Figuring out how to prioritize in any sort of complex system is really, really difficult.

We see this all the time in working with athletes.

A simple, linear mindset results in athletes trying to do more, more, more training — and expecting to get more, more, more results.

In reality, there are trade-offs involved in any sort of training plan.

These are not just the trade-offs between the zero sum competition between training time and ability to adapt, but fundamental trade-offs between constraints being imposed on the system.

If only there were some sort of lens through which we could view the process of making trade-offs between competing priorities in complex systems…

Fortunately, Courtney Kelly is a coach and a copywriter, and she has a background in psycholinguistics.

In linguistics, there is an understanding of the way that humans generate grammar and speech based upon trade-offs between different constraints.

This theory is called “optimality theory,” and Courtney wrote a fantastic article on its application to training here.

Check out the full conversation with Courtney to learn:

  • How humans are “built to learn language” — and how the ways that we acquire and deploy language help us understand other complex areas like training or growing a business
  • Why trade-offs are not just something we have to deal with, but why they are a fundamental aspect of any system in which we have multiple priorities or criteria for success
  • How to develop an excellent understanding of your clients and employees — and how to use that understanding to speak to them in language that they understand

Listen Here

Check out more from Courtney, Ethos Alchemy, and Strength Ratio here:

Show Notes:

  • [01:01] A background on psycholinguistics and universal grammar — and why grammar is a lot more interesting than “just punctuation”
  • [14:24] So, what is optimality theory? What does the way that humans generate speech have to tell us about trade-offs in complex systems — particularly in fitness?
  • [28:10] A tangible example of the trade-offs involved in training for a triathlon vs building muscle for aesthetics
  • [34:00] Optimality theory treats constraints as “binary” — not on a sliding scale
  • [40:15] An grammatical example of optimality theory in action
  • [49:02] The importance of having a robust theory of mind for effective communication
  • [59:09] The practical applications of understanding theory of mind for copywriting and sales — how to understand clients’ hopes, fears, and dreasm
  • [01:13:32] How to know when it’s ok to “exclude” someone with your copy who isn’t a good fit for your business
  • [01:18:02] Learn more from Courtney, Ethos Alchemy, and Strength Ratio

Links and Resources Mentioned