The Latte Factor

I’m a big coffee drinker. „The Latte Factor“, a term coined by David Bach, describes the phenomenon that small expenditures add up over time. My day usually involves working at different gyms and schools. Hence, I spend a lot of time on the road. Needless to say, a coffee to go every now and then makes my day much more enjoyable. The issue here, of course, is the definition of „every now and then“. Consider the most simple case that I’m having a single cup of coffee out every day (which is a rather naive assumption) – at two bucks per cup, when the same cup would cost me a small fraction of that when I prepare it at home – and simple math leads to a total yearly cost of roughly seven hundred Euro. Not too shabby for such a simple indulgence. I could spend a two week holiday at a reasonable level of luxury for that kind of money. In the past, I’ve paid less for a month-long Interrail trip all across Europe.

This ain’t a finance blog, though, so where’s the point in making these calculations? Just look at the same concept from a different angle. Consider, for example, a basic mobility routine that will take five minutes but not yield any immediate, significant improvements in your range of motion. A couple percent, maybe, but nothing overly exciting. That’s why you decide to skip it and just warm with five minutes on the bike.

At four weekly sessions, that’s twenty minutes of mobility work you didn’t do. In a year, that adds up to roughly 17 hours. Do you think spending those 17 hours would have a lasting effect on your range of motion? No way to say for sure, but let’s look at it in a different manner – Nicholas Nassim Taleb style. What is your potential downside? Losing five minutes in a workout? Chances are you can easily make good on that by getting changed faster and/or stopping to check your phone every couple moments. Your potential upside is an improved range of motion, decreased likelihood of injury or pain and the ability to get into more mechanically advantageous positions during your lifts, hence being able to move more weight. That’s a good bet.

Things are even more simple if there is less uncertainty. If you decide to spend your lunch break on some HIIT, even though you might only be burning around 250 kcal per session, that adds up to 52000 kcal over the course of the year. In practical terms, when energy intake is at maintenance level, this could mean losing roughly six kilos of body fat. That might not seem particularly much, but keep in mind that we’re looking at a time investment of around twenty five hours, four times a week.

These are just two examples for how small time investments can yield big benefits over the long term (of course, following the same line of thought, they can also incur high cost). I’m sure, you can think of a dozen more such examples. Two additional takeaway messages (besides the application of the Latte Factor, that is) can be derived here –

  1. In the case of uncertainty, if the potential downside is low and the potential upside is high, you should probably invest time and/or resources.
  2. As a coach, you should always try to learn from other fields, such as the financial sector, software development, project management and the like. Many challenges that are frequently faced by coaches have been overcome and encoded into best practices a long time ago in different environments.

In any case, I’ll be traveling with a large jug of coffee from now on.

So long,

Don’t get hurt

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