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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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September 15 2009

What Does it Mean to “Grok On”?

By Mark Sisson
59 Comments

We like to throw ?Grok? around pretty liberally. It?s the name of our prototypical human ancestor, sure, but it?s also become a rallying cry of sorts: Grok on! What does it mean when we say ?Grok on?? Do you know? Do I know? I have something in mind, but I?ve never really expounded on it in any detail. In fact, I?ve purposely left it ambiguous; to Grok is partly, I think, something very personal and subjective for each person.

What does the dictionary say (and what would it say if MDA was a household name?)

grok

/grok/  /grohk/  [from the nutrition blog ?MarksDailyApple.com,? where it denotes the archetypal Paleolithic man; also from Robert Heinlein?s novel ?Stranger in a Strange Land,? where it is a Martian word meaning literally ?to drink? and metaphorically ?to be one with?]

noun

Mark Sisson?s (proprietor of MarksDailyApple.com) name for the collective and individual ideal of nutrition, fitness, behavior, and health.

verb

To understand profoundly through intuition or empathy.

We?re all familiar with the noun. We?ve already defined who Grok is (or was). But what about that other meaning ? Heinlein?s verb? When I ? or anyone else ? implore you to ?Grok on,? what am I really saying? Does it matter? Is it better left unsaid and unsubstantiated? Is ?to Grok? merely an ambiguous, indefinable abstraction, the careful parsing of which would only serve to destroy its strange effectiveness? For a while now, I?ve pondered these questions and wondered if this post would amount to explaining the proverbial joke in excruciating detail (and thus ruining it ? think John Kerry?s sense of humor).

But MDA isn?t about cryptic hunches. Sure, we value anecdotal and self-experiential data, but we also love a good controlled study. Fact and intuition rule the roost simultaneously in some kind of two-pronged oligarchy ? and that?s what makes the phrase ?to Grok? so completely perfect for our goals. Heinlein?s ?grok? carries two meanings, but we?re only interested in the second, figurative one. To Grok is to know something to be innately, incontrovertibly true; it is to feel that something is so using intuition, as opposed to mere sensory observation. Grokking a concept means you understand it so well that it is absorbed into your very being. You dig it. It?s become second nature, an integrated part of you.

Doesn?t that sound a bit familiar? I get daily emails from readers expressing that exact sentiment regarding the Primal Blueprint. I?ll often maintain running discussions with these people, fathers and mothers and neighbors and students and professionals who may have had some measure of success with another diet or life plan ? but never enough that it sticks for good. Atkins and CrossFit stragglers are incredibly common. These are people who did the Atkins induction and probably saw some weight loss, but could never maintain the rigorous monotony of the permanent eating plan. These are people who happened across CrossFit, got motivated, did a few weeks of strict WODs, but couldn?t keep up with the advanced levels of conditioning that it requires. Any diet or exercise plan will work to a certain extent, but not every plan is sustainable for everyone. The PB, though, is sustainable. Heck, it?s built in to us from birth! Our very genes ? Grok?s genes ? were forged using it as a, well, blueprint. Is it any surprise, then, that slipping into the lifestyle feels like going home again?

You know that feeling. Once you?ve completely ditched the grains, the legumes, and the sugar, and lots of delicious fat and protein are all you need to finally sustain you and it all just feels right, you?re Grokkin? it. When you stop the obsessive calorie counting and find yourself eating the right amount of food while still effortlessly dropping or maintaining extra weight, you?re Grokkin? it. Once following the Primal precepts becomes second nature, and avoiding temptation becomes impossible because temptation no longer even exists like it once did, you have officially ascended. You have dug in. You?re living it. You have Grokked on.

?Grok on.?

It?s like a secret handshake. An inside joke. Except it isn?t, not really. It?s not an exclusive, exclusionary thing, the PB. Each of us is already encoded with it; we just have to realize it. When we do ? when we finally understand those basic laws of fitness, diet, sleep, stress, sun, solace, and sport that govern our genes and make the motivations behind certain behaviors and instincts clear as day ? we are able to successfully Grok on.

As one character from Heinlein?s novel says:

Grok means to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed ? to merge, blend, intermarry? It means almost everything that we mean by religion, philosophy, and science ? and it means as little to us (because of our Earthly assumptions) as color means to a blind man.

When we first hear about the Primal concept, it sounds alien. It sounds wrong. Our initial reaction upon hearing that saturated fat is actually benign, that healthy whole grains are anything but, and virtually everything we?ve ever been told about diet, fitness, and health is founded upon bad science is to deny, gasp, guffaw, gape, and disbelieve. But that?s just the blind man?s reaction to an artist?s description of color. We aren?t blind anymore, though, once we get past those ?assumptions.? To Grok is no longer a uniquely Martian construct. It?s pretty much our only choice, and it?s about as Earthly as you can possibly get.

Grokking goes way beyond academic knowledge. If you claim to grok a piece of knowledge or a concept, it?s become an essential part of your very being. When you Grok on, you are signifying that you?ve become wedded to your Primal heritage. It?s no longer just a detached way of considering nutrition and fitness; it?s your identity. And really, it always has been our identity, ever since we began walking upright and using tools to shape our surroundings and make life easier. A little too easy, perhaps, because we eventually forgot all about that part of us ? or at least learned to ignore it.

No more. That innocent ignorance stops here. From this point forward, you can choose willful ignorance, or you can choose to continue the lifestyle path set in motion over 250,000 years ago.

I dunno about you, but I?m definitely going to Grok on!

Let me know what you think. Do you Grok the Primal Blueprint? Thanks, everyone! Check back tomorrow for a brand new fitness routine.

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59 thoughts on “What Does it Mean to “Grok On”?”

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  1. Grok On means to be innately primal all the time! Go forward and feel great, eat healthy and enjoy life.

    1. I can’t help but think that to “grok on” would include spreading the word to others as I plan to do now as a second career in my retirement (from teaching–go figure)!

  2. Interesting – computer programmers use the term “grok” in the Heinlein sense but I never made that connection with PB’s usage. Very cool – glad you pointed that out.

  3. I have always thought of “Grok On” to imply a living that is back to our roots, as in refreshing and a living that is more in tune with our body and nature

    From @kwakthisway

  4. To grok on means to eat what was out on earth by the source. To rely on mother nature and her wisdom to steer is to natural health!

  5. Grok On means that its alright to party like primal man has never partied before!

  6. “Grok on” to me means to “keep being your bad A$$ primal self!!!”

  7. to grok on! to rise above the current hologram of misinformation and false twinkie/noodle culture and tap into that ENERGY, that only comes from primal eating and primal living. great forensic observation mark!

  8. Life is so simple, we mastered it 10,000 years ago. Today, too many try to fix what isn’t broken. To “Grok On!” is be focused on the simple steps to a fullfilling life.

  9. Grok On to me means to know the reasons behind what you eat, how you exercise, and why you play.

    @bryceb

  10. Grok On: to strive for one’s personal primal perfection.

    As an affirmation, an encouragement to begin or continue the primal journey.

  11. Grok On= question conventional wisdom, read & write on MDA, live the PB. So easy a caveman could do it (I know, I know!)

  12. Not to steal from Zero Mostel, yet, it’s ” To Life “. A true life. Understanding the pitfalls and holes that we try to avoid. Yet, In the big picture to simply give, seek and cherish as purely and passionately as one can.

    1. Zero Mostel didn’t write Fiddler on the Roof, numbskull. Sheldon Harnick wrote “To Life.”

  13. “Grok on”-To wish someone the best in their personal journey of finding a simpler way to sustain a healthful, energetic, and more peaceful way of life (through following the PB, of course).

  14. To Grok is like trying to define “to be” as part of the natural kingdom yet simultaneously able to master it on its own terms without reservation, precepts, emotional or intellectual clutter. To thrive. Think of it similarly to the spirit of a wolf.

  15. GROK ON
    Means to totally embrace the Primal Lifestyle, however one defines it in their own personal world without needing approval from anyone.

    An acknowledgement that one is aware of the implications of the SAD.

    A greeting to other practitioners of living primally.

  16. To Grok On, an evolution of Rock On…which many of us use when we encourage each other despite that fact that we do not play rock or any other kind of music. “Rock On!” is often said to someone when we think they’re doing something awesome and they should continue to do so. “Grok On!” as I see it and use it from this site is often said to someone or readers in general when we’re encouraging each other to keep on being primal in our ways.

  17. To me, because this is all essentially personal, Grok on! is kind of like the zen concept of letting go of the rock and floating. Yes, it is an encouragement but it is also a call to simplicity. How much more simple could it get to eat REAL food, MOVE your body, PLAY, SLEEP. So simple a child could do it.

  18. You briefly mentioned the literal meaning of “grok” in the vocabulary of Heinlein’s fictional martian culture, and I think it’s quite relevant. From page 213 of the Google Books result for STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND:

    “Take this word: ‘grok.’ Its literal meaning, one which I suspect goes back to the origin of the Martian race … means ‘to drink.'”

    The primal community’s not much of one for finding those mega-bottles of Evian watter, I know. But considering (if one’s familiar with the book) that Heinlein’s Martian culture is defined by a terrible scarcity of water, “grok” can be extended to mean “nourish,” or “nourish oneself with.” “Consume,” “absorb,” “feed” on.

    When we “grok on,” we chow down. We do and incorporate and express healthful and nourishing things. We make ourselves better with pieces gleaned from the environment. We recombine with our primal source. We drink the world.

  19. “Groking On”

    To passionately pursue the primal lifestyle in every facet of one’s life, ultimately living one’s own life to the fullest potential, and in effect; demonstrating the pure joy found in healthy living to the rest of the world around him.

  20. While “grokking on” is great something i think very under talked about here is the fact that if you eat enough fatty meats and fruits and nuts you WILL get fat. While there are certain benefits from primal like hunger and energy and health.
    If you have 2 people who eat 3000 calories from primal and 1 who eats 2000 calorie regular diet will lose more weight.

    I think grokking on is the best benefit of primal because yo can become finely intune with your bodies food requirements but primal foods dont break the rules of thermogenics.

    1. Bobby, it’s not just about calories in versus calories out. There is a “metabolic advantage” that comes from eating Primally. We’ve talked about it here before. While you do require a caloric deficit to lose weight (to preferentially burn off the stored body fat), some studies show that you don’t necessarily gain any further weight on a true Primal style diet (low insulin means little of no storage), whereas even on a moderately restricted calorie, high carb diet you can still gain added weight.

  21. Stranger in a Strange Land is an awesome book! I’m rereading it now thanks to you Mark!

  22. Grok on means to be so in tune with the interplay of your naturally evolved self and environment (since the two can’t really be separated) that you live with an easy confidence in your place in the universe. Grok on is the antithesis of angst.

  23. To get your Grok On means….

    To Be YOU….the YOU coming from the awareness and truth that YOU are infinitely connected, abundantly joy-filled and where anything really is possible!

  24. awesome post and awesome comments. yep, the pb is SO intuitively on it that it does become part of one’s identity. i grok it.

  25. Hi Mark,
    I’m responding to your question at the end of The Definitive Guide to Oils (Jan. 20, 2010). You asked what edible oils readers prefer, and why.

    I use what I call “coconut ghee.” I make clarified butter from the best quality butter (preferably unsalted) that I can find, and do it ghee-style, that is, cooked longer to develop antioxidant compounds and more flavor. After skimming the whey from the top and pouring the butter oil (ghee) off the casein clumps that have sunk to the bottom of the saucepan, I mix the warm ghee that results with unrefined coconut oil in approximately equal portions (or up to 2/3 to 1/3, either way). Keep stirring or shaking the mixture of ghee and coconut oil in jars so it stays blended as it cools and solidifies. Needs no refrigeration. This is the tastiest cooking fat around, very healthful, with a relatively high smoke point (though I never push the temperatures), and is quite neutral in taste. Neutral but yummy. It’s perfect for those who want to use more coconut oil but don’t like a coconutty taste. You can also mix in a shot or two of unrefined palm oil if you have some but are put off by the strong color and flavor.
    Sometimes I’ll add a little olive oil to this mixture when cooking, depending on the recipe, but more often than not I use it alone. It is THE BEST.

  26. Hi Mark,
    I just read thru your ‘P90X vs CrossFit vs PB’ post. Excellent article! I currently CrossFit and have been hooked for a solid year now. I’m coming from the old LSD world of Iron-Tri’s, marathons, Ultras, Century rides etc. Also, when asked from others about good programs, I do throw in P90X as one of the only fitness programs that would be worth the money, compared to all those other fitness apparatus info-mercials out there. That being said and as much as I love the CrossFit regimen, In answering your question of “Are you ready to give Primal Blueprint Fitness a try?” my answer is a resounding, YES! Can’t wait for it!

  27. .perhaps a caveat being that one also reads David Myers superbly brill “Intuition its powers and perils”

  28. I can see giving up sugars and grains, but why not eat legumes? Often, legumes satisfy my food cravings like little else, andI don’t needto eat a lot of them.

  29. As an avid science fiction reader (for more than 40 years) and a big fan of Heinlein I was entranced when I found the grokking concept applied to the primal way of life. And there was still more: the references to Korg (very good music keyboards, another passion of mine). Grok on!

  30. I’m just curious…Isn’t life about evolution? Why would we want to devolve and eat like humans did millions of years ago? Aren’t we supposed to be growing smarter, being more evolved and spiritual, and moving away from cro-magnon man? Just saying? I’m new here so help me out?

    1. That’s a great point Larry, but the problem is that we HAVEN’T evolved as much as people would have you believe.

      Keep reading MDA, or grab the book. It’ll make a lot more sense than I will, but basically: Once agricultural society became the norm, and wheat and grains became common, Man didn’t have to fight as hard for survival. Thus survival of the fittest hasn’t taken place for at least 10,000 years. We have been at a virtual standstill from the evolutionary standpoint. Our bodies weren’t created for Wheat and high sugar/carb diets back then, and they aren’t now. If we can get our bodies back to what they should be fueled with, reasonable complex carbs, protein, and fat, we can keep them better balances and avoid the diseases and weight problems that plague us(and me!) currently.

      I hope this cleared up a few things. Keep reading. It will make sense.

  31. And if “grok on” is about spreading the word, as I believe, I need tools! Train me, certify me, equip me, and send me forth! I want to teach this to others; but why invent the wheel when you, Mark, have it so perfected!? I am compelled to teach and help others to return to what makes sense and to what comes naturally.

  32. For the contest (I’d love to try Primal Fuel!):
    I’d love to see you develop a year-round camp–one for adults and one for kids–that highlights the “how to” of primal nutrition and exercise. For adults, it would be great to sign up for even a long weekend, or a week, and take classes on cooking, living primal, and exercising with others, every day. For kids, the curriculum would be different–lessons on how ancestors lived (there’s a lot of potential for sustainability and green conversations!), what diets looked like, and classes on how things grow and can be harvested and prepared. And then tons of fun exercise.

    Thanks Mark.

  33. Fantastic blog! Do you have any tips and hints for aspiring writers? I’m planning to start my own site soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you suggest starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m completely confused .. Any suggestions? Many thanks!| walmart garcinia camb

  34. I would like to loose about 1 to 2″ of belly fat. I am 5′ 11′, 178# and age 74. Eating Paleo and still having a very hard time loosing that fat. Do quite a bit of resistance work and limited cardio due to ankle issues. Will just eating protein and fat for a short time, to satisfy my appetite, with virtually no carbs do it? I think veggies are good for you and some berries also. I would love to hear your comments.

  35. To me, as a primal Buddhist/Hindu/Shaman, Grok On means to be confident and strong enough in your self to let go of your ego, open your heart and feel love and gratitude for whoever or whatever you are with.

  36. I love crisps !!!
    I just came from a trip to Memphis TN in the States and tried the BEST potato crisps ever: C-SPUDS !!!!! the new real potato crisps without oil !!! They are delicious and Nutritious !!! They are fantastic!!!
    Now I do NOT like regular crisps anymore, their taste to oil is too strong, even the low fat ones.
    I love the real taste to potato in the C-Spuds !
    Congratulations to Eetbe, the C-Spuds are fantastic and the HEALTHIEST !!!!

    The C-Spuds unsalted are my favorite. I put them in fish or chicken broth, or dip in salsa or hummus, ketchup, my own healthy mayonnaise !!!
    It was about time somebody came with real Potato crisps no oil !!!

    This is great because this would reduce the amount of deforestation for palm oil trees. On the other hand, no more pollution due to frying, no frying oil wastes, reduced CO2 fingerprint… The C-Spuds are baked. Not only healthy for humans but also for the planet !!!
    Their website is http://www.eetbe.com

    Cheers !!

  37. Before you post your primal exercise program what are your thoughts on static contraction training by Pete sisco. It consists of super high intensity static holds. (Or very low number of super slow reps.) 1 rep for 45-90 seconds. He says it maximizes cns response.