Monday, August 20, 2012

Lump of focus

Played tennis with David and Frank last week in Princeton. As always, the experiences were different. David and I had, as we have always had, great parity.  We used to play each other twice, sometimes even three times a week, and we would always be fairly even.  7-6, 6-4, those kind of sets, rarely more than one, as we had neither the fitness nor the time to batter one another for much longer.

With Frank it's different. I once won a game off of Frank.  This week he beat me 6-0, 6-0, in an hour.  For some reason he enjoyed this. I almost took a game off of him, but as we walked away he told me "I'd be damned if I was gonna let you take a game off of me." In an entirely friendly way, he just needed a goal. And it was good for me to try to play over my head like that.

Frank confessed he was surprised that neither David nor I had ever figured the other one out. I thought about it and told him that I felt it would unbalance the delicate equilibrium we had amongst ourselves, the pleasure of being well-matched.  He responded that in that case, as one of us focused and challenged the other, it would raise the other's game, so that the balance would be restored.

In recent months I've often had people challenge me to be more competitive in sports, first Mumford with the triathlon thing, then Drake wanting me to get back on the track and run races. I tend to fend it off, feeling that I have more than enough to concentrate on with the other things going on in my life and that I should focus my athletics on enjoyment, relaxation, and basic fitness But maybe that is a "lump of focus" fallacy similar to the the well-known "lump of labor" fallacy cited by economists, which states that there is a fixed amount of work to do in an economy.  Maybe being more competitive and challenging myself to do more things would improve my ability to compete in various areas, and would in particular raise my confidence.  Hmmmm.

Certainly I know that certain basic facts are true: if I raise my cardio capacity, I can exercise more..... at least up until the point where my aging body pushes back with repetitive stress injuries (this is a facet of a more developed portfolio theory of exercise, which needs to be spun out some other day).

Three things is certain:  there are only 24 hours in the day, sleep is important, and the general guidelines for this blog insist that I write only 15 minutes a day, so I must stop.

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