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Archive for June, 2012

Who’s Keeping Score?

Who keeps the score in your life? Come on…none of that “I just live day-to-day” nonsense…we ALL keep score. Money, house size, free time, successes of the progeny, number of followers, all simply proxies for hits, runs and ERA. I guess the better, more actionable question is really “who do you allow to keep score?” Let me explain.

It’s my contention that the score is ALWAYS kept. It’s inescapable. Not only that, but many people keep a running scorecard going on you. Your parents, siblings, children. Co-workers and neighbors. Friends. Everybody is paying attention and everybody is keeping score. It’s not all bad, of course, because many times folks are only counting the goals, runs, and touchdowns and ignoring the flubs and errors. It’s OK to be consciously unconscious of these particular scorekeepers because for the most part these people are engaged in a “non-zero sum” game in which victory for all is the goal, for all. They are probably cheering for you in some way, shape, or form.

It’s the OTHER scorekeepers who use the score as a weapon, who compare the scores, compete to win in a “zero sum” game, who may or may not have your permission to even be IN the game, let alone keep score, who can wreak havoc and render destruction on the playing field. These people insist on a game in which someone must lose in order that someone may win. +1 -1 = 0. They always see the game, every game, in these terms, and they want you to see it that way, too. They insist, demand, that you not only keep score in this manner, but that you also accept them as the scorekeeper.

Here’s where you get to choose, where I think you should exert your right to choose. You may seek, as I do, to convert as many of the games in your life into “non-zero sum” games, ones in which EVERYONE may triumph, as you can. Or, you can decide that this is pollyana-ish folly and view the world always through the “zero-sum” prism. Or some combination of the two. Your call. When you have a choice, though, what I DON’T think is optional is to allow anyone else to wield the pencil that keeps the score on your particular game but you, or maybe a very, very small subset of players intimately close to you. Think about it…how could you ever win, or even tie, if it’s “zero-sum” and someone else is keeping score? Why is that? Because the scorekeeper also makes the rules. Always. Why allow that to be imposed on you if you could choose otherwise?

In many ways letting someone else anoint themselves your scorekeeper is to hand over to them the right to determine what makes you a success or not. Heck, they’ll even chime in on whether or not your “score” should make you happy. Scorekeeper is just another word for “judge”, and scorekeepers seem to love to pass judgement. Should your success, your happiness, be defined by someone who seeks to impose their right to make that call?

I re-learn this lesson, slowly and painfully, again and again, over and over. My advice, offered freely and without condition, is that you should try to be smarter than I am, learn it once, and refuse to give up the pencil. Don’t let someone else decide that they get to choose the rules and keep the score on you.

 

 

Sunday musings 6/24/12

Sunday musings…

1) Happy. Nothing and no one ever seems quite as happy as a puppy in the morning at breakfast.

2) Hawaii. Lil’bingo is now in Hawaii for the second time in his 20 yr. life. Mrs. bingo and I have yet to make it there.

Mixed emotions on this one, folks.

3) Weightlifting. Cool weekend. Coach Burgener celebrated a birthday, and Holly Mangold is in the NYT Magazine today. Holly is a Superheavyweight U.S. Olympic Team weightlifter on her way to London. Like most of our team members she will not medal, but she will hopefully realize a goal that each of us can share.

Holly talks about the perfect lift, that synchrony of movements where bar and body dance so well that both are transformed from steel and sinew to something more like poetry. Holly is a big woman, 350 lbs., and yet when the lift comes together “[it's] like peace, there’s no struggle. That’s what we’re all searching for, that feeling of weightlessness.”

Said with a smile, without a touch of irony. My new favorite Olympian.

4) Community. The boys had a visitor from Miami at Comet on Saturday. Many thanks to Adrienne for bringing such a fun vibe and energy boost to our Saturday WOD! Got me thinking about different Boxes as “Lovely Daughter” explores the CrossFit options in her new home town. Nothing beats actually visiting the Affiliate (if you have options) before you join.

What are your fitness goals? You should be thinking about this, and if you are not asked you should share this with your trainer. There are enough Affiliates, especially in major metro areas, that you will be able to find gyms with a “bias” that fits your particular goals.

“Lovely Daughter” comes from a Box with a vibrant, close-knit and pretty welcoming vibe, and she’d like to use her CrossFit gym as a place to meet new friends. Indeed, most of the friends I’ve met these last 7 years have been through CF. Each Affiliate has a slightly different feel, a personality, and you should feel some kind of welcomed and comfortable.

My bet is that your options will be plentiful, wherever you land.

5) Nest. “Lovely Daughter” has left the nest. This is a particularly apt and poignant metaphor chez bingo. When she was sick “LD” spent most days asleep in a corner of our business office, curled up in a pile of pillows the staff dubbed “The Nest”. And now? Off on her own after putting Mom on a plane home this AM.

Years ago this would have been terrifying, for both Lovely Daughter and her parents. Funny how it can be so different, how you approach and respond to that “first flight” out of the nest for each of your chicks. When “The Heir” left for college it was so matter-of-fact, so finally-time-to-go (especially for him!) that it was almost a non-event. But not Lovely Daughter; this was a HAPPENING.

How’s it gonna go? Who knows, but both Mrs. bingo and I fell pretty darned good about this. Lovely Daughter has worked hard, come far, gone far. Indeed, “The Nest” seems so far away it’s kinda hard to see it any more, though it sits there, still, a silent reminder of the long journey it’s already been.

It seems it was only a yesterday ago.

6) Stress. Great article on stress in a WSJ last week. Turns out stress might be kinda like porridge: too little, too much, and jusssst right. At least as far as performance is concerned.

This is a pretty cool concept. I don’t think there’s any controversy about too much stress, either chronic or acute. We are all aware of the damage that occurs to body and spirit when we are pounded by a huge stressor or under the constant, steady barrage of unremitting stress. Indeed, I’ve written and spoken often about the transference of my CrossFit response to the stress of the WOD to my ability to handle both ambush and siege. There is a well-known blunting of the typical neuro-endocrine response, an adaptation reaped from training, that transfers to the non-physical life.

What’s a little more interesting about this, I think, is the concept of both not enough stress (you enter an activity too calm, almost blase) and just enough (you are primed, ready, alert, charged). It turns out that a little bit of stress or anxiety is actually a good thing. Those “butterflies” in the stomach before a big game, an important test, that pivotal interview, or “Fran” actually predict a better outcome in all. It seems that the absence of this lowish level of stress makes it somewhat harder to produce an optimum effort.

All of which reminds me of a quote I once heard that sums up the above quite nicely: It’s OK to have butterflies in your stomach, as long as they all fly in formation.

I’ll see you next week…

Posted by bingo at June 24, 2012 7:12 AM

 

CrossFit and Routine

“Constantly varied…” So, routine is the enemy, right? Well, yes and no. Routine is one of those multi-layered words that applies in many ways in many situations.

Routine is the enemy when we train, and I think this is true for almost all athletes, almost everyone who trains. We risk acclimation to the stimulus if we have a strict routine in the gym, if our workouts are substantially the same day after day. We further risk the numbing effects of boredom, a slow ebbing of our enthusiasm and our resolve. Routine is the major building block, the cornerstone in the brick wall that often stands between athlete/trainee and training.

Routine is our ally when “routine” is synonymous with “consistency”. Remember “Form, then consistency, and only then intensity.” The establishment of a routine, a schedule, a commitment of time and spirit to the quest for fitness, health, and athletic achievement is the first paving stone on the highway of living.

Routine, the yin and yang, push and pull, up and down, enemy and ally.

 

Sunday musings…Fatherhood and Father’s Day

Sunday musings…

Father’s Day.

The White Family attended the wedding of Beth’s dear friend’s daughter. Single Mom giving away her daughter’s hand in marriage, assisted by her decades-long boyfriend who walked down the aisle with the Bride and give her away in marriage. Mom is not a widow; boyfriend is not the bride’s genetic father. His is, however, in all other ways, a Father.

I’ve said this before but it bears repeating, especially on Father’s Day: any male can father a child. All it takes is to provide the genetic material. Heck, nowadays you don’t even have to be present, you can literally “mail it in”. This has nothing to do with being a Father. Many’s the societal ill that could be treated if more men understood the difference between “baby daddy” and Dad, but that topic’s a little bigger than this little random thought.

Fatherhood is an on-going engagement, a never-ending investment of time-space, brain-space, and emotional-space. Not everyone does it in exactly the same way, for sure. I’ve noted before that my Dad was something of an emotional deaf-mute during our younger years, a kind of Rock of Gibraltar who was right there if you needed him, but silent, looming if not. I still see him, the picture so clear in my mind, quietly rocking while reading the newspaper, seemingly ignoring everything else in the room. Until my sister headed out, escorted by a beau: “11:30 Tracy Jane.” “OK, Dad,” back from her, a little scared-stiff squeak from the guy. While he wouldn’t necessarily come to you, he was very “there” if you went to him.

Other Dad’s have a more proactive approach, trying to tune in to a child’s emotional state of being in part through active participation in  the many of their various activities. These guys turn up not only at games and concerts but may also drop in just to watch a practice or a rehearsal; they might even coach a team or two. My Dad never missed a game unless there was a conflict with another game in which a sibling might be competing, but he wasn’t the Coach Dad. Though he was silent in the stands I always knew he was there. Me? More toward Coach Dad then hang-back silent supporter. Both are effective, but either way ya gotta be there if you can.

Father’s Day as it is often celebrated is kinda funny if you think about my description of being a Father, isn’t it? Today millions of fathers will play golf, go fishing, or do any number of things accompanied by all kinds of people who aren’t their children. I think this harkens back to a time when Dad worked outside the house 6 days a week to provide for the family, and then spent Sunday doing any number of chores or tasks at home that were his to do. Father’s Day was the official “Day Off” I guess. My brother and I were caddies as kids and we would beg the caddy master to put us in Dad’s group on Father’s Day so that we could be a little part of his morning. I remember a couple Father’s Day rounds with Dad, my brother and me, and the three Levin Brothers, family foursome x 2. The afternoon would then be spent sitting at the base of that rocking chair watching the U.S. Open, largely in silence, close enough to catch any stray words that might spill from above.

My take on Fatherhood and consequently my Father’s Day has always been a little different. For me Father’s Day is when I am free to be nothing but a Dad. I’ll be around to do a WOD, help pack, cook breakfast, barbecue, whatever. Every time I hear “Dad, do you wanna…?” I’ll do everything I can to say “yes!” It’ll be really busy, or not. Jammed with activity, or just a day hanging out together. Doesn’t matter; all day I’ll just be in the active state of Fatherhood. Kinda like the boyfriend with no genetic skin in the game who gave away the bride, but who was a Father in word and deed because of what he did AFTER the bride was born. He was Dad. It’ll just be my own personal version of what I do as a Dad, and doing it around my kids.

So Happy Father’s Day to every Father out there in the various worlds I occupy. Happy Father’s Day to every single Mom doing the job of two (you didn’t think I’d forget you guys, did you?). Thank you to Dan, Megan and Randy for being the kids, my reason and my inspiration. A special shout out to Alex, Harlan, and Whitney, my “sometime kids”, who choose to let me be “Papi” when I’m needed.

And thank you to my darling Beth, my better 95%,  for helping me be a better Father today, and every day.

 

 

Williams College 30th Reunion: Friendships Found

It’s been 30 years since I left the Purple Valley and Williams College. How fun it was to spend the weekend surrounded by my fellow Ephs.

I learned a little bit about my younger self this weekend and in doing so gained a tiny bit of insight into the maturing adult I am striving to become. I graduated from college 30 years ago along with around 400 classmates. 100 or so of us returned for our Reunion weekend. You would think that in a class that small each of us would at least be on a “hi, how are you” first name basis with everyone who was there, right?

Not even close. There were folks there who I’m quite sure I never even saw in 4 years of college. Never, as in not a single time. Even more than that, there was a measurable number of really nice people with whom I had zero interaction after freshman year. How could that have been? I was a pretty social character in college. You’re shocked, I know. What’s up with that?

At a time and an age where it should be all about expansion, expanding one’s mind, experiences, circles of acquaintances and friends, quite the opposite was happening at Williams when it came to the people part of the equation. And it wasn’t just me, either; this mini-epiphany was shared almost universally at breakfast the last morning by all present.

There seem to be a couple of teachable moments in this experience, only one of which is for the younger version of me. It’s obvious looking through the retrospectometer that one should harvest as many friendships, plant as many of the seeds of friendship when one is young and still living among other young people. Makes a ton of sense, so much so that it seems almost trite. Yet here were 100 reasonably accomplished adults who’d grown up out of reasonably accomplished youngsters who almost universally let this opportunity slide by. At a minimum, we collectively failed to reap or sow as much friendship as we could have.

And for us now? We who are now 10, 20, (gasp) 30 years removed from those fertile school year fields, what is the lesson for us? Much simpler, I think. You can never have enough friends. Whether across the street and there for a wave with the retrieval of the morning paper, or across a continent and only touched when one sends news and a photo of classmates doing their tiny part to make the world a better place, you can never have enough friends.

Even more, as we learned this weekend, it’s never to late to make a new friend.

 

 

Updating A (Still) Immodest Healthcare Proposal

I have been pretty generous in sharing my thoughts about some of the ills of our American Healthcare system, especially with regard to the barriers erected between physicians and patients. The attempt to “reform” medical care via a top-down, bureaucratic solution to what may or may not ail our system is ridiculous on its face. We are to believe that our Federal Government can handle something as complex as healthcare, a segment of the economy representing ~20% of GDP? A Federal government that has proven so adept at managing other major segments of our economy like, oh, energy policy?

The “baby with the bathwater” approach in the halls of our Capitol and the editorial offices of our leading media outlets (WSJ excepted) is about as wrong-headed as you can get.  What we need is an AMERICAN solution to the challenges that we presently face with the economics of healthcare in the U.S., using our present system as the foundation. We need a solution that emphasizes the strengths of our markets, with government providing oversight to establish a playing field that is as level as possible.

Not surprisingly, I have some thoughts!

1) Malpractice tort reform. See my thoughts in “Tort Reform = Healthcare Reform”. Effective reform will dramatically reduce the scourge of defensive medicine with its attendant costs and risks to patients. We all do it, and we do it when we don’t get paid to do it. Defensive medicine represents 15-25% of all medical costs in the U.S. That’s 15-25% of $2.5 Trillion. Do the math.

2) Tax Reform #1: Remove the tax deduction for employer-offered health insurance. Provide a 100% TAX CREDIT to the lowest 60% of wage earners for the purchase of health insurance. Provide a progressive TAX DEDUCTION for the upper 40% of wage earners. Level the playing field by removing the penalty for not working for a company that can deduct your insurance premiums.

Tax Reform #2: Remove the tax deduction for advertising as a business expense for Hospitals. If we are concerned about unnecessary increased utilization of medical resources why are we allowing advertising by hospitals? Seriously, why are we subsidizing the Ohio State Medical Center when it advertises for business in Cleveland. Ohio State is in Columbus, 2.5 hours away.

For that matter, remove the tax-exempt status of any hospital or  provider that advertises. How is it appropriate to allow a hospital system to advertise to increase revenue, deduct that advertising as an expense, and still be not-for-profit? If it looks like a business, acts like a business, and sounds like a business, tax it like a business.

3) Insurance Reform #1: Reverse all of the for-profit conversions of previously not-for-profit health insurance companies. Who was the genius who thought THIS was a good idea? I don’t remember insurance premium increases that were quite so massive when all of the Blue Cross/Blue Shield plans were not-for-profit, do you? And while there were $Million execs in the non-profits I don’t recall any $10, $20, or $100 Million execs. Removing the need to answer to the stock market will create companies that will compete quite nicely with the for-profit companies without the horror of a government run system. Let the equivalent of NGO’s compete with the United Healthcares of the world.

Insurance Reform #2: Remove state-level coverage mandates and create a minimum federal set of mandates for comprehensive insurance policies. A REAL minimum. REAL medically necessary items. This is the brilliance of Sweden’s system. No Viagra or artificial  insemination coverage. Allow cross-state competition for the business. Real competition always drives prices lower.

Insurance Reform #3: Do whatever it takes to encourage the purchase of  high-deductible catastrophic health insurance for all. Real insurance that covers real medical disasters like car accidents or cancers that strike young adults.

Insurance Reform #4: Allow insurance companies (Medicare and Medicaid included) to discriminate IN FAVOR OF people who make healthy lifestyle choices (eg. no nicotine, no DUI, etc.). We are all so afraid of the stick that we refuse to allow any use of the Carrot.

4) Freedom of Speech/Restraint of Trade Reform #1: Abolish, once again, direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising. There was a quantum leap in the utilization of all sorts of medications immediately following the 1997 rulings that allowed DTC pharmaceutical marketing. If it is so obvious that our ever-increasing levels of spending on medical care is a threat to the very existence of our fair Union, then DTC drug marketing is a version of yelling “FIRE” in a crowded theater.

Freedom of Speech/Restraint of Trade Reform #2: Begin a return to the professionalism of yesterday by prohibiting all forms of advertising by, or for, physicians. The AMA gets a lot of criticism, most of it well-deserved in my opinion, but the court and FTC rulings that prohibited the AMA from censoring physicians who advertised was a seminal event in the de-professionalism of doctoring and medicine. Doctors and other medical advertising was, is, and always will be wrong. While we’re at it, do the same thing for lawyers and the practice of law.

5) Public Health. Finally, and most importantly, go to the true root of whatever “Crisis” we may have here in the United States, be it a “Healthcare Crisis” or a “Healthcare Finance Crisis” or what have you. We as a people are not healthy; certainly not as healthy as we ought to be. We are not healthy because of some wrong-headed previous Public Health decisions (simple-carbohydrate based diets, abolition of school phys-ed programs, tort-fearing closures of playgrounds, etc.). We are not healthy because our ability to treat the diseases that result  from poor lifestyle choices (cigarette smoking, alcohol abuse, preventable accidents, etc.) is SO GOOD that we are able to keep more and  more unhealthy people alive longer and longer, paying ever more to do so along the way.

This is where true leadership can make a difference. Remember JFK and the President’s Council on Fitness? I do. 8 pull-ups in the fifth grade for me. Sweden identified saturated fats from whole-milk products as a significant cause of heart diesease in the 70′s; a full court Public Health press for low-fat dairy brought about a dramatic decrease in cardiac deaths in the 80′s. Polio, measles, smallpox and whooping cough were once the leading killers of children in the U.S. but are now historical footnotes due to Public Health initiatives.

We lead the world in per capita alcohol related accidents and deaths, losing young lives by the thousands each year (is it just me or does it seem we have MORE alcohol-related problems in our youth since raising the drinking age?) We have ever more increasing numbers of truly obese citizens who go on to suffer the diseases caused by that obesity, and we pay ever more for their diabetes, hypertension, strokes and heart attacks. These lifestyle choices are root causes for our increased expenditures on Healthcare, much more so than all of the targets of Beltway demagoguery like insurance company expense ratios and pharmaceutical company profit margins. A solution to this issue, more than all of numbers 1 through 4 combined or any other proposal yet floated, is the true crux of the solution to any “Crisis” we may be facing. Everything else is only there to buy time. Time to get healthy.

It’s a Presidential Election year in the United States. There are no votes to be had in making Americans healthier. Nothing but hard work on every side of the equation. Who will stand up and do the hard work? Who will lead?

Who will have the guts to not only say that the Emperor is naked,  but also drunk and fat and puffing away our economy.

 

Sunday Musings 6/3/12

Sunday musings…

1) Timing. Yup, this was gonna be done around 0830. Not.

2) Small world. Amazing how the world has shrunken, eh? What with all of our communication technology. I kept track of my friends Greg and Jeff as they traipsed through Europe and Africa last week. Did it from Cleveland with a little help from them, their travel mates, and this little thingy called the internet.

Funny, when I was a young man my siblings and I would communicate while on the road by calling Grambingo and leaving messages with her for each other.

Small world.

3) CrossFit Games. Like most good things the CrossFit Games are a double-edged sword if you are committed to CrossFit the “life Rx”. I find that I have had to work up an entirely different “elevator talk” in the last 12 months as more and more people have been introduced to CF through the Games coverage. I think this is what it would be like if the initial exposure to skiing for 90+% of people was watching Skier-Cross on ESPN 2, ya know?

4) Positive. Great quote floating out there about nutrition: “it’s harder to eat the right way if you are always concentrating on what you CAN’T eat. It’s easier, and probably more fun, to concentrate on what you CAN eat.” Love that. You can apply that to all kinds of stuff, not only in nutrition or fitness but pretty much everywhere in life.

5) Accountable. Heavy, heavy word that, accountable. For what are you accountable? To whom are you accountable? What’s the difference? Many’s the time when the answer to a difficult, complex question can be discovered by framing it in terms of accountability. A great example is “Accountable Care Organizations” in healthcare reform: What can we expect from them? Well, to whom are they accountable and for what?

We are accountable for our actions. More specifically, we are accountable for the effects of our actions not only on ourselves but also on others. At some point in time we are always “held to account.” The law of unintended consequences does not give us a pass if things don’t turn out as expected, nor are we less accountable if the reaction is not what we had planned when we acted (or failed to act).

To whom we might be accountable is both simple and quite complex. It is complex because there are instances when others will elect themselves as the arbiters of our actions with or without our consent or our knowledge. Kinda hard to expand on this one because this type of oversight can be rather, you know, arbitrary.

We can keep this part simple, I think: we are accountable to those who we see and touch, people who hear us or see us. Our family. People with whom we live. Co-workers. Customers and clients. The lady sitting next to you on the bus or the guy in the pick-up truck you just passed on the 5.

In the end though, accountability starts (and probably ends) with you. Have you thought about how your actions are playing out? Are you content with those results? You are first and foremost accountable to yourself for your actions. If you can’t be comfortable with them how can you expect anyone else to be? The first and last person to hold you to account should be you.

Remember, this small world is changed by your actions; no part of the world is changed more than its smallest part.

You.

I’ll see you next week…

Posted by bingo at June 3, 2012 11:43 AM

 

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