First, my apologies for the late blog post. Had a busy weekend, but it actually works in your favor, as this idea struck me during my morning workout today.
The phrase “it’s not a bug; it’s a feature” is a common punchline in the tech world. It’s about using marketing to solve technological problems; reshifting the perspective of the buyer rather than “fixing” the problem. Basically, you’re telling the consumer that they don’t know what they really want, and those things that they perceive to be malfunctions are actually the product performing exactly as designed. Though this is usually a hail Mary from a tech company to keep their customers happy, this mentality is pretty crucial for training, because many people need to shift their perspectives to understand that those things they believe to be “bugs” about training truly are the features. This is what you WANTED; didn’t you know?
Ok, THIS is probably what you really wanted
We witness trainees’ first encounter with “bugs” all the time when it comes to training, and many times, they are trying to “fix” them. “I really want to do more conditioning, but whenever I try it, I feel like I’m going to throw up.” Yup. Congrats. That means it’s WORKING. “The last time I tried lifting, I was sore for DAYS.” Yup. That’s how lifting works. “I tried working out in the morning, but I was tired.” Yup. That’s how being a human works. “I did squats, but now my legs are big.” Jesus Christ, are you serious? That’s not a bug; it’s a feature! Your training is working! The process is occurring! This is the avenue of change.
Most regrettably, we have been conditioned to believe that discomfort is a sign that something is wrong, and it requires immediate addressing in order to “fix” this. This was once a helpful instinct to teach us not to touch fire and not eat a pineapple whole, but has become somewhat less helpful in a society where discomfort is no longer the norm. Our forefathers and ancestors existed in miserable conditions as a matter of habit, and grew to understand this as the norm, such that they could tolerate it, grow stronger from it, get better and move on. For them, this was not a bug, but a feature of life. But for us now? If discomfort CAN be avoided, surely it should be, no?
I mean, it worked for this guy
It’s amazing how eye opening this paradigm shift can be for the uninitiated. I had a friend approach me on the topic of weight loss, as they’re starting their journey on that. They’ve had success so far with counting calories and losing weight, but he asked me “What is it that you eat that keeps you from feeling hungry all the time?” I looked blankly at him for a moment before I conveyed that I am ALWAYS hungry. Being hungry is a state of being for me. It’s how I know I’m still alive. This blew his mind, because he was under the impression he must have been doing something wrong if he felt hungry while losing weight. The idea that being hungry was part of the weight loss process was a new idea, and upon sharing it, it made his process so much easier. Weeks later, and pounds lighter, he thanked me for essentially giving him permission to feel hungry while losing weight.
We have people trying to sell us the opposite! Every weight loss product is about “effortless, painless weight loss”. “Eat whatever you want and STILL lose the weight.” Why is that such an effective marketing technique? Because it goes against reality! In reality, weight loss requires suffering, it requires effort, it requires turmoil, it requires NOT being stuffed 100% of the time and actually feeling the slightest twinges of hunger. It’s not a bug; it’s a feature of weight loss. It’s imperative for these companies to convince you otherwise so that they can sell you a “fix” for the bug they created. It’s akin to those late night infomercials selling you a product that will speed up your computer by installing MORE malware when all you really needed to do in the first place was stop going to those websites that are full of malware.
I won't judge you for your fetish
And this perspective shift isn’t just limited to understanding reality for what it is; it can also help you cope with injury. Injuries are notorious for being classified as “bugs” by the general populace, and surely something to avoid. But what if it was a feature? When I ruptured my ACL, it wasn’t a bug; it was a feature that allowed me to focus on my pressing, grip and neck work. It was a feature that forced me to re-evaluate my approach to training and come up with a better way forward. It was a feature that gave me an opportunity to overcome and get stronger in many ways. I re-marketed my bug to myself as a feature, and came out better on the other side.
Don’t assume that simply because you meet some form of resistance or misery that you have encountered a bug in your training and programming. Consult your inner marketing team and see if this may in fact be a feature. Figure out how to spin it and sell it, and come out better on the other side compared to those people who just sit and patiently wait for the next software update that will SURELY get rid of all those pesky bugs.