their investments – hugely important for long term gains – than the younger counterpart who’s built up an investing habit in their formative years.

Mindset, just like money, compounds over time.

The antidote is long term thinking

A lovely couple I’m friends with said this about their fitness goal: “We don’t only want to be great parents, but great grandparents.”

I found that so inspiring.

This is the acknowledgement that we’re all going to age. And it doesn’t get any easier—without effort, that is.

For what you think you’ll care about, you might as well try now and give yourself a fighting chance.

Arnold Schwarzenegger – who’s in his 70s – was recently interviewed about his decision to stop using free weights and use weight machines instead. Which is a big deal for a former Olympic weightlifter.

The Governator’s response?

None of us can beat time. So you can either mope around and be mad about it, or you can adapt.”

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