January 30th

You Don’t Have to Stay On Top of Everything

“If you wish to improve, be content to appear clueless or stupid in extraneous matters – don’t wish to seem knowledgeable. And if some regard you as important, distrust yourself.” – Epictetus, Enchiridion, 13a

Prioritize. Celebrity gossip? Your competitor’s training schedule? The latest episode of GoT? All just clutter to your mind. If somebody exclaims “how have you not heard of this!”, simply answer back “because it’s of no importance to me.”

I like that in the text that follows, The Daily Stoic makes a point of saying there are still certain things you should keep up to date. Out of duty to the things that matter to you (e.g. family), you should be aware of the things that can affect them.

As a coach, I’ve definitely fallen to the trap of knowledge FOMO. I think it’s helped me (to a certain extent) become a better generalist, but it has also stretched me out thin. Somebody with more anxiety would be overwhelmed when they realize the vastness of information that is available, and the finite amount of time they can dedicate to absorbing all of it. I now feel I have a better grasp of what I need to focus on, and what I am OK with appearing less knowledgeable on. Arguably, I can only say this because I’ve been through the FOMO phase.

Finally, praise can make you forget that you don’t know. It can pull you back to the peak of Mt. Dunning-Kruger. Stay humble.

Not much in terms of training notes, besides “figure out how to properly call starts, and bring stopwatch”. Not my best day, for sure.

  • The spectrum of “converters”, as Dan would call it, is probably just another way of talking about somebody’s elastic qualities. Can it be improved? For sure. Probably easier to go from Shit to Suck, maybe even to Good, than to go from Good to Great. Genetics probably play too much of a role to reach Great. Also, gotta consider opportunity cost. Time is zero-sum.
  • Know what you can say, when you can say it, with who you can say it, and how to say it. Sounds so obvious, but we can always improve on this.
  • Simultaneously, foster mental resiliency. I should be aware of sensitive subjects, but if a single question can shatter somebody, there’s some work to be done here too.
  • On that note, something I’ve applied many times when coaching DB, and I can’t tell who’s at fault : Blame Everybody. Chances are, both need work anyways.
  • Stories are how we first learned things, but it doesn’t work anymore once we go Complex.

January 29th : Keep it Simple

Marcus says to approach each task as if it were your last, because it very well could be. And even if it isn’t, botching what’s right in front of you doesn’t help anything. Find clarity in the simplicity of doing your job today. – The Daily Stoic

Though you should have a clear image of where you are headed in the long run, the only thing you can truly direct your efforts on is the immediate present. As an athlete, this is primordial to proper focus during practice, but as a coach this can be a more complicated concept to grasp.

We are all about fancy planning schemes and perfect periodization, but how well can we actually predict adaptations? John Kiely was the first to really get me thinking about this, and Frans Bosch brought this idea up again. Indeed, complex systems (and the human body is most definitely complex) are very difficult to plan for. Instead, we should design our training as a series of small experiments – the probe, from which we gain more information – sense, and design the next step of the program – the response.

Always write your programs in pencil.

Finally going to catch up on Altis notes.

  • All da best, do ya ting.
  • D.O.M. – Alex Atala. Most definitely on the bucket list of places to eat, thanks to a second viewing of Chef’s Table. I just found out that it means Deo Optimo Maximo (optimum in wisdom, maximal in forgiveness). I can definitely see this fitting with my view of Spinoza’s god.
  • There’s a wonderful quote from part 1 of the Frans Bosch interview about how the most technically proficient hammer throwers are the ones who can quickly figure out how to throw pretty much anything. I definitely feel the same way about paddlers, and it definitely can be related back to ideas of LTAD and multi-sport athletes. Having a wide history of different movement skills gives you the best library to refer from when figuring out a new movement puzzle. Variation in skill learning to challenge the connections, and optimize flow. Stu again brings some good thoughts on this.
  • Along those lines, Stu saying that he is willing to share any program a person wants. No fear of revealing some trade secrets. Anyways, paraphrasing here, “without context, a training program means very little.”
  • Jas brought up this article from the New York Times, which definitely relates to Dan Pink’s ideas in Drive, and this picture about Nietzsche. Again, infinity projects. The motivation one can derive from being dedicated to something greater than yourself is beyond measure.
  • Stu likes to control what the athlete knows. They only get to have video/Freelap feedback when he decides it. There are times when he wants the athlete feeling uncomfortable, probably as part of the skill learning process. I like this, and will probably apply it more as I evolve.
  • CM is a very interesting character. I feel you need a loud mouth joker on every team, though I’d also say I can’t imagine having MORE than one. Definitely harder to manage, and can rub others the wrong way. Harness his energy properly, though, and I think there’s much to be gained by his presence.

Some thoughts from a talk with Jas on performance therapy.

  • The philosophy behind the use of “corrective exercises” tends to be too reductionist.
  • The clinical audit process, which I like, needs to be expanded. Sure, you retest and see improvement, but are you sure your test even translates to the activity you’re trying to improve?
  • When learning new skills, make sure to include a period for skill stabilization. Same idea could be applied to therapeutic input.
  • From a Bernstein motor learning POV, we should think of therapy as a way to manipulate DFs.
  • Theory : “Fascial” athletes are impressive because of their amazing communication system.
    • At a macro level, their body connects very efficiently to direct any/all force exactly where they want.
    • At a micro level, their ECM structure also communicates well, so you get more ROI for a given input of mechanotransduction.
  • What exactly is “dysfunction”? From Stu : “‘dysfunction’ is a non-specific term – we all exist somewhere on a continuum of function-dysfunction; therefore, where is the line on the continuum where pathology ends, and ‘function’ begins.”
  • Never drink the Kool-Aid!

Finally, from an in-service on how to develop your coaching eye.

  • Be intentionally attentive
  • At first, you’ll be overwhelmed. Make this easier by breaking things down. Have goals, pick chunks of technique to hone your eye on per practice.
  • Asymmetry is usually high likelihood of mechanical (something that needs some kind of physical intervention) instead of technical (picking the right cue for the athlete).
  • Learn to zoom your lens in and out as needed. See micro issues, and also understand what they mean in the greater picture of the movement.
  • Have non-negotiable technical landmarks, and then look for how they get from one to another.
  • Everybody can be picked apart in slomo, watch at normal speed to also see flow and rhythm and see how it all fits together.
  • For Andreas, hurdle drills are purposely undercoached. Let athlete figure out themselves what that drill brings to them. A concept I want to try out.
  • Understand context of cues (technical history, and limb as part of the whole) In track, that could be toe drag, stay low in acc, elbow angles. In paddling, reaching out, straight top arms…I think all of these cues are good at first, but can easily be taken too far. You don’t want to teach nuance to a beginner because he has nothing to base himself on, but you don’t want to leave these cues without nuance lest they create new issues.
  • re: new coach’s fear of being “called out” : Competence breeds confidence. Focus on things you know, and slowly expand it. Time, repetition, feedback. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes.

Catching pt.3

January 26th : The Power of a Mantra

“Erase the false impressions from your mind by constantly saying to yourself, I have it in my soul to keep out any evil, desire or any kind of disturbance – instead, seeing the true nature of things, I will give them only their due. Always remember this power that nature gave you.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 8.29

I’m still thinking about this one. If the message is already internalized, then a daily reminder of what you can accomplish can certainly be helpful to keep you on your path. However, I do remember reading in The Antidote about an experiment which suggested that after a group of people kept reciting that they were happy, they ended up feeling less so. It seemed that it was more important to feel internally consistent, than to feel happy. On the other hand, I know people who actually have succeeded in improving their state of mind through rote repetition of positive messages.

Off the top of my head, I think environment plays a role in the success of the message. If you are surrounded by events that challenge your message too strongly, you might not be able to overcome through constant reciting. If the challenges are small, though, it might work to reinforce your message after you see yourself overcome the challenge.

The details of the message you give yourself is important too. An over-idealized message can render you blind to the truth (“Ignorance is bliss”). You want to strike a balance between realism (“Winning this set against the #3 seed will be difficult…”) and optimism (“…but I can totally do it.”)

January 27th : The Three Areas of Training

These are three distinct areas of training, but in practice they are inextricably intertwined. Our judgment affects what we desire, our desires affect how we act, just as our judgment determines how we act. But we can’t just expect this to happen. We must put real thought and energy into each area of our lives. If we do, we’ll find real clarity and success. – The Daily Stoic

As with everything, the Stoic mind is something that can, and should, be practiced.

Train your ability to recognize what are your desires, and your aversions.

Never miss an opportunity to act, but do not move carelessly.

Challenge your reasoning.

January 28th : Watching the Wise

“Take a good hard look at people’s ruling principle, especially of the wise, what they run away from and what they seek out.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 4.38

Taking the previous day’s teachings, and applying it here.

Know what you want, and find somebody who already has it. When you have the opportunity to reach out to this person, take it. Apply your judgement to everything they say (remember January 24th).

Mentors have quite literally affected every realm of my life. Most recently, the importance of mentors to creating good coaches has been reinforced strongly in me. As Dan would say, “when you suffocate knowledge, it dies”. I have rarely, if ever, met somebody at the top of their craft who isn’t interested in transmitting the lifetime of wisdom they’ve accumulated. Intangible as it is, it becomes their infinity project. So the lesson here is “Don’t be afraid to ask!”

Catching up pt.2

January 24th : Push for Deep Understanding

“From Rusticus…I learned to read carefully and not be satisfied with a rough understanding of the whole, and not to agree too quickly with those who have a lot to say about something.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 1.7.3

Read carefully, unless you want to risk becoming a pedant. As an athlete, how well do you understand your craft? As a coach, I feel it is easy to get caught in thinking in extremes : either massively deep knowledge in a very particular concept (e.g. a PhD) or extensive surface knowledge of all the details that exist. It should be obvious that neither will serve a coach well, and I think it’s important to realize that we can strive to be both simultaneously. Probably a combo of alternating between phases where one focuses on a specific idea, followed by a phase of more global viewpoints to help integrate the new knowledge as part of the whole coaching ability. Knowledge acquisition periodization, perhaps?

Always maintain healthy skepticism, especially from big talkers. It’s an easy trap to be impressed by the amount somebody says about a subject, but it might also mean they have little to no understanding of everything that exists beyond that subject (like this). Always consider context when taking in new information.

January 25th : The Only Prize

“…by having some self-respect for your own mind and prizing it, you will please yourself and be in better harmony with your fellow human beings, and more in tune with the gods – praising everything they have set in order and allotted you.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 6.112.2b-4a

I chose this quote because it passes the message far more poetically, but it’s clearer in the examples that come afterwards, of many very rich men with very modest lifestyles.

It’s not because these men are cheap. It’s because the things that matter to them are cheap. (…) The more things we desire and the more we have to do to earn or attain those achievements, the less we actually enjoy our lives – and the less free we are. – The Daily Stoic

I know I referred to it already previously, but I think Mark Manson’s article fits far more in this context.

Again, winning an Olympic gold medal is “expensive”, in that it will cost much, not only in money, but also in time and effort. Focusing on self-improvement, however, is “cheap”, because there are so many different avenues to accomplish this. It’s very possible that the medal might even come as a fun side effect of this focus shift.

Catching up!

January 20th : Reignite Your Thoughts

(…) the reminder here is that no matter what happens, no matter how disappointing our behavior has been in the past, the principles themselves remain unchanged. We can return and embrace them at any moment. What happened yesterday – what happened five minutes ago – is the past. We can reignite and restart whenever we like.
Why not do it right now? – The Daily Stoic

A key message I often repeat, after getting disappointed with a race result : Don’t deny yourself the anguish, but as soon as you can, move on.

You need to feel the loss, because there is potential lessons and motivation to be had here. You must also refocus on the following task, to avoid being blinded by the past.

January 21st and 22nd : A Morning Ritual and The Day in Review

Many successful people have a morning ritual. For some, it’s meditation. For others, it’s exercise. For many, it’s journaling – just a few pages where they write down their thoughts fears, hopes. In these cases, the point is not so much the activity itself as it is the ritualized reflection.The idea is to take some time to look inward and examine. – The Daily Stoic

“I will keep constant watch over myself and – most usefully – will put each day up for review. For this is what makes us evil – that none of us looks back upon our own lives. We reflect upon only that which we are about to do. And yet our plans for the future descend from the past.” – Seneca, Moral Letters, 83.2

In both cases, deep introspection is recommended : one on yourself, the other on your actions. I think of what I’ve recommended more than a handful of dragon boat teams I’ve been involved with : What is the team ethos? Once you know this, every other decision is significantly easier to make.

Look into yourself : why do you pursue sporting excellence? Are your reasons genuine?

Look at what you’ve done today : are your actions aligned with your goals? Are your reactions appropriate? How can you improve on this day?

January 23rd : The Truth About Money

That’s what Seneca is reminding us. As someone who was one of the richest men in Rome, he knew firsthand that money only marginally changes life. It doesn’t solve the problems that people without it seem to think it will. In fact, no material possession will. External things can’t fix internal issues. – The Daily Stoic

It’s a common saying that if you want to experience happiness, you are better off investing your time into cultivating meaningful experiences, versus buying more material goods. This is something I believe in, though this comes in to offer some nuance.

Results suggest that material and experiential purchases deliver happiness in two distinct flavors: Material purchases provide more frequent momentary happiness over time, whereas experiential purchases provide more intense momentary happiness on individual occasions.

We should not discredit the happiness of possessions, but we must recognize that the feelings will only be temporary, since it doesn’t affect your soul. Experiences, though, also appear limited to the immediate occasion. I believe this is a failing, not of our memory, but of our introspection. Put simply, we never do it. This would also explain why many seek out material goods instead of experiences, despite knowing better : it’s hard to put value on memories if you never take any time to look back on them! (sorry, no link for this one, I can’t find my source material anymore)

So what happens when you win the gold? Well, if you were one to value the medal itself, you’ll get a big high, which I’m sure will feel great, but you are left in a dangerous position. You need to continue winning medals to get your pleasure, and without it, you probably won’t stick around in the sport. If, instead, you valued the experience of it all – the training, the road trip with the teammates, the thrill of competition – you have a better chance at longevity.

January 19th

Wherever You Go, There Your Choice Is

“A podium and a prison is each a place, one high and the other low, but in either place your freedom of choice can be maintained if you so wish.” – Epictetus, Discources, 2.6.25

Whether it’s after the big win, or the crushing loss, you are likely in the same situation the next day. A reminder that the outside world does not control the world inside your mind.

You can only definitively control one of these two.

Have the clarity to know which.

Another regen day today on a rainy (?!) Phoenix day.

  • Wim Hof’s techniques are, AFAIK, based on breath control. Could a stoic mindset be key to manipulating your physiology? I definitely can tell that I’m getting more comfortable in the cold.
  • Patois of the day : Bambaclat *chip* – blame HK for teaching me this. SCP does not approve
  • Tempo runs on the curve are first and foremost regulated by asking the athlete to find “rhythm”. I even think Stu would say “irregardless of direction”.
  • Speaking to Melaine about this, and how she maintained composure when her rival started the first half ahead of her, she talked about walking into that race with amazing confidence. She knew the American would go hard, and she knew her race plan was going to work. Most interestingly, she says she now knows that if (and hopefully, when) she comes back to start line and feels the same way, something special is going to happen.
  • Stu made the same comment later, talking about athlete strengths and how that plays into race modeling, the related psychology. Donovan and Usain knew they’re not the best starters, but also knew that nobody could defeat them on the back half. Dre is the same, but the pressure of Rio got to his head. Stu says that when he saw Andre 3rd at the 40m, he knew that he had been impatient in his acceleration and went too hard, and this was going to affect the rest of his race.
  • Other comment about Andre : he almost never races hard. Apparently, during his final NCAA year, he only truly raced hard at NCAA finals. That means he’s both insanely talented to only need effort at the very end, and adds weight to the idea that he’s an incredibly chill guy. This gave alot of flexibility to Stu to practice different phases of his race strategy without being concerned of the final result.
  • Mikel Thomas is not only an incredibly positive member of Altis, but must also be one of the most explosive humans I’ve ever seen. How can you not love somebody who can post an excellent time while still pounding every single hurdle like a human wrecking ball?
  • A hypothesis Stu has, inspired by Jeremy Wotherspoon’s development : learn your sport’s technique as deeply as you can before you add directed physical development. That way, when you do add the more forceful and resilient muscles, you can apply it to your excellent technique. The reverse, by having too many physical options caused by strength training, might make it easier to get away with bad technique. This could slow down your attainment of excellence.
  • All interns gave a general overview of their personal philosophies. The subject of good communication came up often, which is why I’m so interested in reading this.

January 18th

See the World Like a Poet and an Artist

There is clarity (and joy) in seeing what others can’t see, in finding grace and harmony in places others overlook. Isn’t that far better than seeing the world as some dark place? – The Daily Stoic

Just as it is solely your choice that makes any particular thing or event bad, the same can be said of making something good. That said, simply deciding that things are beautiful is one thing, but I believe expanding your mind to know how to articulate and appreciate this beauty can provide many advantages. For example, it can give you access to more moments of awe, an emotion which has powerful effects on your ego. For a crazy sciency-sounding explosion of poetry on this, right over here.

Some situations seem to be more surefire for creating awe than others. Astronauts often experience something known as the Overview effect, but few of us get to live this – though Elon Musk is working hard on that! Psychedelics can have that effect too : start at 43:20 to hear Sam Harris speak of his experience. That said, why be limited to large natural landscapes and illicit substances? How does one cultivate the ability to generate awe from the mundane?

Interestingly enough, I have found Youtube to be a great resource for helping me expand this ability in me. I am sure some purists would consider it a cop-out on my part to use the Internet, a tool that has reduced the ability of many to create any meaningful relationships. Yet, the accessibility must be recognized, its reach is unparalleled, and I’d argue that there is quality out there that will one day be judged on the same level as some of the great literature that we value so highly now.

I think of School of Life teaching me how to value the cracks, in objects first, and more interestingly in people. I think of this wonderful fan-made video about the fractal-like quality that all life around us possesses with the universe it is part of, as NdGT proses on the idea behind his mentor’s most famous phrase. Most relevant to us here, I think of this beautiful recap of the 2004 Olympics, which I’m fairly certain is what convinced me I wanted to experience the roller coaster that is athletic pursuit. Even if we never reach such heights, there is often inspiration to be found in people’s efforts for personal growth through sport.

Ultimately, I remind readers to exercise caution, and balance out this poetic, artistic eye with a deep seated realism. Recall Ozymandias by Percy Shelley. Memento mori. While things are here though…why not appreciate them? Maybe we all need to spend more time practicing the philosophy behind Buddhist mandalas.

Not much new observations today. More about reading Van Hooren and Bosch papers on muscle slack, and thinking of how to tinker muscle tension up and down for the session at hand.

Good thing too, I need to work on a quick presentation of my guiding philosophy. Good night.

January 16th and 17th

Never Do Anything Out of Habit

“So in the majority of other things, we address circumstances not in accordance with the right assumptions, but mostly by following wretched habit. Since all that I’ve said is the case, the person in training must seek to rise above, so as to stop seeking out pleasure and steering away from pain; to stop clinging to living and abhorring death; and in the case of property and money, to stop valuing receiving over giving.” – Musonius Rufus, Lectures, 6.25.5-11

This is a BIG one for coaching, and reinforced from watching Chef’s Table with the International Intern Family (oh man, if you like food, pretty visuals, a wonderful score and exploring the minds behind the creations, WATCH THIS SHOW). Even as an athlete, don’t be afraid to ask your coach for the reason behind what he does. S/he should be able to validate every element.

Question everything you do. Never settle for knowledge whose only bearing is the admiration you have for the person who taught it to you. Always be seeking to understand the why behind every decision you make. Keep looking for ways you can improve on your current methods.

Reboot the Real Work

“Let go of the past. We must only begin. Believe me and you will see.” – Epictetus, Discourses, 2.19.34

Most, fearing failure, never start.

Do not fear the discomfort. First, fear is again an attribute we give, and so it is one we can take away. Second, though discomfort is by no means a guarantee of growth, it is only in discomfort that we can have the opportunity to grow. This is as true in training as it is in life.

If you want to do anything well, you will need to experience discomfort. It is an inevitability, and hence does not deserve any more of your mental energy. Accept it, embrace it, and direct your energy to what really matters : growing from this discomfort.

Day off yesterday, but punctuated with a great talk with Stu. Today, training day at the gym.

  • Before even getting into the observations, I ask that everybody reads this fantastic article by Steve Magness. Both athletes and coaches can learn much from the information here on what “mental toughness” really is, and how can develop it. Cristobal and Suzie are two tough suns of beaches, and it’s never a loud spectacle. Quiet Confidence.
  • Patois word of the day : Mawnin
  • Coming back to Jas’ comment about “stiff, not rigid”, what happens when you have too much mobility? When you can’t rely on stiffness to give you the unconscious proprioceptive imput to block your movements at the right moments? How do you purposely stiffen an athlete? If you don’t, you risk injury (as it has happened, in the athlete that caused this discussion). If you go about it from a more conscious method, I suspect you end up with far too much co-contractions (aka Martin). We need to find a strategy to teach make these positions proprioceptively available unconsciously. I suspect reflexive eccentrics might be a solution here.
  • This segways well into the Ferocity ~ Fluidity spectrum. Conscious aggression vs Unconscious rhythm. Stu and I both agree, the best athletes come from the right side of this spectrum. It is much easier to teach attack than flow. I think this might relate back to my concept of Skinny Fast paddlers.
  • No matter what distance you race on, top speed is always a KPI to keep in consideration, even in longer races. Training for top speed develops more than the physiology of speed, a bias towards ferocity. When taught properly, it teaches rhythm, mechanical coordination, fluidity. It’s these elements that are probably what make top speed training valuable in longer distance races.
  • Hanging Band Technique – Creates variability, imposes stability, generates a potentiation effect
  • A “fascial” athlete, as Stu calls them, has something to do with excellent energy return (like a long Achilles tendon, for example), but that would be selling it short. To him, it’s more the idea of having excellent system communication. The connection and coordination these athletes have between all their limbs allow them to direct and focus forces exactly where they want them. This too, I’m sure, backs up the concept of Skinny Fast paddlers.
    • Bonus dot-connecting : Just like with SF paddlers, fascial sprinters don’t necessarily gain much performance from strength training. At least, not in the traditional sense.
  • Could there be a connection between your ability to process cues and your CNS dominance?
    • Sympathetic athletes have trouble integrating new technical details. They also happen to not need much potentiation to perform at the top of their game.
    • Parasympathetic athletes pick up new cues easily. They definitely perform better with some priming.
    • Can’t help but think of PRI and particularly some golden nuggets from Zac Cupple’s blog.
  • Ideally, you want to construct your training program in a way where you start feeling comfortable, at about midway you feel like an idiot who needs to relearn their whole technique, and finish feeling better than you were at midpoint. This concept can (and probably should) be applied at a micro, meso, and macro level.
    • Remember, nothing gained without struggle.
    • I’d argue, and I know Stu would agree, that as you approach a big event and you want to maximize confidence, I’d apply this concept less and less.
  • One unexpected danger of using fancy monitoring tools in the gym : focusing on the wrong things.We must remember that having great gym metrics only gives you the potential to be a great athlete. If you have no technical prowess, you will still be beat (most obvious recent example would be Rousey vs Nunez). Don’t waste mental energy on the small rocks.
    • This can also become dangerous for athlete belief. If they have all the gym metrics because they’ve been putting their effort there, it can become a crutch for their poor results. The athlete ends up believing that since they have all the reasons to believe they should succeed well, failing at that must be the coach’s fault.
  • Finally, a quick moment to remember that we’re all human. An athlete was consistently having some issues with their technique, despite many different cues. This athlete has had previous high level success, so after so many cues, the persistent mistake was determined to be an issue with her body. Indeed, with a laundry list of previous injuries, it was easily justifiable. Well, after consulting with Yoda Dan, we had to reconsider the idea that maybe we hadn’t taken the time to properly explain what we were looking for. It was simply taken for granted, considering her status. Five minutes later, after a small talk, perfect technique. Tunnel vision happens to the best of us. Trusted “second opinions” are worth their weight in gold.

January 14th and 15th

Cut the Strings That Pull Your Mind

Philosophy is simply asking us to pay careful attention and to strive to be more than a pawn. As Victor Frankl puts it in The Will to Meaning, “Man is pushed by drives but pulled by values.” These values and inner awareness prevent us from being puppets. Sure, paying attention requires work and awareness, but isn’t that better than being jerked about on a string? – The Daily Stoic

Why exactly are you driven to put the hours at the gym, clocking in the miles, eating healthily?

Are you pushed to athletic success by fear of failure, of disappointing somebody, or yourself?

Are you pulled into it by a deep desire to see the edges of your potential? To expand your abilities?

Ask yourself “why?” until you can’t continue answering.

Indeed, lets investigate the four virtues that all Stoics seek to cultivate. From The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy :

The Stoics elaborated a detailed taxonomy of virtue, dividing virtue into four main types: wisdom, justice, courage, and moderation. Wisdom is subdivided into good sense, good calculation, quick-wittedness, discretion, and resourcefulness. Justice is subdivided into piety, honesty, equity, and fair dealing. Courage is subdivided into endurance, confidence, high-mindedness, cheerfulness, and industriousness. Moderation is subdivided into good discipline, seemliness, modesty, and self-control.

Looking at this list, I personally see physical activity as a great way of pursuing virtue!

I can’t help but think of Hideo Kojima, as he talked about how his highly anticipated game Death Stranding would use a new mechanic. Instead of focusing on sticks that keep things away, it would instead look at ropes that help keep things of value close to you. Possible parallels with the complementary pair of passion ~ reason/stoicism, and external ~ internal motivation.

And again, the admission that this introspection isn’t easy, but the payoff is worth it.

Peace Is in Staying the Course

In Seneca’s essay on tranquility, he uses the Greek word euthymia, which he defines as “believing in yourself and trusting that you are on the right path, and not being in doubt by following the myriad footpaths of those wandering in every direction.” It is this state of mind, he says, that produces tranquility.
Clarity of vision allows us to have this belief. – The Daily Stoic

This easily loops back to Day 3, where I observed the need for confidence in having chosen the right path for yourself. Problem is, how does one create this confidence?

I believe it will come down to coming to terms with who you are (that darn introspection showing up again!). How can you know what is appropriate for you, if the concept of you isn’t even clear?

Again, having a deep understanding with why you pursue sport, I believe, will help direct your efforts, especially in trying times.

We’re getting more complex with the Patois now! “Mi await pon dah machine”.

  • Careful for circle jerks. At the last poolside, we ended up with more of a conversation, with lots of back and forth, instead of the usual Q&A. I quite liked what we got out of it, though I agree with Mike Boykin that if it ends up being just a bunch of people rephrasing what the last guy said and everybody agreeing, it doesn’t end up being super productive. Iordan believes it was in a John Kiely podcast that suggested that during any management meeting, you should appoint somebody to act as a devil’s advocate. This helps ensure that different perspectives are considered, making the ensuing decisions more robust.
  • Listening to this podcast with Sam Harris and Paul Bloom was very interesting. He clarifies his point on empathy, which resembles how I understood it. Two extra ideas from this talk :
    • People hate having anything they consider “obvious” questioned. In the fields of psychology, the idea of studying something like “why does a mother love her child”, or “Why do we seek out God?” is met with disdain, almost as if the victim was being insulted. “How dare you reduce my experience down to molecules and reactions?” I feel that to a certain extent, many concepts about sports are considered “obvious” too, which is why they’re so pervasive. Often, to the detriment of those affected by them. Don’t be afraid to question everything!
    • A proposed solution to this problem is technology. Now to be fair, the adopters must be willing to entertain the possibility that they might have biases to correct. Assuming they do, however, technology can help bring the objectiveness needed to solve these issues. Orchestras used to believe that men just “had an extra oomph” that women couldn’t match, and hence the sexual disparity was significant. Once auditions were done behind a screen, this difference almost disappeared. What are some of the situations in sports where we could do the same?

January 13th : Circle of Control

According to the Stoics, the circle of control contains just one thing: YOUR MIND. That’s right, even your physical body isn’t completely within the circle. – The Daily Stoic

Now here’s one that is a difficult pill to swallow, especially for anybody with an interest in physical culture. I like that there’s a bit of leeway left – “isn’t completely within the circle”. I feel that here, we should recognize that the choices we take with regards to what we do is under our control, even if the ultimate result of our interventions is not.

You can choose to do all the “right things”. Don’t smoke. Eat well. Sleep enough. Work up a sweat once a day.

You might still end up losing the race, getting injured, having cancer, or losing your mind.

Simply because you can’t bring that possibility to zero, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still invest effort into doing these things. Do not let this devolve into a nihilistic laissez-faire. Simply recognize that in the end, you do not have ultimate control over your body.

I like the lottery ticket analogy I’ve used previously with TG : every training you do, every practice you attend, every workout you finish, you bought yourself a lotto ticket. Simply because you’ve bought a thousand on them, does not guarantee you will win. That said, when you and I are placed in front of Lady Fortune, I most definitely still want to show up with as many tickets as possible.

Today was the second regen day of the week.

  • Starting off with a more general observation : I’m a bit surprised, and really happy, to notice that, in barely a week, I already feel quite comfortable with the staff, and especially them with me. It certainly helps that I’ve already been here two years ago, but it’s comforting to know that in a relatively short period of time, I’ve gained at least a minimum level of respect and trust from these people whom I consider inspirations and mentors.
  • FRC-style exercises were used, in particular to develop rotational range and control of the hips.
  • “You want to be stiff, but not rigid.” – JR. Completely agree.
  • My eye is improving, when watching warm-ups. I still mostly see symptoms, not causes, but it’s an improvement.
  • AH’s story of last year’s 60m race made IK and I think of this.
  • Talking to Tom about ideas on coordinating national teams and club teams has solidified my position on the culture I want to create back home. Don’t try aligning many teams to one greater idea. Competing desires will inevitably get in the way. Instead, have ONE coordinated organization from which you spawn the many teams, national team included.
  • Patois word of the day : Wah yuh ah duh

Presentation/Poolside – Dan presenting on his philosophy on KPI’s

  • If you want to be able to build any semblance of a plan, you better 1) know and 2) be able to rank your KPI’s.
  • Actively look for audits/feedback
    • on your athletes. How else would you know that your plan is leading you in the right direction?
    • on yourself. This is admittedly something I feel I haven’t done enough as a coach. I feel I’m decently hard on myself, which is already a start, but having the athletes themselves, or even better, an unbiased third party, give me criticism would be even more valuable.
  • Paraphrasing an athlete after her first Olympic race : it’s just like any other race, with more people watching.
    • I can see this working both for good and bad. If you’re too far on the arousal curve, this is exactly what we want.
    • However, I wonder if we training can help…increase, or shift, the arousal curve up? If you’re really well trained, being hyper aroused could bring you all the benefits, while still trusting that your good instincts won’t be overridden.
  • Kevin Tyler repeated that coach development is key. From helping develop the now-defunct CACC, revamping coaching education in the UK while working towards London 2012, and now here at Altis, I know he really means it. This is most definitely something I would want to build at home.
  • “You get bored before they do.” – BB. Be wary of this error, because this could be a big player in the excess of unnecessary creativity seen in many training programs.