Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 160
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 160
Commentary from Dan: “There is a life experience that is hard to explain to some people. If you haven’t yet experienced it, it might be hard to have empathy for this particular feeling. It is a relatively simple thing to ask…” [CONTINUE READING]
I had a wonderful weekend in Disneyland. I head out to Korea on Wednesday, so I am hoping that the saber rattling will ease during my trip. I really don’t want to be caught in the middle of something very, very bad.
Disneyland is a great workout. We average six miles of walking a day, odd food moments and about eleven hours of sleep. It’s refreshing and fun; I love the attention to detail. It’s hard to walk a few feet in Disneyland and not see something special, artistic and unique.
Now, the crowds, well, that’s another story. Speaking of stories, let’s look around the internet this week.
This post was just “good.” I will give you a larger preview, but I thought it deserved it. Follow the process.
Being trapped is just a position, not a fate. You get out of it by addressing and eliminating each part of that position through small, deliberate action — not by trying (and failing) to push it away with superhuman strength.
With our business rivals, we rack our brains to think of some mind-blowing new product that will make them irrelevant, and, in the process, we take our eye off the ball. We shy away from writing a book or making a film even though it’s our dream because it’s so much work — we can’t imagine how we get from here to there.
How often do we compromise or settle because we feel that the real solution is too ambitious or outside our grasp? How often do we assume that change is impossible because it’s too big? Involves too many different groups? Or worse, how many people are paralyzed by all their ideas and inspirations? They chase them all and go nowhere, distracting themselves and never making headway. They’re brilliant, sure, but they rarely execute. They rarely get where they want and need to go.
All these issues are solvable. Each would collapse beneath the process. We’ve just wrongly assumed that it has to happen all at once, and we give up at the thought of it. We are A-to-Z thinkers, fretting about A, obsessing over Z, yet forgetting all about B through Y.
We want to have goals, yes, so everything we do can be in service of something purposeful. When we know what we’re really setting out to do, the obstacles that arise tend to seem smaller, more manageable. When we don’t, each one looms larger and seems impossible. Goals help put the blips and bumps in proper proportion.
When we get distracted, when we start caring about something other than our own progress and efforts, the process is the helpful, if occasionally bossy, voice in our head. It is the bark of the wise, older leader who knows exactly who he is and what he’s got to do. Shut up. Go back to your stations and try to think about what we are going to do ourselves, instead of worrying about what’s going on out there. You know what your job is, stop jawing and get to work.
The process is the voice that demands we take responsibility and ownership. That prompts us to act even if only in a small way.
Like a relentless machine, subjugating resistance each and every way it exists, little by little. Moving forward, one step at a time. Subordinate strength to the process. Replace fear with the process. Depend on it. Lean on it. Trust in it.
Take your time, don’t rush. Some problems are harder than others. Deal with the ones right in front of you first. Come back to the others later. You’ll get there.
The process is about doing the right things, right now. Not worrying about what might happen later, or the results, or the whole picture.
I had no idea about this, but I can’t recall ever having BP tests on both arms. This article explains why.
Why bother with two annoying blood pressure tests when most doctors consider one to be sufficient? Because the readings in your two arms might be different. A few points’ difference is normal. But a difference of 10 points or more in either the “top” (systolic) number or the “bottom” (diastolic) one could signal an underlying problem that might otherwise go undetected.
What kind of problem? In younger people, it might mean that one of your arteries is being squeezed, perhaps by a muscle. In older people, it likely means that one or more of your arteries are blocked, meaning you are at greater risk for heart disease, stroke, and dementia, among other things.
Five years ago, researchers in the U.K. found that a 15-point difference in the top number between arms could translate into a 70 percent greater likelihood of dying from cardiovascular disease. Since then, some European nations and some medical organizations in the U.S. have added both-arm-testing to their guidelines, but it’s still rare for any nurse or doctor to actually do it. Most seem unaware of the significance that different readings between the two arms could carry.
I’ve always been a big fan of Benjamin Franklin. I’m also a fan of intentional community and we discover in this article that Ben was ahead of us here, too.
Franklin soon learned just how difficult it is to lead a perfectly virtuous life. But he didn’t allow his failures to get the better of him. A year after embarking on his project, he set his sights on another self-improvement scheme — one that was more accessible than moral perfection. When he was 21 years old, he founded a club called the Junto, Latin for “to join.” Its twelve members — which included a mathematician, a mechanic, and a shoemaker — met every Friday evening at a tavern in Philadelphia. At each meeting, the Junto members discussed morality, philosophy, and politics, and they presented and debated essays they had written.
Franklin called Junto “a club of mutual improvement.” The members aimed to become better citizens, and for them that meant contributing to society. This time, Franklin and his friends succeeded, and many of the institutions they went on to build — a library, a fire brigade, a hospital, and a school — are remembered even today.
Franklin’s Junto met for nearly forty years. During that time, Franklin said it “was the best school of philosophy, morality, and politics as then existed in the province.”
While working on my Peform Better talks for 2018, I found this article. Ken Avery changed my life and this article makes me like him even more.
It starts out as a story about black and white roommates. But in the end it’s simply a story about teammates in stripes.
Al Beauchamp and Ken Avery, who still say, “Love you,” when they hang up the phone, plan to attend the weekend festivities of the Bengals 50th anniversary season as well as Sunday’s opener at Paul Brown Stadium just like they spent six seasons with the club at the dawn of the franchise.
“It was always, ‘When you see Beauchamp, you see Avery. When you see Avery, you see Beauchamp,’” cackles Beauchamp from Atlanta.
You might skip that last reading…and that is too bad. Kenny Avery is one of my heroes. He changed my life without ever crossing my path in the real world. But, his story, in Eliot Asinof’s Seven Days to Sunday, shaped my career. Here is the section on Kenny from “Wednesday.”
“There were some football players who couldn’t stand the very idea of being hurt, and to be forced into therapy was an indication of weakness. Especially with rookies. And most especially, a rookie like Ken Avery.
Kenny was all pride and a yard wide. To see him was not to believe him. You had to know him first. His body was bizarre enough for a football player, for any kind of player, for that matter. Shorter than linebackers are supposed to be, and lighter, his legs almost spindly in contrast to his huge chest, and hardly any neck, a disproportion made all the more glaring in shoulder pads and skin-tight stretch pants over a narrow waist. He was almost apelike, with huge, extremely muscular arms. His head, therefore, seemed small on top of it all, rising to a peak that was narrower still, his soft brown hair lightly covering it, while below the small brown eyes were flaring nostrils, thick sensual lips, and the largest jaw I’d ever seen. He held his body erect at all times as though he were constantly trying to stretch himself, exaggerating the size of his muscular chest. He spoke softly to everyone, and his eyes twinkled when he looked at you like a man who genuinely enjoyed himself with people but was too shy to much about it.
He was sweet and he was mean. Sweet to girls and mean to running backs, the two dominating poles of his current existence, and everything between was directed toward the pursuit of one or the other. Football, of course, was the grandeur of his life and the very root of his manhood. It would be hard to find anyone who had a tougher time getting here.
“I used to be a ninety-seven pound weakling and now they call me ‘Magilla Gorilla.’ It’s crazy. I was a skinny little kid and they used to throw sand in my face on the beach. There was one guy, he used to really feed on me. He’d take pot shots at me whenever he saw me. Blam! Blam! If he saw me a mile away, I was his punching bag whenever there was a girl around. He’d make me feel like some kind of idiot. I wanted those girls, I wanted them to talk to me, but they wouldn’t. They’d laugh at me. Then one day I couldn’t take it any more. My stepfather, he said to me that if I took it once more, he’d beat me up worse than the kid ever did. So, I went after that kid, right there in the schoolyard. I went after him like I’d have to die if I didn’t whip him. Damn, but I whipped him good. Then those girls started to talk to me.
“I was born in New York City. My mother was a Rockette. Yeah, she danced on the line. Then my folks split up, and my mother moved us down to Key West, Florida. I was ten years old, and my brother was seven. It was a good place to move to. Lots of sunshine and swimming and fruit trees. She ran a dancing school down there, the Fred Astaire place, and then she met a man on the beach who worked in Arthur Murray’s. They got married and opened up a new place of their own and we move up to Miami.
“That’s when I was such an ugly little runt. I was eighty-five pounds in seventh and eighth grade when I began playing peewee football. I loved it. I was fourteen years old when I went to South Dade High School, weighed a hundred pounds. I was too small for the varsity, even in my sophomore year. But they let me on the kickoff team. I weighed 125 pounds then. In the spring, I ran the mile on the track team, but I was too slow ever place.
“In the summer, I got a job in a summer camp in Michigan at an all-girls camp. I worked in the kitchen and ate like a horse. I drank so much milk, they called me “The Cow.” I gained thirty-five pounds in two months, and I kept workout out, push-ups, sit-ups. I came home, weighed 160. I wanted to play football in the worst way.
“I worked on my body all the time. I learned from German gymnasts. I did Chinese push-ups, kip-ups, flips. I walked on my hands, studied body balance. Body momentum transfer-that’s where you can move around in the air without hitting the ground. I worked on the trampoline, did rope climbing, lots of tumbling. In my frosh year, I could do only ten push-ups, thirty-five sit-ups, and three chin-ups. A year later, I did a hundred eleven push-ups, five hundred sit-ups and twenty-five chin-ups. I would work out while I watched TV. I would roll out of bed in the morning and do push-ups and the U.S. Marine squat jumps.
“My mother gave me ballet lessons to build up my legs. I learned the second position, the plie. I wanted to build up my groin muscles, the calves, the tights. I could dance pretty well at that. I wanted to be graceful as well as strong. She taught me a lot.
“In my junior year, I made linebacker. I was able to knock down big guys weighing two hundred pounds behind the line of scrimmage. I was quick. I got even quicker. In the spring, I ran the high hurdles, shot put, threw the discus, ran the half-mile. But it was all part of my training to be a football player.
“My senior year was a ball. I stayed home alone with my kid brother; my folks had to go to North Carolina. I worked at a gas station, but when I kicked up a fuss about getting only seventy-five cents an hour, I got fired. Some buddies moved in with us. One guy worked in a dairy, two others in a food store, so we ate real good. My brother, he was a fine cook. We sure had a fine time of it. I even passed all my courses because I wanted to go to college. They told me at school I was lousy in algebra and would never pass it, so I went out and fought for an A-and got it.
“I was doing pretty good with the girls, too.
“I played fullback and linebacker that last year. Both ways. I was the only one to do that. I weighed 180, and I was feeling pretty good. We had a lot of parties at home, but I never got drunk or anything. Once I pretended to be gassed and made a big old scene, reeling around and all. I almost didn’t play the next game because the coach heard that I was a real drunkard. Me, a drunkard. I was always thinking about keeping in shape. I’d work out coming home from a date, even. I kept my workout clothes in the trunk of the car and would stop off at the high school field at midnight and run the track. I’d even run after parties when I had a beer or two. It was a good year for me. I made All-City, All-Conference. Great things began to happen to me, all that TV and awards.
“I almost went to Wake Forest. They had me come up for a look-see, you know. I liked the place. They offered me a full scholarship, said I could sign checks at restaurants and all. Then they cancelled on me.
“I ended up at Southern Mississippi. The summer before I went, I ran six miles a day, at 5 a.m. I did agility drills around the telephone poles. I swam a lot. But when I got there, all hot to play football, there was whole mess of high school All-Americans, you know, all talking big-time stuff. I guess I began talking big, too, but they saw right through me. I rubbed them the wrong way with it, so they began to beat on me. I guess that’s what I aimed to do-get them to beat on me so I had to be extra tough.
“I worked hard, all right. I always ran the hardest lest the coach say something bad about me and I’d lose my scholarship. I got picked on a lot, all those Southerners and they thought I was a Yankee. I kept telling them I was from Florida-I even lied and said I was born there-but they didn’t believe me. I guess I took more punishment than any freshman on the club. I was scared, all right. But, I was cocky. I had to prove myself again. Like when I was ninety-seven pounder. I went into the Golden Gloves, just beat one big s.o.b. who I hated. He weighed 230 pounds, but when I took his first punch, I know I had him licked. Like that first time you get bounced in a football game. I went at him after that, steady, you know? Round after round, and I took him. Then I went on to win the State title.
“I got a job at a summer camp in North Carolina. I worked my body up to 208. Back at college, they wanted to red-shirt me because they had five other centers, but I beat out the regular centers, and I went with the varsity. Then I got hurt. Had a knee operation. But I was determined to get back into the uniform fast. I walked out of that hospital against the doctor’s orders. Heck, I never followed doctors’ orders. All they want to do is keep a guy in bed.
“Football down in Southern Miss was right up my alley. All meanness and butting and hitting with the head. They taught you to hit a man so he couldn’t get up. The coach was the meanest guy of all. He said: If you ever get to feeling as mean as I am, come around and I’ll whip your ass.”
“I made the club, all right. I had to work to do it, though. I had to prove I was one of them. I was never one to booze it up, you know, but I had to prove I could drink and still take everyone in wind sprints. I had the coach drive me, whip me into running. I’d stay after practice and make him run me/ The others would think, What are they punishing him for?
“It was like a military unit, that football team. You learned pride in the unit. I could feel that in my senior year. They finally accepted me, all those s.o.b.’s. I finally felt like I was a leader. Then the Giants drafted me, after the 1965 season, but I was red-shirted so I couldn’t play until this year.
“I did pretty good in college. B average. I liked biology but I didn’t have enough time for labs. I majored in physical therapy and phys. Ed. We took ROTC there and I made the DMS (Distinguished Military Student).
“Then I came to Fairfield to the Giants and my life began all over again. Crazy, you know. You fight to make the high school team, then college, then again, the pros. It’s like a broken record, what you go through. Then the second week, I hurt my groin. I felt it coming, but I couldn’t lay low. Not when you’re a rookie. I didn’t let on. I stayed out of the training room so the coaches wouldn’t know. I went downtown and bought a lot of tape and taped myself in my room. Once I heard someone coming and I jumped under the covers. But I reinjured it in an exhibition game and I had to sit. I felt like I wasn’t part of the team. ‘You can’t make the club in the tub,’ they say. It scared me, all right, but I made it.
“I feel great now. I mean, I know I can play with the pros. I hurt my wrist, busted it up and all, but I played. And my neck, that hurt like hell, but I can play. I want to show them all, I’m gonna be in on every damn play. I tell myself I’m gonna get that runner every time. I yell it out, even: ‘Let’s see you come around this side. Let’s see you try! I get those juices going and there’s nothing that can stop me.
“Yeah, I’m superstitious. For example, I always put on the right shoe first, then the left. My right knee pad, then the left. I became a Catholic when I was a kid. Took Catholic instruction and all. It was good for me. I used to go to church before a game and pray to God that we’d win. But, we lost. I felt lousy about that. I hadn’t been going good before the season, so it made me feel like I was begging, asking a favor of God. I was being selfish, wasn’t I? It wasn’t like me at all, so I quit doing that. A man shouldn’t ask God for anything like that.”
It took me a while to type that. When I read that in probably 1970, it changed my life. I basically used this as a template for my career.
I will be flying a long ways Wednesday when you read this, have a great week and let’s keep lifting and learning.
Sure, there’s a science of coaching . . . But for Dan, the art of coaching is what gets results:
The art of making people think what they need to do is what they want to do.
The Sword in the Stone, Part 17
“Splendid,” said Merlyn. “Let us go for a little swim.”
The Wart was on an even keel now, and reasonably able to move about. He had leisure to look at the extraordinary universe into which the tattooed gentleman’s trident had plunged him. It was different from the universe to which he had been accustomed. For one thing, the heaven or sky above him was now a perfect circle. The horizon had closed to this. In order to imagine yourself into the Wart’s position, you would have to picture a round horizon, a few inches about your head, instead of the flat horizon which you usually see. Under this horizon of air you would have to imagine another horizon of under water, spherical and practically upside down—for the surface of the water acted partly as a mirror to what was below it. It is difficult to imagine. What makes it a great deal more difficult to imagine is that everything which human beings would consider to be above the water level was fringed with all the colours of the spectrum. For instance, if you had happened to be fishing for the Wart, he would have seen you, at the rim of the tea saucer which was the upper air to him, not as one person waving a fishing-rod, but as seven people, whose outlines were red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet, all waving the same rod whose colours were as varied. In fact, you would have been a rainbow man to him, a beacon of flashing and radiating colours, which ran into one another and had rays all about. You would have burned upon the water like Cleopatra in the poem.
The next most lovely thing was that the Wart had no weight. He was not earth-bound any more and did not have to plod along on a flat surface, pressed down by gravity and the weight of the atmosphere. He could do what men have always wanted to do, that is, fly. There is practically no difference between flying in the water and flying in the air. The best of it was that he did not have to fly in a machine, by pulling levers and sitting still, but could do it with his own body. It was like the dreams people have.
Just as they were going to swim off on their tour of inspection, a timid young roach appeared from between two waving bottle bushes of mare’s tail and hung about, looking pale with agitation. It looked at them with big, apprehensive eyes and evidently wanted something, but could not make up its mind.
“Approach,” said Merlyn gravely.
“It was like the dreams people have.”
I dream about flying a lot. In my dreams, if I jump backward and move my hips, I can fly. I’ve had that ability in dreams since my childhood. Wart’s swimming is “flying in water.”
Humans are odd creatures: we are born to walk long ways on the savannah, probably eat an omnivore diet, and work in teams. But, we also seem to want to cross large bodies of water:
First, we swim.
Then, we float.
Then, we row.
Then, we sail.
Then, we fly over it.
By the way, Wart will experience flying in some upcoming chapters. Just a little bit as a hawk, but then a full flight as an owl. In the 1958 version, he will succeed in a long distance flight as a goose, but I like the evening as an owl better than the multiple chapters as a goose.
We get an important insight about learning in this selection: Wart’s education is often about perspective.
Douglas Adams, of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” fame, said it best about perspective: “The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be.”
What is normal, as I type on keys linking to a magic box that will later send this work invisibly to my editor, Laree Draper, who lives 800 miles away in literally an instant, is in the eye of the beholder.
I travel a lot. One thing I discover is that my normal is not normal. In Europe, table manners are different. In the Middle East, I discovered an entirely new level of table manners. Foods are different and every meal’s “normal” simply is not normal to my friends here in Utah.
And, that is why I think you need to travel. It makes “normal” less so. It flips perspective.
Walking one night in Cairo, I noticed that, among the 26 million people gathered in the city, I might have been the only person who was “like me.” A few weeks later, in Nubia, the children would dare each other to touch me, as they had never seen “my kind of normal.”
Oddly, when I teach a program called “Easy Strength,” which is picking five exercises, doing a total of ten perfect repetitions in each, and leave feeling fresh and alert seems to blow the brains out of many lifters. Their “normal” is blitzing, bombing, and crushing their muscles into submission.
Easy Strength makes one very strong. It is the classic way to train. It used to be “normal.” Now, normal is…
There is that wonderful cliché about walking a mile in another person’s shoes before commenting. As the songwriter, Joe South, wrote:
Walk a mile in my shoes
Walk a mile in my shoes
Hey, before you abuse, criticize and accuse
Walk a mile in my shoes
Now your whole world
You see around you
Is just a reflection
And the law of karma
Says you’re gonna reap
Just what you sow, yes you will
You’ve lived a life of
You’d better be careful
Of every stone
That you should throw, yeah
And, you don’t learn perspective until you walk those miles.
The reference to Cleopatra is, of course, Shakespeare (a man who never dealt with Amazon reviews):
Enobarbus: I will tell you.
The barge she sat in, like a burnish’d throne,
Burned on the water: the poop was beaten gold;
Purple the sails, and so perfumed that
The winds were lovesick with them; the oars were silver,
Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made
The water which they beat to follow faster,
As amorous of their strokes.
Antony and Cleopatra, Act II, Scene II
Next time, Merlyn will do a bit of old-fashioned doctoring. But, we are about to learn about power…soon.
Sure, there’s a science of coaching . . . But for Dan, the art of coaching is what gets results:
The art of making people think what they need to do is what they want to do.
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