Dan John Can You Go? Chapter One Excerpt

CHAPTER 1: Assessing the Question, What Do You Want?

Dan John


Part of my job is to ask people, “What do you want?”

I’m not a department-store Santa; I’m a strength coach. Some might think I have a magic bag filled with goodies designed to strip bodyfat and build lean body mass, but instead I have just a handful of tools.

This is an excerpt from Dan John’s book Can You Go?
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Knowing what we want is essential in setting our goals. We need to know where we are when heading on this journey. The answers to What do you want? are usually tame—

  • “I want to get leaner and have abs like I see on TV.”
  • “I want to look better and feel better. I want to have more energy.”
  • “I want to look like I did at age (fill in the blank).”
  • “I want a pony.”

That last one is how my wife Tiffini always answers the question. Honestly, it might be the easiest of the four outcomes to achieve.

Here’s the truth: The answer isn’t what we want; it’s what we need.

Often, I know what we need to do. The issue is usually simple. Rarely do my clients and athletes know what’s needed. My first hurdle is to overcome this gap.

If I could summarize excellent coaching or teaching into one phrase, it would be this—

It’s not what the coach knows; it’s what the athlete knows.

You could replace coach and athlete for dance teacher and dancer, trainer and client, or conductor and musician.

I’m striving to teach my athletes and clients that when I say, “This is what we need to focus on now,” we can agree to what “this” actually is. And that “this” is what that person needs.

It might not be what the person wants.

What follows in this book is my attempt to address a better way to help people with their fitness, health and longevity goals. Rather than focus on what each client wants, let’s turn this toward what the client needs.

It might be possible to define happiness as that place where our wants and needs are both the same. Many people have no idea what they need. At the same time, their list of wants may cover several volumes.

I want that pony, but I need to do my mobility work and eat my vegetables.

In the past few years, I’ve come up with a simple method of assessing clients to get right to this core question: What do we need to do?

The 1-2-3-4 Assessment that follows in this book will efficiently and quickly answer that question.

The assessment also answers the next difficult question facing coaches and trainers: What do we do next?

That’s a question we’ll address with the Five Tools of Fitness and Nutrition.

The assessment is simple and repeatable. It can be done with one person or hundreds. It answers the most important question in fitness—

What do we need to do?

If a person is trying to get back in shape, the answer might be obvious. Perhaps it’s to get a few workouts that combine mobility and strength, and increase to vegetable intake.

Now, for an athlete with an upcoming event, we have to look the person sternly in the eye and ask another question, “Can you go?”

Those three words, Can you go?, are the great challenge of sport and life. When your child needs you, you rally up and take care of business even if you have the flu or have not a minute to spare.

For the athlete, this is the time to step up, step in, grab the ball and go.

Can you go?

To answer this question under the heat of competition takes years of training, growth and preparation. The lessons we’ve learned from athletes help us lead the typical clients toward their goals, too.

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