Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 243

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 243

As you read this, I’m on a plane heading for Europe. I am speaking at a conference and I will be with lots of friends…in real life and in the industry.
My life is calming down a bit. I think that is good. I have been getting some sun, some training and lots of good food. I’ve been making and drinking about a gallon of sun tea every day. I mix a bunch of varieties of tea (it’s amazing how many kinds of tea are at my store) and trying to take some time to read and get smarter.
My daughter’s wedding recharged a lot of relationships. Sometimes, you just don’t see the people you love enough. And, of course, you see toxic people way too much. I’m sure there is some kind of life lesson here.
Last week, I told you I would sum parts of the book Easy Strength. I have been enjoying the process of rewriting and rethinking the big keys. I have been using my Chinese language translation to remind of the big takeaways.
So, Quadrant One.
There is something magical about youth. Well, maybe we can say: There WAS something magical about youth. As a child, the best part of Christmas was the huge tubes of cardboard mom would give me after she used the last bit of wrapping paper.
Those tubes would become cannons to shoot at the enemy warships, rifle barrels to fight for freedom and swords to keep The Three Musketeers’ enemies at bay. We climbed trees to snipe our foes, climbed under porches and generally made nuisances of ourselves. These tools, in my family, became part of survival fighting in America’s various wars.
Today, we see playgrounds being denuded of monkey bars, swings, teeter totters and all variety and kind of playground mischief. I think there is a cost. The cost is in learning the basics of human experience.
George Hebert warned us about this a century ago. He argued that there are ten tools for survival that can literally save us as we move through life:
Pursuit: walk, run, crawl
Escape: climb, balance, jump, swim
Attack: throw, lift, fight

I learned them all as a child and, if I may, I would like to include two more:
Tumbling/breakfalling and riding a bicycle
There is an old story about a young man who goes off to study theology. On the way home after years of study, he needs to get across a river. He hires a boatman. Halfway across the river, the boatman asks:
What did you learn in school?
“Important things about the universe, life and everything.”
Ah. Did you learn to swim?
“No, only important things.”
Ah. Too bad. The boat is sinking.

Quadrant One is the crucial period of life that we learn “Integrity with the Environment.” We learn the vertical environment by climbing up and crawling over things. We learn the horizontal environment by crawling under things, skipping over stuff and generally running amok.
These are life lessons. If you didn’t learn Hebert’s skills as a child….when will you?

End Easy Strength for now!
A few highlights from my touring around the internet this week. I hope you enjoy them!
This video was recommended on my forum. It is about the incredible journey of Columbian weightlifter, Oscar Figueroa.

I’m not sure why more people, as I am thinking out loud, don’t use this forum:

There are so many good, kind, intelligent people on there; it reminds me of the early days of the internet when people still acted like they were still part of humanity.
I would hope you would take the time to read this whole article. Really…I can’t just sum it. It’s worth your time. A small point: many Olympians have the issues discussed here (in my experience).


This study may simply be showing that it’s hard to live up to high expectations, and that telling your kid she is a genius is not necessarily good parenting. (The Holahans surmise that the children identified as gifted might have made intellectual ability more central to their self-appraisal, creating “unrealistic expectations for success” and causing them to fail to “take into account the many other life influences on success and recognition.”) However, abundant evidence suggests that the waning of ability in people of high accomplishment is especially brutal psychologically. Consider professional athletes, many of whom struggle profoundly after their sports career ends. Tragic examples abound, involving depression, addiction, or suicide; unhappiness in retired athletes may even be the norm, at least temporarily. A study published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology in 2003, which charted the life satisfaction of former Olympic athletes, found that they generally struggled with a low sense of personal control when they first stopped competing.
Recently, I asked Dominique Dawes, a former Olympic gold-medal gymnast, how normal life felt after competing and winning at the highest levels. She told me that she is happy, but that the adjustment wasn’t easy—and still isn’t, even though she won her last Olympic medal in 2000. “My Olympic self would ruin my marriage and leave my kids feeling inadequate,” she told me, because it is so demanding and hard-driving. “Living life as if every day is an Olympics only makes those around me miserable.”
Why might former elite performers have such a hard time? No academic research has yet proved this, but I strongly suspect that the memory of remarkable ability, if that is the source of one’s self-worth, might, for some, provide an invidious contrast to a later, less remarkable life. “Unhappy is he who depends on success to be happy,” Alex Dias Ribeiro, a former Formula 1 race-car driver, once wrote. “For such a person, the end of a successful career is the end of the line. His destiny is to die of bitterness or to search for more success in other careers and to go on living from success to success until he falls dead. In this case, there will not be life after success.”
Call it the Principle of Psychoprofessional Gravitation: the idea that the agony of professional oblivion is directly related to the height of professional prestige previously achieved, and to one’s emotional attachment to that prestige. Problems related to achieving professional success might appear to be a pretty good species of problem to have; even raising this issue risks seeming precious. But if you reach professional heights and are deeply invested in being high up, you can suffer mightily when you inevitably fall. That’s the man on the plane. Maybe that will be you, too. And, without significant intervention, I suspect it will be me.

End quote
The students I work with often mention they have a “passion” for this or that. But they don’t do the things that hurt. Look up the word “passion” and you find suffering, not fun. I liked this piece.


At the core of all human behavior, our needs are more or less similar. Positive experience is easy to handle. It’s negative experience that we all, by definition, struggle with. Therefore, what we get out of life is not determined by the good feelings we desire but by what bad feelings we’re willing and able to sustain to get us to those good feelings.
People want an amazing physique. But you don’t end up with one unless you legitimately appreciate the pain and physical stress that comes with living inside a gym for hour upon hour, unless you love calculating and calibrating the food you eat, planning your life out in tiny plate-sized portions.
People want to start their own business or become financially independent. But you don’t end up a successful entrepreneur unless you find a way to appreciate the risk, the uncertainty, the repeated failures, and working insane hours on something you have no idea whether will be successful or not.
People want a partner, a spouse. But you don’t end up attracting someone amazing without appreciating the emotional turbulence that comes with weathering rejections, building the sexual tension that never gets released, and staring blankly at a phone that never rings. It’s part of the game of love. You can’t win if you don’t play.
What determines your success isn’t “What do you want to enjoy?” The question is, “What pain do you want to sustain?” The quality of your life is not determined by the quality of your positive experiences but the quality of your negative experiences. And to get good at dealing with negative experiences is to get good at dealing with life.

End quote
I always get smarter reading Josh Hillis’s work. I missed this one originally…great stats in this article…but here is something important:


Larson also told E! News: “It was the first time where I felt like I was making my body work for me. I think in the past, I was more interested in my body never being part of conversation. To me, it felt like objectification; I just wanted to be a brain, so I’ve only cared about reading books and understanding words, and anything that involved my body made me itchy. But this was an opportunity for me to…  make my body mine.”
While objectification and overvaluing physical appearance is well known in Hollywood, it has a lot to do with how regular folks approach their fitness in the real world, as well.
The irony is that people tend to get better results when they’re focused on process based goals (like doing the work) instead of outcome goals (like looking a certain way).  Paradoxically, people who over-value the end result often get disheartened and quit, when they don’t hit their goals fast enough, or maybe miss a milestone on the way to their goals.  They get thrown by each and every (normal) bump in the road.
On the flip-side, people get awesome results when they simply focus on doing the work.  When people just focus on doing the work:
    The do more work
    They do higher quality work
    They do more consistent work
If you just focus on doing the work in the gym every day, you’ll get stronger.

End quote
Time to close for now. I have to plan and pack. But, until next time, let’s all keep 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.

The Sword in the Stone, Part 97
The Wart tried to say Good-by, but found that he was dumb. He looked quickly at his hands, but they were not there. Aesculapius had accepted him so gently that he had not noticed it, and he was lying on the ground.
“Pour off, then,” said Merlyn. “Go and search for him in the nettles.”
Some people say that snakes are deaf, and others that they deafen themselves in order to escape being charmed by music. The thoughtful adder, for instance, is said by many learned persons to lay one ear upon the ground and to stick the point of his tail into the other so that he cannot hear your music. Wart found that as a matter of fact snakes were not deaf. He had an ear anyway, which was conscious of deep roaring sounds that were approximate to the noises which he had learned as a boy. For instance, if somebody bangs on the side of the bath or if the pipes begin to gurgle when your ears are under water, you hear sounds which are different from those which would be heard in a normal position. But you would soon get accustomed to these sounds, and connect the roaring and bumbling with water-pipes, if you kept your head under water for long. In fact, although you heard a different kind of noise, you would still be hearing the pipes which human beings hear in the upper air. So the Wart could hear what Merlyn said, though it sounded very thin and high, and he therefore hoped to be able to talk to the snake. He darted out his tongue, which he used as a sort of feeler such as a long stick with which an explorer might probe the bogs in front of him, and he slid off into the nettles in search of his companion.

End quote
J. K. Rowling used White’s work as a bit of an example for her epic Harry Potterseries. As I read through this, I am reminded of the scene in Goblet of Fire where Harry goes underwater in the bath to get the mer-people’s hint.
White has this ability, it’s clear here, to take a little trivial point (whether or not snakes can hear) and expand it into an interesting piece. As I review this book basically paragraph by paragraph, I am beginning to see the “secret” of good writing.
Listen: we all “know” the plot. We all “know” Wart is Arthur and he becomes king. The delight is in the details. I’ve read dozens of Arthurian books and, usually, they are bad. They rush past the things like snake’s hearing and rush to the finish line.
There is a lesson for writers and writing here: push the plot but color the background.
We meet T. Natrix next time.



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