one punch!

In the Japanese superhero/comedy manga and anime One-Punch Man, the eponymous hero is so amazingly powerful it takes only one punch to defeat any opponent. No matter how colossal the foe: ONE PUNCH!

(If you're wondering how they managed to stretch this conceit over 27 volumes and sell over 30 million copies worldwide, well, so am I.)

In the TV adaptation, One-Punch Man's ambitious apprentice desperately wants to know the secret to this amazing strength. Despite some reticence, his teacher finally spills the beans: 100 pushups, 100 situps, 100 air squats, and a 10-kilometer run. Every day!

(One-Punch Man can level a mountain range with a snap of his fingers.)

This answer mystifies the apprentice, of course. No years of training with ninjas like Batman? No accidental radiation exposure like the Hulk? It's a lot of exercise, sure, but...that's it? That's the secret?

In the context of the show, the revelation is played for laughs. One-Punch Man decided to become a superhero, and his way of going about it was a fairly difficult workout routine deemed suboptimal by a professional trainer. And boy, it worked.

In real life, however, does success work any differently? We all want to know the secret to genius-level performance, but what if there is no secret? Bach was happy to explain his talent: "I was obliged to be industrious," he wrote. "Whoever is equally industrious will succeed equally well."

Talent and intelligence play a role. In my experience, however, "genius" is positioning: the right talent employed in the right way and at the right time. Put that bear in the right spot, and it'll catch one salmon after another. That's a genius bear. In another spot, that idiot bear is going to go hungry. Context. If you're positioned properly, put in steady effort and expect extraordinary results.

Forget about genius. Stop searching for "the secret." Instead, always seek to position yourself in the ideal creative context for your unique talents. Then, just be consistent about employing them. Make your work. Every day! One day, your own success will appear equally mysterious.

Subscribe to The Maven Game

Don’t miss out on the latest essays. Sign up now.