Truth vs. Happiness – Most Want Happiness

Regardless of how I feel about what I have written since I started newstasis.com one thing has become clear, some of it lands on as negative or bitter so therefore it is negative and bitter.

I accept these interpretations. While I believe that I am not a negative or bitter person, I do see the negative of my choices and can very easily see the negative of a lot of situations. I speak from my experiences within the fitness industry, the experiences I have had, the conversations I have engaged in, and the things I have seen. The fitness field is an industry with a success rate of about 20% or less for people who engage professionals for needed help, the turn over rate for fitness professionals is more than 50% over a three year period, and the churn rate for new participants is close to 70%. Summed up, very few people benefit from the existence of the industry, most of the people who stick with it are lifers (those who’d be doing the stuff anyway) or people who will die early if they DON’T stick with it, and many of the best (in my opinion) fitness professionals leave the industry after only a few years.

I’m entitled to my own opinion and in this case, it matches the facts – most people who are involved in the fitness industry achieve a very small level of success that lasts for a short period of time.

Admittedly, I have more control over myself than I do anyone else, and when I am working as a fitness professional I try to do the best work I am capable of. Part of doing the good work is to try and stop people from hurting themselves BEFORE I try to help them because preventing someone from hurting themselves is a form of help. All things being equal, I will dig in deep about why someone wants to get into better shape and will often try to talk them out of it.

Here’s the thing, trying and failing makes failing again in the future more likely. If someone isn’t ready, they shouldn’t bother. There is a lot of evidence created when we set out to do something and end-up not doing it and this evidence goes a long way to evolve our identity. This is not to say that I will tell someone not to work out, I encourage people to move more, to enjoy the feelings of hard work, and to maybe learn to love the sense of accomplishment at the end of a challenging workout. I might even invite them to notice the feelings of connection with the other people in a fitness class and how all of these things make life more enjoyable. Each of those things is true and are sources of happiness, and are worthwhile if for no other reason as they are fun and make life a little better.

But that is about as far as I go with it. The fitness industry is a self-help industry and most people won’t help themselves for long enough or hard enough to transform their bodies, and that is fine. Having the body of my dreams wasn’t nearly as rewarding as being able to do 12 pull-ups or riding my bike up the Niagara escarpment 10 times in a day. In fact, having abs was something to not have anymore, and that created pressure, boosted my narcissism and made me fearful of certain foods. Don’t get me wrong, I like looking fit, but I LOVE feeling great and doing fun and challenging things. Time will take a toll on my appearance, the toll it takes on my ability to do things is more or less determined by me.

I don’t even encourage people to stop smoking anymore. Smoking isn’t healthful or alivening, but neither is unsolicited advice or coaching / requests to do something that you don’t want to do or stop something that you want to keep doing. Everyone stops smoking eventually and they’ll stop when they are ready or when they die. Until then a smoker should enjoy their cigarettes completely because if you’re going to do something harmful you bloody well better enjoy it.

What does all of this mean?

There is a time and a place for the truth and that time isn’t always and that place isn’t everywhere. I try to write as honestly as I can and if someone happens to interpret that as negative, then my words were negative and I am therefore negative. If they choose to not read them again, that’s a fair choice for them to make and I support them in it.

I write knowing that some people would rather feel good and be happy than engage the negative in an attempt to deal with what is. Again, I support people in the decisions and am equally grateful to be part of the choice, even if that choice is to not read or listen to my words.

I KNOW how to use language to create a powerful impetus for change – just take one of my classes and you’ll notice just how much harder you work there than most places on earth – and that is what I have been doing with my blog. I could just as easily state that working for free benefits business owners a lot more than the person who is giving their time away and leave it up to the reader to draw the conclusion that when you give away your time, you are proving that your time has no value, but that leaves too much unsaid or open to misinterpretation. Instead I said unpaid internships are a scourge and hurt everyone; even those who get the free labor.

My dad once said that it is too bad that I couldn’t work for other people because getting a job with a corporation is a great way to do a lot of cool things while having someone else take on the majority of the risk. I agreed with the second point but wasn’t sure I understood him saying that I couldn’t work for other people. When I asked him about this he said: “You can be fantastic and you can be awful, but you are never in the middle, which is the realm of working for other people. You have a way of engaging the world that is interesting to those around you and will bring them along for the ride as certain as you are about the right way forward. And the moment someone disagrees with you and prevents you from taking the righteous action you know is correct you become awful.” At the time I wasn’t sure how to take it but I warmed up to the essence of what he was saying. He was at least 90% correct at the time.

As I have gotten older, there has been a shift in my approach. I am certain I am right about fewer things, but I am absolutely certain about the things that I am right about. Experience, education, and curiosity do this to a person if they are open to the lessons and willing to be wrong in order to one day be right.

In all of it though, I remain intolerant to dishonesty. This is why my feelings about the fitness industry seem to be unchanging. It remains an industry in which opinion is presented as fact, science takes a back page to gurufication, and hope is weaponized to harvest fresh souls. But my absolute contempt of dishonesty applies to all areas of my life. While I have grown less inclined to prove someone to be a liar and to fight with someone who is playing fast and loose with the facts, I notice when people are not being truthful either through deliberate attempt to deceive or through an act of willful ignorance / motivated reasoning. They are flagged in my mind as being dishonest, self interested, or too lazy to put in the effort to see reality in a way that doesn’t serve their interests. I’m content with leaving them alone and allowing them their chance at happiness because when someone is that motivated to maintain their fiction or that resistant to the truth they probably don’t have much else going for them.

Of course, they’ll be left alone only when their lack of honesty is harmful to only them. The moment it begins to contribute to the suffering of other people is the moment I begin to track in on their intention and their reasons for avoiding the truth.

Mice Adapting To Being In Space

In 2014, SpaceX launched a resupply mission to the International Space Station that included mice. They were placed into the Rodent Research Hardware System with the objective to study how they adapted to micro gravity and life in space. The video below contains some footage.

Although the video has a lot of cuts and is missing practically everything, it does look like some of the mice are having fun.

What is striking is just how quickly they adjust their movements to accommodate the near weightless environment. They groom, eat, play and move around, as mice do on earth. When you look closely, you can see that they use their toes to grip the bars of the cage to remain in place and to stop themselves from floating away. You can also see how their movements become more refined during the time covered in the video – the “swimming” type movements of their rear legs that are visible during the first few days are almost completely gone after 10 days.

This is something that human beings also experience during the initial periods of weightlessness as their brains struggle to get a handle on what is happening and to learn how to move around without the benefit of friction. The movements are useless though as they do not do anything other than waste energy and increase the risk of injury to oneself and others. But after a few days, the brain figures it out and learns how to move effectively using the least amount of energy possible. It is remarkable just how quickly the brain figures this out and adjusts to the micro gravity environment of the ISS.

The amount of room that they mice have is dramatically larger than that which is available to their human counter parts have. While the internal volume of the ISS is massive at just over 32000 square feet contained within 16 modules, none of the modules contain wide open space like the mice get to enjoy. Getting wide open pressurized spaces into orbit is expensive and since there is no justifiable science reason to do it, they haven’t done it.

With the exception of Sky Lab, the first US space station, human beings have never really had much room to move around while in space. This mission was launched in 1973 and the habitable section was contained in a refitted third stage of a Saturn 5 rocket. It was basically a pipe that had a 22 foot diameter. It was 85′ long and was broken up into two rooms. This gave the astronauts 10000 sq feet of space to work, live and float around it.

It’s remarkable watching this second video because it is more or less the same as the mouse video – living beings getting used to micro gravity and then enjoying the experience that the improved ease of movement affords them. I have no doubt that it is what I would do if I was up there and it’s probably what almost everyone else would do.

Our brain, and the mouse brain for that matter, is remarkable in its ability to quickly adapt to whatever it is forced to deal with. In the case of zero G, the experience is completely sensory in so far as the internal narrative will not alter the meaning of the sensory information. There is no gravity and the body is effectively weightless. There is nothing that can be said to re-frame the raw sensory data in terms of it being anything other than what it is. The brain has NO choice but to accept what is occurring and deal with it. This lack of choice jump starts the process because no mental effort is directed towards trying to interpret the situation as anything other than what is going on. The mice of course do not have this narrative re-framing ability so their brain instantly sets about figuring how to go about living life in the new environment.

A lesson that can be taken from these space experiences is about the true cost of resisting reality. When we can and choose to see things differently from how they actually are, we delay our powerful innate adaptative processes that allow us to quickly adjust to changes in the environment. This can temporarily delay putting in the effort that is needed to normalize to the new situation, but the cost of doing so is the ongoing waste of mental energy that is required to maintain the narrative story. This loss of energy is going to continue until the environment returns to the previous normal or the decision is made to accept reality and adapt to it.

The total cost of adaptation is going to be the lowest when we accept reality instantly, bring in very detailed sensory data and let our brain process it. This is what the brain has been doing for millions of years and it is what YOUR brain has been doing for all of your life. When we delay accepting reality we waste time and energy and we also increase the potential that the eventual cost of adapting will be larger as a result of us becoming more invested in something that isn’t real; given the relationship between the strength of a belief to the length of time we have held it and the amount of effort we have spend trying to defend it. The neural networks grow more robust over time and in response to greater stimulation that results in confirmation – even if the confirmation is a misinterpretation of the facts.

Reality is what reality is, and it doesn’t care about your feelings or beliefs. The sooner they align with it, the sooner your brain will be completely free to figure out how to best adjust to the changes to allow you to live with less resistance. Stop making things harder for yourself and let your brain do the work it unconsciously and effortlessly does to create a life of ease.

Finding Your Passion As A Fitness Professional

This article is a continuation of the post What Role Do You Play As A Fitness Professional so I recommend you read that one first and then follow it up with this one.

How will you know what type of training role you are passionate about?

This is a good question for which there are a number of different and great answers. Knowing the answer, or at least knowing AN answer, is arguably one of the most important pieces of insight a human being can have in guiding them to have a more enjoyable and fulfilling life. The reality is that most people do not ever think about the question, let alone taking the time to uncover an answer to it because they simply just follow their nose and go along with whatever comes to mind from one moment to the next. Plus, it can be hard work to take a personal inventory and dig into your life in a way that is prying and revealing. This means that for many, luck is the only way in which they uncover their passion because their life is just a big experiment of trial and error. The quality of your life is too important to leave to chance, so it is very important that you spend some time to come-up with an answer to the question “what are you passionate about?”

This article was supposed to deal with personal training but the advice about how you uncover your passion is general, so anyone can use it. “Passion” is not job or career specific, it is a technology that one uses for engaging the world that will predictably create a consistent state of mind that has some very distinct properties. Experience is necessary for knowing what you are passionate about, so if you are brand new to the field of personal training you may want to book mark this page and revisit it after a few months of full time work. No harm will come of introspection without experience and if nothing else, it will make you more self-aware that life can and should be meaningful from moment to moment and not just on pay day.

All you will need to complete this exercise is a pen or pencil, some paper and about 30 minutes of uninterrupted time. It cannot be done on a smart phone or a computer because they offer the opportunity for distraction and, more importantly, they place a layer of distance between the words that flow out of you and how they appear. It doesn’t matter if it is messy and slow, the goal is to draw out from your brain the experiences and memories that land as significant, important, and represent the answers to the questions that appear below.

There are no right or wrong providing you are doing your best to surface the information that is being call on and as long as you don’t think about “looking good.” The truth about the world and about life is that the people who look the best are the ones who are living their own life doing the things that make them feel the way they want to feel and not tearing down the journey of other people. Anyone who cares about the rightness or wrongness of your passions and choices in life does so out of self-interest and NOT because they have any compassionate feelings towards you. If you are trying to look good, you won’t to those who know and like you, so just take the time to answer the questions honestly so you can get re-calibrated and know which way is forward.

And even if you find out that being a personal trainer isn’t something you can be passion about, having a clear picture of the value you need to deliver in order to have the life you desire is only going to make your life simpler and more straightforward. Before you know what it is, the answer could be anything and is therefore massively complex. As soon as you know, the answer becomes one thing and that is very simple to deal with – achieving it will require hard work, but at least you’ll know what the work is.

Ask and write down the answers to the following questions, the rational for the questions and other comments will appear below the questions:

1) What do you like doing” or “what do you get enjoyment from” as it applies to training.

2) What are you good at doing” or “what have your clients told you that you are good at doing” or “what have your clients told you that you do differently from other trainers that is good?”

3) Have there been moments that you have experienced while training a client that you are able to bring to mind that you were lost in time and space?” Phrased another way, list all of the training experiences that you have had were your mind was completely focused on the client, their movements and creating the solution to the problem they have asked you for help to solve.

4) What training experiences have you had that have left you feeling energized or elated and what experiences have you had that have left you feeling completely drained and empty of energy?”

5) How much money do you need to make per week / months / year to have your needs met, some of your wants met, to be in good standing with the CRA or IRS, and be saving money for retirement?”

6) When you look inside, are there jobs or tasks that you think SHOULD be done and that you are put on the planet to do?”

Question 1 – Doing things that you enjoy. There is a relationship between enjoyment and passion because it is very difficult to be passionate about something when we are in a negative state of mind. Enjoyment should not be mistaken with feeling good – pleasure is a separate experience and while the two things may go together, they do not necessarily have to.

Question 2 – Doing things you are good at. Getting good at something does not happen by accident. There is a formula – paying attention completely while practicing consistently for a long period of time. It’s very simple, but it is hard work. The fact that you are good at something is an indication that you have put in a lot of the work for some reason. This reason is NOT chance or a random thing. More likely you did it because it didn’t seem like work while you were doing it. This characteristic is important because no matter what you do or how much you like doing it, following your passion in terms of work will not mean that you do not work. The opposite is true, you will likely spend more time working, and most of this work will be at a very high intensity. While it is not impossible that your passion will land on something that you have not yet done, it is best to consider the things we have already done when checking for clues. There is a lot of useful information that we’ll benefit from processing before we go off into the realm of the unknown in the event we need to go looking further.

Question 3 – Being completely present. This is the opposite of clock watching, being aware that other people in the gym are watching you, or wondering what else might be going on. Some might describe this as a flow state or a hyper awareness of the present moment. I’d describe it as interfacing with reality in such a way that your brain and body react to whatever is going on without a moment of thought or consideration.

Question 4 – Level of energy tasks leave you with. I find this question to be one of the more interesting and revealing questions that someone can answer simply because most people do not think about the world in terms of energizing experiences; although most are familiar with draining ones. This is weird given that humans spend so much of their life working. A third of your week days and a quarter of your time is spent in an activity that is aimed at generating enough money to make life possible. Consider that for a second. While is seems like maybe it’s fine if you hate your job, or just don’t like it, but if you were given the task of designing a life for someone else, would you set it up in such a way as to ensure that a quarter of their time was spent doing something that was draining, unpleasant, or the chore that “work” seems to be for so many people?

Look at it this way: Let’s say that you have a life expectancy of 80 years. Consider that while eating a chicken wing at your 60th birthday party you start to choke and no one comes to help you out. You die and it’s all over. Now imagine that no one in the world thinks there is anything bad about this. They just see it as normal and the way life goes. Lots of people die at their 60th birthday party. In fact, it’s kind what 60th birthday parties are for. Everyone just accepts that the final 25% of your life is just taken away because that’s just how it goes.

It’s a stupid thing to think about because we are raised to believe that life is precious. There is a disproportionate amount of money spent on the healthcare for those who are in the last years of their life meaning we want to prolong it for as long as possible. There’s no way anyone would agree to just cut it short by 20 years and eliminate 25% of it. Except this is very close to what most people do with 25% of their life. And it isn’t the final years when mobility and vitality are reducing, we are burning 25% of the time between 25 and 60 – 35 years of living and hating a quarter of it.

This is why passion is so important and why working at something that leaves us feeling energized should not just be a luxury, it should be a necessity. Energy is critical for engaging the world, being alert, and enthusiastically identifying and solving problems.

Question 5 – The amount of money you need. This question has very little to do with passion per say, but knowing the answer to it will close off a lot of open loops that the brain has evolved to be concerned about that siphon off a lot of useful mental energy. A simple fact about the brain is that it cannot focus on the present when it has doubts about the future. When it is not certain that there will be enough money to cover rent and food next month, it will get caught in a loop trying to solve the problem of getting enough money to cover rent and food. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but thinking about a solution to a problem that you haven’t really realized is a problem is not the same thing as taking the actions that are necessary to solve the problem. In fact, the brain spontaneously seeks out problems to solve even when no problem actually exists, so knowing how much income you need to cover your needs, some of your wants, and your retirement will effectively shut down 85% of the automatic problem finding and solving that the brain gets after.

Question 6 – Your unique purpose for being on the planet. This question has nothing specifically to do with training, fitness, or exercise; although the reason why you do these things might reveal a lot about the answer. Doing a job that fulfills your purpose will contribute more to the quality of your life than almost everything else.

The concept of purpose is relatively new, and is a consequence of technological improvements and the specialization of labour that have allowed us to get our needs met with incredible ease. Since we no longer need to spend all of our time hunting, farming, building shelter and protecting ourselves and our families from threats, we have the ability to expand our understanding of who and what we are past the boundaries of mere survival. This is both bad and good. It’s bad because it adds a level of complexity to life that cannot exist when one is in a constant battle for survival – when scarcity and danger lurk everywhere, remaining alive IS our only purpose and taking care of things didn’t leave much room for anything else.

This is no longer the case, there is a lot of space to fill with novel activities or things that are done for no clear reason other than for their own sake. We are now free to do almost anything, and that means that we need to figure out what that is. This isn’t as easy as it seems given the hollow and empty nature of many things. Narrative meanings are complicated and not self-evident. The level of knowledge / wisdom / understanding that is required to accurately articulate a congruent meaning is remarkably high. It can be argued that without society the notion of living a life of meaning would simply never have been considered let alone talked about.

It’s very deep. Meaning requires a system of morals / ethics along with a clear understanding of the scale of experiences ranging from bad to good and then to better. While human beings may be innately curious and are spontaneously moral in so far as we know the difference between good and bad, or good and evil, the plotting of experiences as bad, good, or better is not universally shared. Some people who love working out will consider an exhaustive near maximal piece of work to be a better experience than a warm-up that isn’t painful, hard or even remotely tiring. These same individuals would consider the same piece of work, if done to unsuccessfully make a connecting flight at the airport, to be a bad experience. When this is compared to moral rankings, reducing suffering or improving someone’s well-being are ALWAYS morally positive actions, regardless of the level of ease at which the goal is achieved and regardless of the person.

Having said all of this, we live NOW when there is both the free-time to fill with activities and the baseline level of knowledge to allow for the cultivation of a narrative meaning for our purpose to life. We are of course able to ignore this opportunity and just run through life on autopilot, enjoying and suffering whatever happens to occur. Congruence and consistency are not critical for life to continue; they don’t actually matter when we get right down to it. Life however, becomes much clearer and a lot easier when we are able to answer the questions “why am I here on the planet” and “what is the purpose of my life?”  Knowing these things gives us direction and power / energy to START and KEEP moving in that direction, which makes decisions easier and creates a strong rational for the logical trade of effort in the quest for a specific outcome.

Once you have answered the questions, reread the answers over and over again and allow your brain to track in on the patterns or realizations about the connection between all of these things. There will be something there that you will have been living by but have been completely unaware of the role it was playing on your decision making process. This step is not easy to explain given the nature of how human beings think and the impact our personal history has on shaping the specific nature of our individual thinking. But a lack of ease should not stop you from taking the time to uncover the invisible patterns in your life, particularly given the huge upside to doing it.

As thoughts start to flow into your mind, start writing them down. Spelling, grammar, and sentence structure do not matter, what is critical is capturing the thought. Most of them will not be accurate and may not have anything to do with anything important. But each one of them that you capture will be like a stepping stone that moves you across the stream. This practice can be helpful in other areas given how it serves to interrupt your automatic thinking and force you to critically review the words that you write down. Under normal thinking conditions, a thought enters our mind, it is instantly accepted as true and then we reprocess it. This is only the experience of it, the reality of it is that we have already started to reprocess the thought BEFORE we became consciously aware of it. By writing it down, we get to go back to the beginning to re-evaluate the statement for accuracy while buying our brain a little bit more time to generate other thoughts or possibilities.  

The more your write, the better your thoughts will become in general. Some of them may seem silly, some of them will be silly, and some of them will be transformative leaps forward. Just keep writing them down. The purpose of this exercise is not to end-up with a single uniform answer that reframes your entire life as a straight line between related events. That might happen, it has for some, but that isn’t the goal. The truth is that life is so complicated, that YOU are so complicated, that a uniform theory of everything isn’t really in the cards. Instead, you are trying to generate clarity about the interconnections of your choices. There is a thread that joins them all, and that is what you are trying to find and start to pull on.

At some point you will either have a flash of profound insight, run out of thoughts, or possibly be flooded with a sense of gratitude. All are fine. Exhausting your thought stream is a powerful accomplishment, one that will pay off over the days and weeks that follow. Thinking is both fast and slow. The results can be instant or they can take time to grow. When nothing more is coming out, you can be confident that you have pushed a lot of information into the brain that the slow thinking will be working on over the next few hours and days. Be aware that these insights will be revealed shortly and be ready to capture them when they bubble to the surface.

The profound insight and sense of gratitude should also be captured on paper. Both will be staggering to your thought processes and to your consciousness. Both will steal your attention and effectively hold it hostage for a period of time. Good, that’s what you want. Emotional experiences that are this powerful tell us that something very important has occurred and the emotion is the brains way of telling us to pay attention, learn, and use the information in the future to shape our decisions.

Once you reach the end – either by running out of thoughts, feeling grateful, or having a profound insight – make sure you captured everything in writing and then do something else if you can. Clear the mind and give the brain a chance to process everything that it has experienced during the exercise.

The eventual outcome will be a sentence or two that describes why you are on the planet. It will be so much more than that though. The sentence or two will contain what you would do with your time if you didn’t have anything else to do. If you won billions of dollars, after you got back from a long vacation and grew bored with eating the best foods and had grown tired of amusing yourself almost to death, you would do things that were the manifestations of the purpose statement / sentences. While you may not have the luxury of not having to work, you do have the opportunity to seek out work that allows you to live your purpose.

This is where question 5 comes in. Most of us do not need nearly as much money as we think we do. We come to need it because we don’t enjoy our jobs and the money allows us to distract ourselves from the hellish experience we are living through. When we are pursuing meaningful work that allows us to actualize our purpose, we do not need to be distracted from our life. In fact, our work will give us energy while we are doing it and it will allow us to sleep very soundly at night KNOWING that what we are doing matters, is helpful, and is a good use of time. We’ll get paid enough to live comfortably, so we won’t think about money and will be free to put our full attention into our work, which will help us do the best work we can. Our clients will notice and respond to this. They will work harder, recommend your services, and feel completely connect to you as both a service provider and as a human being. You will grow your business and your level of wealth will climb.

Most importantly though is that you’ll be content, valuable, and completely present when you are working. Your conscientiousness will be at its peak as the right answers will just come to mind and flow out of you. There will be no need for motivational self-talk and you will have abundant energy for work and for life. And this is what living on purpose is all about, having passion for every waking moment and every action that you get to take!

When You Train Is Who You Are

In Choosing A Fitness Club – Post Revisited I covered some of the considerations a person might have when making a decision on what gym to join. There was a section in which I made reference to the five distinct types of people and how they tend to self-select their training times:

They are early morning, off-hour, after work, late evening lifters, and the generalists. As rules of thumb, anyone who is willing to get out of bed to go to the gym will likely be highly driven and have less time to waste on things they deem as unimportant. The after work people will have a similar desire to waste as little time as possible. The late evening lifters tend to have a very focused lifting intensity but a more laid back approach to their between sets time. Off-hour people have selected these times because they work for them in terms of traffic flow and life management. The generalists workout whenever they can or feel like it.

This is an interesting topic that I need to expand on because, in general, people unconsciously and automatically find the time that works for them and just stick with it. With the exception of the generalists, the people who workout whenever they can make the time or feel like it, the chances of people remaining as active members at a gym are determined by their ability to get this time of day selection correct. Rephrased, most people who cancel their gym memberships or stop going to the gym / working out do so as a consequence of choosing to train at the wrong time. My belief is that it isn’t that the time was not convenient for them it is that who they are is not convenient for the time they picked. Who they are is NOT so malleable as to become whatever they want it to be.

There are five different types of people which correspond to five specific time frames in terms of when people train at the gym. Anytime, or what I referred to as generalist, early morning, off-hour, after work and late evening. Let’s talk about each one specifically because being able to identify which one you are will go a long way in making sure that you get the best start on your deliberate fitness journey:

Anytime / generalist – these are people who can workout whenever they feel like and will tend to do so based more on their availability than any other factor. These people tend to be lifers who enjoy working out for its own sake. Moving feels good and being healthy is not a matter of choice, it’s a matter of necessity. There is a very good chance that if you are one of these people you already know you are and you are already a member at a gym and working out regularly. Of those who are not regular exercisers, only a very small percentage of them belong to this group. It is possible for people to become a member of this group by joining one of the other four groups first, developing the exercise habit, learning how to really enjoy it for its own sake, and them transitioning.

Personality traits include independence, internal locus of control, lack of a need for social approval, strong time management skills, self awareness and a tendency towards free-thinking. They probably won’t talk much about their training or workouts and will simply just do them. There is a very good chance that they will look like they workout and their food choices will tend to be on the healthy side of the scale. Consider these people to be the doers and not the talkers who roll with the punches in order to accomplish unreasonable amounts of work.

Early morning – these are people who need to workout early in the morning, usually within an hour or so of waking and their first venture out of the house will be to the gym. Their training goals will primarily be to improve fitness and improve body composition with a higher focus on reducing body fat. They may not necessarily be morning people and may drag themselves through the first thirty minutes of being awake, but they will show a dramatic surge of energy once their workout begins and will always leave the gym feeling WAY more energetic than how they arrived. They will show a propensity towards “all or nothing thinking” and this will manifest as a need to get to the gym by a certain time or else not going. Missed workouts will not be made-up later in the day and will only be made-up later in the week.

Personality traits will include being highly driven, goal oriented, binary in their thinking, a tendency towards accountability to other people leading them to benefit from group fitness or personal training experiences. On days that they miss their morning workouts, as opposed to off days, they will be a little insufferable and will operate very differently compared to the days they worked out or took a planned off day. It is be as though one bad decision first thing in the morning serves to set the tone for more bad decisions through out the day. These people are best served by getting out of bed as soon as the alarm goes off in the morning, so to NEVER push snooze, and get up at the same time every day REGARDLESS of what they have planned. A successful first five minutes will result in a day of massive action and the creation of a lot of forward momentum.

Off-hour – these are people who have the flexibility to workout more or less anytime and choose to get to the gym when it is less busy. There reasons for training will be varied – strength, body composition, muscle growth, fitness, cardio performance, or for pleasure. They will have a similar mind set to the early morning people in terms of there being a cut off time for going to the gym although they will have a wider range in terms of when they can go. If they miss a workout, they can catch-up later in the week or will do more work in the remaining workouts of the week to make sure they get the training time in. The people will be the first to have training partners or to form more obvious social groups. For example, the early morning people might participate in fitness classes and spend time socially with the other participants, but their conversation during class will have a transactional flair and may lack a closeness or softness that is afforded by having more time to fully engage someone. Off-hour people, on the other hand, will be able to take the time to engage other people in a more connected way. Their closeness will be obvious to others and it can often be interpreted as cliquey. This is usually not the case however as they will welcome new members in and will quickly begin to look out for the needs of others.

Not all off-hour people are joiners or part of a group. Some will be as single minded as the anytime / generalists or the early morning people, but just have the flexibility to go to the gym whenever they like. With these specific people, they will display the same “no nonsense” approach to their time at the gym and will come across as transactional vs. collaborative. They have a mission while they are at the gym and nothing is going to get in their way from achieving their objective.

Personality traits for those who are not like the anytime or early morning people might include a more calm, deliberate or laid back approach to life, having a success pattern that includes a social or connection component, an absence of any perceivable sense of urgency, and the heightened quality of relationships with the staff.

After work – these are the people who workout right after work and for which the gym represents “me” time in terms of throwing way the days stress. Their training objectives will be very similar to those of the early morning – general fitness and body composition with a higher focus towards reducing body fat – and they will have an awareness that they will be able to have a higher degree of flexibility with their dinner as a result of working out so close to it. Their food choices will be positively impacted by this proximity and their workout will serve to empower / improved decision making – their meals on workout days will be healthier than their non-workout days , with particularly positive impact on their dinner choices. They will have slightly more flexibility when if comes to delaying their gym visit, but there will be a cut off and most of them will NOT come to the gym if they go home first. Missed workouts will only be made-up later in the week and the effect of missing a planned workout will very often lead to a series of bad health choices in the hours between the missed workout and going to bed. The elation that is experienced by the early morning people will not be so obvious or may not even be present. However, the workout will serve to refocus them for the rest of the day and the massive reduction in physiological and emotional stress that their training causes will manifest itself as a enhanced sense of well-being, contentment or peace of mind.

Personality traits include being driven, goal oriented, determined, the ability to manage time and balance many competing demands. There will be a more or less equal mix between those who are accountable to themselves and those who are accountable to other people, although most will have an internal locus of control in terms of determining what they want for their future. The mix of energies will be broad ranging from almost manic with an exceptionally high sense of urgency to a low almost sedated “I don’t give a crap” / “nothing matters” which will have a lot to do with the evening responsibilities of the people – parents will still be getting after it because their day is about to begin again while those with fewer responsibilities might be crossing off the final item on their daily “to do” list.

The after work group will be the largest of the five. It will show the greatest diversity in how they use the gym space and services. There will be a high number of group fitness enthusiasts and a higher percentage of personal training consumers. Monday and Tuesday between 4:45 pm and 7:15 pm tend to be the busiest times of the week, with Saturday morning being a distant third, although there are regional specific patterns based on demographics.

Late evening – these are the people who, for the most part, go home after work to eat dinner before coming to the gym. Their training goals are very much on body composition with a big focus on gaining muscle, and on the development of strength. In general there will be a much higher percentage of males vs. females when compared to any other time of the day. The energy will be lower and slower with the exception of the periods of time spent under the bar when the people will be putting between 75% and 100% effort in. To a neutral observer it will seem like very little work is getting done when compared to early morning and after work. However, it will only seem this way. The reality will be that while there are fewer calories being burned via the cardio equipment and classes, there will be a lot more work being done in terms of force X distance. The time needed by the central nervous system to recover from these great efforts is the reason why the energy between sets will be very low. There is a great sense of urgency but these people have learned how to channel it into the lifting.

Personality traits include being driven, goal oriented, strong willed to stubborn, with an almost complete self-accountability to oneself for the work that needs to get done, with mixed accountability to others for showing-up. This is the realm of training partners because of the need for spotters and because progress is so slow the lifting of heavy objects can become a hyper competitive way of keep things interesting. These people tend to never miss workouts and will usually create and stick to a very rigid schedule that does not change often or vary much. The physiological reasons for this are clear and fairly well supported by evidence – building muscle is a process that requires you to train a muscle a particular way, give it a specific length of time to recover and then train it again, over and over again for years. Getting massive is not something that happens by accident or as a consequence of achieving any other fitness goal. This is different from fat loss, improved general fitness or specific cardiovascular health which are complementary objectives – by training for one you inevitably achieve the others.

There will be a much lower percentage of people who are doing intense cardio training because of how that type of training ramps up metabolic rate and tends to make falling asleep very difficult. This is why there will be very few people training to reduce body fat at this time of day. Very few general interest classes will be offered during this time and those classes that are available will tend to be very skills focused with a narrow appeal – boxing or other combat type sports.

How do you make use of this information? The first thing you will need to do is figure out what you are trying to achieve and consider what your schedule looks like in terms of open times you have or can make to train. The next thing you will need to do is take an honest inventory of your traits and begin to compare them to what is outlined above. Once you start to get a feeling for the type of person you are, factor in your training goals and consider what the ideal time of day is to fit that training is. Re-look at your schedule to see if you can make this time available for training three to five times a week.

None of what I have said above should be taken to mean that you cannot make a less than ideal situation work. You absolutely can, but knowing that you are moving forward into a head wind is often the only thing that is needed to ensure that you keep moving forward. No matter what your goals are, you will need to do a lot of work and this work is not ever easy, even when you learn to love doing it. The thing is, it’s a lot easier to learn to love working this hard when your training time matches who you are. The weights will give you enough resistance, there is no point in adding more friction by trying to do something that you have never done during a time that doesn’t suit you doing it.

Choosing A Fitness Club – Post Revisited

So you have decided to invest in your future and start to work out, good for you! You won’t regret it. Improving your fitness means that you are going to be improving your health, and that always means that in the weeks, months and years that follow, you will live with at least a little bit more ease.

And like many people you have decided to avoid the upfront cost of buying all the needed gear to create a home gym and instead join a local gym. Okay, that is probably a good idea, particularly if you have never been a fitness enthusiast before. Improving ones health is not for everyone so unless you commitment devices are an effective way for you to stay on track, buying a bunch of equipment isn’t the best idea because it is expensive, it takes up room, and in the event you choose that fitness isn’t for you, its continued presence in your home serves as a kind of impulsiveness hangover.

Join a gym for a year and be curious about what the membership reveals about your commitment to physical self improvement. Review this decision at the end of the first month, the first quarter, nine months in and midway through the tenth month. If you like it, renew or invest in a home gym, and if you don’t, make sure to cancel your membership so it expires at the end of the year and you don’t end-up paying for time you don’t want or use.

Gyms are like restaurants or candy stores – not all are created equal. And if you have specific needs, you might have to send some time looking at different ones to make sure the fit is right. If you don’t know what you are looking for, and this is probably the case for anyone who is just beginning their journey into the realm of deliberate fitness, how do you go about finding the right gym for you or at least right enough to allow you to get started and objectively make the decision if its a trip worth taking?

There is one major consideration and a few other things to look for that will help you make as good a decision as is possible about something you know practically nothing about.

Will you go there three to five times a week, every week for the next twelve months? If the answer is no, don’t join. Look somewhere else and if the answer is always “no”, save your money or spend it on something else. Of all the considerations, this is really the only one that matters because improving fitness takes consistent effort over time. While one workout will help, the true benefit is cumulative. It will take about six months training  three to four workouts per week to get to a decent level fitness. This is between 78 and 104 visits to the gym over that twenty-six week period.

Keep this thought in mind when you are visiting the potential gyms. You will be coming to this place between twelve and sixteen times a month and if you do not see that as a possibility, don’t sign-up. This is actually more important than what you will be doing at the gym because a safely done low quality workout done consistently is more effective than the highest quality workout done infrequently.

This is the major consideration and the only show stopper. You don’t have to like it, although it is better if you do, you just have to do it 78 to 104 times in the next six months. If you are confident that you will and are willing to make that commitment take a look through the tips below on things to look for during your initial gym visits to get an idea of what you will be signing-up for.

When to shop: Make it as close to real life as possible. If you plan on working out right after work, make the visits right after work and drive from work. If you plan on going first thing in the morning, wake-up one day and make a dry run. Road and gym traffic have a pattern that is very stable. It isn’t enough to imagine that it will be rush hour and things will be busy because when we have “go fever” our optimism will colour our imagination in a way that will make us over confident that we won’t be annoyed. When we make the drive under real life conditions we are having an experience that is very close to what we’ll need to do over and over again. If it sucks before we sign-up, what reason do we have to believe that it will stop sucking once we pay?

Time of day plays the biggest role in determining the type of people who go to the gym. There are five distinct types of gym trainees and you will undoubtedly start to become one of them as you spend more and more time training when they train. They are early morning, off-hour, after work, late evening lifters, and the generalists. As rules of thumb, anyone who is willing to get out of bed to go to the gym will likely be highly driven and have less time to waste on things they deem as unimportant. The after work people will have a similar desire to waste as little time as possible. The late evening lifters tend to have a very focused lifting intensity but a more laid back approach to their between sets time. Off-hour people have selected these times because they work for them in terms of traffic flow and life management. The generalists workout whenever they can or feel like it. If you don’t like the mood, tone or energy when you visit, it isn’t going to change. But if you decide to train at that time, you probably will.

Once you get there: what does the parking lot look like? Are there lights, are they on when they shouldn’t be or off when they should be on? Are there garbage cans and are they overflowing or is there garbage all over the place? Is there sufficient parking? Are the specialty parking spots close to the entrance? Is there an employee of the month parking spot? If there is cleared snow, how has it been left? Have walkways been shoveled and salted or sanded? Is there a snow shovel visible? Do they have a flag pole and if they do, what is the condition of the flag? Is it at the right position – half or full mast? How are the cars parked – are they within the lines, are they backed or driven in?

All of these things will give you a good impression of how the staff approach their job and how the landlord approaches their tenants. Parking lots have very few rules or laws that specifically apply to them so most of what you will see will be the reflection of decisions people make to go above and beyond what is required. People who are willing to walk past garbage are making a decision to leave it on the ground, which is a reflection of what they believe they are responsible for.

The way people park is also very revealing. Double, crooked or otherwise selfishly parked cars are an indication of a possible personality flaw in the driver. In every case other than that of someone being a bad driver, there is a near zero percent chance that this flaw will not manifest itself in other ways inside the gym. While the staff is not responsible for how people park, they are responsible for making sure the members act in a socially acceptable way which includes how people park.

The first twenty feet: this is about first impressions and it includes information from all of your senses – feelings, smells, sounds and sights in that order. There shouldn’t be a taste and if there is, you should probably take a few moments to reconcile that fact. Is the floor level, is it bumpy, are there broken or missing tiles, is there a floor mat and is it clean, does the door open and close smoothly, does everything you tough feel clean? If you shake someones hand, what is their hand shake like? Do all of the staff shake hands the same way? Our brain picks up on the feeling of things in a mostly unconscious way, so give it the opportunity to take this information in and generate a perception. Our feet will feel problems very quickly and will make you aware that something isn’t right. Try to notice the information that is coming from the floor because it tells us a lot about the existence of a cleaning schedule or system and the level of care given to maintenance.

People who are moving intensely are burning a lot of energy, generating a lot of heat, sweating a lot and releasing a lot of water and carbon dioxide. For these reasons, gyms need to have very good ventilation. The air should be fresh, dry and odorless along with being at a temperature that matches the time of year.

What do you hear as you walk in? The volume and type of music, the sounds of the equipment, the amount and volume of chatter between members, what do the staff say to you and to the other members? Are there systems in place to control greetings and prospective member intake?

Finally, what are you seeing? Is the gym clean, well organized and tidy? Do the staff have uniforms or a dress code? Is the gym branded and if not, does it look like someone has given its appearance some consideration? Are the signs up to date, mounted in a consistent way, and appealing to look at? Can you tell the staff apart from the members? What are the members wearing? Are their finger prints or dust on things? Are their any burned out lights?

As you tour the gym: is any of the equipment out of order and if so, how long has it been that way? If it isn’t clear, ask someone. Is there a way to clean the equipment after use and do you observe members doing it? Do the members put equipment back after use? Are their weights left on the machines or barbells? Are there enough dumbbells and how high do they go? Is there a functional training area? Do they have squat racks and are there any Smith machines? How many hamstring curl machines and of different types are there? Do they offer group fitness classes, do they have their own studio and does it have an independent ventilation system? Is it clean and tidy?

Make sure you go into the change room and all bathrooms. Are they clean and tidy? What is the condition of the lockers? Is there soap, paper towels and toilet paper available? How is the water pressure and is there hot water? Are there any signs posted and if so, what do they say? For the record, people can be disgusting and most of the problems that management need to deal with concern the change room. The signs here will paint a clear picture of what they are hoping to put an end to or prevent from ever starting.

The staff: how are they acting? Are they busy, friendly and radiating an energy that is positive and free of drama? Do they look like they work out and with those who don’t, are their eyes moist and vibrant? Is this a job for them or a calling? How do they interact with the members? Is there a clear supervisor or manager and if so, are they on the floor or in an office behind a computer? How long have the staff worked at the gym?

The member enrollment conversation: is it a hard sell or an easy conversation? Are they trying to get you to join on the spot and have answers for any of your objections? Do you get a weird feeling in your stomach during their presentation that is a sign that someone is trying to control your thinking or emotional state? Are you being listened to and heard, or is the person just waiting for their turn to talk? When they reveal the price, do they try to reframe it or put it in context that relates to your fitness objectives? Are they honest about what the gym is and what it isn’t? Are they offering an enrollment gift as an incentive to join and if so, is it of high or low quality? Are they clear about the cancellation policy? How do they answer your questions and do they freely release information? In general, do they know what they are talking about or are they just there to process you as a transaction?

Final thought: The thing about gyms is that they are, at their core, big rooms with equipment and people. YOU are the engine that drives the results and that is only going to happen if you go consistently over time. The highest quality equipment and top level staff have no impact on members who do not show up, and they have only limited impact on those who are their regularly. What determines the cost of the membership and the value you get out of it is the number of times you go to the gym and how intensely you train when you are there. A $250 a year membership used once a month is essentially more expensive than a $700 a year membership used five times a week, every week for the entire year. And that $700 a year membership is a much better value when each of those workouts is performed near your max possible effort.

YOU are the difference maker. The gym is a tool that you will use and the staff are a part of the service that makes the process a little more convenient and maybe a little more enjoyable. But the responsibility of making your future better falls completely upon you. A gym membership is not the solution, USING that gym membership is.

If you haven’t read or do not remember, check out Choosing A Fitness Club. There are a few other tips or considerations that you might find helpful.

Reasons To Not Be Afraid – Post Revisited

About seven years ago I wrote what I still regard as the most honest, vulnerable and personal thing I have ever posted. The title of the post was Reasons To Not Be Afraid and it represents as close to bottom as I hope I ever go.

At the time, it had been about six weeks since my father had died and after taking the month of February to rot, drink, overeat, smoke, and basically spiral down, I had a moment of clarity. It was around 4:55 AM on the morning of Wednesday February 29. For some reason, probably because my brain had stopped enjoying the experience of being inside my body, I was snapped awake with the realization that my dad was dead. While this was obvious and something that I was clear on, given that he died on January 29, a part of me had been pushing it away. But through the fog my brain was able to do its thing, reconcile all of the sensory information, interrogate my long term memories and force into my consciousness the painful reality that he wasn’t on vacation and that he was never coming home.

I lost my shit! Waking-up angry is one thing, this was an entirely different animal. My body was already filled with a chemically induced rage courtesy of my medulla dumping the previous months share of adrenaline into my blood stream a few moments before my eyes opened. The worst part was that my eyes opening was not the first action I took that morning. My body had been up and moving around for a while before I joined the party and it was my joining in that slowed everything down; not right away though. I was along for the ride watching my body wrecking things as I tried to get a handle on a tsunami of grief, a growing pain in my right foot and the feeling that something should be ringing in my ears that people get when they are smashed awake by a threateningly loud noise.

There were a few things wrecked in my room, nothing of much value and nothing that was ever missed, but destroyed nonetheless. A fan, a pair of old headphones, a plastic water bottle, stuff that had been near my bed when my hands decided that those items needed to be as far away from me as possible and the rest of my body agreed. The predawn peace had been shattered by things exploding against the wall that had done nothing but try and hold up the house. Its answer? Make sure everything stayed on the inside of the room by providing the perfect surface to convince a few million molecular bonds that their partners were not worth holding on to. It was the noise of their scream as they let go that was responsible for waking me up.

Oh, and I had kicked something.

What does bottom look like? Well, it depends on the person I suppose. For me though it was kind of unremarkable. Bottom was sober. Bottom was clear headed. Bottom was a profound sadness. There wasn’t regret, my dad and I had been very close. His death wasn’t the shock that him getting cancer had been. When someone is given 6-12 weeks to live you know full well what is in the mail.

I was just tremendously sad.

Hitting bottom didn’t look anything like the view on the way there either. And in fairness, even the journey there wasn’t something that would make anyone shake their head in disgust. In the month between his death and me finally accepting it there had been a lot of drinking, over eating and too many cigarettes. Too much sleeping and too much time spent by myself working on a Morrissey flavored depression that was equal parts self indulgence and self pity. But there had been a lot of writing, a lot of insights and a lot of unconsciously coming to terms with the reality that my life was unworkable and had been for a very long time.

With my dad gone, I needed to grow-up – I needed to grow-up anyway, his passing must forced the issue. And as I lay on the floor of my room bawling that morning I accepted that my journey had begun.

Writing the “why’s” and “what ifs” lists in the Reasons To Not Be Afraid was good therapy advice that I had been putting off because the thought of the pain looking that deeply at my life might cause seemed too much to bare. This was an inflection point, a moment when the polarity reverses and the pain of continuing along a path becomes greater than any conceivable pain that would come from seeing what I had made of my life. While I didn’t particularly like what I saw and I detested the fact that I had become someone so afraid of the world that I was compulsively avoiding it, I knew that these were just feelings. If things were different, I would probably feel different.

That was the switch flipping. I had no idea if the future was going to be better, if I would attack the world with confidence and become a man of powerful and pragmatic action. That post, and the lists contained within it, were a reflection and the manifestation of untested beliefs. By doing different things, I would be able to find out if the beliefs were accurate and I would be able to feel something different. That was enough for me. It was clear that I was the one who had been making the decisions and choosing my actions, so I was free to make different decisions and choose different actions. And that is what I did.

Life got better, much better. It turned out that I had been living a lie. While the world is every bit as bad as I thought it was, living in it and being a part of it is a lot easier than avoiding it. While the “why’s” list did contain some accurate reasons, it also included some ad-hoc justifications for indulging in compulsive escapist behaviour. We’re all very good at coming up with reasons to support doing whatever it is we think we should do. The gold though was in my lack of imagination in the “what ifs” list. I was right about most of the things. As I changed my behavior, life got easier and it changed for the better. But I had been negligent in my consideration of the outcome of sustained small actions. Any action taken eliminates an almost infinite number of potential futures while simultaneously creating the possibility of an almost infinite number of alternative ones. It wasn’t just that I would no longer be hiding away from the world, it would be that I was actually engaging it, and that meant doing things, things that I hadn’t even considered being things before let alone things that I would be doing.

Seven years on the only thing that I would change about the post is the last line “I’m not necessarily afraid, but I am anxious,” which was more wishful thinking about the future than anything else. It was too early to make a definitive call on what the experience of change was like. The truth is that I am both afraid and anxious of doing new things and of the unknown in general. And I think I always will be. Life doesn’t start being less scary. There isn’t a desensitization effect as a result of doing stuff.

The main difference now is that I accept that I am afraid and I do it anyway.

The Myth Of Non Medical Detoxing – The Cleanse

About three years ago I decided to stop eating sugar, consuming caffeine, drinking alcohol and a few other things that had been impacting my thinking and life in general. I bit off a lot at once, it was an unreasonable amount, but I was sick of living the crappy life my poor choices delivered me. At the time I didn’t set a time limit for how long I would stop consuming these things but I don’t recall believing that I would never eat or drink them again. I just wanted to reestablish my baseline way of being so I could correct my course if needed and know what I was dealing with in terms my identity.

There were some withdrawal symptoms – headache, difficulty concentrating, increased anxiety, insomnia, mood swings and minor body pain – but these were to be expected. The doctor didn’t have any concerns and told me that they would decrease over the first few weeks and be gone completely in a month or so. He was right. The end result was that I found my baseline and learned a lot about myself and how consuming those things made me feel – or how going without consuming them made me feel. The lessons I learned were useful and I have invited many of my clients to try the same sort of thing to uncover their relationship with the food they eat and the liquids they drink.

What is interesting to me now is the talk and articles about detoxing your body and all the great things it will help you achieve. On one end of the spectrum are the things like Lent, Ramadan and Yom Kippur which are religious in nature and encourage the faster to reflect upon their relationship with God, atonement for sins and other spiritual awakenings. You do not need to buy anything to participate in these fasts and you probably don’t even need to believe in God given that they are straightforward and require that the person not eat for specific periods of time or give-up eating a particular type of food for a period of time. Worth doing because they’ll teach you something about your relationship with yourself, your food, and your maker.

The other end of the spectrum in the supplement industries version of a detox which they label a cleanse. Unlike the name implies, the whole notion that the body cannot clean itself is unfounded. Medical pathologies or illness aside, the body takes care of cleaning up waste very effectively. The liver and the kidneys do the job, and they’ve done it without the aid of supplements for eons.

Regardless of the product you were sold, the instructions are basically the same. You dramatically alter the food you eat for a period of time while consuming the cleanse products. The rational is that you need to stop doing the damage first to allow the cleansing products to work. Don’t be concerned with you initially feel worse because, as the instructions say, this sickness is proof that there were toxins in the body and that the cleanse is working.

But since you have adjusted the food you have been eating, you are actually going through withdrawal (much like I did when I stopped eating sugar and drinking coffee). The symptoms that are experienced are a result of the dietary change and have nothing to do with toxins being released by the body. This is an example of illusory correlation where two unrelated things are assumed to be related because they happen close to the same time.

What can you learn from those who buy cleanses?

  • Do not buy one, they don’t do what their sellers claim.
  • Do adjust your diet, there is a good chance you could be eating better.
  • When you adjust your diet, there is a good chance that you will initially feel unwell or sick; this will pass as the body adjusts to a new normal state.
  • Once a year for a few weeks, consider taking some time off of eating certain foods to see what this does to your body. If you experience withdrawal symptoms or cravings, notice these feelings and be mindful that your body has adjusted to eating them; this may not be how you want to live your life.
  • Always be aware that people who have something to sell will say whatever they need to say in order to sell you their product or service. With reference to cleanses or detoxes, your liver and kidneys do an almost perfect job and you already own them.

Why And What You Read Might Be Dangerous

I love to read and to learn. Both are critical to the growth and development of ones intellect. Both are extremely important and go hand in hand as a big way to make life better. I am not suggesting that you stop reading completely. What I am suggesting is that you, from time to time, alter your intention when you read.

‎The post Why Your Life Is Fine, I talked a little about the 3 ways we approach or respond when we are listening to someone. The first is with agreement – their information or story confirms to what we know to be true. The second is with disagreement – what they are saying doesn’t match what we know to be true. The third way is with authentic curiosity as to how and why what they are saying is right, if we disagree or wrong if we agree. From this dialectic approach we’d ask the question what would need to be real for that state that to be true.

Doing this isn’t easy and it requires a willingness to say I don’t know, which is risky and uncommon for us. While it is well worth doing, it is mentally draining and something humans are innately disinclined to do.

But moving forward by not doing it isn’t moving forward at all, and this why I make the statement that why and what you read might be dangerous. If you read with the intention of acquiring knowledge that confirms a belief, you aren’t really learning anything valuable; at least from my point of view, you are not generating anything new. The best parts of your brain are not being activated and your essential contribution to the world are not being actualized.

For example, I get a lot of emails about services and systems that pertain to the fitness field. 90 percent of them at least are about generating more revenue and becoming an effective seller. All of them use the same model, which is based on solid scientific research about gaining compliance. All use emotional selling methods with the goal of uncovering an emotional “why”. They all say the same catch phrases like “people won’t care until they know how much you care” ‎or “we have a proven system that has been used successfully by this many thousands of people”. It all sounds truthy, feels like it is correct and lands like it is genuinely helpful.

These sales systems are effective at getting people to sign up for large packages, commit on the spot to many months of training, and in creating a feeling of hope that is then leveraged to create revenue and massive profits for the seller. But it is total crap in terms of actually helping people improve their fitness. The questions they encourage the reader to ask exist to generate the information needed to back a person into a corner and then overcome any objections.

The success rate for people who work with trainers is powerfully low. 80 percent of people get very little change ever and less than 10 percent ‎maintain their results over a three year period. With success numbers like these there is something unworkable about emotional selling; it helps close the deal but it doesn’t help most of the people it is used on. Anyone who is reading these books / systems is doing so because they are looking for a panacea to help close a sale. This is dangerous to the trainer / coach because it ruins their brand, destroys their reputation and alienates their staff and team members.

So what exactly am I saying here? Very simply, if you are reading books about how to become the perfect trainer, coach, lover, pick-up artist, consultant, sales person, etc…., rethink the question you are trying to get the answer to. For example, if you are seeking a system to help improve your sales, consider asking the question “why are my sales not at a level I like?” or “am I actually helping clients with the service I am providing?” or “is my service or product effective at doing what it is supposed to do” or “are the results and experiences of my clients / customers good enough to enroll other people into my service” or “what is the unique thing that I bring forward in this area?” Compare these questions to “how do I improve my sales?” You’ll get very different answers which will shine a light on the things that actually need to be improved, changed or highlighted.

The best people in any industry are the best because they are the best, not because they read a book or implemented a system. They cultivated their wisdom through education, practice, trial and error and uncovering the X factor that they bring to the table. They understand individuality and tailor their advice to match the individual. They sell what people need and want and they do so without using emotionally manipulative techniques. They don’t enter into conversations with the belief that everyone should buy their product or service. They know who will benefit from buying and they know that that isn’t everyone.

As you move forward, I invite you to be more curious and mindful about your intentions when you read. What is the outcome you are seeking and what is your motivation? Once you are clear on these things you’ll have a better idea of what exactly you should be doing. And adjust your course when these things don’t line-up.

Creativity vs. Obedience / Conformity

I’m not sure if creativity and obedience / conformity are mutually exclusive but it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that they are. I know that creativity is a natural thing for human beings. Anyone who has children or watched the ways they go about getting what they want KNOWS that they’ll pull out all the stops and come-up with new moves over and over again until they get what they want. Over time they’ll develop a strategy based on what worked before and they’ll adjust it when new behaviors prove fruitful.

It is amazing to witness because there is something special about seeing brand new actions being created out of a basic human want or need and the ability to produce novel behavior.

Much less amazing is being witness to the cultivation of obedience / conformity. It’s life draining and it stifles the progress of young people towards self determination and self expression. I can understand that there is a time and place for these things, but that time isn’t always and the place isn’t everywhere. Certain behaviors are needed for people to coexist and to work together productively and in harmony. Interrupting other peoples conversations for non emergency things isn’t helpful, ignoring well established social conventions that make possible individual liberty should be stopped quickly and doing dangerous or harmful things cannot be allowed to continue. But there is very little else that falls into the MUST BE ELIMINATED category.

Sure, it’s a lot easier for me, not having children, to righteously say that anything that culls the creativity of a human being is bad but that doesn’t make the statement any less true. If you are a parent, try saying each of these two sentences out loud to see which one feels better or is true.

“I want my child to be self expressed, to uncover and maximize their talents and become whatever they want to be.”

“I want my child to be the best cog in the machine that they can be.”

This is not a scientific test, it’s emotionally manipulating because it leads you to say the answer I want you to say. But there is a very good chance that, as a parent, you’d want your child or children to have the almost complete freedom to choose the life they want.

So right now consider the possibility that creativity and obedience / conformity cannot exist together. Imagine what happens when a child’s spontaneous behavior is unnecessary chastised and ridiculed in an attempt to stop, change or completely eliminate it. Now consider that most spontaneous behavior of children is their form of play and completely harmless. Most of it will burn itself out after a short period of time anyway so they don’t need to conform to any notion other people have for them. What difference does it make if a child is singing or humming quietly at the dinner table? What harm is there in repeating everything you say? It can be annoying as hell but that is it; if you make a game out of it, it can be a very effective teaching tool and very funny when they repeat preciously scientific things.

In the coaching, personal development and self-help fields there is an idea that coaches and mentors offer people increased choices, information about the outcomes of behaviors and rewards for good behaviors of the people they work with. Bad behaviors are not punished and very little attention is paid to them. The reason we approach people like this is because punishing behaviors decreases choices and tends to make people defensive; defensive people tend to close off and this hinders progress as it eliminates creativity and produces fight, flee, or freeze responses.

It’s also worth mentioning that if pain is used or a lack of fairness is perceived, these are the only thing that the subject is going to process. This is why beating a child may stop them from doing something, but it is going to create long term damage that will get in the way at some point in the future. Violence is inhibiting and while it may create obedience / conformity, it suppresses everything that lead up to the event. The lessons the child learns are that spontaneous behaviors need to be avoided and the perpetrator of the violence or unfair act cannot be trusted.

If you want to help someone foster their creative skills and possibly solve some of the worlds problems leave them alone when they are doing things that annoy you, encourage them when they come-up with novel or new solutions and reward them when they transport a skill from one area into another area. Give them the freedom to understand or figure out their own world and if they seem to be spending a lot of time in their head get them to talk about what they are experiencing. Even if they don’t know how to express it, give them the liberty to use their brain any way they want.

Let’s be fair, so much of what we do is only the result of us living in a developed society. There’s nothing natural about it and over time children will figure out how they need to exist within the world. Allow them to cultivate their creative instincts and enjoy the amazing things the human brain is capable of.

Effective Progressives Are Not Iconoclasts

Not all progressives are iconoclasts, and maybe that’s why they are so effective at causing change.

I have two mentors who hold progressive views about the fitness industry, neither is an iconoclast. One owns a gym and works hard with his business partner to create the best gym around. The other doesn’t have anything to do with the fitness industry other than talk to me about what is going on, in an effort to help me unpack why working within the industry makes me feel so off course‎.

What is fantastic about both of them is their ability to see what is occurring without setting about fixing it. The gym owner works to make his piece how they know it should be. The other guy just states his observations and how these occurrences may be impacting me. The beauty about their approaches is that they come at the topic from a place that nothing is wrong, and this keeps free any resources that would have been directed toward ‎fixing that which is viewed as broken or wrong.

Complaining about something is an action that will keep you locked in the past, and it is very easy to point out all the things that are wrong with something; the human brain is amazing at finding information that confirms a point of view and it does this automatically, without effort or energy. Unfortunately, problem solving is NOT the opposite of problem finding. It requires creativity, analysis and thinking all of which require effort and tend not to be rewarding along the way, only at the end when the problem is solved. Given this fact, complaining is what comes naturally, doing something about it isn’t.

So give the following a try when you start to notice just how crappy something is:

  • Remove your judgment. Very little is right or wrong, so just assume that everything is as it should be.
  • Become curious as to why it is the way it is. This will open you up and after a few minutes you’ll begin to uncover a growing list of reasons why it could be as it is. Keep this list grow for as long as you can or as long as seems necessary. Doing this is a skill and it may be completely new to you. Too often we “know” why things are the way they are and this knowing keeps us from unpacking the truth.
  • Figure out how you want it to be. This, again, is a skill, one that we may have had taught out of us. Obedience and compliance have historically been more important for society than change and there is a good reason why those who are in positions of influence or power want things to remain as they are. But the skill to identify how things can be better is innate in most of us so put some effort towards reigniting it and once it is fired up, determine how you want things to be.
  • Share your idea with peers, friends, coworkers, whoever. Communicating with others about how things can improve if they are changed is the only way your are going to generate the collaboration needed to progress something into a new realm. It’s also the best way to get feedback and to get new perspectives. This synergistic interaction can add power and wisdom to an idea.
  • Never think that your ways is the best way or the only way. It’s great and necessary to believe in your ideas for progress, but you will continue to refine and grow them only if you remain open to the possibility that they can be refined or grown.
  • Accept and be grateful that you are able to play a small role in the collective wisdom that is human knowledge. You may not answer any of the big problems but your contribution to progress will help someone, and that is a worthwhile endeavor.