Yam Dancers And The Power of Process

Legend has it that deep in Kampuchea live a tribe known as “The Yam Dancers”.

This group earned that particular name because during every planting season they would go into the fields and, prior to planting their yam seeds, perform a dance to encourage the Gods to send rain.

Generation after generation after generation performed this sacred dance. And it worked. The rains always came and the yam dancers always had an ample supply of tubers to sustain them throughout the cold season.

The YD’s were a pretty isolated community but in this day and age it is hard to avoid outside influence. And that is exactly what happened.

Doing a bit of research, one of the younger members of the tribe learned about the consistency of the rainy season in Southeast Asia.

“Guys, guys,” he said to his tribe. “All this dancing for rain isn’t necessary. The rains will come whether we dance or not.”

“This cannot be true,” the elders complained. “Since the beginning of time we dance. And because of this, the rains come and the yams grow.”

So for a few more seasons that is exactly what happened. The Yam Dancer’s danced. The rains came. The tribe ate.

But as generations shifted and many of the elders passed away, the young members of the tribe wanted to do things a different way.

And while the older members of the tribe were hesitant to break with tradition, eventually the community agreed – this year we don’t go out into the fields and dance.

Guess what happened?

As the younger members predicted, the rains did indeed come. But that season, the yams didn’t grow.

When it comes to lifting weights or building a career or growing produce it seems that everyone wants to shortcut the process. What is the hack? Where’s the 12-week-fix-all-my-problems program? How do I put in my credit card info, hit a button and make all my issues go away?

Regardless of the banner on the side of your Facebook page might be telling you, this just isn’t the way that shit works in the real world. There is no “one cool trick” that is going to give you the body of your dreams or the solution to all your financial issues or make you the CEO of a Fortune 500 company by the time you are 27 years old.

With the exception of the very fortunate or genetically gifted, all these things take time. There is a process. And the people who end up the most successful are the ones who value, can endure and ultimately enjoy that process. They understand that the road ahead of them is long and they’ve prioritized the journey over some instant gratification.

This really manifests itself in the gym when you realize that 98% of your training shouldn’t be remarkable. Of course you always need to focus, work hard and be smart with your choices. But the vast majority of your training should cultivate a base of technique and capacity so when the moment calls for it – whether it be on field or court or competition platform or testing day – you can then summon all the practice and repetitions from those mundane training sessions and put forth something special.

The process allows you to have confidence in your capabilities so when the moment presents itself you can fly.

Turns out that the young Yam Dancer who learned about the predictability of the rainy season didn’t see the whole picture. That the enthusiastic feet of the annual dancing ritual was responsible for turning the soil which, in turn, allowed the yam seeds to germinate and ultimately provide the bounty.

His one cool trick had failed. He tried to shortcut the process.