Discover more from The Mmm...Letter
No Pain, No (Capital) Gain
The Chiseled 6-Pack Myths of Modern Capitalism
It dawned on me that fitness provides a suitable analog for capitalism, both in function and perception in society. I’m going to tackle some myths surrounding the hot-button political subject of capitalism by alluding to its cool-button alias, fitness. If this can help you understand either subject more completely, I will have achieved something of value.
To be frank, I’m a long-time fan of both. Most people I know are fans of neither. If they’re reading this, I’m impressed; let’s see if we can learn to understand one another better.
Over the next few posts, I’m going to draw comparisons between the fitness world and the world of capitalism. Here are the myths that connect the two disparate topics. Assume everywhere I write fitness, I speak for both concepts.
Fitness Is Rigged (you are here)
The exceptional success of a small but vocal fitness minority can pressure beginners to stay out of the game; and sometimes, beginners loathe success. Novices presume those at peak performance have merely won the genetic lottery, a game they themselves have woefully lost. The bottom-line being that fitness, therefore, must be rigged.
Fitness is About Stuff (Status, Sex Appeal, & Protein Powders)
People against fitness claim its purveyors are largely motivated by superficial outcomes. These detractors lean on body-positivity and anti-shame campaigns to promote the acceptance of unfit living. They believe their time is better spent on more amiable pursuits as they gradually approach type 2 diabetes.
However, those obsessed with the secondary benefits of fitness miss the point entirely.
Fitness is about giving and taking and its core principles require the sacrifice of today for superior (and additional) tomorrows. Fitness necessarily prepares you to do more, experience more, and experience everything more completely in spite of some long-term sacrifices.
Fitness is Broken
For the unfit, the fitness world appears broken. Healthy food is expensive, limited in quantity, and tastes like a steaming hot plate of dumpster cardboard. The unfit wish fitness would just get up and leave.
However, fitness buffs see this problem from a different perspective. They believe a lack of fitness education and the perversion of the world’s food supply leaves the average person less capable to attain fitness. These factors grow the average American body, and increase the likelihood of a catastrophic health crisis.
Both camps are in agreement, but they see different solutions.
Let’s look at this first myth, that fitness is in fact, rigged.
Fitness is Rigged
What makes this myth so alluring is that within it, there is some truth. People born with superior genes, broader shoulders, or a faster metabolism have a chiseled leg-up on the rest of us.
Many near the bottom end of fitness cry ‘genetics’ when coming face-to-face with the stunning body of an exceptionally fit person. This misattribution falsely excuses our personal lack of effort and reaffirms our decision to omit fitness from our lives.
And if we were true to ourselves, we would admit that some athletes have imperfect genetics, and despite their chromosomal makeup, tremendous effort stands between them and the maintenance of such efficient forms.
In fitness, the lazy offspring of Olympic gold-winning gymnasts will never be fit if that child refuses to lift a finger. Just as a fool born with every commercial advantage remains but a privileged fool. It still takes smarts, effort, and hustle to capitalize on a business opportunity, no matter who you are.
The bottom line is yes: fitness and capitalism can provide a leg-up to some, but bar no one from participation. Grit, tenacity, and belief in one’s self can overcome your lack of lead time on the competition.
More importantly, neither capitalism nor fitness are zero-sum games. If I see a three-percent bodyfat Olympic swimmer gunning laps with what ostensibly should be my body, I don’t give up on exercise and healthy eating. Michael Phelps didn’t take that body from me, he grew his own. In fitness, our successes are largely personal and independent of others.
Capitalism deviates a bit here from fitness and the analogy seems to break down. Let’s try and fix it back up.
Markets have many participants that offer similar solutions. On the face of it, competition means business won by company A can never be won by company B. In a concrete example, the existence of Coca-Cola does not prohibit new beverages from profiting in the market. It’s better to think of a market not as a fixed pie of finite slices, but as a growing pie of infinite slices — much like the nascent fitness industry itself.
Hey Everybody, Do The Waist Shake!
The home exercise craze began in the 1930s as Americans grew cognizant of the effects food had on their waistlines. That’s when the geniuses at Vitamaster came up with stupid things like this vibrating waist-shaker. Back then, the presence of exercise equipment in the home was uncommon.
So for a brief moment, Vitamaster was the only game in town. As more American women (and some men) convinced themselves to violently shake away those extra pounds, competition stepped in. The presence of more home-exercise options then lent credibility to the budding industry.
And as the industry grew in renown, so did the size of its addressable audience; and this attracted even more capital. Meaning, the pie was indeed cut, but cut to make room for more pie. Mmm, pie.
Which is to say, competition builds markets and markets give rise to new opportunities. A new barber shop needs hair supplies, chairs, and signage. A sign store serves more local businesses, and on it goes.
So when I say fitness success is largely personal, I too believe success in a capitalist system is primarily personal. By working smarter and making better bets, new businesses can find their place in an industry and succeed, even if there is no room to become Michael Phelps or Coca-Cola.