Once again, I find myself looking at ice baths.
It’s become as regular as putting one foot in front of the other, seeing scantily clad men and women submerging themselves into subzero temperatures and preaching the seemingly endless assembly of health benefits.
For that reason, I’m hooked.
You’re telling me this will improve my energy, elevate my mood, boost my productivity, promote better skin, and aid my recovery?
I continue to scroll.
Talking heads litter my phone screen, delivering messages of the high-performance lifestyle and culture grasping the modern generation.
The takeaways are clear; I need to get up at 5 am – no questions asked – then grab a leather-bound journal and write down my goals for the day.
Because what’s a day without clear structure and vision in 2023?!
Once I’ve put on my Egyptian cotton robe and meditated to activate my all-important mindfulness persona, I need to attack the gym before a large portion of the population has smacked the snooze button.
If I have time, I’ll blend some highly-priced greens to get my vitamin hit.
Excuse the sarcastic tone, but if you’re like me, the tsunami of high-horse advice makes me question if I’m doing life right. Am I maximizing my potential?
How do I squeeze every facet of potential from my day which will cause a ripple effect down the line, resulting in me becoming happier, healthier and boasting a bloated bank account?
A billion-dollar trend
Welcome to the aforementioned ‘High-Performance Lifestyle,’ a masculine counterpart to the feminine notion of self-care, its ethos geared toward self-mastery.
Historically manufactured for elite athletes looking to gain the edge in their respective sport, the popularity of biohacking and wearable technology has witnessed the self-improvement market’s value skyrocket to north of $13.2B, according to Fitt Insider.
Our sports superheroes used to be “strong” or “fast.” Now, they’re “healthy.” Ten years ago, sleep and recovery were on the fringes. Now they own the stage.
A previously exclusive form of living has spread to the masses, allowing your average man to mimic the tactics, tools and routines of hugely successful entrepreneurs, athletes and pioneers in the field.
But at what cost?
When does the tussle between optimization and obsession become one-sided, lending itself to living a restricted existence devoid of enjoyment and freedom?
Is there not enough on people’s plates to begin with?
A report from the American Psychiatric Association revealed that two out of five Americans rated their mental health as only fair or poor, with finances, uncertainty, physical health and job security among the most prominent sources of anxiety.
That’s why embracing a ‘Low-Performance Lifestyle’ – banging the drum for mediocrity, acceptance and the essence of being content – seems radically enticing.
Preaching the high-performance commandments
Let’s hypothesize for a minute that I’ve decided to base my existence around the sole concept of abiding by high-performance commandments.
As a starting point, I head over to TikTok – the shrine to short-form development – in search of the golden nuggets that will allow me to evolve into the best version of myself.
After 30 minutes of exposing myself to men speaking into a mic with a moody and inspirational beat as their soundtrack, these are the steps I’ve discovered I need to integrate to make the necessary steps to an elevated standard of living:
- I must delete social media unless I’m selling on it (no more TikTok inspo, then)
- I must work at a standing desk
- I must walk on a treadmill under the desk at 4 km an hour
- I must work out three to five times a week between 30 and 60 minutes a day
- I must make my parents, friends and family accountable, restricting contact unless it’s vitally important
- I must have no friends because Steve Jobs didn’t, and Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk don’t
- I must not get married until I’m nearly 50 and not have kids until I’m older than that
- I must not go home for 260 days and work every day
- I must never say ‘no.’
- I must make myself ‘mentally ill’ to get to a certain level to make $10,000 a month.
- I must optimize my time to the point where I need to justify everything I do and how much value it’s worth to me
- I must be an introvert, not an alpha male.
These HPL rituals originate from ‘The Billionaires Mindset’ channel, a platform followed by more than 84 thousand people and boasting 1.4 million likes, with its most popular videos garnering over 2 million views each.
While these people are undoubtedly successful – their tailored suits and groomed exteriors give it away – the concept of isolating myself, restricting time to speak to my parents, and not getting married until I’m either entirely grey or bald seems a bit…sad.
Johnny Bell is the founder of JLBell Consulting LLC, offering San Francisco bay area residents the knowledge and expertise necessary to take charge of their lives and create a lifestyle that supports personal growth.
He told Muscle and Health:
“Society created this image of how every person should be. Every person should be striving for the American dream. The American dream consists of money, a big house, a car, a high-paying job, and a spouse with two kids.
“Society developed the notion that if you do not achieve these things, you are a failure in life.”
No such thing as failure
Bell believes that high performance has become so popularised and marketed that people now resort to lying, cheating, and stealing their way to the American Dream.
While in no way accusing the high-performance online community of lying to their audience – many of their methods boast scientific backing – Bell raises a valid point about failure.
But what is a failure, and does it even exist?
If failure is not meeting your expected outcomes or desires, what if you are happy with not meeting Society’s ridiculously lofty standards?
Those at the top of the high-performance peak need to start using their platforms to preach realism, something which is sorely lacking, as highlighted by one of the faces of the genre.
Jake Humphries is the lead host and creator of the wildly successful ‘High-Performance Podcast,’ a space that has expanded to a book club, circle membership area and corporate away days.
In March 2023, Humphries was heavily mocked and criticized online following a post to his LinkedIn page, which – among a cluster of other points – saw him smugly inform his followers he was awake at 5.12 am so he could start his day with his three world-class basics.
What’s world-class for Humphries is mundane for others. His alarm wakes him up, he drinks water and has some vitamins, then he writes down his plan for the day. This would be fine had it not been packaged as some Herculean wellness feat.
He goes on to say, ‘Get up early – you have space to reflect – you have time to eat well – eating well means energy for a great morning – a great morning means you feel empowered to choose a smart lunch – a smart lunch powers you through a strong afternoon – your positive mood means you hit the gym at the end of the day – the early start leads to a recording earlier night – you repeat the same the next day.’
His lengthy post takes an inwardly self-promoting and ego-twisted turn when he begins to list his successes, and by this point, any potential positives to pull from his declaration disappear.
If this is what it takes to be successful – living every day meticulously structured and with every decision bathed in a deeper meaning and purpose which causes a ripple effect – then that’s not for me.
Isn’t life supposed to be, you know, fun?
The value of ordinary
With every year that passes, our Society seems to be struck with another crisis, another stumbling block preventing us from reaching nirvana.
Aside from the apparent pandemic – which has played a role in the glorification of high-performance culture – the financial perils of everyday living and the stresses of being able to make ends meet fuel our anxieties.
Using that logic, how can anyone who isn’t lucky enough to be presented with a comfy financial base or be surrounded by highly influential people dream of covering all bases? It’s not even remotely considerable. It’s impossible.
So, you’re not going to travel the world, spend your days working with a view of the ocean sipping a dragon fruit mocktail, fly on your private jet, or get in the shape of your life.
Embracing a low-performance lifestyle propped up with pillars of comfort, peace, acceptance and humbleness is not something that should ever be scoffed at, even if the 1% club tells you otherwise.
“Promoting a low-performance lifestyle isn’t about encouraging mediocrity, but rather recognizing the value of being ‘ordinary’ and finding contentment within it,” says Brenton Thomas, Founder and CEO of Twibi.
“In today’s Society, high achievement and constant hustle are often celebrated, potentially causing stress and feelings of inadequacy for those not meeting these expectations.
Embracing an ‘ordinary’ life isn’t equivalent to lacking ambition; it can mean prioritizing balance, mental well-being, and sustainable personal growth over societal measures of success. It allows for appreciation of simple, everyday pleasures and cultivates resilience against the fear of failure.
“Additionally, it challenges the culture of constant comparison, promoting acceptance of individual journeys. Recognizing that success is subjective is essential, and ‘ordinary’ life can be fulfilling and rich in unique ways.”
Don’t get me wrong; I still listen to the odd podcast which preaches the HPL mission. I sometimes enjoy them. But, like so many others, I am tired of hearing the same messages. It’s become stale and repetitive, and layers of click-baiting are becoming increasingly noticeable.
I was listening to the radio recently and heard a line that summed it perfectly, so much so that I nodded in agreement despite driving solo.
It’s boring people having tedious conversations with boring guests.
In a world so expectant of you, try the low-performance lifestyle.
You might not achieve your dreams, but you’ll be happier.