For most of us, 2016 has been quite a year. A lot has happened to make us think about who we are, and who we want to be. My year has been no different. Many of these lessons came from politics and international affairs, but I'm here to share what I learned without ever leaving the walls of TrueFN. And a lot of those smaller lessons still had the power to teach me about who I am and who I want to be.
1. Change is challenge, and challenge is good
It seems that just when our lives become consistent and stable, a wrench gets thrown in the whole operation. Right when everything is running smoothly is precisely when something breaks. When I was a kid I would torment ants by futzing with their neat and orderly rows, making them scramble about in the chaos. MWAHA! I was an evil little child. I imagine my adult self scrambling around just like those ants when an unexpected hurdle shows up. When faced with these surprises we adapt quickly, respond, and try to survive. Only after the dust has settled do we realize that these seemingly chaotic and traumatic events can turn out to be a positive in the long run. People who have lived through hunger, joblessness, injury, sickness and disease are often stronger on the other side. These unexpected hurdles can come to define us, either positively or negatively, based on how we respond. TrueFN has been lucky enough to avoid those hurdles, until this year.
TrueFN has been growing quickly and smoothly over the past 3 years. Our message has reached hundreds of new people through our blogs, website, and outreach. This brings more people in to come see us, which increases our revenue, which allows us to reinvest in equipment, and marketing materials to reach still greater numbers of people. This little process has been chugging along smoothly, until....the unexpected. TrueFN said goodbye to Kim and Christos. We wish them all the best in their future endeavors, but are of course saddened they will no longer be a part of the team.
The lesson is to prepare for rain in the sunshine, and to expect some hurdles. Challenges aren't all bad either, they can improve you if you let them. TrueFN is still growing, and we are still reaching people, and I now look forward to the next hurdles which I know will make us even better.
2. Know when to trust your gut
This year I read Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, and Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. Two great books that I'd recommend to any introspective individual, and a common theme between them. Daniel Kahneman has developed a body of research, referenced and corroborated by Malcolm Gladwell, about how we should make decisions. Sometimes we make snap judgements based on instinct (thinking fast), and sometimes we carefully consider all options before deciding (thinking slow). But when should we use each method? The answer is not what you might think, and heeding this advice has helped me greatly in 2016.
It seems, at first, that we should use snap choices for little decisions and think carefully about big ones. Things like which way to go to work, what to eat for lunch, and what to watch on TV are easy snap judgements. Things like whether to accept a new job, new relationship, or new house should all be well thought out and considered. This initial urge is actually incorrect, according to Kahneman and Gladwell. They argue that we, as humans, are hardwired to make some errors in judgment. For example, they discuss what is called the 'halo effect', meaning if you like someone, you often like everything about them. Conversely, if you don't like someone you hate everything about them. This was most apparent this year in politics, and why someone would say they hate someone's voice, hair, clothes, and even their stupid face.
To overcome our biases, we should flip the script and learn to trust our guts on big decisions. Should you buy that new house? Should you take the new job? Should you retire early? It is liberating to know that our gut instinct on these choices can often be correct. Our lists of pros and cons, and reasons why or why not often just to corroborate our gut instincts anyway.
In 2016 I had several choices come up, that I could've carefully considered and weighed options. Instead I went with my gut, and I'm glad I did. Should I trust this person? No. Should take 7 months to attend a business class. Yes! Should I buy a new house? I sure did :)
3. Look for the downsides
There are a lot of fakes out there in fitness and nutrition. People who are willing to prey on the misconceptions and hopes of unknowing trainees. They make me furious because this betrayal of trust is either intentional or incompetent, neither of which is fine by me. There is an easy test to see if someone is trustworthy. Do they share the downside? I mean, does an advice giver (financial planner, personal trainer, real estate agent) tell you the bad parts of what you are getting into? Many charlatans will tell you all the good things that can happen, but they don't tell you about the sacrifices necessary. The Yoga Booty Hip Hop Dance DVDs will tell you that your workouts should be fun and totally different every day, and you'll get the body you want. No effort, all fun, and all reward! You can tell they are full of crap, not just because their science doesn't add up, but also because they don't share with you the downsides of their program. What do you have to give up in order to gain the reward? There is always a trade off of effort before a payoff, and larger payoffs often require larger sacrifices. If there truly is no effort, you can bet on a lack of reward as well. This is an essential quality of the universe that cannot be avoided no matter what people asking for your money will tell you.
The truth is there is always a downside, and the best coaches in any field share this with their clients. Getting fit does have a downside. It's hard to pay attention to 1,000 tiny decisions until they become automatic. Squat technique takes a long time before you get to add 5lbs every week. Nutrition is both the hardest and most important aspect of physique change, and it requires more discipline than you have today. Good coaches break down the change for you, but you still have to change, and that requires some level of sacrifice. Understand this truth and you're already on your way.
4. Isn't It Ironic?
We teach people the basics of how to get fit - train with resistance 3X week, with progressively overloaded compound exercises. A lot of people hear this message, realize that it is a factual interpretation of how to improve the body, and get down to business. These people do very well, and always enjoy where they end up. But some people stumble on this point. They have been told that fitness is a matter of opinion and is up for debate. They want to try pineapple diets, and bosu balls, and body pump classes (I don't recommend any of these, by the way). These are the people who need convincing and therefore need our services the most. These are the people for whom we work the HARDEST, and yet they're often the ones who experience the slowest rate of progress.
We are in business to help people learn how to train. Some people are ready for this message, and some people aren't. Not everyone believed that the world was round (some still don't), or that the Earth revolves around the sun (some still don't). But it is precisely these occasionally irrational people who need the message the most. It is these people we don't give up on, and their progress, however interrupted or slowed by misconception, is always worth the effort.
And so I say goodbye 2016, and good riddance! I look forward to a 2017 of unexpected hurdles, trusting my gut, downsides, and wonderful ironies.