Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 240
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 240
I am writing this in my cozy room at the Alexander Pope Pub. I’m glad to be here. Wednesday, when you read this, I will be somewhere over the Atlantic going home to my brother’s funeral on Saturday…then preparing for my daughter’s wedding the following Saturday.
I’ve seen this before. Just after my Dad’s funeral, Tiffini announced to me that we would be expecting a little one soon. This little one, Lindsay, is the bride in two weeks. From sorrow, joy; from joy, sorrow. I’m not saying anything new.
I’ve been lucky: I have had some amazing experiences with the British military and dozens of conversations with people who love lifting. We might be an odd breed, but we are interesting!
I think I opened a few windows this week explaining one of my big theories about most people: they tell you what YOU want to hear. No…they tell you what they think you want to hear. Let me explain this:
People tell you what they think you want to hear
I’ve been working with humans since I can remember. We certainly are an interesting species. We can do amazing things like travel to deepest depths of the ocean and climb the tallest mountains.
Day to day, most of us don’t lead the adventurer’s life, cure diseases and hoist trophies. Sure, most of us have our moments, but we also have our bad days or weeks. Or months. Or decades.
When working with clients in the area of goalsetting, my ears seem to have a problem:
Everyone who works with me has extremely lofty goals. Yet, rarely, does anyone achieve them!
It took me years to understand this and a quick discussion with the mirror helped me get my arms around this conundrum.
As I look back, I remember my mom asking me if I did my homework, my chores and my basic grooming and hygiene:
“Yes, yes I did.” I had NOT done any of these things as I ran out to play. I told my mom what I thought she wanted to hear. Being the youngest of six, this never worked for me. She knew the real truth.
When you ask a fitness client “what is your goal?,” the answer is always perfect:
“I want to lose weight. I want to get back to daily exercise. I really want to be lean and trim again.”
And…that’s because this is what they think you want to hear. I ask a lot of questions when I assess people and I strive to bring the person back to the “real.” Reality is tough enough.
“Do you eat colorful vegetables every day?” I had to add “colorful” because most people think potato and corn chips are veggies. The answer is usually: “Yes, yes I do!” “Do you exercise half an hour a day? “Yes, yes I do!”
Too bad. I can’t help you because I was going to have you eat veggies and exercise half an hour a day. I’m sorry I can’t help you.
This tends to get people closer to the truth. This is where we get the long, drawn out “well.” Finally, we get to the truth. Usually, the truth is this: you see this person here, it’s not me.
Our journey in fitness, health and longevity begins here: If I’m not me, how do I rediscover “me?” With this insight, we begin the walk.
Let’s look at the net. This article got personal for me. It’s the truest thing I have read in some time about my role with colleges today.
Tenure also has its critics, and not without reason. Compelling arguments that the decision-making process is opaque, allowing bias to go undetected, and that safeguarding positions allows deadwood professors to keep their positions, all make tenure worth a critical second look. My father’s experience reflected the upsides of the old regime: A young professor moves laterally to get a tenure-track position, gets tenure, and then jumps again for more prestige, in my father’s case an endowed chair. He had an office, kept office hours, prepared his own curriculum, was invited to faculty seminars and programs on pedagogical advances, and had staff support and other resources so he could focus on teaching and scholarship rather than on seeking the next opening to teach a course and driving between campuses. My father served as mentor, emotional support, and intellectual guide for several generations of young scholars, while at the same time pursuing his own cutting-edge scholarship. Even among those academics who didn’t share this trajectory, 80 percent were still full-time and eligible for tenure. While there are still professors who enjoy the benefits of tenure and the emoluments that go along with that status, many of their colleagues make up the proletariat of the ivory tower, with no hope of advancement, abysmal wages, and no job security.
Some adjuncts are refusing to accept the status quo. Across the country, many of them have turned to the Service Employees International Union, the United Autoworkers, the American Federation of Teachers, and other unions to improve their lot. Mary-Faith Cerasoli attends rallies in her “Homeless Prof” vest. In D.C., the SEIU, led by adjuncts including Mitch Tropin, has successfully pushed for contracts at American University, Howard, Georgetown, George Washington, Montgomery College, and, just recently, at Trinity, meaning that the majority of adjuncts in the D.C. area are now represented by the union. Fighting under the banner of the “Fight for $15,” like fast-food workers, they argue that they should be paid $15,000 per course—which would equal $90,000 annually for a professor with three courses per semester. (Given that the American Association of University Professors estimates the average earnings for assistant professors at $62,500 to $76,900 and for associate professors at $75,220 to $91,200, this figure is truly aspirational at this point.) While some schools like Georgetown have accepted unions without too much fuss, others have adopted the tactics long used by anti-labor businesses: falsely accusing labor officials of earning exorbitant salaries, hiring law firms that specialize in union busting, and firing those involved in the campaign. But many adjuncts are committed to the fight. Tiffany Kraft, who teaches at four different institutions in the Portland, Oregon, area says, “What do we have to lose? We’ve been scared into complicity for so long, but I didn’t go through fourteen years of higher education to be treated like shit.”
If you want to upset people, talk about calories. This article does a nice job with the issues: Death of the Calorie.
For more than a century we’ve counted on calories to tell us what will make us fat. Peter Wilson says it’s time …
Fed up with feeling like a hungry failure, he decided to give it a go. He ditched his heavily processed low-calorie products and focused on the quality of his food rather than quantity. He stopped feeling ravenous all the time. “It sounds simple but I decided to listen to my body and eat whenever I was hungry but only when I was hungry, and to eat real food, not food ‘products’,” he says. He went back to items that he’d long banned himself from eating. He had his first rasher of bacon in three years and enjoyed cheese, whole-fat milk and steaks.
He immediately felt less hungry and happier. More surprising, he quickly began to lose his extra fat. “I was sleeping so much better and within a couple of months I stopped the depression and anxiety medication,” he says. “I went from always feeling guilty and angry and afraid to feeling in control of myself and actually proud of my own body. Suddenly I could enjoy eating and drinking again.”
The weight stayed off and in 2012 he moved to Heidelberg in Germany, a world away from the hectic streets of Mexico, to study for a masters degree in public health. “The idea hit me that I could combine my own experience with academic work to try to help other people overcome these various barriers that I had found.” After his masters he embarked on a doctorate on how to tackle obesity in Mexico.
Today he is married to a German scholar, Erica Gunther, who has studied food systems around the world. Their diet includes things he used to shun, such as egg yolks, olive oil and nuts. Two days a week the couple stick to vegetarian meals but otherwise he devours steak, kidneys, liver and some of his favourite Mexican dishes – barbacoa (lamb), carnitas (pork) and tacos with grilled meat.
His wife enjoys making a traditional Mexican sweet pastry called pan de muerto (bread of death). “Before I would have run an extra two hours to compensate for eating that but now I don’t care, I just make sure it is a treat, not an everyday thing.” Having spent years trying to forgo alcohol, he has a glass or two of wine several times a week, and goes for a beer with friends from his gym.
Sweating through three or four workouts a week, he is as well-muscled as a professional rugby player. A stable 80kg, he has very little body fat, though he is still considered overweight by the body-mass-index charts, which rate many beefed-up professional athletes as too heavy. The only relapse of anxiety he suffers nowadays happens when he hears Tori Amos singing “Bliss” – the song playing when he was kidnapped – which he says “is a real pity because it’s a great song”.
Today Camacho could be described as a calorie dissident, one of a small but growing number of academics and scientists who say that the persistence of calorie-counting compounds the obesity epidemic, rather than remedying it. Counting calories has disrupted our ability to eat the right amount of food, he says, and has steered us towards poor choices. In 2017 he wrote an academic paper that was one of the most savage attacks on the calorie system published in a peer-reviewed journal. “I’m actually embarrassed at what I used to believe,” he says. “I was doing everything I could to follow the official advice but it was totally wrong and I feel stupid for never even questioning it.”
Obviously, I am a fan of learning. This article has some gems.
3. Get Feedback
It’s important to get input from mentors, coaches, or experts who’ve done what we’re trying to do.
I can’t stress this enough. Show your progress to an experienced person.
Play the guitar in front of a teacher
Send your articles to an established writer
Discuss your business model with a successful entrepreneur
If you don’t have access to an expert, consider paying someone. Getting feedback from a more experienced person is scary. I’ve been there many times.
We don’t like to be told that we’re doing things wrong. We also don’t like to look stupid. That’s normal. But what’s more important. Your feelings or your career?
Also, good mentors and coaches never make you feel bad. Remember: If make you feel bad, you’ve asked the wrong person for advice.
Seek out people who are already established and have nothing to prove. They will help you better.
I found this article to be full of truths in writing. I have a two-hour limit. The “creative work” happens in the gym, cafes and walks.
I spent most of the first year writing The Subtle Art with this mindset of “more = better.” As a result, looking back, I spent at least half of my working hours fixing the messes I created unnecessarily in the first place.
Eventually, after months of frustration, I began to notice that most days, everything I wrote in the first 1-2 hours was great. It needed little revision and usually fit quite well with the message I was trying to go for in the book.
Everything written between 3-4 hours was mixed. On good days, I’d produce some good content (although almost never as good as the first two hours). But on bad days, most of it wasn’t usable and I was creating more work for myself.
Pretty much everything beyond hour number four sucked. Past that, any writing I attempted had negative returns and I was strangely better off playing video games or something.
I’m off to go teach kettlebells. See you next week. Until then, keep on lifting and learning.
For your quick access link, here’s Dan’s full OTP page, including all of his articles, books, lectures and videos, all in one place.
I’m pausing the The Sword in the Stone work for a few weeks. It occurred to me that I have always seen myself as Wart and my brother, Phil, as Sir Kay. This just isn’t the time for me to push on. Obviously, I will be back soon. Oddly, I found this quote from our author, T. H. White comforting:
“Life is such unutterable hell, solely because it is sometimes beautiful. If we could only be miserable all the time, if there could be no such things as love or beauty or faith or hope, if I could be absolutely certain that my love would never be returned: how much more simple life would be. One could plod through the Siberian salt mines of existence without being bothered about happiness. Unfortunately the happiness is there. There is always the chance (about eight hundred and fifty to one) that another heart will come to mine. I can’t help hoping, and keeping faith, and loving beauty. Quite frequently I am not so miserable as it would be wise to be.” ~ T.H. White, Ghostly, Grim and Gruesome
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