The Next Generation Gap – Post Revisited

Around 12 years ago I wrote the post The Next Generation Gap in response to reading the New York Magazine article “Say Everything”. The article was like nothing I had ever read before and it was a kind of wake-up call that reminded me that I was 34 and no longer in the drivers seat in terms of determining what was new and cool. My generations run at the front was over and we had been replaced with something that was so much different from everything that had ever come before.

The essence of the New York Magazine article was that the young people had always known the Internet and had come of age when broadband and the exceptionally low cost of storage had eliminated the need to be selective. Gone were times of film and chemical development that took time and money, replaced with digital cameras, unlimited pictures and the ability to store them online. Capturing a moment is just a matter of taking a bunch of pictures, switching to review, thumbing through what you got and keeping the ones that you want. It didn’t matter because there was no cost associated with taking a picture and you got to see it instantly to make sure your hair was right and that no one was blinking.

2007 was still very early days in whatever it is was we were going through and at the time of my post, the iPhone was about three months away from US release. Looking back on it now, it seems quaint to think about a world without the cloud, without instant access to Facebook, twitter or whatever social media applications matter right now. But 2007 was the calm before the explosion, and the younger people at the time were carving themselves a long lasting identify by capturing and posting large portions of their life online, for almost anyone to see, forever.

That was the essence of the article. With a no rules and no holds barred approach to making everything available, what the heck were these people doing to their future? There would be no secrets and anything they did would come back to haunt them. The article didn’t predict this of course, it was just so obvious that it would be the outcome given that no generation had ever existed so transparently before. They were young and naive. Actions have consequences, even for those who lack the foresight to predict them. Give it a few years, a decade at most, and the day of reckoning would hammer down on those too willing to share everything.

Except that isn’t what happened. The day of reckoning arrived, sure, but the hammer avoided those who shared so much. It turned out that living out loud and in constant public view served to immunize them from the fall that comes along with finally being outed as a closeted asshole. Except that wasn’t how it happened. People did simply not grow tired and immune to all things shocking – if that was the case, when the hammer dropped it wouldn’t have made a sound or crushed anyone. By growing up in a time when everything you say and do will be documented by someone, posted on line, and be instantly accessible forever, you learn to behave like a person who is one day going to have to account for your actions. Who you are is well known to anyone who is willing to take the time to find out. All of the bad things you have said or done are as accessible as all of good deeds you have bragged about or made public. Lives have been destroyed, but mostly those who are members of the older generations who managed to control the message and manipulate everyone’s point of view.

Smart phones were tools that young people knew how to use and they had potential consequences for bad behavior that were obvious to them at the time and have become obvious to the rest of us over the last decade. When you are in public, either physically or via broadcast, there are NO secrets and nothing will be forgotten. This isn’t brand new, it’s just that before powerful people were predictably able to shift opinion before by slut shaming, buying favors or silence, changing the subject completely, lying or controlling the narrative to such an extent that demonstrable facts didn’t matter. Powerful people are less able to do this now, so for a much larger portion of the population, there is no escaping the past.

Being held to account for your transgressions is a good thing, particularly when the fear of that account acts as the disincentive for transgressions in the first place, because the world is a better place when people behave and treat others as they want to be treated themselves.

There is a down side though, and it has to do with the volume or quantity of stuff that is being created. There is a devaluing that is going on, which paradoxically explains why making everything available to everyone all of the time has had the impact of causing people to feel like they don’t matter or that they cannot keep up. A quick comparison between social media streams clearly indicates that most people live a life that is way more exciting and just plain better. Envy is the more common response when we see the Instagram photos of an influencer who has been able to parlay their genetic lottery winnings into a life of unreasonable amounts of fame, fortune and fun. Our May “two-four” and “August long” weekends at a friends cottage are great experiences and fantastic memories until we see how the real The Weeknd or Kylie spend their time. Then we feel kind of crappy because our twice a year indulgences don’t keep up.

It’s everyone’s social media stream though. And when people notice the crappy feeling associated with being average, they share more and more stuff in an effort to lift their Klout Score or its current alternative. And in response to sharing more, other people feel worse and try to medicate the crappy feeling of being average by sharing more. This of course leads to billions of experiences being shared and made available to everyone which results in a reduction of the value of any individual experience. The joy is lower and it has a much shorter half-life. Whatever sense of elation we got from witnessing the solar eclipse evaporates the moment we see that Sally saw it from a cooler location when we look at the photos she posted. We may choose to not experience it all, instead opting to watch the HD video the next day on YouTube or watch people watching it.

Which gets us to the problems with sharing everything. The goal is no longer about having an experiences, it’s about sharing us having them, which is not the same thing. The result we might be seeking, although we won’t say it, is to trigger a negative emotional response in the people who consume our social media stream. The inevitable outcome is that everyone else is doing it. This results in most people having two types of experiences, those of documenting what they are doing and those of looking at the experiences that other people have documented. Neither of which is the same thing as being present and engaged in what you are doing from moment to moment.

The upside to sharing everything has probably been an improvement in civic behavior because we all know that we’re not going to get away with anything for very long. The down side is that there is a growing mood of collective melancholy as we are constantly reminded of how much better life can be but isn’t for us.

And that makes me a little curious about what the next generation will do to shift culture in response to living out loud and wide open. Time will tell, it always does….

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.

More Questions To Ask Your Future Personal Trainers

I get questions from people who wonder how they would go about finding a good personal trainer. In the post Fitness Professional Smell I outlined a few important considerations. I have been asked to create a more refined list for people who may not have the experience in the industry or with people who stand to benefit from selling you something to put those tips to work.

The goal of this post is to help you interview your future trainer to unpack what they are all about and how they might be able to help you if there is agreement that you’ll work together. The tips will be broke down in two ways. The first is a list of things to ignore the second is a list of things to consider or ask. The ignore list is more important because the things that appear on the list take advantage of shortcuts we’ve created to help with problem solving or decision making. The term heuristic is used to describe these rules of thumb and they leave us vulnerable when someone uses one of them to circumvent logical thought. The list of things to consider or ask is only possible when we are thinking logically, or at all, so triggering a heuristics will fire an automatic response that will see us respond in a way that doesn’t necessarily represent our best interests or desires.

Things to ignore:

Social proof in terms of positive recommendations – how often do we see bad recommendations or testimonials? It is very rare that we’d read a testimonial that says “trainer was constantly late, and didn’t seem to value my time” or “trainer was verbally abusive, but there was an element of truth in what they said” or “coach knew everything and responded poorly to feedback. Their painful insecurity prevented them for hearing my questions as anything other than a personal criticism” or “I trained with them for 2 years and nothing ever happened. Apparently it’s my thyroid although my doctor says the blood tests show levels in normal ranges.” People who are seeking to grow their business will not use these types of customer testimonials to help enroll new clients. They use good or glowing ones so they are for all intents and purposes meaningless. You can put them to use for you by asking specific questions about about the person who gave the testimonial and then connect with them to find out if what was said by the trainer was true.

Beautiful things in the office or gym. This one is a little tougher to overlook. Multiple studies have drawn the conclusion that “what is beautiful is good.” Blond pretty women will get more tips than women who are less striking with darker coloured hair when the level of service rendered is controlled for. More attractive defendants will receive shorter prison sentence and those with greater physical beauty will be automatically viewed as having higher skill levels in other areas even before there is any information to judge. The two barbers puzzle is an example of the beautiful is good heuristic can lead us to the wrong conclusion. This doesn’t mean that you should seek out gyms with nothing but unhealthy people, but you should be aware that you’ll form an impression in the first 15 feet of a building and within 10 seconds of meeting someone and that this impression can be easily influenced. I suggest you ignore the first impression because sellers know how to manipulate it.

Things to ask:

  • If you are having a consultation with a company, ask about the turn over rate for their trainers. Good trainers tend to stay with good companies and they tend to work for good leaders. If the staff are relatively new and no one has worked there for longer than a couple of years there may be a problem.
  • Ask the seller, if they are not the person doing the training, why people leave the company and how many of them are still working as trainers. Negative experiences with a company are a key reason why people leave the fitness industry. If the leadership of a company doesn’t know what the people are doing now, that is also a big red flag that the workers left on bad terms. This does not mean that they are not skilled trainers, they just may not be very good at relationships with their staff.
  • Ask how much the trainer will get paid if someone other than the trainer is selling you the sessions. Good trainers know their value and will seek out and stay working for companies that pay them what they are worth. If you are paying $75 per session and the trainer isn’t getting $45 to $50 of that, you are not likely to get full value for your money. A company does have a right to profit from the labour of their staff BUT the payment needs to be fair. If it isn’t, the staff will do sub par work.
  • Ask the seller about the some of the mistakes they have made in the past and what they would do differently now. Intelligent people know that they are fallible and will readily admit these mistakes. They’ll accept that they know very little in the grand scheme of things and will rely on evidence to move their understandings forward. Be very aware of the trainers who know too much or lack the humility to learn from their mistakes.
  • Ask the seller about the other ways they make an income, ask them if they recommend supplements and, if the answer is “yes”, ask directly do they sell supplements? ANYONE who sells the things they recommend CANNOT be trusted to offer objective advice about those things. Evidence based practitioners know about this conflict of interest and take appropriate steps to avoid it.

Do not be afraid to be very blunt or to challenge people about what they know and what they believe. Effective trainers know that there are a lot of under-qualified people in the industry and accept that potential clients should be skeptical. They’ll rise to occasion and give concise and honest answers to your questions. IF anything you say does the relationship in, it wasn’t going to be much of a relationship anyway.

Why I Keep Quitting Fitness Instructor Jobs

I have started instructing again after more than a year away. I am subbing for an instructor for a few months while she takes some time away to have a baby and start her family.

When I stopped last time it was right at the peak of the most successful period of my instructing career – I had been given the opportunity to create and lead a program that we called AfterBurn that used heart rate monitors and combined weights and indoor bikes to create full body work outs that challenged and improved the participants cardiovascular heath. It was really amazing to be a part of and I’m very glad that I did it. But I left it, right when it was becoming a draw for the gym. I came up with a number of reason why I stopped doing it, but it didn’t become clear until yesterday when I finished teaching a class.

Teaching a class, for me, is a performance, it isn’t a job. The lead-up is nerve-racking. It feels amazing to do, and there are times when I am sure I have helped people change their life, at least take a small step forward towards a goal, but I don’t think about it in the same way as I do about personal training, or making panels.

Personal training doesn’t feel like anything. I’m confident in my abilities and there are many right ways to go about training someone. It has been years since I was nervous about it. I’m prepared with the program and if a client shows-up with an injury or issue, we change the workout to accommodate for it. It’s really simple, almost mindless and automatic, and it doesn’t feel like anything out of the ordinary the night before work or as I drive there.

Instructing is very different. It feels like something beforehand and after 10 years and more than a 1000 classes I would have expected it to feel less and less like something. I get nervous before every class and there is a lot of anxiety. There isn’t anything else that I do in life that has this impact on me. I have been at it too long that I have to accept that the feeling is there to stay.

And I don’t like the feeling. It sucks to be completely honest; although when it leaves I do feel AMAZING and it know that the increased heart rate and being worked up does help me perform better. After 30 seconds the feeling goes away and is replaced with something else, something that is easier interpret as excitement or being on. But the build-up is negative and it does take a toll.

Being prepared doesn’t diminish the feeling much. I still remember the first class I taught, and the one I taught last night felt almost exactly the same. I have less self doubt now – even me being at my worst is still going to be an okay class. The feeling isn’t about believing that I am not good enough, not capable, or incompetent, it’s about being able to deliver a performance that is worthy of peoples limited fitness time.

And that feeling is what prevents it from being a job. Needing to be on to entertain is probably something that is fun to do, but the sense that I need to be on to be more than just an entertainer increases the stakes, and it ties my stomach in knots. It’s a feeling that is easy to turn your back on, and walk away from.

The Genius Of Harley – Our Cat

Heather was about to get onto a work call and had 2 seconds to answer my questions “what should I write about?” She pointed at Harley, our cat, so here I go.

It’s very easy to give human emotions and traits to an animal you spend a lot of time with. Cats and dogs do seem to do a lot of things that are humanish, but I think it would be more accurate to say that humans, dogs and cats do a lot of things that are mammalish. As we should, there is an enormous amount of genetic material that is shared between all living things, and there is a lot more similar with cats and dogs, and human if we were to compare any of them to trees, insects, or flowers.

So, given all of this similarity, here are some of the more interesting / important things that I could learn from Harley that will make my life better immediately:

  • Eat whenever you feel like it. If you eat when you feel like it, you’ll keep your blood sugar level in the ideal range and be more effective and productive. We tend to overeat when we believe that we won’t be able to eat for a period of time so eating smaller amounts of food more regularly throughout the day will help us learn to eat appropriate quantities of food.
  • Drink water often. Being adequately hydrated helps every bodily function. There really isn’t much more to say about it.
  • Sleep whenever you need to and move around when it feels right. The body lets you know what it needs in order to feel and function in an optimal way. Forcing it to sleep when it doesn’t need sleep is close to impossible, forcing it to exercise when it needs to rest doesn’t yield the best results. Harley doesn’t exercise much, but when she needs to she just goes for it.
  • Go through the closet and bring out the most appealing pieces of clothing that you can find. Harley drags out clothing that she finds interesting and then she’ll fall asleep on it. I don’t know why she does this, but it makes her feel good; kind of like how I do when I wear my favorite jeans and shirt.
  • Be close to members of a couple when they are home alone, but give them their space when they are home together. Harley sits beside me when I’m writing or when I’m watching TV. She does the same thing when Heather is working from home. But when one of us arrives home, and after the normal greetings, Harley gives us our space. She’ll sit near by, but not nearly as close as when one of us is home together.
  • Do everything with all of your passion, if you are going to do it at all. Harley seems to love chasing the red dot of a laser pointer. Although she has never caught it, her eyes widen every time that dot appears and she gets fired-up and ready to move. Regardless of the outcome, she focuses and works intensely to capture it.
  • Contribute as much as you can in the way that you can. Harley drags towels and socks up and down the stairs to and from the laundry room. It’s mostly useless, it takes her a long time to do it, but it is all she can do to help out so we keep giving her praise and food.

Diminishing Marginal Responsibility – Why Growing Your Team Is Destroying Your Brand

Heather has been doing a lot of leader training recently so we have been talking about the concepts and philosophical notions that being a leader is not the same thing as leading – think title vs. behavior. We agree that a title doesn’t qualify you to lead and that most people who act like a leader do not have titles.

Yesterday at work a package arrived from a big courier company; it is a company that I refuse to use given their track record of damaging everything I have ever shipped with them. It was a shelving unit that wasn’t available in the store and needed to be shipped to us from a warehouse. It weighed 71 lbs.

The courier company still has a perfect record of damage as this shipment has a number of broken pieces, was open and was missing the instructions. It is unusable so it’s getting sent back and will be replaced with another shelf that will be shipped to us using the same company. I envision this process going on forever given their propensity for damaging stuff. But who know, maybe someone with the company will handle the entire process and we’ll get our shelf.

Anyway, I close the box up and am walking into the back of our office / warehouse mindlessly wondering what would have to be true in order for every package shipped with this company to arrive damaged and it dawned on me. No one is taking responsibility for it arriving undamaged. There are simply too many people involved in the process for any one of them to actually care about it in any meaningful way.

There have been times when I have delivered panels to customers myself. In these cases I usually know that I’ll be dropping them off with the customer before I even make the panels. Given that we are a small family run company, I am the only person who has anything to do with the manufacturing. My brother or the website takes the order, gives it to me and I make and deliver it. At most, two people have their hand in the transaction, and one has the hands in the manufacturing of it.

This I believe changes things. Assuming that the order was taken and related correctly, if there is something wrong with the panels when they arrive I am 100% responsible. If they are not closed correctly, I didn’t close them correctly. If they are damaged during shipping, I damaged them. If the client has an issue, it was likely my action or inaction that cased the issue. That is the truth. No one else had anything to do with the process.

Compare this to when we ship with a smaller local company. In this instance, someone comes and picks up the boxes. They bring it to a sorting warehouse were other people or machines move it around and load it onto another truck. A different driver then drives it to the customer and drops it off. In this case, other than me, there are at least 3 other people involved in the shipping. Assuming that I did everything perfectly, three other people need to do everything perfectly for the shipment to arrive in perfect condition. If it does not arrive in perfect condition, at least one person is responsible for the damage. It should not surprise you to learn that every package we has sent using this smaller local company has arrived in perfect condition.

In two instances I have had to visit a customer after an order arrived from a big shipper. I am both pleased and shocked, please to see that the panels are in okay condition, shocked because the boxes are so beaten up. Our panels are of a high quality so it does take a lot to destroy them, but I wouldn’t have imagined just how roughed up the boxes get. When we use a big company, the boxes are bar coded so the workers can scan them or they are scanned automatically by a machine. There are at least 3 people involved in the process, but given the size of the company, I know there are going to be a lot of other people handling the boxes. With any given box, there may be 10 people handling it, I don’t know and am only guessing, but 10 seems reasonable given that they ship 10000 of boxes a day from the GTA. This means that 10 people need to do their job perfectly on order for the shipment to arrive in perfect condition. With any number above 3 or 4, the chances that this is going to happen starts to drop dramatically. In fact, the chances that 2 or more people will do their job poorly increases dramatically as the number of packages increases.

Think about it this way: One person can do a great job with one package. It’s all they have to do so they can really focus on it and they know that there is no one else to blame if things go badly. There is complete accountability so the person has and feels complete responsibility for the outcome. Three people can do a great job with a package BUT if there is an issue with it, the amount of responsibility any one member feels can be less than 100%; it’s easy to share the blame with the other two people. This is, in my experience, less likely because 3 is a small number so tracking the source of issues is very easy. As the size of the team grows tracking down issues creates an increasing challenge and, given that people figure this out, each person is able to feel less responsible for the outcome.

Phrased more succinctly there is diminishing marginal responsibility for the outcome – with each additional person added to a process, the level of responsibility that each person in the process feels decreases. In the case of my least favorite shipping company, it has grown to be so large that no one who handles my shipments feels any responsibility for the outcome (this may be too highly stated but I have NEVER received a preemptive call from them to let me know that there has been a problem and that they are going to work hard to fix it).

A company can grow to be so big that there are no leaders in it any more, and the service / quality of their products begins to deteriorate. When owners fail to act like leaders, choosing to leverage the title of leader instead, their brand starts to free-fall and client and worker churn grow to very high levels.

Why Do I Talk About The BullShit In The Fitness Industry?

A friend asked me the other day “are you bitter about personal training?”

I said “not about personal training no. It isn’t that.”

“So you are bitter about something, is that why you’ve taken some time off from the fitness industry? What is it that has left you feeling so jaded?”

“Well, it’s the all the bullshit. It’s sickening. Good people trust a bunch of liars and nothing happens. The liars get the money, the clients get screwed and the few good people in the industry get a crappy reputation or just leave.”

I feel a little bad about the statement because it wasn’t correct. I shouldn’t have called the people liars. I don’t know if they are lying, maybe they are just ignorant or greedy or cherry picking the information that supports their point of view. Regardless of their motivation, I push hard in hopes that maybe they’ll read something I write or hear me give a talk and learn something. After that point, if they continue with their bullshit, they ARE liars. I just want to remove any doubt and hopefully open their minds to how to make the industry all that it can be.

Over the last 20 years I have chosen to be mentored by people who ended-up using bullshit to shill a number of solutions to problems that don’t exist. They were mentors so I believed what they were saying, even when common sense told me that there was something amiss. I accepted their explanation because it was easier to just go along with what they were saying, parrot the stories they told as evidence, not rock the boat and definitely not spend the time to unpack and shine the light on the entire picture.

But none of those people are mentors to me now. I learned what I learned, they taught me what they need to teach. It was win:win and then it was over. I believe that most of them were doing their best, likely convinced that they were helping others completely unaware that a conflict of interest prevented them from seeing the facts. If they had children to feed and careers to build, they were highly motivated to believe that what they were doing was correct. Even now, if they are still doing the same things they were doing back then I have little doubt that they have continued to read and educate themselves with more of the same information that confirms their point of view and allows them to sleep at night.

I needed to sleep at night so we’ve parted ways and I have decided to coming clean about the lies and bullshit that are told or spewed is my attempt to redeem an industry that churns through first rate trainers while rewarding business people, all to the detriment of the clients who are brave enough to ask for help only to get screwed over.

In the words of RFK “too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives from the shattered dreams of other human beings.” I know and have seen first hand the horrible feelings that are created when someone isn’t successful at achieving a fitness goal. They lose a lot more than the money their trainer gains, they lose an entire future and a portion of their spark. It is one of the saddest things there is. All that hope and good will evaporates because they didn’t realize or were not told that the trainer supplies the smallest piece of the equation while the client is responsible for everything that is actually done. Too many people go into the trainer client relationship with win:whatever attitude as opposed to a win:win or no deal.

And that is the thing I’m trying to stop. Trying to warn people about. Trying to get fitness professionals to get on board with. Be completely honest, stop with the bullshit and understand the role you play. There are way easier ways to make a lot of money and if someone is all about the money, get out of the industry and make way for those with the right values.

Why Over-the-top Claims Make Their Utterer Rich

I have a sensitivity for bullshit in the fitness industry. It carries over to other areas of my life but it is more finely tuned in the areas of health, wellness and fitness.

Some would call me a skeptic and I’m fine with that title. I am skeptical of new and outlandish claims. I am skeptical of people who try to sell me anything. I become skeptical when I feel that someone is trying to manipulate me. I am skeptical that people are not telling me the entire story. It wasn’t always like this, there was a time when I gave people the benefit of the doubt assuming that they knew something that I didn’t.

Some of these claims are almost as unbelievable as the fact that anyone believes them.

  • ‎“I gained 11 lbs in 5 days while dropping 2% body fat simply by going to the Dominican Republic and eating their food because it is organic and more nutritionally dense”
  • “We need to take vitamins because the food quality in north America is so poor. Some oranges don’t have vitamin C anymore”
  • “They have a cure for cancer but because it’s vitamins and the pharmaceutical company’s can’t make money off them you’ll never hear about it”
  • “Cancer cannot grow in an alkaline environment, it grows in an acidic environment so alkalize your blood”
  • “You have yeast and parasites in your blood”
  • “Turn off your WiFi at night – its extremely bad for you and also for kids brains and can lead to autism”

I won’t go on, but for fun you can make up some claims yourself and consider what would need to happen in order for someone to believe them.

These bullshit claims work for a few interesting reason, so knowing these reasons will help you avoid buying stuff you don’t need or giving your money to people who are only interested in taking yours.

  • The utterer is convincing, likely because they are convinced about the truth of their statements.
  • The listener is hopeless and hearing the claim creates hope. When someone has given-up, they are more likely to believe anything that affords them some hope that things can get better or will get better. Being hopeless also makes us vulnerable
  • The claim is so outrageous that no one would possibly consider making it up.
  • The claim causes an emotional response which dulls logical thinking; fear or anger are easy to trigger and they stop logic in its tracks.
  • The listener is gullible or worse.
  • The listener has previously had challenging experiences with people or practitioners who hold the opposite point of view.
  • Believing the over the top claim is easier than not believing it.
  • The listener has had all of the “trust” buttons pushed and made the decision to trust the utterer. Some people are just extremely believable

Take the time to evaluate everything that people say when trying to sell or sign you up for something; keep in mind that with many service contracts in Ontario, you have 10 days to cancel without penalty. If you are buying a supplement, ask about a money back the guarantee and any evidence they have about its effectiveness. If the person is selling you a cure for a problem you didn’t know you have DO NOT buy it without doing your own research.

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 Working For Free Is A Bad Idea

One of the things that I dislike the most about the fitness industry are unpaid internships. Simply put, they are a scourge to everyone involved EXCEPT the person who is mandating them (usually the business owner or leadership team). This post is about the harm they do and the long lasting negative impact that asking someone to work for no compensation has on a brand, a company and the unpaid interns.

Unpaid internships are not presented as the chance to give away your time, they are presented as “opportunities” for someone to gain valuable experience. This isn’t true. They may provide someone with experience but it isn’t valuable experience when compared to getting paid for doing the same thing. The value of the experience is inverse value of the opportunity cost for gaining the experience. In terms of becoming a personal trainer, ANYONE who has the desire to help people, the willingness to work hard and a mind that is curious and open can get a training job with one of the big chain clubs. The rate of pay will not be very high, but it is infinitely higher than working for free.

Unpaid internships are presented as a chance to learn unique or cutting edge skills that will propel a career forward. Again, they are not. Good companies will pay for their employees training, they will NEVER ask the employees to buy their career development from the very company they work for. Unpaid internships do exactly that. The information they provide is just the standard way they have of doing business. There is nothing special about it and without this information, the company will not exist. It is presented as high value and cutting edge, in much the same way the company sells their services to potential customers. When you give your time away in trade for learning how to effectively work for a company, you are a customer who isn’t getting the benefit of the service.

Unpaid internships are not legal in Canada unless strict criteria are met. While it is fine to give away as much of your time as you like to a non profit organization, their are laws governing the employment (paid or otherwise) in for profit companies. Employment Insurance is one are that MUST be paid for anyone who is working for a company. The key exception here are educational internships like coops, were the school looks after all of the insurance.

Unpaid internships are bad for customers. In almost every case, customers benefit from working with the best people. While their is nothing wrong with hiring an inexperienced trainer, the price should reflect this. Less experienced trainers are less likely to identify movement errors or reinforce the emerging success patterns within a client. They don’t know what they don’t know so they are less capable or inclined to uncover the shortcuts and unpack what is actually happening. This is fine, and it shouldn’t cost as much as time with someone who knows the more direct way.

Unpaid internships are take advantage of younger people. There is something very remarkable about about the period of time between 18 and 30. There represent your first years as an adult. You are open to new things, many of your values and beliefs have not yet been form and you have an enormous amount of energy. This is the prefect recipe for exploitation, and this is what most of these unpaid internships deliver. Considering the sunk cost of giving away your time, there is often a natural tendency to over value what you learn or are taught. This inflated value can produce a dogmatic belief that is resistant to evidence and common sense. Many young adults put a lot of this time into a cause because they want to belong or contribute. The business owner benefits because they don’t have to spend the time doing, and instead get to approve or disapprove the work, forcing rewrites and finding another intern whenever one gets burned out or moves on.

My personal experience:

I have worked at two places that relied on interns to do a lot of the profitable work. In the first place, the business owner “wouldn’t get out of bed for less than $150 an hour.” I laughed when they said this because the rest of us were getting out of bed for a lot less. Their facility, their rules, I get that. But I didn’t stay very long and the turnover rate was pretty high.

At the second place, the scheduling of everything was based around the owners schedule. It had the interns coming in for education sessions mid day or at the end of the day on Friday which didn’t really work very well for anyone but the owner. There were times when early morning clients were stood-up or canceled because a trainer or intern couldn’t make it in to work with them, the owner themselves wouldn’t come into work with them because they simply didn’t want to. Again, their company, their rules, but I no longer work there and the churn rate for staff is ridiculously high, even by fitness company standards.

In both instances the nonverbal leadership message was “I don’t have to do the work I don’t want to do” and “my time is more valuable than yours”. All of the staff learned this and moved on because they didn’t want to do the work they didn’t want to do and over time they started to realize that their time was extremely valuable. Each owner was certain that they were doing things the right way and couldn’t see the dysfunctional attitude they were modeling. And they probably never will because when you surround yourself with people who will work for free you will be, by default, the smartest person in the room.