Sunk Cost – Another Way The Past Influences Your Future

Sunk cost is regarded as the amount of money / resources that have already been spend / invested into something that cannot be recouped. These costs have already been incurred regardless of the outcome.

For example, spending $5000 digging a hole in the back yard for a swimming pool. Regardless of how you proceed after the hole has been dug, you cannot get the $5000 back; filling in the hole will not return the money. Another example is working on a relationship – you can spend 6 months going to therapy in an effort to mend things with no guarantee that you’ll both grow old together.

The issue with sunk costs is that they can bias perspective and effect decision making because we can tend to place a higher value on past actions vs. future actions. A number of studies have shown that people become more certain about their decisions after they make them – those who bet on a sporting event will immediately become more confident that their desired outcome will be the eventual outcome once they place their wager.

The reality is very different. While the betting odds can change as a result of more people betting on an outcome, and while those people will become more certain about the outcome, NOTHING about the outcome has changed. The team that was going to win is still going to win. The actions of those outside of the system will have no impact on the actions inside the system.

To put is another way, what is the eventual outcome is going to be the outcome regardless of any sunk cost. Sinking cost into a bad decision will not make it a good decision REGARDLESS of any perceptual tendency to think that it does.

Given the human tendency to further invest in poor choice because of sunk cost, it’s easy to see how this can have a detrimental impact on ones life. Alternative options will not be considered or will be viewed less favorably and resources will continue to be invested into a poor decision. What is viewed as unworkable from an external and objective point of view can be viewed as worthy of continued effort by those who are involved and subjectively engaged in the process.

How do you know when you are being impacted by sunk costs?

  • You’ll hear yourself saying or thinking “well, I’ve put this much into it already” while you have a feeling that walking away will be a waste of that effort. In this instance, you have already realized the eventual outcome but rationalizing a delay by looking at the sunk cost. Immediate action is both appropriate and needed here.
  • You have a tendency to view things in terms of win:lose and not from a perspective of what was the lesson from an experience. You don’t want to lose so you continue in a failing attempt to win. In reality both are abstract and meaningless distinctions. If you choose personal growth from an experience you will be able to move forward very quickly because you’ll view the sunk cost as the price for a powerful lesson.
  • You are fearful to consider different alternatives because of a sense of wasted time / money / resources. This is an indication that you are not being objective and open minded, a clear indication that something illogical is at play.
  • You have a scarcity view of the world and believe that you may not ever have the sunk resources again. Being loss avoidant isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when you hold a view that what has been spend cannot ever be regained, you are not looking at the future accurately. The consequence is that you end-up pouring MORE resources into something that is a lost cause; this will increase the scarcity of resources making real the very thing you are trying to avoid.

There are times to stay and persevere and there are times to learn a lesson and change your course. The right thing to do is the thing that is objectively and statistically the most probable way to achieve your goal. The wrong thing to do is to avoid unpacking your reasons for staying because you believe everything would be a waste if you were to stop.

Sunk costs impair rational thinking so if you are in a situation and have spend a lot of resources on it, be mindful that your natural tendency will be to view continuing as the best course of action. It may be, but take the time to see the potential costs of continuing and to evaluate the situation for what it actually is right now vs. what it was when you made the decision to invest in it.

Applying Corporate Lessons To Personal Training

David Hassell’s article “Employees Quit Leaders, Not Companies” reveals the trend that people will be loyal and stay at a job or working for a company when they believe in and trust their leaders and will seek-out new opportunities whenever that confidence and trust fades.

This got me thinking about how it applies to the partnership between a personal trainer and their clients or a fitness instructor and the participants in a class.

There is a lot of talk in all industries about delivering high quality experiences and ultimately this is what personal training and fitness classes are all about. The experiences of the participants need to be enjoyable / valuable or else they will not return. But before that world class experience is possible, the participant needs to believe that it is possible and have trust in the person delivering / facilitating the experience.

When I teach a class and notice a new participant, I will always do my best to talk to them before it begins to explain to them what they should expect during and after the class. I’ll be honest that they are likely going to feel some pain in the days following because each new experience will place new demands on the body and muscle pain is often an accompanying consequence. I let them know that it may suck, it may be challenging and that they’ve made a great decision to participate and improve their life regardless of any immediate discomfort. If I am successful with the introduction and in leading the class, the new participant will leave feeling tired but satisfied with the use of their time.

I’ll do effectively the same thing with a personal training client – I’ll tell them what they should expect in the first few weeks and months, I’ll share what they should be noticing in terms of progress and they’ll be well aware that whatever they are going to experience others have experienced because the process of creating improved health and fitness is the same for everyone. It’s easy to be convincing with these conversations because human beings are basically the same from a genetic and physiological point of view. Everyone’s muscles contract and adapt in the same way, everyone’s blood vessels respond to hard work in exactly the same way, etc….

I used to view my disclosure as just being honest about the training experience, an attempt to mitigate some of the thoughts that tend to accompany the pain associated with working out, but I’m now clear that it serves another purpose. By revealing the nature of the journey before it begins, I’m creating credibility and instilling a belief that I am a capable leader and partner in their quest for a better experience of life.

Given that results come from doing hard work this trust is critical in moving them forward!

Fitness Assessments At Gyms – They’ll Find Faults

When someone approaches me inquiring about training, I skip the whole fitness assessment and will instead focus on their goals, their behaviors, their thoughts and their definitions of success, failure, and health. I do this because fitness assessments, as performed outside of a medical setting, are pointless, useless and geared towards selling what the trainer has to sell. EVERYONE can fail some aspect of a fitness assessment therefore everyone needs to buy training.

Bull crap!

Most people do NOT need training. While almost everyone will benefit from working with a personal trainer, people can and have been creating amazing results while training on their own for as long as people have been training. If you workout in an intense and pain-free way 4 times a week and eat sensible amounts of good quality food you’ll become fit and any imbalances that you have will correct themselves. Evolution ensures this.

Working with clients is about helping them achieve what THEY want regardless of what I think. Just because a girl is an amazing squatter, can move extremely quickly and would be an outstanding Olympic lifter doesn’t mean that her goal of having a flat stomach and becoming a better road cyclist gets ignored. The opposite is almost true – whatever potential she has in an undesired goal will only be leveraged to help her achieve her stated goal. The world is full of people who do amazing things in areas where they have no particular innate talent.

Very often a fitness assessment will be set-up to measure athletic indicators that are then used as reasons to justify huge training investments. Failing a Klatt test is meaningless if your goal is to look good naked because your glutes, VMO and adductor muscles will be trained during the course of your body composition training. The fact is, most people will never need to perform at the highest physical level and will enjoy an amazing life simply by moving more. It won’t matter that they are quad dominant, slightly internally rotated, or whatever the test reveals.

There is another reason why fitness test performed by fitness professionals are not appropriate and that is because they are used to make a diagnosis; which most fitness professionals are NOT qualified to do. It sure does feel great to have someone look at you and say “wow, you know what’s going on with my body just by looking at the way I move” but that’s ego stroking or salesmanship. The trainer may be correct but they are not in a position to say what is going on. They are in a position only to create and administer programs. When they make a diagnosis and set out to fix it they are failing their clients in a very fundamental, and arguably, an unethical way.

That is why, if someone is going to work with me, we’ll just train the entire body including all of the smaller muscles. The methods and principles that are used will depend upon their goals, but that is it. The client isn’t broken so we don’t need to fix anything, they just need to consistently move their bodies more and reap the benefits associated with improving their health.

Boundaries – Create Them and Keep Them

A challenge some romantics have is to create and maintain boundaries within the context of a relationship. The fantasy / fairy tale view of romantic love is that each partner becomes the other, everything is shared and you are both in simpatico.

The issue with this is that it can create expectations that are not communicated between the partners which can put a lot of pressure on the other person to reciprocate things that may not occur spontaneously. This pressure can cause the partners in the relationship to behave less organically and change to a small or large degree. Overtime, this can lead to friction, resentment and diminished attraction as some of the things that were viewed as attractive in the first place disappear.

Existing in a relationship that does not have boundaries is usually unworkable because each person does have a unique identity and ways of being that serve them well and will be, in some instances, different from that of their partner. Each person has arrived at this moment in time though their experiences and is correct in viewing their path as being a good one since they made it this far. When partners forfeit their identities in favor of a singular shared identity, they sacrifice the lessons from their experiences and move into the world ill-equipped to handle challenging life situations.

By creating and respectfully maintaining boundaries, each individual is able to function to the best of their abilities and decision making is tabled to the most qualified person;this affords each partner the dignity of feeling listened to and heard. A relationship between boundaried people who also serves as an example to other people (children) of what is more effective at lasting success and happiness than some “happily ever after” thin slice of life that is passed off as a child’s book.

Over time there will be a blurring of boundaries, the things that impact one partner will impact the other, but they won’t impact both people in exactly the same way. One will remain strong giving the other someone to lean on for support and as a beacon of normality as change is processed. They’ll be there to make decisions, offer advice, shift focus and keep life going. The challenge of one will not mean the destruction of the relationship because the other will be there to keep life on course.

Cognitive Overhead – How I Think About Thinking

NOTE: I started writing this about 3 years ago. It came out of a conversation with Des over lunch. It doesn’t represent 3 years of direct work. It reflects the results of 3 years of passively fostering a feeling that there is a truth in an idea into a more complete understanding as to why it is a truth. This past weekend it all came together for me, not just how I think about the way the brain functions, but how I think about nervous energy being the power of EVERY process that exists within the body.

Sometimes when I’m having trouble thinking about consciousness I try to simplify it by comparing it to a computer.

Consciousness is a process that is running in the background and is one of many processes that are running. Each process requires a certain amount of resources to function correctly. If it does not get what it needs, it will begin to malfunction and eventually shut down. Some processes run in the background working as much as the available resources allow e.g. the process of scouring the memories searching for patterns and relationships – these would be like the indexing for faster search type process with an operating system. Most of the other processes are called when needed and the amount of cognitive effort they take up is usually a product of how long they are being used. E.g. you are singing a song so you need to use you voice, creative and memory processes, much like a computer playing an audio file using the sound card and media player,

If you are in a flow or meditative state or if you are sleeping, your consciousness is going to require the least amount of cognitive resources. The freed up resources go towards some other brain activity. I call this the base line because the brain is effectively running with no input from your active conscious mind.

If you end up getting stuck in a loop you begin to drain the reserves.

Provided the you do not get stuck in a loop you will return the energies to the underlying processes and return to the base line once you stop thinking.

We are usually unaware of the other underlying processes that require cognitive energies but we can see the consequences when we try to use them under adverse conditions such as driving in snow, giving a presentation when you are really nervous or trying to find the perfect line while skiing when your still thinking about the work you need to do.

There are countless unconscious thought processes that get impaired when we engage in conscious thought or get stuck in a cognitive loop. It can be an obvious process like the one that renders words to speak at the presentation or it can be one you’ll never be aware of like the one that compares the visual input to memories searching for patterns. The consequence is the same in both cases, if they do not get their share of the cognitive energy impairment will begin and they will eventually shut down.

The cumulative effect of excessive calling of cognitive processes is stress and the outcome is degraded or incomplete processing.

6 Ways To Boost Your Personal Power

People who want to create an amazing life realize that they have control over their personal power and they understand how to boost it whenever they need to. Below is a list of 6 things you can do to boost your power:

  1. Let go of your past by forgiving yourself. Sane people can only act in a way that serves their interests so no matter what your interests are now, your previous actions served the interests you had at that time. Factor in the fact that you cannot do anything about the past, you need to just let go of anything that you are holding on to that doesn’t make you feel strong. It may take some practice, but when useless thoughts are gone from your mind you will become powerful and move closer to achieving your potential.
  2. Accept that your thoughts and feelings create your present experience of life so adjust them as needed to create the internal environment that creates your more powerful actions. Just as holding onto your past will weaken your spirit and sap your strength, grabbing onto positive thoughts and maintaining a clear picture of what you want to become will boost your happiness and productivity. In fact, by holding onto the thoughts of what you want to make of your life you will increase the amount of mental processing that is directed towards making these thoughts a reality.
  3. See your own actions as the cause of your immediate external environment. Powerful people cause their environment to change, people without power are changed by their environment. When anything happens, good or bad, and as soon as any crisis has passed, make efforts to see your role in it – what did you do that caused the event, what can you learn from it, how can you put these lessons to work in the future. This step is critical in boosting your personal power because you can only have power if you can cause change to your external environment. Without seeing yourself as having some control over the environment, it will only effect you and you will never be the cause of any of the things that happen to you.
  4. Accept that other people have their own set of rules for living life. Recall that no sane person can act in a way that does not serve their interests, just like you. Given this, it doesn’t make much sense to try to hold other people to the rules that you have for created for yourself. In fact, by giving them the autonomy to act as they deem appropriate, any energy that would have been spent on making them wrong is directed towards other, more important, tasks.
  5. Know what you want out of your life. By having clearly defined goals and end points you will know when it’s time to change your course, make new decisions or just keep doing what you are doing. Knowing what you want also closes a lot of open loops that tax mental energy. This liberated energy can then be directed toward the things that need focus and attention. Powerful people know EXACTLY what they are seeking and they know what to put their efforts towards.
  6. Do the things that move you towards the things you want out of life. Action is a big separator between those who are powerful and those who are not powerful. Intense, sustained and focused action will move anyone towards the object of their attention faster than anything else. Powerful people know what they want and they work tirelessly only on the things that will get them closer to the things they want.

Things Trainers Think But Should Probably Say To Their Clients – Part 2

The continuation of Things Trainers Think But Should Probably Say To Their Clients.

Ever notice how the things you talk about not wanting end up being the things that you get?” The reticular activating system (RAS) is a mental process that directs attention onto the things that are considered important to a person. Our experiences and thoughts serve to populate the RAS with these items. IF someone spends a lot of time thinking about they don’t want to gain body fat, their attention will be directed towards all of the things that will cause them to gain it. As a consequence, they’ll probably over eat and gain body fat simply because they are focusing on NOT getting fat.

You think eating good quality food and exercising is hard? Try living with diabetes, recovering from a heart attack or a stroke or beating cancer, THOSE things are hard.” People do not identify the consequences of their actions as the initial symptoms of their impending illness, so they just assume everything is fine. But gaining body fat, losing mobility or muscle mass, or becoming lethargic ARE the initial symptoms of disease promoters of disease. It’s irrefutable, people who eat sensible amounts of good quality whole food and exercise moderate amounts are at the lowest risk of death. You have a choice though, do a little hard work now to promote recovery or compress that hard work into a few months in an attempt to survive.

When you say I’m just a little fat you’re ignoring the fact that you have damaged your ability to process sugar.” Telling yourself that you’re just a little fat is a softer story than the blunt truth – you are wrecking your body because by eating too much sugar you are impairing your bodies ability to handle insulin. This is hurting your body and it will eventually cause disease and an early death.

Not everyone’s metabolism slows down as they age, it only happens to those who choose to let it happen.” While it is true that a person will burn fewer and fewer calories as they get older, making the decision to use this fact as a justification for gaining weight vs. a reason for engaging in intense physical movement is what makes it true. NOT everyone gains weight as they get older BECAUSE they remain active and move a lot. Hearing someone reference an inevitable metabolic slow down reveals a belief that needs to be addressed and updated.

Stress isn’t a part of everyone’s work.” Accepting that stress is a necessary part of work is an excuse for accepting this damaging aspect of life and letting it continue to destroy and shorten life. Work can be a challenge, placing unnatural demands on a person, keeping it in perspective will go a long way in helping someone strike a more healthy balance. By assuming that work should be stressful, it give you permission to change priorities and move proper diet, exercise and relaxation down and move work responsibilities up. The negative outcome of reversed priorities is eventual ill-health and disease.

Things Trainers Think But Should Probably Say To Their Clients – Part 1

Over the years I’ve trained 100’s of people. I do everything I can to guide, coach and help them attain their fitness goals. There’s a lot of hard work to do and my job is to get the clients to do it. To this end, I basically stay positive and will say pretty much anything to keep them on track. But I think things during some of the sessions that I don’t ever say to the clients. These things are based on reality and are the result of noticing patterns between different clients and between sessions for the same client.

I haven’t been saying them to the clients because they are unfiltered and a little raw; there may not be any value in saying them during a session because they can alter the client experience, shift their focus and generally land poorly. But if I was to be fearless and completely authentic, you might hear me saying some of the following things to the clients because maybe there would be some value in shining a light on the patterns I notice.

You have such a passion for being average.” Most people do, and that’s why it is the average. But being average has few remarkable characteristics and other than being the safe option, so there is nothing positive about it. People end-up needing my services because they are being average – making average decisions, doing average things and thinking average thoughts. So when someone doesn’t complete a food journal, stops a set when it feels tough, or calls to cancel a session vs. reschedule it, it’s impossible to NOT see the average nature of these behaviors.

If you put as much effort into your workouts as you do into your excuses you’d be blazing a much brighter trail.” Having heard so many excuses over the years I have to believe that people spend time trying to come up with them. The first time I hear a new one it may carry a little more weight, if for no other reason than it was creative, but probably not. Successful people do not make excuses, they make the time to do the things they need to do.

You place a lot of value on that speculation.” If something hasn’t happened or isn’t known it simply doesn’t exist. But that doesn’t stop people from allowing it to impact them. In fact, some potentially powerful people are stopped dead in their tracks because of thoughts about things that do not exist. If something that doesn’t exist doesn’t motivate, drive or inspire you, embrace its non-existence and let it go, completely and forever.

Funny, you hire an expert then keep paying them money while ignore their advice.” I have a tough time with this because it reveals something very significant about nature of the client that isn’t very helpful or healthy. While it’s pretty dishonest to hire someone with a stated intention only to not honor that intention, it reveals an internal struggle between what they believe they want and what they believe they are worth. It’s pretty unworkable because, if they did know more than their trainer, they wouldn’t be in a position to need a trainer.

The reason you have to do this today is because you didn’t do it before today.” This is a simple truth, if you NEED to do hard work to achieve something it is because the work has not yet been done. And if you kick this hard work down the road another couple of weeks, months or years, it’ll still be there to do, and there will likely be more of it to do.