Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 42

I have always taught that “either/or” is the lowest form of instruction. I think we learn through life that “both/and” works better in most cases and Western civilization seems to be built on that. A good education tends to look at people through the lens of both good and bad traits. In the news recently, we have seen some people tumble down because of terrible crimes, but I still wring my hands, concerned about the good they have done…in spite of their horrible crimes.

This week, I noticed that I kept stumbling back and forth with information that seemed to rub me both ways. Josh HIllis gives us an idea to calm things down and openculture will provide a nice way to look at risk and then, BANG, we find that we have to really be careful about scientific studies.

I think it was Mark Twain who said something like “Don’t read health books, you could die from a typo.”

So, this week is all about those of us who want to tear down things versus those who try to put things back. As I was thinking about this, I rediscovered a column I wrote in 1999 that said basically the same thing, which is below. So, enjoy.

I am NOT going to give away the highlights of this article by Josh. We notice that many of our readers don’t open links, but, in this case, I insist. Josh always is fun, but this time you will really enjoy his stress releasing insights. Enjoy. And, enjoy this with a cookie and some milk.

The short video on the openculture page is all you need. I think the interview goes a bit far, but the point is excellent: heroically skipping bacon at breakfast might increase my survival for the next ten years by one in a thousand. Taking my time stepping in and out of the shower…or driving to the store…will increase my chances of survival far far higher. I joke that this “young generation” tends to have strategies for the Zombie Apocalypse, but has no idea what to do this autumn.

Same with risks. Most people worry about sharks and crocodiles, but lack of exercise, sugar, refusing to floss and ignoring sleep are all much more dangerous. The same kid who tells me about Shark Week also texts on the freeway at 80 miles per hour.

Hippos, by the way, probably kill more humans every year than any other mammal or fish…maybe combined.

So, I avoid hippos.

As I am avoiding hippos, it turns out I will not be eating chocolate. Yes, sadly, our friends in the science of nutrition, those brave people who have never steered the public wrong, might have been duped! What? Gambling in Casablanca?

This will reassure you:

“What are a few simple ways average readers can scrutinize a science story (other than checking the number of people in a study)?

“Basically, if a story seems to be giving you diet advice, don’t trust it. Full stop. There is almost no scientific consensus yet. So nearly everything you read about diet and nutrition is misleading.

“Why do you think diet and nutrition research are kind of disregarded? Is it an area particularly riddled with junk science?

“This seems to be the worst. No idea why. Maybe because it’s an area of science that *seems* so easy to fake as a reporter? I mean hey, it’s just food! But really, the science is every bit as complicated as astrophysics.

James Clear has an amazing blog. Yes. No question. Is this his best ever? Maybe! Simple and to the point, this is a list of discussions that would be valuable for the dinner table. A quick favorite:

“Overrated: Avoiding criticism.

“Underrated: Sharing unique ideas.

“You can either be judged because you created something or ignored because you left your greatness inside of you. Too often, we let our fears and emotions prevent us from sharing our work with others.”

You see these every so often, but it always rings true:

“This has come as quite a shock I can tell you. I think, I’ve come to the conclusion that the whole thing was a bit of a con. A scam. An elaborate hoax.

“Countless late nights and weekends, holidays, birthdays, school recitals and anniversary dinners were willingly sacrificed at the altar of some intangible but infinitely worthy higher cause. It would all be worth it in the long run…

“This was the con. Convincing myself that there was nowhere I’d rather be was just a coping mechanism. I can see that now. It wasn’t really important. Or of any consequence at all really. How could it be. We were just shifting product. Our product, and the clients. Just meeting the quota. Feeding the beast as I called it on my more cynical days.

“So was it worth it?

“Well of course not. It turns out it was just advertising. There was no higher calling.”

What a great idea for a normal day: Think,  Eat and Lift. I suggest lifting before eating, but I digress. I liked this article, but this point is worth a moment:

“The calorie deficit should be created primarily through the diet and not cardio. That is because excessive cardio interferes with weightlifting performance.

“The caloric deficit already has negative effects of the anabolic hormones and decreases protein synthesis therefore creating most of your deficit through cardio would only serve to increase the risk of muscle and performance loss.

“A good rule of thumb is to create 80% of your deficit through diet modifications and only 20% of it through cardio.”

We are still swimming in the vast ocean of crap science concerning nutrition. Nothing worse can be found than the information on cholesterol.

“What goes for cholesterol goes for fat as well. Research has found little connection between heart disease and fat — both the saturated and unsaturated varieties. You do want to stay away from trans fat, though. That’s the man-made fat that has been shown to cause heart disease and other circulatory problems. Keep your foods as whole and natural as possible. Now you know there’s no need to keep old Mr. Cholesterol at arm’s length. Invite him in for a bacon and egg breakfast and tip your hat to his brain-boosting, infection-fighting, possibly T-raising ways.”

Finally, in 1999, I wrote this column. I think it sums this week’s WW’s main points.

Analysts and Synergists

Whenever someone teases me, I usually respond with a standard rebuttal: ‘There are two kinds of people in this world and you are not either.’

This summer, as I ran through my annual list of ‘Books I Have Got to Read’ list, I discovered that my rebuttal has many, many forms and I enjoyed reading some other variations. As I worked through two of my books at the same time, an insight began swirling around in my head and I think I finally have a handle on it.

A friend of mine, Chad, is a Methodist minister in Ohio. We were talking not long ago and he ‘insisted’ that I read a book. The book, Father Joe: The Man who Saved My Soul by satirist and comedian Tony Hendra, was indeed a marvelous work. Simply, it is the journey of a man learning that just because you have the goal of being a saint, doesn’t make you a saint. Hendra’s ongoing relationship with Father Joe, a Benedictine Priest who seemed to see far beyond the here and now, made for some excellent insight about the human condition. As great a sense of humor that Father Joe continued to show young Tony he never ‘got’ jokes that demeaned people. A joke involving blondes was not answered with a laugh; rather, Father Joe asked if a brunette in this same situation would respond in the same manner.

At the same time, I was reading Boyd: The Fighter Pilot who changed the Art of War, by Robert Coram. John Boyd was single minded, rude and overbearing, yet had the rare ability to take something from one field and combine it with another and form an entirely new way of looking at the world. He systematized aircraft performance with a simple formula that literally rewrote the way airplanes were designed and tested.

It was a chapter in the Boyd book that really made me stop and realize the parallels in these two works and the need for this kind of thinking in education. Boyd noted that the analyst’s task was to tear things apart. The world is full of analysts; if you don’t believe me you only need to host an event. You will discover that the rooms are too warm and too cold, the food didn’t have a vegetarian selection and there wasn’t enough parking. Anyone, literally anyone, can be an analyst. It is easy to tear things apart.

The challenge that John Boyd asked of his people was to be a ‘synergist,’ someone who took a bit of knowledge from one area and a bit of knowledge from another and combined the two into something completely new, different and better. I was told about the joys of adding peanut butter to a typical hamburger. You know, it is pretty good: that is synergy. The cellular telephone is based on the battlefield radios used in World War II; I was told it was a simple technology waiting to be ‘re-thought.’ Next time a cell phone goes off in church, you are witnessing a moment of synergy!

The teacher should model one of the great teaching synergists. Two thousand years after the original ‘workshops,’ we are still unpacking some simple images like a mustard seed growing, a sower with seeds, and a son who spent a lot of money. A good teacher is a good synergist: the teacher takes the elements of one part of life, mixes them with another and whips them into an image, model or story that will impact their students’ lives forever.

It would be easy to say there are two kinds of teachers in this world: analysts and synergists, but we all know that isn’t true. I don’t think someone who only tears down would survive long in the classroom. Let’s build up rather than tear down.


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Publisher’s note: New on the otpbooks.com site this week, here’s Emily Splichal’s discussion of Impact Forces.

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