The Moment Of Possibility – Where I Go Wrong

I wrote the following on April 25, 2011, 11:21:01 AM.

These are fine moments in life! If there is a time to allow yourself to live in your head it is when you find yourself being liked by someone you like too. Right now before many words are spoken, before many actions are taken, thoughts of the possibilities exist without the constraints of reality. There is nothing now so the only possibility is that of anything. It doesn’t last long. Words will be spoken, actions will be taken, reality will soon introduce something that begins to shape the future by eliminating certain possibilities.

This will happen because that is what happens. One moment becomes another as time rolls on. No matter what becomes of it, it is fun to stop and think about a bunch of things that are not there, yet or never will be.

I dream about a future that does not exist, I float through thoughts of things that are pleasing, exciting, confronting, enjoying them, trying things on to see if they are something I’d like to do. Then, I being to manufacture the circumstances by which I’m  able to make the chosen dreams a reality. Setting-up meetings and making excuses to chat, all the while releasing my mind from my commitments to the old dreams that don’t seem to matter anymore. I change my attitudes, my behaviors, and the way I think about life.

It’s obvious where this was coming from and it’s obvious to me why it doesn’t work very effectively for anything other than creating a muse, and heart ache. It helps me write, it helps me feel like I am alive after feeling dormant and waiting for so long, it does feel like it’s real and like it’s what I’ve been wanting for so long. But it won’t last because it isn’t real. It is fantasy tangent taking me away from that which they know into a world that cannot possibly come true.

It’s a poets love, rooted in make-believe and about to melt down.

Go Train Confusion

An east bound train pulls into Oakville station at 2:25pm on track 2 and not track 3, which was the track they posted for the next east bound train, at 2:28pm. The platform 3 is pretty full. There was a moment for about 5 seconds after the train stopped when things just continued as normal. But then it happened, the herd became individuals and things got interesting.

As the train pulled-up and stopped I did wonder why it was there. If that’s the train I need and I miss it, my plans are blown. If that is my train, I need to be on it so I need to move. I look up and there are people making the way to the stairs, I move with them. Decision made and action taken.

As I walk I’m looking around, most people are still standing there waiting. I drift over to the track, look back and see nothing. No train coming, not for miles anyway. I continue to the stairs and find my way to track 2.

I get on the train and take a seat where I am able to see the track 3 platform where about 10% of the people still stood.

The announcement was made that track 2 was the 2:28pm east bound train and the remaining people began to make their way over to the train. I asked one of the last people why they waited and didn’t go with the herd and she said that she was just going to assume the board was correct until they made an announcement. She was not moving until the official word was given.

There was a lot of social referencing going. The early adopters needed one person to go and that left 90% of the people still waiting standing. As time past, the chances of a 2:28pm train being on track 3 decreased and people started the move to track 2; their confidence in track 3 decreased and their confidence in track 2 increase. After a certain point, around 2:28pm everyone who was on the platform would likely remain there until they get official word. They would have let the train leave the station if it hadn’t come.

I moved because that seemed like the most probable outcome given the situation, and my confidence in that decision was boosted by other people taking the same action I committed to. But it was odd. At the moment there really wasn’t enough information to go on, just a guess based on the information that was available, the experiences I’ve had and a willingness to take a risk and leave the herd.

Post Concussion Syndrome – Life In A Dirty Pit

Over the last few years, I was able spend some time with Rachel after she received a couple of concussions. She had a few moments of bad luck and knocked her head off some ice and off a dresser. The ice one left her unable to remember key peoples names for about 6 hours, the dresser turned her into a paranoid crazy person for a week or so. It was a challenge to watch because she was suffering, it was evident, and because she wasn’t normally a paranoid person. What was actually frightening about it was that SHE was convinced that she was feeling herself. Her athletic therapist friend Louise called during an argument about me trying to hurt and change her and simply told me that if Rachel wasn’t acting herself, take her to the hospital because there’s a good chance that she’s injured her brain. It took about 4 weeks for her to return to normal and her recovery was an emotional roller coaster of up and down mood, forgetting simple things and struggling to find the right words or thought.

I had the misfortune of sustaining another concussion a few weekends ago. It’s funny looking back at it because I was able to rationalize a lot of craziness that doesn’t make any sense to me now. I was messed up yet I felt like I was fine and everyone else just changed.

The injury was fairly simple, horsing around while white water rafting, and I jumped off the boat spinning and twisting all erratically. I hit the water spinning, tumbling and on the side of my head. There was a stillness when I hit the water, after a massive slam to the side of my head followed by a hissing. I remember floating up to the surface of the water thinking “oh oh, that was stupid.” I was dazed and confused as I swam back to the boat. I couldn’t hear anything from my left ear, had a head ache, was having some trouble figuring out how to get back into the raft and I was beginning to feel sick to my stomach.

We ate a few minutes later, but I had to leave a few times to throw-up. I was beginning to get irritable and a little paranoid, the sickness and headache were building and I was looking around at people wondering who they were and why I’d be in conversations with them. We got back on the boat and things continued to degrade. The head ache and sickness were becoming really bad and I thought about sitting out the next set of rapids, the Coliseum, because I had a feeling the boat was going over. I stayed on and, as expected, the boat threw-out all but one person. My next memories after feeling the boat void its contents into the river were of being underwater, eyes open looking around wondering if I was going to hit the rocks I saw coming at me or if I would be able to float to the surface. Well, I did both.

I didn’t need the second impact to make my day any worse, but I got it. We got out of the water and I puked my face off. My head was killing, my knee was opened-up and I was becoming unhinged. We get off the water about 20 minutes later and I throw-up again. We get back to the camp grounds, I go and change, get sick and start drink water hoping that I’m just dehydrated. But the camp ground isn’t the same as it was when I left. I looks the same, but I don’t belong there. I don’t know any of the people anymore, even the people I’m there with, and I have a growing level of suspicion of everyone. I begin to withdraw into myself because I feel so wrong.

At this point I start to notice that my left ear is leaking. It’s mostly a clear fluid, but there’s a little blood in it. This did not register with me at the time. Simply put, I thought “my ear is leaking. I guess it should be, I hurt it” without so much of a thought about lumping the symptoms together to get a more complete view of what was going on. Head impact leading to  head ache, confusion, irritability, paranoia, nausea, and fluid leaking from the ear. I don’t realize it yet, but for the next week I am going to be this new person, someone who was very much like Rachel after she banged her head on the dresser. A confused shell of a man, small, weak, scared, in a daze, with only flashes of memories from of the time between rafting and, well, right now.

When I visited the doctor they told me my ear drum has a sizable rupture so there must have been some impact. They said it should heal within 6 weeks so my hearing should be fine but that I need to see a specialist to make sure things are normal. They didn’t think much about me not going to the hospital to get checked-out once the fluid started coming from the ear but they weren’t surprised either because if I had a concussion I wasn’t going to be thinking right. Concussions are tough to diagnose, impossible days after the fact, but based on the symptoms and what happened, there’s a good chance I had one, but we’ll never actually know.

All in all, this recovery left me feeling drained, emotionally empty, and completely confused. This was a “in the pits” type recovery that is both extremely erratic and wildly irrational. I’m more than 10 days out and this morning is the first morning since it happened that I have finally gotten a handle on what has been going on.

Toxic People – How Interactions SHOULD Leave You Feeling

My understanding of a toxic person is someone who is able to evoke a negative emotional response within another person. When it comes to a controlling person, they use these negative emotions to get other people to change their behavior.Almost everyone knows a toxic person but many people have not identified them because their behavior is unanticipated. Evoking negative emotional responses or guilt within other people is not a socially enhancing trait so most people do not possess or use their capacity to do it. As a consequence to its rarity, the victim doesn’t even know they are being manipulated. Very often your first awareness of their toxic nature is not you feeling like crap being around them, but comes out when someone asks the question “is there anyone in your life who seems to leave you feeling bad or different from how you view yourself?”

Very often the answer is “yes” and it is then followed with the question “what does that mean?” It means, simply, that you have someone in your life who is able to get you to feel bad things that you do not spontaneously feel. They are able to do this without changing anything about the physical environment so, in essence, they are able to control your internal environment in the form of your emotional state.

The real world implications of having a toxic person in your life is that you will need to be very diligent when engaging them as they are not entering the conversation with the same motives of purity as you are. They are after something, they are out for themselves, and you are just a tool or an object that will help them achieve their end goal. Make no mistake about it, you are not an individual to them. You are a means to an end and you will be used up as they move themselves toward their goal. The safe guard comes when you realize that they are not working with the world under the same assumptions you are and when you make the conscious and permanent decision to treat them as an enemy to an objective reality. They are only dangerous to you when you let your emotions be controlled by them.

My advice to EVERYONE when it comes to interacting with other people is that you should be left feeling one of three things after the interaction. At worst, you should feel no different from how you felt with you started the interaction; your mood and outlook should remain unchanged. At best you should feel either elation or challenged. Elation is very positive as it indicate an improvement in your mood. Challenged is fantastic too as it indicates a possible or pending change in your understanding of the world.

For example, when I visit my friend Tony, most of our interactions leave me feeling no different – this is because I am generally a happy person who enjoys laughing and when I hang out with Tony, we spend most of the time laughing and making jokes about everything. But since he has moving towards a career as an osteopath, a growing number of our conversations are about what he is learning, so I am left challenged to understand some new information he as given me or I leave the conversation with a changed understanding of my world – an understanding that is more complete and therefore elating to me. I NEVER leave my conversations with Tony feeling drained, emptied, guilty or bad. Tony isn’t a toxic person.

Food As Fuel and Building Material (again)

Over the last few years I have had the good fortune of working with 100’s of different athletes of different ages, skill levels and stages in their athletic career. I have notice a number of things that are important but probably the one thing I have noticed that ALL successful high level athletes share is an understanding that food is fuel or building blocks and eating does not need to be an experience.

Personally, the switch flipped for my progress when I stopped regarding food as good or bad and instead choose to look at it as bricks, mortar or fuel. Once I stopped looking for experiences out of eating my progress accelerated dramatically – I remain lean all year round, continue to build muscle and have more energy now than I had when I was in my early and mid 20’s.

I have tried to impart this understanding onto ANYONE who is interested in getting more out of their bodies in terms of appearance or performance, but I’d venture a guess that longevity and quality could also be added to the list of things that will improve once someones relationship with food becomes realigned with reality. This understanding in not one that is easy to pass along and, frankly, getting someone to see food as something other than something that should be enjoyed is probably the most difficult task that a strength coach will have to perform as there is a lot of social inertia to overcome. Lets face it, our society treats food as a reward so the association of food and a positive experience is deeply ingrained in our brains.

ANYONE who has been able to overcome the food must be good belief has benefited from it tremendously. The body composition improvements lead to performance improvements which lead to confidence improvements. Without fail, correcting your understanding of what food actually means to you WILL make your life better. The simple act of making decisions that are based on reality will represent a significant movement towards self-awareness and self control. The inverse is also completely true, continuing to eat food for emotional / reward reasons will hold you back from complete self-awareness and optimal health.

Eat because you need to rebuild yourself out of the best quality materials and power your movement with the right fuel. Don’t eat because you like the taste of chocolate, cookies are an easy breakfast or because pizza tastes better than spinach. The easy way is rarely the successful way. If you want more out of your life, do what elite athletes do and eat mindfully.

If you have not yet read my first post about food = fuel and building material you should check it out.

Getting Lost In The Coaching – Finding Your Flow

During one of the last conversations I had with Chris Brown about SST he reminded me, above everything else, to get lost in the coaching. It’s a great comment and it should be part of the employee manual for EVERYONE who works in the strength and conditioning field.

His notion is simple and given that he is less than a year out of school rather profound. Unless you own the gym, you are there to do a job and that job ISN’T necessarily to do things correctly (or as you view them to be correct). Your job is to do what your bosses ask you to do without injuring people. If you match on both of these criteria, you are doing a good job. It’s that simple when you work for other people.

This is a tough thing for many strength coaches to keep in mind because most do not own the gyms they work at. They are skilled employees with vision and they want to move their athletes along as quickly as possible to help them become even more successful on the field/ice/pitch/floor and to become examples of optimal health. When a business owner asks them to do something that falls outside of their coaching vision or something that will hinder the athletes progress, the coach will usually dig their heals in and advocate for what they believe is correct. This may create a dissonant feeling that disengages the coach from the job which will impair their ability to be an effective coach.

What non-owner strength coaches need to do is get lost in the coaching as much as they can because this is the surest way they have to remain engaged with their athletes. They need to clear their mind of the business thoughts as much as possible and instead focus externally on making a master piece out of the clay that is the developing athlete. They need to make the coaching experience a flow experience that allows proper coaching to simple come out of them without much thought.

For me, getting lost in the coaching is a very similar experience to riding my bike or teaching a cycling class. My words and actions are spontaneous. My vision is narrowly focused and naturally drawn to what needs my attention – I’m aware of everything yet conscious of very little. The right behavior, words and actions just come out of my brain, body and mouth and every athlete gets exactly what they need at any particular moment to achieve a slightly higher level of success. I find that this state feels really good, it’s timeless and it is when I feel I am at my most productive. Hours are like minutes or seconds and at the end of the sessions I am exhausted yet have no idea why.

I think it was the same sort of thing for Chris and it’s the same sort of thing Rachel describes when she recaps a successful BodyFlow class. For each of us, there is no resistance to how things are and we simple go along with everything that happens contributing as needed and letting the irrelevant stuff float over and past us.

Being lost in the coaching is fantastic and it makes for more productive time on the floor.

Body Composition And Taste Buds

I believe that our taste buds serve one function when it comes to body composition – to help us be as fat as possible.

Those living on the planet now represent the best of the best when it comes to surviving on it. If they possess a trait it is because the trait helped them survive. Any traits we possess have been passed along to us through our ancestors for thousands of years. Human beings have biological tendencies towards certain behaviors and the expression of these behaviors is often unconscious.

Why humans eat fat and sugar: The basic reason is that these nutrients help us store fat in preparation for the next famine / winter. That is it. Our species used to need to have large fat store to get us through the tough times and having favoring eating the things that make use fat would help us survive.

Eating disorders (at least binge eating) are a survival mechanism. Okay, I’m probably going to get blasted for that but I believe it is true. I have spoken to a number of people who suffer from compulsive eating and almost all of them describe their binges in exactly the same terms I would use to describe my binge eating. Initially, there’s an awareness of the food. The cookies call to me, the cake makes noises in the fridge to remind me that it is there, the chocolate bar dances in my peripheral vision taunting me. If I’m able to ignore them, I am fine. The craving or awareness will go away and my day will continue.

However, if I eat a cookie, have a sliver of cake or sample a piece of chocolate, something very unusual happens. I have a sensation that I can only describe as an out of body experience. I watch, in almost horror, my hands grabbing the food and putting it into my mouth. I am only marginally aware of the sensation of eating, chewing and swallowing. Basically, I sit back and watch while my body just rips its way through the food. Through out the session I will think that maybe I should stop, that maybe 20 cookies is enough, but these are just thoughts that have no impact on the behaviour of the thing I become. I roll through the food, ALL of the food, regardless of any feelings of fullness. Even the crumbs get eaten and my fingers get licked clear to make sure nothing is wasted.

Others who gorge or binge report the same sort of feeling – like they are watching something unfold and are powerless to do anything other than watch. In fact, the reports are so similar that I am left with no option but to say that this gorging behaviour is a part of our genetic code and it is a trait that was critical for the survival of our ancestors.

Why the need to gorge? Simply put, if we stopped eating when we were full, we`d be much less likely to overeat and store fat. Everyone would be their ideal weight. However, when the seasons changed and food became scarce, we would have very little stored fat to help bridge the gap between the end of harvest season and the start of the growing season in the spring. This survival trait is antiquated in modern farming times given that there is never an interruption in the food supply. However, the consequences of the expression of this trait is becoming more and more common as high sugar and high fat foods become readily available to everyone.

I have talked to 100’s of people about the food they buy and I have yet to hear any of them convincingly tell me that they do not know what they should be eating. Without fail, they all say they should be eating more vegetables and less candy or junk food. They know that fresh foods that will rot quickly are better for them than anything they buy in a package yet their buying decisions indicate everything BUT good food awareness. Logic, it seems, has little impact on many people when it comes to what they eat.

I liken this to choosing relationship partners in that most people cannot tell you exactly why they fell in love with their significant others. Everyone is looking for something, they just don’t know what it is until they see it and they don’t know why they found it when they find, just that they knew. When I fell for Rachel, there were a number of logical reason why I shouldn’t pursue her which just didn’t factor into the decision making process. She matched what I was looking for even if I didn’t know what I was looking for and I was powerless to stop myself from falling in love.

I think of food in the same way. We are drawn to it for reasons other than logic given that most do not eat the perfect foods or eat the right amount of food for their needs. We eat that which makes us fat because we’re programmed to eat it.

You Feel How You Think, Not How You Are

“It isn’t what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about.” – Viktor Frankl

I love this quote because it shows us the simplest path to happiness. It explains why the daydreaming fools is usually happier than the focused CEO of a successful corporation.

It also goes a long way in explain much of my behavior and mood. I am a dreamer who suffers when others inhibit my dreams. I believe that I can do almost anything and when I day dream or allow my mind to float I do great things. Most often these thoughts of greatness boost my mood and charge my focus creating a mindset that allows me to actually make some progress towards doing the things I dream.

The inverse is always true – when I am brought back to someone else’s reality and am reminded of all the limitations, hurdles and potential setbacks that exist in my quest towards greatness and soon I feel like garbage. I make the decision to come to their reality and allow my mood to nose dive – in fulfilling my part of the social contract and engaging those who engage me, my ability to actualize my purpose is hindered by the constraints of what the other person has created as their reality. Beauty cannot be created when one is dealing with the thoughts of what is wrong/bad/negative in the world.

Viktor Frankl should have been suffering when he came to the conclusion he wrote above as he was in a concentration camp. However, he wasn’t. He was working with the other prisoners trying to help their mental health as they were worked to the bone. As their therapist, he was their guide towards a more enlightened way to thinking that would produce hope and lead to happiness. He believed that ones experience of life in the camp was determined by their thoughts about their experience vs. what the experience is actually like. He realized that what one believes reality to be very quickly becomes reality.

My first experiences with Frankl’s approach came in the time immediately following Natalie dying. I had been suffering pretty badly and had started to wonder if she had ever really known just how much she meant to me. My counsellor at the time mentioned that the type of sadness I felt now was the inverse of the joy I felt before so it was unlikely that Natalie hadn’t been able to pick up on the positive feelings I had. As I let this statement float over me I started to feel better because I knew it was true. She did know how much I cared for her and how much joy that she brought to my life. While this realization did not remove the grief, it did change my thoughts so that I no longer doubted that she knew how I had felt about her. This eliminated the negative consequence to the thoughts of doubt and freed me from some of the darkness.

Recently I have reconnected with Frankl’s lesson. I spend more time thinking about the world as I want it to be vs. how I believe it to be. I consume the news less because I am powerless to change much of what I see on the television or read on the Internet. I spend less time engaged in political discussions or talking to people about things they don’t like but have no interest in changing. I try to spend time around the people who radiate happiness and optimism and try to avoid those who are dark or conflict prone because their reality will infect mine. All in all these choices have allowed me to accomplish more of what I need to get done while helping me maintain a bright outlook. I am feeling how I want to feel.

“Living The Dream” – Self-Talk and Mood

Ravi Raman’s Living The Dream post is a great example of the power language has on our thinking. What he outlines is very similar to the technique’s taught and encouraged by GoodLife Fitness clubs with their sales staff; before we went to meet any prospect, we would use some form of self-talk to get ourselves in peak attitude in order to authentically embody the “Good Life” that physical fitness affords everyone who chooses it. While GoodLife’s approach comes down to good business – people buy from happy people so I closed more sales than those who were not happy – it also improved my overall level of happiness.

Ravi touches on this as well, citing an improvement in his mood when he responds in a happy way to others. In my experience it is a universal truth that negative self-talk will lower ones mood and when someone is depressed their self-talk is always negative and defeatist.

When you’re depressed it is very hard to see anything as positive. One of the best exercises I have found for improving this is to write out reasons why you should be happy or reasons why some of what you are saying to yourself is inaccurate. It doesn’t have to be very much, just enough to plant a seed of doubt about the accuracy of the negative self-talk to mitigate your response to it. For example, when I say that things are never going to be any different from how they are now, I’m quickly able to see the word “never” as an over generalization. Once I realize that things are not always going to be the same, I’m able to start to believe that there are other alternatives to the situation and I am free to work on achieving one of them as opposed to remaining victim to my perception of an unchanging world.

The first couple of times I tried this exercise I was amazed at just how gullible I was when it came to believing self-talk. Frankly, I believed everything my internal voice said without questioning it until I learned that I CAN question it. The power of this lesson is the realization that it works the opposite way too – you believe the positive stuff as strongly as the negative and you will continue to believe it so long as you continue to create it. The only thing you need to do to create it is to make the choice to be happy.

So when you go to work or do anything that isn’t 100% your passion, make sure you remained yourself that you are living the dream and make it the truth by saying it.

Feedback Destroyer – Mitigating an Automatic Response

The best way to stop someone from giving you feedback is to make the person regret giving it to you. The quickest way to do this is to attack the person and call their credibility into question because these things will evoke a visceral reaction in them.

I noticed myself almost doing this the other day. My Group Ex cycling team leader took my class and we team taught. After class I asked him for his feedback. He likes the way I teach and believes that I have a good handle on what I’m doing. He suggested that I verbally coach and cue the riding positions to help the participants find a more athletic position. My automatic reaction was to think “I did that” and then “I did it more than he did” then “who is he to say that?”

What do these thoughts indicate?

I did that” – this one really amounts to me interpreting what he is saying as an attack on me. My reaction was to assume his suggestion to do it more meant that I didn’t do it at all because I am not very good at instructing.

I did it more than he did” – this is the beginning of the personal attack on him. It is basically something like “I did it more than you, you are saying that I need to do it more therefore you really didn’t do it at all”. It draws his credibility into question and it starts to paint him as being a hypocrite.

Who is he to say that” – escalation the personal attach by belittling him; basically calling his qualifications into question so I don’t have to consider what he is saying.

In less time than it took to think it my brain had perceived and defended against an ego attack with no conscious input from me. The thoughts just presented themselves one after the other and in no time at all I had create the reason for not listening to what he was saying.

Fortunately over the years I’ve became more aware that I have these automatic reactions to the things I unconsciously perceive so I didn’t say or do anything other than listen to what he was saying and let the thoughts wash over me. I trust my team leader because I believe he is a good person who has my best interest at heart. He’s also a good instructor with good form and great fitness so his advice and feedback are both useful and honest; I know that it will help me and that is why I asked him for it.

Talking back to the automatic response:

I did that” – I did, I know I did because I remember doing it and I do it every class. I do it out of habit because I’ve been instructing for a while. However, there was nothing to indicate that more positional cueing would have had a negative impact on the class or that it wouldn’t have helped them out. In fact, more of it would have been a good thing. It’s good feedback.

I did it more than you did” – I don’t know if I cued the class more than he did but it really doesn’t matter. His feedback is good feedback – it isn’t good feedback because he or anyone else does it, it’s good feedback because it would have made the class better.

Who is he to say that” – who is he not to say it? He’s an expert so what he has to say about it is worth hearing. Even if the feed back was to come from one of the participants it would have been worth hearing. People have a sense of what has order and what is unnatural; you don’t need to be an expert to offer advice on ways to improve something. This is particularly true when receiving feedback about an experience. Anyone having the experience BECOMES an expert so their feedback is worth hearing.

This week I took his advice and cued more. I did notice an improvement in the performance of some of the participants. Their shoulders stayed back while their chest remained up and open. When I cued their posture towards the end of the tough tracks some of them seemed to respond and increase their effort. By remaining open to his feedback, I became a better instructor.

If you notice that you have a tendency to close off when people offer you advice or feedback, you may want to consider talking back to your automatic response in order to reprogram it.