Muscle Memory

March 28, 2018

I have spent a lot of my life building new organizations and teams. When I was in college I started WPI’s chapter of the College Democrats. I spent a summer going into my sophomore year helping build the canvass team for now Gov. Malloy’s primary campaign against John Destefano. After I graduated law school I was a campaign manager for a mayoral race in New Haven. All these roles involved helping organizations build muscle memory.

Muscle memory is the difference between the first and hundred and first time you do something. You get on a bicycle the first time. It feels weird. You fall down. You get back on. You move forward a little. You fall down again. You get back on. You go farther. Eventually you stop falling down. Your brain and your body know what to do. The tension melts away. The thing changes from stressful to easy. You go farther than you ever imagined.

There are two types of situations I encounter: no muscle memory and bad muscle memory. No muscle memory is easy. You notice a lack of process. You apply some thought. You pick a process. You implement it and improve. Bad muscle memory is hard. You try something new. You have to identify and stop yourself from applying your old habit. The unfamiliar fights the familiar. Everyone else engages in behavior that encourages the old habit.

If you try to build too much muscle memory at once you will get overwhelmed. No person nor organization has the mental bandwidth and capacity to change everything at the same time. You have to prioritize a singular thing and build the muscle memory around that. Then once that has been mastered you can move on to the next thing.

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This work by Matt Zagaja is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.