The most important book for tricking

beginner tricking martial arts mindset


The most important book for tricking is Barry Schwartz's The Paradox of Choice. What will reading this book do for your tricking? It will teach you how to solve the biggest challenge in tricking.

The biggest challenge in tricking

The biggest challenge in tricking is choosing between the thousands of moves and variations and combos possible. The choices are limitless. "Where do I start?" is the most common training question I get from people. The answer is common sense: "You start by practicing a move." FUCK! JUST PICK A MOVE! But that's the hard part...


For the people who've already gotten into tricking, well, they just sort of "try things" and find what works for them, and "go with the flow."

Yet inevitably everyone who tricks encounters this same situation: "I want this move and so I'm going to make it my goal!" But how in the actual fuck did we ever get to the point where whatever move became a goal?! We choose. And that's a big challenge. But there is even something harder than that.

The bigger challenge than the biggest challenge in tricking

What's even harder than choosing between tricks, is figuring out why we choose the tricks we choose! What influences our choices?! Answer: choices are nearly exclusively influenced by social pressures. "Everyone is doing corks and fulltwist tricks, so I should too." You will not meet your highest potentials if your choices are blindly influenced by these pressures. Look, it took me almost 13 years of tricking to get past this social pressure completely, it's not a joke. It isn't like you can just flip a switch one day and decide "I will do my own thing and not think about others." Becoming better at choosing is sort of a type of training you have to undergo. Daily you have to step back up and consider "Why do I choose what tricks/moves/exercises I'm training?" Just when you think you're your own decision maker, you're probably not.

I didn't realize how long others were still influencing me in the background until recently. Those first 13 years of my training, my choices were still, in some way, based on what I thought other people expected of me, or what I thought I needed to do to keep up with others. Reading the book The Paradox of Choice helped me tremendously. I read it 6 years ago and since then I've kept the lessons in it close to my heart and worked with them. Since then I've more clearly become my own creation and less the unsettled result of influences.


Reading this book is going to teach you what goes on behind the scenes of your choices. It's important to make this distinction: making a choice and knowing what's making you make that choice are two different animals. Know this: if you learn to master the art of knowing who/what it is exactly that is making you choose the tricks (and goals) you choose, and then if you always hold that knowledge in consideration when you choose to learn or train any trick moving forward, you will be on the right path to realizing your highest potentials. This book is the only resource you need to master that art. If you read it, think about tricking (and training... and dieting... and relationships) throughout the whole book and I guarantee it will completely rock your world.

Select quotations for tricksters from The Paradox of Choice

Now I'm going to share some excerpts from the book, in green italicized font, and type in my interpreted tricking implication for those excerpts below. So Barry Schwartz, the author, states at the beginning of the book:

Instead of being fetishistic about freedom of choice, we should ask ourselves whether it nourishes us or deprives us. For example, I will argue that:

  • We would be better off if we embraced certain voluntary constraints on our freedom of choice, instead of rebelling against them.

  • We would be better off seeking what was “good enough” instead of seeking the best.

  • We would be better off if we lowered our expectations about the results of decisions.

  • We would be better off if the decisions we made were nonreversible.

  • We would be better off if we paid less attention to what others around us were doing.

In tricking terms, the arguments would look like this:

  • We would be better off deciding what tricks NOT to do, and aggressively constraining our selection of tricks to do, instead of reveling in the infinite possibilities of tricking.

  • We would be better off seeking the tricks available to us that are most agreeable to our souls, rather than those that would make us the best in the eyes of others.

  • We would be better off if we just did some tricks and did them hard instead of worrying about what tricks we weren't doing.

  • We would be better off if we didn't give up so easily on the tricks we have actually chosen to go after.

  • We would be better off if we paid less attention to what other tricksters around us were doing.

If you seek and accept only the best, you are a maximizer, maximizers need to be assured that every purchase or decision was the best that could be made. Yet how can anyone truly know that any given option is absolutely the best possible? The only way to know is to check out all the alternatives.

The alternative to maximizing is to be a satisficer. To satisfice is to settle for something that is good enough and not worry about the possibility that there might be something better. A satisficer has criteria and standards, but once she finds an item that meets those standards, at that point, she stops. End of story.

To a maxmizer, satisficers appear to be willing to settle for mediocrity, but that is not the case. A satisficer may be just as discriminating as a maximize. The difference between the two types is that the satisficer is content with the merely excellent as opposed to the absolute best.

If you’re a satisficer and you choose something that’s good enough to meet your standards, you are less likely to care if something better is just around the corner.

Time spent dealing with choice is time taken away from being a good friend, a good spouse, a good parent, and a good congregant.

You know you're a tricking maximizer if you are restless and indecisive with your tricking/training goals and never work on any trick for too long. Until you commit to a trick, you will be missing out on time you could have spent towards really hammering a skill and actually getting it. The main reason we fail to commit is because we keep thinking about other tricks and then get distracted. For more information, read my post too many tricks to learn.

Because of a ubiquitous feature of human psychology, very little in life turns out quite as good as we expect it will be. After much anguish, you might decide to buy a Lexus, and you try to put all the attractions of other makes out of your mind. But once you’re driving your new car, the experience falls just a little bit flat. You’re hit with a double whammy – regret about what you didn’t choose, and disappointment with what you did. This process is known as adaptation. Simply put, we get used to things, and then we start to take them for granted.

Because of adaptation, enthusiasm about positive experiences doesn’t sustain itself. And what’s worse, people seem generally unable to anticipate that this process of adaptation will take place. The waning of pleasure or enjoyment over time always seems to come as an unpleasant surprise.

When we are making decisions, we should think about how each of the options will feel not just tomorrow, but months or even years later.  Factoring in adaptation to the decision-making process may make differences that seem larger at the moment of choice feel much smaller.  Factoring in adaptation may help us be satisfied with choices that are good enough rather than “the best,” and this in turn will reduce the time and effort we devote to making those choices.  

When you make a decision this session for which tricks to do, think about how the decision will effect you 2 or 4 years from this session. How much time could you be wasting doing tricks you really don't care about? Are you actually going somewhere at all with all this tricking the way you're currently doing it? Don't think too heavy on it or you'll go crazy like me. Instead, merely factor in the future adaptation response when you consider what tricks to learn or try: do you really want this move? How will you feel when you have it? After having it for months? This helps eliminate trick consumptive behaviors.

Human beings want to experience pleasure. And when they consume, they do experience pleasure – as long as the things they consume are novel. But as people adapt – as the novelty wears off – pleasure comes to be replaced by comfort... Comfort is nice enough, but people want pleasure. And comfort isn’t pleasure... consumption isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

There is a difference between being varied and stylistic, and restless and indecisive. Restless and indecisive tricksters end up having tried everything but to no avail. Varied and stylistic tricksters try new things out of the things they have mastered. The reason they become varied and stylistic is because they have somethings underneath that serve as a super strong foundation for their variety and style. How do they get those somethings in the first place? Here's how:

Individuals who regularly experience and express gratitude are physically healthier, more optimistic about the future, and feel better about their lives than those who do not. Individuals who experience gratitude are more alert, enthusiastic, and energetic than those who do not, and they are more likely to achieve personal goals... By causing us to focus on how much better our lives are than they could have been, or were before, the disappointment that adaptation brings in its wake can be blunted.

Be grateful for the tricks you can do, and you will be on the path to getting those somethings that serve as your super strong foundation. (Especially be grateful if you are not injured or can practice tricking pain free!!!) Gratitude is the key to eliminating the restlessness and indecision that is common in tricking. Gratitude then opens the door for variety and style into your trick practice, because it is what is needed for proper choosing of the most agreeable tricks. Continue training those agreeable tricks and you end up with exactly what you need to eventually become varied and stylistic.  Ultimately, gratitude is an essential prerequisite in knowing what it is that makes you choose what tricks you choose.

We probably can do more to affect the quality of our lives by controlling our expectations than we can by doing virtually anything else. The blessing of modest expectations is that they leave room for many experience to be a pleasant surprise, a hedonic plus. The challenge is to find a way to keep expectations modest, even as actual experiences keep getting better.

I made mention that modifying your expectations going into a tricking session is essential when getting back into tricking, but it's helpful for newbies too. When I started tricking one of my biggest disappointments was actually using tricking tutorials. I thought any tricking tutorial I read would work magic and I'd have the move based on the instructions just by reading it! I'd excitedly print it out, take it with me, and try and read and try and read (remember this was before mobile data phones). I discovered rather quickly that tutorials were not magic. Now, this didn't stop me from opening my own website,, which had the purpose of having lots of tricks tutorials! But it taught me an important lesson: don't expect time frames for learning tricks. It may take you 6 months longer than you thought. Or in some cases, 6 years longer. You never know. But what you need to do is stop asking how long it takes to learn certain moves. Pick something, make your decision non-reversible, commit, and control your expectations.

When we can change our minds about decisions, we are less satisfied with them... “I’m simply not going there. I’ve made my decision about my life partner, so this person’s empathy or that person’s looks really have nothing to do with me. I’m not in the market – end of story.” Agonizing over whether your love is “the real thing” or your sexual relationship above or below par, and wondering whether you could have done better is a prescription for misery. Knowing that you’ve made a choice that you will not reverse allows you to pour your energy into improving the relationship that you have rather than constantly second-guessing it.

Simply think: what would happen if you poured all of your energy into the tricks that matter to you, instead of thinking about all the tricks that don't? How do you determine what tricks matter to you? Try the exercise on this page on tricking enthusiasm.

“How am I doing?” almost always carries “compared to others” in parentheses.

Here again, this is why you don't ask how long it takes to learn certain moves. In parentheses, you're really asking "how long does it take compared to others?" ... You need to pay less attention to what other tricksters around you are doing. Learn this lesson sooner than later. I wish I had learned it sooner than later.

The key fact about psychological life in societies in which you have little control over these aspects of your life (marriage) is that you also have little expectation of control. And because of this, I think, lack of control does not lead to feelings of helplessness and depression.

This is actually one reason I think a lot of people with martial arts experience train tricking better than others. Any single martial art forces you to work inside a box. This kata. This set of skills. This progression. Clear. Defined. Actionable. Goals. Intuitively, martial artists who get into tricking, can see tricking in an actionable way because of their experience with this "working inside a box" thing. In the back of their mind, the martial artist creates beneficial limitations on what tricks they choose to train and which they actively choose to skip. Usually, they choose to work on kicks tricks exclusively for quite awhile... Then they may possibly branch out.

This was exactly the case for me. I discovered tricking when I was 14 years old as a Taekwondo student. All the tricks I saw in my first few tricking videos, I immediately began selecting in my mind, which would be best for my Taekwondo practice. I was already making decisions based on what I needed to integrate tricking into my Taekwondo practice. I wanted the 540 kick, I liked the kicks. I can even remember saying to my friend "I don't want all those other tricks because I can't use them in my Taekwondo kata" ... I had not only chosen what I wanted, I chose what I did not want! That's how I got into tricking in the first place. I didn't know it at the time, but that was a very smart move on my part: to not only choose what I wanted, but what I didn't want.

Overcoming the paradox of choice for tricking

The end of the book sends a powerful message. Here it is:

Learn to love constraints. By deciding to follow a rule (for example, always wear a seat belt; never drink more than two glasses of wine in one evening), we avoid having to make a deliberate decision again and again. This kind of rule-following frees up time and attention that can be devoted to thinking about choices and decisions to which rules don’t apply. Choices within constraints, freedom within limits, is what enables us to imagine a host of marvelous possibilities. 

The choice of when to be a chooser, as a trickster, may be the most important choice we have to make as tricksters.

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  • Jujimufu on

    Interesting that Guthrie does not watch tricking videos. I stopped watching them a long time ago, maybe 7 years ago. But I feel like this has probably done me more harm than good myself, there is probably a healthy balance between getting “inspired” to new ideas that you can incorporate as your own and being “distracted” by a bunch of crap that is not going to be good for you in the long run to be spending your psychic time on. I wonder what the trend is for elite tricksters with this habit… hmmm…

  • Lees Dragon on

    It’s astounding how much this article will resonate with any tricking veteran. Damn, noobies won’t be able to grasp just how legit your words are bro. As someone who’s been intro tricking for a decade and is still not-that-good, this article feels like it were a close friend of mine (it carries good feelings with just the right hints of nostalgia). Totally and absolutely worth it’s weight in gold.

  • Nico N. on

    Thank you so much !!! I posted an article in the arcobolix group about tricking and Lifting and a topic was setting goals. I couldnt find a good answer for setting tricking goals. Its so hard to do what you really want. How often I tried to learn new Tricks and ended Spamming my good tricks because my friends “expected” it or i just want to show them that i actually suck at some easy tricks. I will read this book !!! This article already helped me a lot :) !!!!!!!!!

  • Nico N. on

    ….or i just “dont” want to Show them….. ( small mistake sorry )

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