I do my best to fly under the radar (phrase and advice supplied by Eva T years ago)—to do my thing, do it as well as I can, and let the rest slide off my back. Unfortunately I appear to be a drama magnet and have found it impossible to escape. The particulars of my own struggle are not important for this article—the point is that even doing my best to avoid it, it surrounds me. It pervades the fitness and strength & conditioning industry, the flame oxidized by the cheapness of words in an online world with little consequent and virtually no accountability. It’s an epic and unending battle among—to borrow another term,this time from Ross Enamait— keyboard warriors.
Last weekend, Aimee and I traveled up to Chico, CA to give a weightlifting clinic at NorCal Strength & Conditioning, the gym now owned and run stupendously by my former partners in the business, Robb Wolf and Nicki Violetti, and then stay a few more days just to enjoy the company of two of my favorite people this side of the universe. The four of us have many connections to many people in this lovely industry of ours, and inevitably, many of those people arose naturally in conversation. What amazed and aggravated me was that the more we talked shop, the more negative we all became, the more bad things we had to say about more people, and the more exasperating it became to simply be involved with any of it.
The overwhelming majority of beef out there is a direct result of trainers, coaches and athletes doing things differently and being convinced that everyone else is doing it wrong. This in and of itself is not necessarily problematic, and is actually exactly what should be happening—if you don’t believe what you’re doing is the best way to do it, what the fuck are you doing it for? The problem lies in the attitudes that arise within this context, and the public and private belittling of those poor misguided assholes who have yet to learn what each of us knows so well already.
This is not to say that there shouldn’t be a running debate among professionals about how to best accomplish any given set of goals—that’s how progress is made, along with competition and the resulting comparison of results. However, instead of a civilized and productive exchange of ideas and methods, we get the kind of futile bickering and vicious insults one would expect from children whose parents didn’t have the foresight to beat them when appropriate.
This is not remarkably complicated, and I’m not sure why exactly people are having so much trouble not being complete dicks. Maybe it’s the internet environment and the sense of safety from repercussion it provides—it’s remarkably easy to talk shit when you’re not on the receiving end of a fist, and when you’re able through cleverness and calculation to create a public persona that conveniently disguises any of your shortcomings. If a hairy 45-year old man in his mother’s basement can be a nubile 17 year-old girl online, a mediocre trainer or athlete can pretty easily become amazing. Of course, this excuse assumes that we’re only polite and friendly in response to the fear of consequences; I’d like to believe that people might be able to simply act with respect for its own sake. Maybe that’s a silly notion I should just abandon.
I’m not asking anyone to re-align their chakras, synchronize their vibrational frequencies with each other, hold hands and sing, or any other distasteful new-age tomfoolery; I’d just like to see us focusing on what’s important, and what we’re ostensibly in business to do—produce better athletes, trainers and coaches.
Josh Everett (no, we’re still not related) touched on this in his article last month, Why Dots
. It takes a lot of time and energy to so vehemently criticize someone or their methods, time and energy that could be much better spent improving your own methods, researching others, experimenting, and training yourself and your athletes. This kind of criticism and juvenile bad-mouthing does nothing to improve your own abilities, and any assistance it provides through ego-stroking is minor and short-lived at best. Further, it limits your ability to contribute to the progress of others by creating a reputation for yourself that most will find repellant. You can take a brash stance and tell these people to go fuck themselves, tell yourself you don’t want that kind of lightweight as a client or associate anyway, and return to reveling in your own glory, but it will catch up to you eventually, and when it does, talking yourself out of it with the same tongue that caused the crash will likely not be an option.
If you’re convinced that your approach is superior, why not simply continue implementing it, demonstrating its efficacy, and inviting others to learn about it if they so desire? And if they don’t—and here’s the key—LEAVE THEM THE FUCK ALONE. If their methods are inferior and ineffective, they pose no genuine threat to you or your business, and consequently don’t deserve your attention and effort. And when confronted with a challenge, trust in the superiority of your methods to make the case, not personal attacks that have no bearing on the argument at hand.
This really isn’t asking that much: Just that professionals be professional.