Sunday, 8 April 2018

Very Stable Idiot Week 14: April 2 - 8 2018


Bollocks to Passion 
  • discipline 
  • purpose 
  • patience

These are far more important that passion


When your ideas get stolen
Seth Godin

A few meditations:

Good for you. Isn't it better that your ideas are worth stealing? What would happen if you worked all that time, created that book or that movie or that concept and no one wanted to riff on it, expand it or run with it? Would that be better?

You're not going to run out of ideas. In fact, the more people grab your ideas and make magic with them, the more of a vacuum is sitting in your outbox, which means you will be prompted to come up with even more ideas, right? 

Ideas that spread win. They enrich our culture, create connection and improve our lives. Isn't that why you created your idea in the first place?

The goal isn't credit. The goal is change.

Finding opportunities to become a better coach

We talk about the 24-hour athlete - what about the 24-hour coach?

I don’t mean that we have to be thinking about coaching 24 hours a day … that’s the fast road to burnout.

What I mean is that there are specific opportunities that we can take advantage of that can improve out coaching.

Understand that becoming a better coach is not a passive process. 

We don’t just show up at practice and get better through osmosis.

We need to work on it. 

And if we are reliant only on the 10-15 hours a week we actually see athletes, are really maximizing our opportunities?  

Seeking out opportunities:

I spend 90 minutes to 2 hours in my car, or on my bike every day.  

And while it is easy to drift off, and daydream - especially when we are traveling a familiar road, it is just as easy to actively work on being a better coach. 

One way is to listen to podcasts and audiobooks.

But another is to simply BE

Being attentive, and mindful - and aware of everything that is going on at practice is a trait that most successful coaches share.

And we can find opportunities to develop this skill outside of the track, weight room, field, or court.

It is pretty rare now that I find myself drifting off mid-practice - there is simply far too much going on - far too many decisions, far too many thoughts competing for attention in my brain, that time to daydream is never available to me.

I’d like to think that I developed this skill not just through the couple of decades I’ve been coaching - but in becoming more mindful and attentive in general.  

By simply seeking opportunities to work on being attentive, we become better coaches.  

Some highlights from the 1st (hopefully annual) Sport Movement Skill Conference, organized by my buddy Shawn Mzycka

- From Twitter feed - hashtag #WeAreTheMovement 

“Coaching vs. Learning. 

Parameters change, task goal remains.   Variability increases, general motor patterns remains. Skill acquisition is always a perception-action coupling phenomena. But do I acquire a skill? Or do I master the art of dexterity.”
  • Harjiv Singh

“Perception is putting meaning to attractor states and affordance. Optimal success is therefore using this meaning to solve a motor problem in which perturbations and fluctuations are key to motor control.”
  • Harjiv Singh

“It’s a search problem (Intention) 
Not a repetition and load problem.”
  • Karl Newell

“open chaotic drills can be used in foundational ways and don't need to be perfected in controlled drills. Keep em coupled!”
  • Cam Josse

“Injuries might be accidents or coincidences but RE-INJURIES are NOT
Coaches/Therapists need to take that personally. Own those outcomes”
  • Scott Salwasser

"you have to muddy the waters!" Aka layer in complexity in the tasks/problems to solve
  • Scott Salwasser

“It’s arguably harder to create an environment and let that environment facilitate learning than make a list of drills and explicitly coach” 
  • Michael Zweifel

I would argue that it is not arguably harder at all! 

It is definitely harder; and probably the biggest reason why many coaches stick to drills.  

“finding the "sweet spot" within our practice tasks is a constant driver of how we attempt to acquire skills (no matter what the level of athlete is)”
  • Shaun Larkin

“An issue with the use of internal cues in the research is that they are cues most coaches wouldn’t use & aren’t individualized to the athlete”
  • Rob Gray

“The degree of how much decomposition of the movement task/solutions (part-whole) should occur in practice depends on the specific task & a whole host of other factors”
  • Karl Newell

“Much of research focuses on biomechanics and forgets the brain (psychology) and behavior (coordination dynamics). 
They all interact and influence each other; unwise to study only one without consideration of the others”
  • Karl Newell

“coordination is a function that constrains the free variables into a behavioral unit whereas control is a process whereby values are assigned/parameterized in the function.”
  • Karl Newell

“Do we coordinate then control? Control then coordinate? Or coordinate and control? Think whole body”
  • Harjiv Singh

Rules for social media engagement - communicate like you would in person. 

Don’t edit your words because you’re sitting behind a keyboard.  

Be respectful.  
Be kind.  
Be funny.  
Be sarcastic.  

Just don’t be an idiot

From Ego is the Enemy:

Frank Shamrock system of:
‘Plus, minus, and equal’

Each athlete needs someone better they can learn from
Someone they are better than they can teach
And someone equal that can challenge them 

Earn your opinion 

"Talent is only the starting point"

Irving Berlin

What are you going to do with it?

To be, or to do?
Do you want to be someone who does stuff, or someone who talks about doing stuff?

I’m reading lots on John Boyd lately.  
More to come on this at a later date.

I see a lot of young athletes doing a lot of talking. 

Not a lot doing a lot of doing. 

Maybe it’s the same with coaches. 

We are most blind to our own biases

“If I take death into my life, acknowledge it, and face it squarely, I will free myself from the anxiety of death and the pettiness of life – and only then will I be free to become myself.”

Martin Heidegger


We wait until the perfect time before we do something. 

But the perfect time will never arrive. 

We wait because we fear critique, because we are insecure. Because we are unsure. 

But we should never allow the criticism to determine our fate. 

If you have never been critiqued, you have probably never produced anything. 

The more you contribute to this world, the more you will be criticized. 

Aim to contribute more than you criticize. 

In perhaps Theodore Roosevelt's most famous speech 'Citizenship in the Republic', he rails against the cynic who sits upon his lofty perch looking down on those who are trying to make the world a better place. 

“The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer,” he said. “A cynical habit of thought and speech, a readiness to criticize work which the critic himself never tries to perform, an intellectual aloofness which will not accept contact with life's realities—all these are marks, not ... of superiority, but of weakness.” 

The speech is better known for the following paragraph - a favorite of many, including myself:

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

A reminder to all haters: being a cynic; being detached; being aloof - these don't make you cool. 

What does make you cool is getting stuck in. 
Sticking your neck out ... every day.  

Taking the chance that what you produce, share, or write will be shot down. 

or perhaps fail. 

And doing it anyway. 

"Aggressiveness thrives in insecure bullies. It's their way of creating support for the motive in their movement." 

- Shawn Myzska


The Paradox of Social Media in S&C:

If you share detailed info: You’re perceived as arrogant.
If you don’t share any info: You’re perceived as being “secretive.”
If you share stuff that is vague on description but looks fancy: You’re perceived as an expert.


I’ve had Audible for a few years, and have built up a pretty large list of credits through all my Amazon purchases.  But somehow, I have never listened to a book before this week.  I generally like to listen to podcasts and music, and really enjoy the act of reading, and the ability it gives me to re-read, pause, note-take, etc., so don’t find myself  ever listening to books, to be honest.

When Brett recommended The Crystallization of Public Opinion last week, I had just received an email from Audible about my credits, so I figured - why not?  I’ll order it, and listen to it.  I can’t say I enjoyed this more than the actual read - and ended up buying the book anyway - but it was better than I thought, so I decided to give it another try this week.  First, I listed to Peter Drucker’s classic Managing Oneself, which I have read a bunch of times (its short - you can probably get through it in less than an hour).  

Then I listened to The End of Average over the next two days.  

I can’t say enough about this book, and ordered the Kindle copy immediately.  

I need to go through it again to make more notes, and explore some of the things I want; but here’s a brief overview, and a couple of highlights:

The End of Average
Todd Rose

I’m sure you can guess the theme from the title, and perhaps have made an assumption on the type of book this is, also - as I did.  I assumed this was a written celebration of our individuality - that we strive to be more / better / different - that this would be a typical example of what we see in the self-help section.  But I had bought it - and though I normally don’t buy such books, I figured I had bought it for a reason, so I’d give it a shot.  

And it is excellent.  

The End of Average shows that most of our social and institutional systems over the last couple centuries have been designed around the average person - and this - and the fact that this average person does not actually exist - has had far-reaching negative implications in the current manifestation of these systems.  Rose particularly focus on education.

To illustrate Rose’s thesis as it relates to education, consider my own journey:

  • I graduated high school in 1987.  
  • I graduated University in 2003.

That’s right - it took me 15 years to get a degree. 
Not quite the ‘average’ path - no doubt.

Through that time-span, 

  • I coached at an Olympic Games, 
  • started 2 successful businesses and 
  • 2 failed businesses, 
  • taught a graduate-level University class for 5 years (even though I was not even an undergraduate degree holder), 
  • and traveled to almost every corner of the world.  

This 15 years - between high school graduation and University graduation - served to set the table for the next 15 - where I have gone on to enjoy a fruitful, successful, and enjoyable personal and professional life (I’ll spare you the boring details).

How much of my current situation would have been possible if I had rushed through University at the age of 17, picked up my degree in 1991, and jumped into the workplace, as - say - a personal trainer? Or even gone on to complete a Masters?

The first 15 years of my career was my apprenticeship.  

I had opportunities to learn from Master Coaches, work alongside similarly developing peer coaches, and teach athletes and young coaches. 

(Think back to the Frank Shamrock system above … works in any avenue of developing expertise) 

As an aside - 

It’s such a shame that coaches don’t normally take this path anymore.  

Impatient to get into to the business, and earn a living, or get a job on a professional team, they rush through what should not be rushed. 

Lacking real work experience - lacking a true apprenticeship - lacking the necessary ingredients of a coach, their growth is stunted, and the overall quality of the typical coach is reduced.  

Reduction through dilution. 

It took me a decade of coaching before I earned a cent from it. 

And another 5 years before I didn’t have to have a side-hustle to pay for my ‘coaching habit’

Although I don’t expect - nor want - this to be the norm, young coaches require more patience.  

And they should lose the expectation that they deserve a job just because they have a Master’s degree and a couple of internships. 

Be better.  

The cream always rises to the top.

It just takes time. 

The outline of Rose’s book is built mainly around the critique of work of four men:

  • Adolphe Quetelet
  • Sir Francis Galton
  • Fredrick Winslow Taylor
  • Edward Thorndike

Rose argues that, primarily due to the influence of the work of these four men, our social institutions ignore our individuality, and thus quash many would-be exceptional people and achievements, because they fail to fit into a society-deemed evaluation.  

Rose argues that evaluating people by average measures is fallacious.  

He goes on to identify many exceptions where people, and companies, have succeeded by straying from the norm, and instead, embracing their individuality.  

I particularly enjoyed finding out about how our obsession with averagerianism came about.  The stories of titans Quetelet, Galton, Taylor, and Thorndike, are further reminders that life progresses.  That knowledge accumulates.  That “without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning” (Benjamin Franklin). 

Which is a further reminder of the frustration we have with many leaders today, and their continued denial of progress. 

Holding on to centuries-old proclamations, because they were written by wise men, and written down in important documents, at important times, is not an excuse to continue living by their creed (ahem - 2nd amendment).

An example of averagerian thinking gone wrong:

In 1950, the US Air Force measured 140 dimensions of over 4,000 different pilots and used the average of these measurements to design their first-ever standard airplane cockpit.

Not one pilot fit the dimensions of the cockpit. 

In fact, when using just three of these dimensions – neck, thighs and wrists – only 3.5 percent of pilots fit these averages. 
So, by using 140 dimensions, the Air Force were essentially ensuring their cockpit would fit no one.  

The Air Force were quick to remedy this, and led the way into building adaptable cockpits, which became adjustable seats in vehicles, and thusly saved many a pilot’s - and driver’s - life; by simply allowing each individual to comfortably use the controls. 

Finally - there is lots to learn here for coaches.  

Periodization (as Winslow-Taylor is often credited as the unknowing father of periodization for sport), dynamical systems, analysis-aggregation, LTAD, education pathways, and much more.  

Pick it up.

“This assumption (that society should be built around the average) has led us to:Brain models that match no person’s brain,Standardized medical therapies that target nobody’s physiology,Financial credit policies that penalize credit-worthy individuals,College admission strategies that filter out promising students,Hiring policies that overlook exceptional talent”
- Todd Rose

Managing Oneself
 - Peter Drucker

"Successful careers are not planned. They develop when people are prepared for opportunities because they know their strengths, their method of work, and their values. Knowing where one belongs can transform an ordinary person — hardworking and competent but otherwise mediocre — into an outstanding performer."

So says Peter F Drucker in Managing Oneself; he details how we can achieve excellence from a combination of working from our strengths, and understanding ourselves - asking five questions in the process:

  1. What are my strengths?

Drucker recommends we focus primarily on our strengths; it will take you far more effort and energy to improve your weaknesses to simply mediocre, rather than your strengths from good to excellent. Your strengths define who you are. 

  1. How do I perform?

Understanding how you work best is key to success. Do you work best alone?  With a group of I here? Are you a natural leader?  Perhaps you have the personality to better be a number two?  Knowing how you function within society, and your peer group is paramount to getting the best out of yourself. 

  1. What are my values?

Values are and should be the ultimate test.  What kind of person do we want to see in the mirror in the morning, and does what we do, and who we work with align with these values?

  1. Where do I belong?

Too often, we make a choice for our cures when we don't have the experience or knowledge-base (typically, these decisions are made at college-age level). Drucker recommends constantly evaluating what our strengths are, what our preferred work style is,, and what our values are. Work always to align your environment to these qualities. Don't be afraid to switch mid-stream. 

  1. What can I contribute?

Drucker recommends taking fairly short-view plans of about 18 months, and asking ourselves "where and how can I achieve results that will make a difference within the next year and a half?"

He states that the answer should balance three things: 

  • it should be difficult to achieve; 
  • the results should be meaningful; and 
  • the results should be visible, and measurable. 

Words to live by


You did not choose your:
  1. birthplace
  2. skin color
  3. birth parents, family
  4. birth gender
  5. birth language
  6. birth name
  7. ethnicity
  8. born abilities

You can choose to be:
  1. kind
  2. generous
  3. honest
  4. grateful
  5. respectful
  6. optimistic
  7. humble
  8. teachable
  9. faithful
  10. happy

- Vala Afshar