Posted by + & filed under podcast.


This week Chris unveils to the world his new concept “Under Optimizing”. For all the high performance tweakers, tinkerers, 110%ers, listen carefully – this could save you from pushing too far in the wrong direction, doom, destruction and neglected pets.

“don’t be fooled it’s not the optimization that counts”

The basic premise of Under Optimization

If you are already doing the right thing, then you don’t need to go at it 110% or even 100% – it’ll continue to grow naturally at a much lower level of effort, because you are doing the right thing.

If you are doing the wrong thing, or not quite the right thing, then optimizations can appear to help. This is a dangerous trap. You may find yourself trapped in a situation throwing 110% at something that is just about working. However you have no spare time or energy to make changes, observe yourself, keep things in check etc. This applies across the board, health, business, productivity etc.

What music makes a hobo dance?

Hildegard von Bingen – choral music from the 12th Centuary.
Steve Reich, Electric Counterpoint – modern minimalist composer
Ahmad Jamal – Jazz

Hobo suitcase

This week we have a break from the usual internet hipsters and today’s suitcase interview is with a travelling massage & reiki practictioner/teacher – Maya.

Editing and production by Podcast Magic

Don’t try this at home kids.

3 Responses to “Under Optimizing”

  1. Tina

    In my early 20s, I was indoctrinated that to be successful (in business, love, health), you have to make more and more efforts and you create your chance (believing in luck is an excuse of weak people). By default, I am not a vegetarian but I love vegetable and fruits, I had so a “sane diet”, naturally. I am not a lazy ass and am skinny enough to be considered as having a “model body”, so I didn’t practice any kind of sport. When I lost a very special person of my life, this doctrine really demonstrated its effect on me. Everyday, I looked in the mirror and saw a collection of flaws; I decided to start my “over-optimizing” phase. My day could be summed up by:
    - 10 working hours (with 2 pauses of 10mn)
    - 2 hours of working out at gym club
    - 2 to 3 hours of hip hop training (3 to 4 times per week)
    - 2 hours of nude painting training (2 times per week)
    - 3 to 4 hours of sleep, 1 or 2 meals of my “sane diet” (depend on the mood of the day) and no breakfast, no junk foods but a lot of coffee and tea.
    - The rest of the day is reserved for other intellectual activities like reading, learning new technology (I’m a developer ) and the living stuff(doing grocery, cooking, cleaning the flat, etc.…)
    After kind of 3 months, I broke down completely. My legs were paralyzed and other symptom followed then. I get followed up by a neurologist and other specialists then… I am still now suffering from the consequences of my “over-optimizing” period. But the thing is when you went through that, you realized that you have that “invincible” force and you become addictive to that. I tried and I am still trying to repeat the cycle some times (too much more often than I should). It’s stupid and insane but there is that voice calling you to push yourself harder to cross the line, to redefine your limit. I’m writing this after 1 week of working nonstop with 2 hours sleep per day…
    I feel really hard taking my time for doing nothing. And “over-optimizing” is like the Stockholm syndrome…

  2. Rich

    Yeah man. This is actually a key distinction.

    It’s why Richard Koch (of 80/20 fame) reckons you shouldnt be working more than 2-3 hours a day because the most optimal thing you can do, actually, is figure out what you should be doing. That takes space and time, peace and quiet, clearing your head and shifting to a bigger-picture perspective.

    “Thinking time”, basically, but the right kind of thinking.

    No point optimising “locally” if “globally” you picked the wrong spot. Like having a really oil rig but in the wrong place in the sea.

    What’s cool about 80/20 is it’s fractal – you dont need to 80/20 everything, just 80/20 the important bits. And the most important bit is WHAT you’re doing!

  3. James Mathison

    I fell pray to the exact same fallacy, believing that I could become a poly-sleeping, perfect-diet, millionaire, hunky superhero of a man. Only with me, I didn’t “go for it” as fully as you. Perhaps I also naturally under-optimize, like Nico, but it doesn’t mean I did so very well. I wound up feeling guilty about not doing enough for the longest time, having been seduced into the promises of becoming superman, one day, with enough biohacking and time-management tweaks.

    Last summer (2014), I finally realised that there was no point squeezing another 5% performance out of my life when the things I was doing day to day were completely off-target. It’s like pushing against a locked door when you could go and find the key, if you stopped to think, or if you had enough understanding of how doors work to realise that you needed one. Warren Buffet claims he spends about 80% of his time reading and thinking, meaning he spends only 20% of his day actually making decisions and doing things (not in a deliberate Pareto way, it’s just his rhythm). Presumably, what he does is almost always the right thing, because of all that time spent thinking about the problem, so no need to do it more or harder.

    Respect for spreading more of the sort of patient wisdom that the internet needs to hear!


  1.  TMBA295: Our Hobo in Tokyo​ – Living on the Cheap in Japan