Cutting Back on the Costly

March 5th

“So, concerning the things we pursue, and for which we vigorously exert ourselves, we owe this consideration – either there is nothing useful in them, or most aren’t useful. Some of them are superfluous, while others aren’t worth that much. But we don’t discern this and see them as free, when they cost us dearly.” – Seneca, Moral Letters, 42.6

Recognize that EVERYTHING has a cost. Once you become conscious of this, it becomes easier (though certainly not easy, yet) to decide where the fluff is, and remove it.

Obvious parallels in training : removing the distractions around training. An angle that is tougher to consider for an athlete is cutting out some training. There is a cost to everything. Not all training will have a net positive impact.

I am a tad burned out from listening to two lectures by Dave Snowden. Many thought provoking moments, and I’ll get to recording my notes here soon.

I highly suggest watching the videos. He’s a good presenter, and challenges many ingrained ideas.

March, the Month of Awareness


“An important place to begin in philosophy is this : a clear perception of one’s own ruling principle.” – Epictetus, Discourses, 1.26.15

“Above all, it is necessary for a person to have a true self-estimate, for we commonly think we can do more than we really can.” – Seneca, On Tranquility of Mind, 5.2

If we do not focus on our internal integration – on self-awareness – we risk external disintegration. – The Daily Stoic

“No slavery is more disgraceful than one which is self-imposed.” – Seneca

Maybe the coffee hasn’t kicked in yet, but I’m having trouble adding anything to these four quotes.

Screw it, call it an exercise in being laconic.

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Know yourself.

Stu asks: is coaching inter-disciplinary, or ANTI-disciplinary? Coaching would be “too vast”, a discipline that involves all disciplines. Ultimately, I think that’s just a question of semantics, but I think I see where he’s coming from. The Organ and I came up with Emergent BioPsychoSocial Engineering.

Maybe it’s worth nailing the language we use to describe coaching. Sapir-Wholf? Related : go watch Arrival, by Denis Villeneuve.

As I finished this paper on teaching emergent processes, I got caught a bit off guard by the idea that complex systems are ones where the micro level elements all follow the same simple rules. An easy example is a murmuration of starlings (now you know the name for a group of starlings, BOOM, bonus fact you didn’t know). You wouldn’t be able to predict the group/macro behavior from learning the rule first (a key feature of emergent phenomena, and a warning against reductionism), but it’s a basic rule that governs the micro behavior : Each individual bird orients themselves to the average speed and direction of his neighbors.

What could be the basic rule that governs the micro-level of the human system?

Readiness : the current functional state of an athlete that determines the ability to effectively achieve their performance potential (from Windows of Trainability, by the people at Omegawave. This is a download link to the pdf)

I would posit that an athlete’s readiness is the emergent (macro) phenomena that comes from the various (micro) systems obeying the same rule : achieve homeostasis. Related thought from The Cyborg Hartman : Create resiliency to recover from the impact of stressors and create resistance to minimize the impact of stressors.


I think what’s making it difficult to zoom out and study coaching in this manner is the fact that we’ve done a pretty great job of studying the individual human subsystems. Just as we are warned about reductionism in neuroscience, where a focus on the micro (neurons) can only teach us so much about the macro (human behavior), we should apply the same caution at our more zoomed-out level.

Like a good fractal, you keep finding the same patterns no matter how much you zoom in or out. We are composed of a complex system of systems (cardiovascular, respiratory, endocrine, digestive…), each of which is a complex system. Zooming out, we are also a micro-level player in the greater system of our culture, inside the complex system of humanity.

I need to delve more into Snowden’s Cynefin framework. Rereading this article, something that now piques my interest :

One of the early theories of complexity is that complex phenomena arise from simple rules. Consider the rules for the flocking behavior of birds: Fly to the center of the flock, match speed, and avoid collision. This simple-rule theory was applied to industrial modeling and production early on, and it promised much; but it did not deliver in isolation. More recently, some thinkers and practitioners have started to argue that human complex systems are very different from those in nature and cannot be modeled in the same ways because of human unpredictability and intellect.


You need to have an open mind, you need to consider lots of different ideas, and the fact that systems which appear to be quite different may in fact in some underlying way be very similar. That is a very big leap of imagination for some people and some professionals who have devoted their lives to a particular field, but it is a leap that you need to be able to make to make any progress in this field. – John Rundle

John Rundle is a professor at UC Davis in earthquake prediction using Dynamical Systems. I feel validated in my seemingly scattered studying.

Random stuff

  • Lacrymal Release Technique. You heard it here first.
  • The more senses you integrate, the better the retention.
  • Communication involves two parties, so if it breaks down, consider everybody’s contribution
    • Did the listener do a good job of receiving the information?
    • Did the sender do a good job of conveying his message?
    • Focus on what is under your control. Easy to say when you’re the one receiving, but I feel that we tend to blame the receiver when we are the ones tasked with explaining something. Take responsibility.

The 366th Day

The book has a page for February 29th, but since we don’t have one this year, and each theme tackles a new month, I’ll do it today. Tomorrow, double post for the month of March.

You Can’t Always (Be) Get(ting) What You Want

“When children stick their hand down a narrow goody jar they can’t get their fist out and start crying. Drop a few treats and you will get it out! Curb your desire – don’t set your heart on so many things and you will get what you need.” – Epictetus, Discourses, 3.9.22

A reminder that in my continued search for balance, wanting a bit of everything implies that I need to accept I can’t have everything.

At the very least, I can’t have everything now.

Vertical periodization (à la Charlie Francis) of life? Could that be a solution?

On the subject of complexity, emergence, the dangers of over-reductionism : How Brain Scientists Forgot That Brains Have Owners. Props to the Nigerian Hulk for this one.

I now know the brachial plexus. Sure, it was a good representation the way that a smiley face is similar to the Mona Lisa, but it’s a start.

Talking to Iron Dan, we both came to the conclusion that it takes around 6 weeks (at least!) to truly get comfortable in an internship. This means getting into the rhythm of the work you’re doing, developing the professional relationships needed, and incubate enough new information to start creating your own unique thoughts. This contrasts with the various people he’s met that feel that more than one month is too long. To be fair, financials can understandably get in the way, but from a self-improvement perspective, it’s not even the minimum!

Also with Lord Dan, a quick thought : if you’ve only freshly taken a course, read a book, or learned a technique, you are not qualified to teach it to other professionals yet. Ugh. On that note, screw certifications.

Contrast baths feel good. Definitely a luxury I’ll miss once I go home.

That and the free whey protein. And free electrolyte drinks. I can deal without the teenaged soccer teams all over, doing their best to sing Migos and forcing the playlist to be PG.