Birds and Small Bets

May 29, 2016

Now that spring has sprung, our feathered boys & girls are back in town from their southern vacation.

In our backyard, there’s bird chatter day and nite, save for a few hours while it’s dark, when I assume they’re sleeping. If I forget to wear earplugs while sleeping (which I started for unrelated reasons), they’ll be sure to wake me at 4am. On the dot. Super loud chirping action.

I have no idea what they’re chatting about.
It sounds like grownups talking with little ones. I imagine it’s all the mom birds lecturing their baby birds on not crossing the street alone. Don’t take candy from strangers. Do you remember the address in case you get lost? Repeat it to me one more time. Don’t fight with your brothers and sisters while I’m at work. So on and so forth.

There’s a huge animal ecosystem here because my father decided to lay one of those small green kiddie pools filled with bird food on our deck. There are birds of all shapes and colors, feisty gray squirrels, and timid small chipmunks who visit the buffet daily.

It seems to be the same group coming at the same time every day. Week after week.

One curious thing I noticed is the birds’ eating behavior.
They never hit the buffet head on. They take many small steps before reaching the food.

Back in the days when I visited chinese & old country buffets, I went straight for the good stuff. No sitting down first, no putting in a drink order. Point me towards meat loaf, mashed potatoes, fried rice, and general tso’s. Where the dumplings at? I didn’t care who I almost ran over and neither did the other patrons.

Birds, on the other hand, sit atop our neighbor’s roof, across the street.
Two or three of em at a time. Two then will fly to a nearby tree. The missing ones get replaced by another two or three coming from who knows where.

The two birds will then move to a different closer tree. Just chilling and looking. Next, they’ll land on the wooden railing on our porch. Still a few feet away from the food. Here, they’ll sit for a long time. At some point, one of em will take the giant leap down and walk around the food. And finally dig in. Sometimes neither will jump, so a third bird will come by and start pecking at one of them until he does. Similar to pushing your friend into a pool. “You first buddy.”

This behavior seemed super odd until I looked at it from their perspective. Humans, at the top of the food chain, have no dangers while hitting up a food spot. These birds have to take smaller risks. Being too eager one day could mean death.

Lifting Weight
Now that I’m weight lifting regularly and following the Starting Strength protocol, I realize the benefits of small bets, even for us humans.

In S.S., there are a bunch of warmup sets before you hit the main weight. For example, before doing a bench press for three sets of five using heavy weight, there are five warmup sets. First warmup starts with bar alone, and we progressively add weight each new set. 25%, 50%, and 75% the weight of our main working sets (minus the weight of the bar).

At first, I scoffed at the idea for this many warmup sets. Once I started doing em, I noticed the immediate benefits. I’m hitting the main sets just as the muscles feel their “warmest”. Also, each warmup set is a small bet.

I know immediately how much energy my body has by the time I do a couple of warmups. How much sleep I got the night before. If I ate enough food during the day. How motivated I feel. If my muscles are still fatigued from the last workout. If this workout will be a badass record breaker, or a squeaker.

The amount of data gleamed from warming up is priceless. And I can adjust accordingly.

Sometimes I’ll quickly drink some liquid carbs (coconut water) to get more energy. I may drink a second cup of coffee. I’ll be more careful while doing the main big sets if I feel sore. I may drink my protein shake midway during the workout rather than after. On rare occasions, as the information warrants, I’ll decide to take it easy on the body and give it a break. After fifteen weeks (this past one), I gave my tired achy body a one week vacation to regroup.

Small Bets
I was reminded of the concept of small bets from a book by the same name. Never finished reading it but the idea has stuck.

We need to take small bets.
Once we know what works, go ahead and swing for the fences.

Warren Buffett buys billion dollar companies overseas without ever visiting their plant. He decides within a few seconds if a company is worth buying. When asked about this skill, he said, I’m paraphrasing from memory, it’s 30 years of preparation and 30 seconds of execution.

As a eager youth and still an eager adult, this is a lesson that I need to learn. Whether it’s investing in stocks, selling things online, lifting weights or life in general, there needs to be small bets first.

Finally, Cheetah
I saw this video of a guy reuniting with a cheetah after one year apart.

He makes a bunch of small bets over a few days before entering the cage. He had to follow the official cheetah protocol for social bonding by letting it sniff him, lick him, etc before going inside.

Once he followed the proper steps with his former friend, even other cheetahs in the cage left him alone.