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Lifestyle Change and n=1 From a Business Perspective

March 12, 2010

Change is good

I am my own human guinea pig.  I’ve never been shy of testing radical lifestyle ideologies on myself.  The list includes:

  • The Paleo Diet and Warrior Diet ways of nutrition
  • Stronglifts 5×5 and the substitution of steady-state cardio for High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
  • Straight-razor shaving (Haha, I’m Asian.  Yeah, we need to shave, too, y’know)
  • Going without shampoo and soap.

These experiments run perpendicular to commonly accepted ideology.  “But we’re supposed to eat according to the Food Pyramid”.  “You absolutely must eat 6 meals a day, or your metabolic fire will die”.  “The more miles I log running, the fitter I am”.  Right?

Says who?

Though a cynical view on life, we must understand that absolutely everything out there is a business.  A careful examination of all key stakeholders in relation to modern dogma is needed.

Take the modern food pyramid for example.  The base of that pyramid is comprised of grains and other starches.  Agriculture is a heavily government subsidized industry, and key players in that area are rapidly forming (if they haven’t already) into powerful consolidations, or hold monopolistic control of markets (think ConAgra and Monsanto).  It is within government and corporations best interest to protect that industry.  What better way than to promote the consumption of 6-11 servings of “healthy” carbs to the public?

Further this argument with the notion of the consumption of 6 small meals per day as optimal.  A key stakeholder in this circumstance is the sports nutrition industry.  The recommendation of more small meals, many of which are protein shakes and supplements, is a definite boost in revenue.

There is a key tension in this case, though.  We are forgetting that one of the key stakeholders in this scenario is us, the consumer.  If how we eat and how we exercise is in our best interest, why then are many of the most industrialized countries in the world plagued with obesity (like the US’ 30.6% rate)?  Why have knee and Achilles’ Tendon injuries increased despite advances in the modern running shoe? (Source)

As an entrepreneur, this is a definite bleeding neck-wound.  A clear miss-match in product and market.  An opportunity to capitalize on.  As a consumer, the state of our lives should quite simply be an outrage.

Lifestyle changes – not fads – are disruptive technology in a much broader sense.  Much like how the iPod changed the music industry, so to are the Paleo, frugal, vegan lifestyles to the food industry – to use an example.  There is a stark difference though: the ability for the consumer to drive change in these areas as opposed to the company.  I can’t think of an example of consumer driven change at this level.  Or is this even the case?  After all, qualitative discussions of strategy only thrive through lively debate.

Enter n=1. Experimentation and proof limited to personal experience.

We can be the innovation driver.  This isn’t limited to crazy diets and consumption habits.  Find the bleeding neck-wounds in your own life.  Then change them.  Question the norm.  Back your hypothesis up with solid institutional fact, and if you can’t find that, create your own proof.  Test subject, n, =1.  Because doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting change is madness.

Vi sees.

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