Sunday, 13 May 2018

Very Stable Idiot Week 19: May 7-13 2018


“You never change things by fighting the existing reality.  To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” - Buckminster Fuller

I wish I had Brian Mackenzie’s energy.

I’m really digging his stuff right now.  

From an Instagram post of his this week:

“if the theory of a multiverse holds true, and it is possible, what we know of existence and math could be so different in another universe nothing we understand here applies there. this is a very real possibility, that basically is a mistake.
human physiology as we understand it is basically an infinite game of give and take. this is a promising concept, as it means there is no upper limit that we understand to it all. 
human movement has as much promise as physiology does. we barely understand efficiency, and this allows physiology to expand even further. it’s really a limitless game.
human psychology as we understand it also has no upper limit on its potential. especially when that person is willing to explore, share, and evolve their thinking. we can not measure the potential of these people.

it is when we systematized any of this that we box it in, become so confined to that system nothing outside of it makes sense. we have a very peculiar place we like to hide in. it’s called answers, and it’s a blind leading the blind idea. it’s the boxing in of ones thinking and ideas without ever questioning or changing them bc we found identity, and security. these are the factors that make evolving so difficult, bc we can cling to them for decades until they stop working. that’s a long time from potential, and may seem like it’s impossible... but is it?
the only reason this mistake has worked is because of change. we do not understand the limits of our abilities based on the concept of evolution. impossible doesn’t exist.” 
- Brian Mackenzie

© Bill Watterson


”Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.” - James Baldwin 


It’s a knowledge problem

I hate this saying.

Of course it is a knowledge problem.  
If only we had enough knowledge, we would be able to figure it out.

This is mastery of the obvious at its best.

It will always be a knowledge problem.  

Knowledge of a complex system is not finite. 

It may work in math (but it doesn’t)

But sport is not physics.

The requisite knowledge does not exist to adequately explain the complex-dynamic, and ever-changing interaction of athlete, task, and environment. 

And to assume otherwise is simply ignorant or arrogant.  

‘Specialization’ will continue to be a necessary function within sport performance.  

The good within this may gain enough ‘knowledge’ to effectively ‘specialize’ in more than one area.  

The better will combine this multiple-specialization with a basic understating of the interactions - the complexities.  

The best will combine their basic understanding with others’ basic understanding, and build a network through which we can one day hope to be somewhat more confident in what we do than what we are today.

That’s about the best we can hope for:

An ever-evolving and expanding complex system of its own.

“It's not physics that's complicated, it's the universe that physics describes that is complicated. At one time physicists had the very naive belief that the basic physical ideas were and should be "both simple and beautiful." Apparently, nothing could be further from the truth.” - Rory Coker

Sprinters & Balls

An often-used analogy compares a sprinter to a ball (most-recently heard on the hmmrmedia podcast by California High School Coach Brian FitzGerald): ‘the harder you throw a ball into the ground, the further it will bounce’.  

This is indeed true - as long as the size, shape, and consistency of the ball is constant.  But there are many types of balls.  And many types of athletes.

It is not only about the force with which you throw the ball; it has as much - maybe more - to do with what the ball is made of.  

I don’t care how hard you throw a nerf ball, for example - it is not going to go very far.


"Positive thinking doesn’t help you do everything but it helps you do anything better than negative thinking" - Zig Ziglar

“There is nothing quite so tragic as a young cynic, because it means the person has gone from knowing nothing to believing nothing.” - Maya Angelou


“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” - Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Translated to sport:

To not know yourself is dangerous, but to not know your competition is worse. 

Without the knowledge of your competition, you are unaware of the opportunities that they may present to you; and perhaps worse - you are unaware of the opportunities you may present to them.

I was texting with my friend Kebba the other night.

The conversation went something like this:

SM: I don’t know anything.

KT: me either dude

SM: no really! I’m serious

KT: yeh - I know!  Me too

And on like that for about ten minutes

Coaching is hard.  

How to organize training and systems to best mitigate potentially negative experiences is challenging in and of itself: add to that the win-at-all costs mentality of many coaches, athletes, managers, etc. who choose to circumvent rules as they pertain to the illicit use of pharmaceuticals; then multiply it all by the increasingly insane amounts of money in sport (see the ridiculousness that is the NCAA, with athletic department budgets of small country GDPs, and high school kids that are being marketed for millions by over-zealous parents), and you've got an almost impossibly chaotic stew of dysfunction, that may have its solutions not in sport, but in repairing a ME-NOW society that is currently more interested in rewarding the cult of personality than in working together to create a better society. 

Ack …

In training, we often say that the micro dictates the macro. Focus on what we can control here-now - layer enough good experiences on top of each other until we create some positive momentum - and eventually, we should expect a positive macro effect. 

But I'll be honest - to reach the critical mass necessary for positive, scalable macro change, when the system has clearly gone way past complex into full-on chaos, is perhaps out of our reach. 

“man is so addicted to systems and to abstract conclusions that he is prepared deliberately to distort the truth, to close his eyes and ears, but justify his logic at all cost.” - Fyodor Dostoevsky

Our greasiest challenge in ‘dealing’ with complexity is perhaps our inability to understand how things actually work in practice.  

We observe something happen (for example, a training response), and then attach meaning to it through a reasonable theory of some sort (for example, Selye’s GAS).   We treat the adaptation to load as simple cause and effect - a stable, closed, predictable system.  

We know it is complex, and yet we still doggedly squeeze it into a simplistic model.  

It is one thing to criticize our response to a complex system, however; it is another entirely to offer a viable - real-world - solution.  

To critique our reductionist approach - knowing all along that we are dealing not with a deterministic and predictable structure, but with open-ended, complex, and dynamic humans - is totally fair game.  

I have offered words prior to this about possible solutions to this challenge.  But at this point, perhaps they remain only that - words. 

I do not pretend that devising a system based on heuristics, will offer us a better solution to the traditional ‘periodization models’, for example. 

Or maybe I do - but am so lost in the complexity of it all that I no longer understand the difference. 

‘Complexity’ is not something that can be eliminated.  

That is aphorism numero uno: our starting point. 

Like all 12 Step Programs, we begin with 'admission'.

Philosopher Miguel de Beistegui was asked what it was that made him become a philosopher:  “It all started in my last year at school in France. I remember vividly my first philosophy class, on Plato’s Republic. I felt the world was opening up, and in a way, I had never experienced before. I felt the magical power of concepts to reveal and guide us through the complexity of the world. I marveled at the very existence of those creatures, which are at once abstract and absolutely real, strangely ideal, yet also strangely physical. I felt, for the same time, what thinking might mean and involve.”

Normal Accidents

Charles Perrow argues that there is a particular class of accidents that are normal, inevitable - and are often disastrous. 

These exist in complex systems, with multiple interactions and dependencies, where it is impossible to predict cause from effect.   

With design limitations, equipment failures, procedural errors, operator error, problems in supplies and materials, and unknown variables in the environment (‘DEPOSE’), unforeseen complications are a natural part of the system.  

Kelly Starrett summarizes this as ‘trivial events in non-trivial systems’: multiple elements across the DEPOSE simultaneously interacting producing unpredictable results.  

This is ‘normal’.

The Interaction of the Simples

Architect Matthew Frederick in 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School identifies three levels of knowing:

  1. Simplicity: the worldview of the child or uninformed adult; fully engaged in his own experience and unaware of what lies beneath the surface of immediate reality.
  2. Complexity: the ‘normal’ adult worldview, where we are aware of a complex system but do not have the ability to discern clarifying patterns and connections
  3. Informed simplicity: an enlightened view of reality. It is founded upon an ability to discern or create clarifying patterns within complex systems

Perhaps our objective is not in ‘understanding’ the complexity - a never-ending quest for more knowledge, but in identifying the patterns that create order, and encouraging multiple experiences.  

To relentlessly simplify.  

The Shayne Parrish understanding of informed simplicity is in Neo-generalism, borrowed from Kenneth Mikkelsen and Richard Martin: “We become the generalist, with a few big ideas from each discipline that we can combine to understand the forces at play.” 

Also from 101 Things …:

Figure Ground Theory: We inhabit the spaces of our built environment, not the solid walls, roofs, and columns that shape it. The space that results from placing figures should be considered as carefully as the figures themselves

No design system is or should be perfect: designers are often hampered by the well-intentioned, but erroneous belief that a good Design solution is perfectly systematic and all-encompassing. But nonconforming oddities can be enriching, humanizing aspects

Draw the box it came in: when something seems too complex to draw, first draw the box you imagine it came in

"Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context- a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, an environment in a city plan." - Eliel Saarinen

Think about how the above relates to coaching.

“We must strive to reach that simplicity that lies beyond sophistication.” - John Gardner

More from Gardner, from his wonderful essay Personal Renewal, delivered to McKinsey & Company, Phoenix, AZ on November 10, 1990:

“There's a myth that learning is for young people. But as the proverb says, "It's what you learn after you know it all that counts." The middle years are great, great learning years. Even the years past the middle years. I took on a new job after my 77th birthday -- and I'm still learning.”
“Learn all your life. Learn from your failures. Learn from your successes, When you hit a spell of trouble, ask "What is it trying to teach me?" The lessons aren't always happy ones, but they keep coming. It isn't a bad idea to pause occasionally for an inward look. By midlife, most of us are accomplished fugitives from ourselves.”
“But life isn't a mountain that has a summit, Nor is it -- as some suppose -- a riddle that has an answer. Nor a game that has a final score. 
"Life is an endless unfolding, and if we wish it to be, an endless process of self-discovery, an endless and unpredictable dialogue between our own potentialities and the life situations in which we find ourselves.”
"Meaning is not something you stumble across, like the answer to a riddle or the prize in a treasure hunt. Meaning is something you build into your life. You build it out of your own past, out of your affections and loyalties, out of the experience of humankind as it is passed on to you, out of your own talent and understanding, out of the things you believe in, out of the things and people you love, out of the values for which you are willing to sacrifice something. The ingredients are there. You are the only one who can put them together into that unique pattern that will be your life. Let it be a life that has dignity and meaning for you. If it does, then the particular balance of success or failure is of less account."
"There are men and women who make the world better just by being the kind of people they are."

It was from the introduction of this essay where I read about the barnacle:

"The barnacle is confronted with an existential decision about where it's going to live. 

Once it decides, it spends the rest of its life with its head cemented to a rock.”


2 primary means to get faster:

1. Build a bigger battery 
2. Greater efficiency

We know a ton about the first one; not a lot about the 2nd


Most mammals are born with intrinsic motivation in movement. Moments of joyful exuberance, showing off, playing, exploring, challenging themselves. But then something happens. With horse & human athletes, that "something" is often called "training". Never too late to change, tho - @intrinzen



The Joe Rogan Experience – Sleep Expert and Neuroscientist Dr. Matthew Walker

There are two types of sleep:
  • REM Sleep
  • Non-REM Sleep (of which there are 4 stages, stages 1-4)

In stages 3 and 4, that’s where a lot of body replenishment takes place

These are the stages of sleep that one half of your brain will resist going into when you’re sleeping in a foreign environment

ALL stages of sleep are important

“Mother nature wouldn’t waste time putting you into a state that wasn’t necessary”

Light and Sleep:

“We are a dark deprived society in this modern era” – this lack of darkness is destroying our quality of sleep
  • Incandescent light bulbs suppress melatonin
  • Screen usage suppresses it even further
  • One hour of iPhone use will delay the onset of melatonin production by about 3 hours
  • Your peak melatonin levels will also be 50% less
  • All of this adds up to less REM sleep

What should a person do if they have a hard time falling or staying asleep?
  • Regularity is most important – go to bed, and wake up at the same time every day
  • The last hour of the day, stay away from any screens
  • Turn off most of the lights in your house at night 2-3 hours before bed
  • Keep your room cool
  • Your brain needs to drop its temperature 2-3 °F in order to sleep

Sleep and Evolution
  • Hunter-gatherer tribes tended to go to sleep 2 hours after dusk when the climate temperature started to drop
  • They also got up about 30 or so minutes before dawn – due to the rise in temperature
  • Midnight should actually be the middle of the night, and now midnight has become the time where we check Facebook

The shorter your sleep on average, the shorter your life
Short sleep predictall-causese mortality

“You don’t know you’re sleep deprived, when you’re sleep deprived”

Daylight savings time:
  • In the spring, when we lose an hour of sleep, we see a 24% increase in heart attacks
  • In the fall, when we gain an hour of sleep, there’s a 21% decrease in heart attacks
  • One study found that, with one week of 6 hours of sleep per night, 711 genes were distorted in their activity
  • 1/2 of those genes experienced an increase in activity – these were genes related to the promotion of tumors, genes related to chronic inflammation, and genes associated with stress (and therefore cardiovascular disease)
  • 1/2 of these genes were suppressed – many of these were genes related to immune response, so we become immune deficient with a lack of sleep

Sleep and Medicine:
  • Most doctors only have about 2 hours of sleep education in their medical curriculum
  • Residents working a 30 hours shift are 460% more likely to make diagnostic errors in the intensive care unit, relative to when they’re working 16 hours
  • If you have surgery, you should ask your surgeon how much sleep they’ve had in the last 24 hours
  • If they’ve had 6 hours of sleep or less – you have a 170% increased risk of a major surgical error
  • 1 in 5 medical residents will make an error due to insufficient sleep, 1 in 20 medical residents will kill a patient due to a fatigue related error
  • “The one place where you need a good night of sleep the most, in the hospital, is the one place you can’t get it”

“Sleep is the elixir of life. It is the most widely available and democratic powerful healthcare system I could ever possibly imagine.”


Kevin Kelly

Been meaning to read this one for a while, and so far, it is excellent.  

Highlights from just the first few chapters:

It may be against our initial impulse, but we should embrace the perpetual remixing of these technologies. Only by working with these technologies, rather than trying to thwart them, can we gain the best of what they have to offer.
Our greatest invention in the past 200 years was not a particular gadget or tool but the invention of the scientific process itself.
Everything is becoming.
We keep inventing new things that make new longings, new holes that must be filled.
The problems of today were caused by yesterday’s technological successes, and the technological solutions to today’s problems will cause the problems of tomorrow. This circular expansion of both problems and solutions hides a steady accumulation of small net benefits over time. Ever since the Enlightenment and the invention of science, we’ve managed to create a tiny bit more than we’ve destroyed each year. But that few percent positive difference is compounded over decades into what we might call civilization.
... we tend to see new things from the frame of the old. We extend our current perspective to the future, which in fact distorts the new to fit into what we already know.


“Trump is what he is, a floundering, inarticulate jumble of gnawing insecurities and not-at-all compensating vanities, which is pathetic. Pence is what he has chosen to be, which is horrifying.” - George Will



"At the end of every road, you meet yourself." - S. N. Behrman


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