Plus, Minus, Equals

“False ideas about yourself destroy you. For me, I always stay a student, that’s what martial arts are about, and you have to use the humility as a tool”. –Frank Shamrock

There’s a great chapter in Ryan Holiday’s book, “The Obstacle Is The Way” about the mixed martial artist, Frank Shamrock and his unique training system. Shamrock termed it the “Plus, Minus and Equals” formula. Though it’s endemic to MMA fighting, I think it can be applied to making art or anything we’re trying to do.

The formula in a nutshell…

PLUS. Find someone more skilled than you. Someone you can learn from, who will expose your gaps. It might be a coach. It might be a sparring partner who’s on a higher level than you. The “plus” can provide mentoring, training guidance and knowledge of techniques that can help develop your skills.

MINUS. Find someone of lesser skill than you. Someone you can teach and help grow. Someone who’s hungry to learn. In the process of teaching the “minus”, you gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of your skills. (And you’re doing a good deed. Nothing wrong with that.)

EQUALS. Find someone who’s roughly at the same skill level and can match you in sparring. You and your “equal” can motivate each other, have fun competing and learn from one another. And because you started at the same place, you can measure your progress against one another.

Holiday says the value of this system for people is “to get real and continuous feedback about what they know and what they don’t know, from every angle. It purges out the ego that puffs us up, the fear that makes us doubt ourselves and any laziness that might make us want to coast.”

Plus, Minus Equals…what a great structure to adopt for our personal and artistic growth.

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