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.

6 woes.gif
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.

When You Lose Control

February 28th

Remember that the tools and aims of our training are unaffected by the turbulence of the moment. Stop. Regain your composure. It’s waiting for you. – The Daily Stoic

The teachings did not fail, we failed the teachings.

You didn’t lose the race because the training was off. You don’t have to throw everything out the window and try a completely new program.

You simply didn’t execute on race day. The fitness was developed, and is still there for you. Keep up the work, and get your head right next time.

…that is, unless you ascribe to direct interpretations of holy texts, and used badly done Crossfit as a training program. In that case, time for an overhaul. Trust me.

Hail. In PHX. Wtf. (Still, I shouldn’t complain. Montreal is experiencing an usual winter heat wave, and there are few things I despise more than slush.)

Starting to learn brachial plexus, making my way through Crucial Accountability, knocking off a few videos of Complexity Explorer at a time. I don’t think I’ve added this much new knowledge in such a short span of time since undergrad and my peak of fitness blog reading. I like to believe the quality of the material I’m absorbing these days is of a higher level.

Cultivating Indifference Where Others Grow Passion

“Of all the things that are, some are good, others bad, and yet others indifferent. The good are virtues and all that share in them; the bad are the vices and all that indulge them; the indifferent lie in between virtue and vice and include wealth, health, life, death, pleasure, and pain.” – Epictetus, Discourses, 2.19.12b-13

The book goes on to describe how Seneca had a life of many privileges. “He enjoyed them while they were there, but he accepted that they might someday disappear.” I feel this hits the balance I’ve been speaking about previously. Indifference doesn’t mean coldness. “It’s not about avoidance or shunning, but rather not giving any possible outcome more power or preference than is appropriate.”

Maybe a more stoic way of saying this?

Do your best (virtue), do it with honesty (avoid vice), and let everything else fall wherever it wants (indifference)? Again, I find that often, focusing less on the end goal tends to get you there…maybe not faster, but certainly in a healthier and more sustainable way.

Jas got to fangirl with some SEALs. He talked about how in these teams, who deal with “hardcore shit”, it’s never about being the tough guy who can get shit done without help. They never last. You have to develop the connections, and become a collection that is more than the sum of its parts. The key to that is empowerment.

Thinking of how we have specific warm-ups depending on the quality that is being worked on. Always trying to include elements of the primary skill to be developed in the warm-up, to provide more context for the session at hand, and more reps to learn from. I know that back home, our warm-ups tend to be quite generic. It just takes more thought, but it’s definitely something I can improve on.

What’s the physiological quality I’m trying to develop? What’s the skill element I’m trying to emphasize? This should be the start to developing the warm-up.

Oh, and running starts. Gotta use more running starts.

Trying to See the Matrix

February 24th : The Real Source of Harm

Our reaction is what actually decides whether harm has occurred. If we feel that we’ve been wronged or get angry, of course that’s how it will seem. If we raise our voice because we feel we’re being confronted, naturally a confrontation will ensue.
But if we retain control of ourselves, we decide whether to label something good or bad. In fact, if that same event happened to us at different points in our lifetime, we might have very different reactions. So why not choose now to not apply these labels? Why not choose not to react? – The Daily Stoic

I imagine this idea is the basis behind the saying that the best way to get rid of bullies is to not give them the satisfaction of knowing they hurt you. (that was poorly phrased, but you understood) Though I can certainly agree, it must be incredibly hard for a child/teenager, an age where a person is figuring out their personal identity, and how they fit in society, to adopt this philosophy. Most adults have yet to feel comfortable enough in their skin that they could deflect all insults.

I feel that the ability to fully inhabit stoicism will depend a lot on your comfort with accepting yourself. Once you are released from your need for external validation, it is much easier to let things slide.

I think this might be again why I feel there is such an importance that a sports team be clear on what its driving philosophy is. As long as you focus on staying true to it, the external stresses become less important. I wouldn’t be surprised that this will also lead to more sporting success.

February 25th : The Smoke and Dust of Myth

Eventually, all of us will pass away and slowly be forgotten. We should enjoy this brief time we have on earth – not be enslaved to emotions that make us miserable and dissatisfied. – The Daily Stoic


He’s named that way for a reason.

My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
OzymandiasPercy Shelley

Nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere, everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV. – Morty Smith

Peace Among Worlds! 


You can continue defying entropy by trying to be eternal – through the creation of art, through the education of your offspring, through your contribution to society. Nietzsche dedicated his life to figuring this out. Just know that the act of infusing meaning and purpose to your life also implies suffering. The Oatmeal did a great job of exploring this idea.

I think here, there’s a distinction to be made between the suffering that external circumstances can cause – suffering that we don’t want, yet sometimes let ourselves be victims of – and suffering that we choose to go through, in our relentless pursuit towards something greater. If this self-imposed suffering is greater than the passion related to your pursuit, then you aren’t pursuing the right passion.

February 26th : To Each his Own

“Another has done me wrong? Let him see to it. He has his own tendencies, and his own affairs. What I have now is what the common nature has willed, and what I endeavor to accomplish now is what my nature wills.”
– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 5.25

Something I heard many times is that when somebody slights you, you must stand your ground. You don’t want to start letting people think that they can walk all over you.

I think the key here is to make a proper judgement of the situation.

  • Is this matter something I hold dear?
  • Will the effort of defending myself cause me more harm than it is worth?

Where I’ve had problems in the past is when I was around people who felt that everything required a response, since everything was an attack on their person. I think my response is that if the demand pertains to something that needs to be done regardless, then let it slide. If it’s about something inconsequential, tell them “no”. You won’t bother with their attitude over something that is of no importance. Finally, if the demand is important, but the manner it was asked is reprehensible, defend your tolerance level.

…Am I suggesting to act like an erupting volcano? Nothing…nothing…nothing…BAM!

Hmm…I guess it depends on how you defend yourself. I need to think about this more, and it’s late. Next time.

A look into one of the most successful people in the world, and a reminder that everybody’s strengths are also their weaknesses. Everybody can gain from working on some balance.

I was reminded how bare-bones Altis is. As an outsider, we should look at this as something comforting : all you really need is great staff, dedicated athletes and a minimum of facilities to develop world class athletes. This means that it doesn’t take much to replicate this kind of environment anywhere! Though to be fair, I think my previous statement can make people underestimate the value of great staff, and how rare it really is.

Stu is granting me a look into his brain. I’m going to take an attempt at organizing it, drawing out some kind of mind map, and helping him deepen the exploration of certain nodes. Wish me luck.

Finally trying out some Four Sigmatic after hearing about it from Jason Ross. I believe he had posted a fascinating video that got me interested in the power of mushrooms. Very curious to see what a month worth of supplementation with this will do.

Also, definitely curious about trying out some blood marker tracking, either from InsideTracker with their DIY program or WellnessFX and their free program. Honestly, might consider doing both just to see what each has to say.

Circumstances Have No Care for Our Feelings

February 23rd

“You shouldn’t give circumstances the power to rouse anger, for they don’t care at all.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 7.38

Maybe it’s being self-centered. If everything revolves around you, then everything must be happen with you in mind.

Maybe it’s a protection mechanism. Being angry at something out of our control displaces the responsibility from us to them.

Either way, it’s wrong.

Not only do circumstances not care, they can’t care. Circumstances aren’t sentient beings.

They have no inherent evil. Notice the wording : “You shouldn’t give circumstances the power to rouse anger…”

Remember this when the race didn’t go your way. “Life” isn’t out to get you. “Life” couldn’t care less. Sport certainly doesn’t. (one of my all time favorite videos)


IK has convinced me to take advantage of the time and opportunity I have right now and learn some manual therapy. If I am to grow as a coach, I can’t continue depending on fellow therapists, because I won’t always have access to that.

#Inspire #Connect #Educate #Perform

What’s Better Left Unsaid

Febrary 22nd

“I begin to speak only when I’m certain what I’ll say isn’t better left unsaid.” – Plutarch, Cato the Younger, 4

Stu has spoken about this before.

Knowledge is most certainly valuable, but only when the recipient needs it, and is ready for it.

Design the training so that the exercise is the one doing the teaching, aka Constraint Based Coaching. Athletes will retain more when they figure things out themselves, instead of being spoon-fed.

Themes of the day : Communication, introspection, constant self-improvement, make sure you’ve done everything you can, but don’t be afraid to cut a toxic relationship out. #JJ

Two Thoughts on Thirst Traps

I just wanted the “All words start with the letter T”, but the general idea is still good.

February 20th : The Grand Parade of Desire

“Robbers, perverts, killers, and tyrants – gather for your inspection their so-called pleasures!” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 6.34

Pay a critical eye to the pleasures you allow yourself. Look closely at those who have allowed themselves those pleasures : are they really examples you want to model your life around? What might be harmless now can lead you down a slippery slope. Keeping in mind where this can lead helps put these pleasures in context. At the very least, it can help enhance moderation.

Reflect on opportunity cost : the cost in time, money and energy. All these resources are finite, and you could be spending them on things that are dearer to you. You end up with momentary happiness, and accomplishing nothing you are proud of.

The deepest regrets you hear of are more often related to inaction. Trying something and failing will hurt, but you at least are left with lessons that can allow for growth. Doing nothing risks nothing, and brings nothing.

What black holes (video games, partying, drugs, objects of lust) in your life are taking resources away from your potential?

Dare to be great.

February 21st : Wish Not, Want Not

“Remember that it’s not only the desire for wealth and position that debases and subjugates us, but also the desire for peace, leisure, travel, and learning. It doesn’t matter what the external thing is, the value we place on it subjugates us to another…where our heart is set, there our impediment lies.” – Epictetus, Discourses, 4.4.1-2; 15

Tl;dr : What we desire makes us vulnerable.

Interestingly enough, I find that often times, when we stop trying hard, we end up with exactly what we wanted in the first place.

Who is attracted to somebody who feels desperate?

How many sprinters have gotten injured from trying to hard?

Who ever found happiness by actively looking for it?

re: MVP shake for Max
The most addictive form of reinforcement is the random one. Think of slot machines. You never know when you’ll get your next high. Maybe this next round will be The One. Think of that when giving praise.

There is a special level of learning you get from peaking. Doing something you’ve never done before is a unique stimulus, and one with great teaching potential. For dragon boat, this probably explains my accelerated growth in the sport. Definite implications here regarding roster rotations. Put a low-level intermediate paddler in the top boat, because what better place to understand boat feel than a team that already has it.

Bonus : potential big motivation boost. What’s more exciting than feeling what real speed feels like? Anybody who’s been on the national team in dragon boat knows what I mean.

Weekend Thoughts

February 18th : Prepare for the Storm

“This is the true athlete – the person in rigorous training against false impressions. Remain firm, you who suffer, don’t be kidnapped by your impressions! The struggle is great, the task divine – to gain mastery, freedom, happiness, and tranquility.” – Epictetus, Discourses, 2.18.27-28

As we train our bodies for the unknowable and inevitable challenges ahead, so should we train our minds. It isn’t sufficient to simply know about these skills, but we should actively practice and exercise these abilities.

Combine hard interval sessions with breathing skills to help maintain composure over fatigue.

Race with unpredictable pacing strategies (both yours and your opponents), to see how you deal with surprises.

Remind yourself of your driving purpose as you enter the race.

The struggle is great, the task divine…

February 19th : The Banquet of Life

“Remember to conduct yourself in life as if at a banquet. As something being passed around comes to you, reach out your hand and take a moderate helping. Does it pass you by? Don’t stop it. It hasn’t yet come? Don’t burn in desire for it, but wait until it arrives in front of you. Act this way with children, a spouse, toward position, with wealth – one day it will make you worthy of a banquet with the gods.” – Epictetus, Enchiridion, 15

I’ll admit, this one leaves me feeling…I don’t know.

Really, the only part that leaves me feeling odd is the idea of taking a “moderate helping”. I understand the idea that to fully protect yourself from pain, we shouldn’t get overly attached to anything. I’ve spoken before about the etymological roots of the word “passion”. At the same time, I can’t help but feel that when given an opportunity, you shouldn’t waste it. If you are going to do something, do it with full intent.

Rebel against entropy.

I simply balance this out with a recognition that 1) everything will end, and 2) when it does, am the one who chooses how to react to the loss. I can turn it into a lesson that I can apply to my next endeavor.

Romantic during, stoic after? Parallels how the best act in sporting events : fully convinced they can win when in the midst of battle, but rational about the circumstances afterwards…

Easy to say, not so sure it’s easy to do.

Or maybe I just love eating too much…