Inversion Method for Problem Solving

Thoughts on reversing a problem to find great solutions.

How do you determine the perfect way to build your fitness and prepare for a major event?


You don't. It's too complex a problem, with too many unknowns and variables outside your control.


Instead, invert the problem. If you cannot be perfect in your buildup to your event, just avoid being stupid.


Avoiding stupid decisions is easier and often more effective than trying to be brilliant.


On any given day I have no idea what the perfect workout is for myself or any of my athletes. But I've plowed the fields of stupidity long enough to know what a bad workout looks like, believe you me. Avoiding really bad decisions is now my primary focus in training, business, and life in general.


Social psychologist Kurt Lewin set the foundation for inversion thinking back in the 1930's. Here it is with a running example:

  1. Identify the problem (I can't run)
  2. Define the objective (invert by starting at the end:I want to run a marathon)
  3. Identify the forces that support change towards your objective (run volume, strength, mobility, recovery, sound nutrition, etc)
  4. Identify the forces that impede change towards your objective (invert again: time away from running, injury, overcommitments, training complexity, poor nutrition, poor sleep/recovery, etc)
  5. Strategize a solution. (design training plan based on inversion principles)


The beauty of inversion thinking is that it promotes taking action by acknowledging that we do not need all the answers to begin making progress, nor do we need to be perfect in our execution to be successful. Seeking perfection is just a mask for procrastination, while taking action with the objective of simply avoiding stupid mistakes is something all of us can embrace.


- Antonio Gonzalez

February, 2023


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