Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘business’

Sunday musings 2/26/17: Information Offloading

Sunday musings…

1) Hinnie. A mule/horse cross used for work in hillside vineyards in Portugal. Hardy and sure-footed.

Even Beth didn’t know that.

2) Modernity. Synonym for progress. Or not.

3) Business. “Business is never just business.” The Godfather.

It’s amazing how true this is. How false rings the phrase: “It’s just business.” Business, like politics, is ALWAYS personal. Someone wins; someone loses. Someone is brought along to victory without making a contribution, given a gift. Someone is collateral damage. Somewhere along the line the Hinnies go to work, but the ox gets gored.

4) PAI. Personal Activity Intelligence. This is a new fitness measurement from the company Mio Global that proposes that one can measure fitness through a proprietary formula that takes into account variability in your heart rate associate with activity. It owes its claim to Scandinavian data over some 40 or so years that shows an increased longevity associated with a higher PAI.

I put my sensor on yesterday and will embark on a bit of an exploration. As anyone who has read my stuff knows, I am actively in the process of developing a single metric for health, one that includes Fitness, Emotional Well-Being, and traditionally Western health measures. Call it the OHI or Objective Health Index. A serious challenge to any such measurement is that it must be accessible to the overwhelming majority of people anywhere. Any successful effort must also be simple and relatively easy to understand as well. Heart rate is all of that.

After a single session in my classic CrossFit garage gym it is evident that PAI is not an adequate stand alone proxy for fitness. Like almost every such proposal it is only really an effective measurement of cardiovascular fitness. While we would all agree that this is a critical element of fitness, we in the CrossFit universe would–and do–scoff at the notion that all one needs to do to be fit is run or bike long distances. This measurement, like all others, will need a companion integer that allows us to add strength to our Fitness variable.

Still, this stands to be interesting.

5) Offloading. Why do I write? Why do I sit down and use time that could otherwise be put to use in the gym, or in the office, or even just hanging with the Man Cub? As a long-standing lover of language I am always on the lookout for the best vocabulary to explain concepts I sometimes struggle with. Offloading is a term that is used in this case to describe what it is that humans do with information that they do not need to keep on hand in “useful memory” space.

This is what I do with ideas when my “wetware” memory is full.

This is hardly new. Indeed, the sturm und drang associated with the mega-trends in education, etc. associated with our massive information/recall apparatus that is the internet actually has its origin in the Greek era of Socrates and the transition from an oral tradition to one in which teachings were written. (HT to Frank Wilczek). Prominent adherents to the oral tradition such as Socrates and Simonides argued forcefully that the advent of the written transfer of information would weaken the mind and produce an inferior type of intelligence. In a fascinating and delicious ironic twist, all we know of either of these men we know because someone else wrote down what they recalled hearing.

In my day job we are still encased in a paradigm in which information is transferred from teacher to student and then tested to see if that information has been committed to memory. Imagine, with the explosion of data now available in the world of medicine we test (and test, and test…) both new doctors and established ones to see if they remember a certain percentage of facts, regardless of how often those facts come into play in the act of practicing medicine. The CrossFit analogy is to test a trainer on the precise moment that the obturator engages in the deadlift. One neither needs to know this to teach the deadlift, nor does one need to have memorized this in order to have it on hand in the gym. So, too, in medicine.

Please don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy knowing a bunch of stuff and being able to call up that stuff without needing to use my Google-Fu. The reality is that we have made a move from memory in written form to memory in digital form that is just as profound and disruptive as that from oral to written. We have only to remember where it is we have stored our memories, our books and our music and our musings.

And our passwords. We still need to remember our passwords.

I’ll see you next week…


Doc or Trainer: Owning Your Own Job

We are starting to see some turnover among the OG CrossFit Affiliate owners. Some, like Skip, were in literally on the ground floor, and a successful Box rode them into the sunset (enjoy your retirement!). Others, like Steve and Kelly, have nearly 10 years into ownership as they approach both mid-career and mid-life. They turn over a highly successful business and take on the role of “Founder” (can’t wait to see what’s next for you!). Some owners have left the CrossFit fold and changed the name and structure of their gyms. There have certainly been some closings, typically folks who either didn’t really know what it was they were getting in to, or found that being the owner of a job is more than they bargained for.

As such, the successful CrossFit Affiliate is much like every other small business where the owner is also operator. My day job is like that: if I don’t show up for work no revenue is generated. A huge percentage of small businesses run just like this. What you own is not so much a business as it is owning your own job.

With all of the talk of exercise as medicine lately, it’s interesting to compare and contrast the megatrends at work in the fitness industry and medicine when it comes to practitioners. In medicine we are in the midst of what is nothing short of a diaspora with physicians leaving the private practice of medicine for employment in ever-larger organizations. It should be noted that this phenomenon is in direct response to government action. Men and women who once owned their job, with all of the responsibilities (payroll, rent, etc.) and freedoms (hours of operation, client experience, etc) now work is settings where process and protocol is dictated to them, and fidelity to the organization has primacy.

Thanks to CrossFit and the CrossFit Affiliate model, the megatrend in fitness is exactly the opposite. Trainers have been unleashed from the corporate environment where salesmanship is the most highly regarded skill, and put in charge of a job where outcomes drive the business. Affiliate owners are the new private practitioners of fitness, in charge of everything from programming to toilet paper.

A certain tension has always existed between large medical organizations and smaller private practices. It should come as no surprise that similar tensions exist between CrossFit and its Affiliates and large fitness businesses and their partners. Large organizations crave control and abhor independent competition. Indeed, for those behemoths the only thing worse than independent competitors is being shown up by them. You know, like getting better surgical outcomes or having clients who look like the crowd at the Games. Large organizations often turn to government to suppress this type of competition and make the megatrends flow their way.

There are several important points to be made from this comparison. First, of course, is that every Affiliate owner and every member at every Box should fight alongside HQ is this battle. Trainers get better with more experience, not with more certificates.
Trainers who own their jobs also own not only their outcomes but everything about the experience of their clients. Just like a private physician. I’m biased, of course, but this is well worth fighting for.

For those fortunate enough to train people for a living the reality is that you don’t, and likely never will, own a business. There are very few large CrossFit businesses. For every CrossFit NYC or CrossFit Eado there are 3 or 4 hundred boxes run primarily by the owner. What you own is your own job. You’ll need initiative, passion, and resilience. A thick skin is helpful, too, because you’ll get plenty of feedback on that job. With a little luck you, too, may one day leave behind something significant enough that there is someone there to carry on when you leave.

There’s some turnover in Affiliates. At the moment nothing like a trend exists. Owning your own job is not for the faint of heart, and some will find it not their cup of tea. Others, like the OG’s above, will leave for that next thing on the horizon. What mattered is that they had the opportunity to own a job and took it, creating something that will live after they have gone.

The best boss is the client (or patient) who chooses you. The chance to work for them is worth fighting for.

I’ll see you next week…

Sunday musings 6/14/15

1) Droll. Troll who spent some time at Second City.

2) Pressure. “Pressure is a privilege.” Billie Jean King.

Perhaps Ms. King means that “pressure” is felt only by those who participate in an activity by choice. Those who have no choice feel no pressure because they simply do what they must. War. Poverty. Disease. Little or no time or energy for pressure. One must simply do.

Lots of layers to explore in that little gem.

3) Joy. “Take a chance on joy.” Saw this about 7 times in the last 24 hours in 7 very different places, 7 very different ways. Must be a sign.

Seriously, why not?

4) Profit. We ought to understand that the first priority of any business is to stay in business. The overarching priority of every business man/woman is to keep their business open. We should never be surprised when the true owners of a business make this the desired outcome of their strategy, and IMO we have no standing to criticize any legitimate business that does so.

We are, however, free to be surprised by their tactics.

5) Authenticity. Several friends and acquaintances checking in from travels afar this morning have me thinking. What constitutes a culturally authentic experience? Serious question. The follow-up, of course, is who gets to decide on behalf of a particular culture whether or not said experience was indeed authentic?

There are more questions in this bucket than answers, at least from me I’m afraid. As one not of a particular culture, is it even possible to have an authentic experience? Is the simple fact that one is without cultural “chops” nullification of authenticity? At a distance, reading about a particular culture for example, what makes it possible to have true empathy with a character? To have an authentic experience by proxy, as it were?

I am by nature a curious being, constantly on the prowl for knowledge. As I age I find that my thirst for knowledge is quenched more by experiences gained than by the acquisition of skills with practical application. It’s a search for enrichment, I think, more than a skill set. Perhaps adding a requirement of authenticity is unnecessary, even a bit precious or presumptuous. Is it even possible for a child of the unoppressed, barely burdened American middle class capable of experiential authenticity? Dunno.

In the end it probably doesn’t really matter, eh? The take home message, at least for me, is simply to seek experiences that are outside my own cultural silo. To do so respectfully, and in a way that they are as close to authentic as they might be, in order that I may then expand my understanding of cultures ever further from whatever may be my own.

Maybe–just maybe– that’ll make the experiences authentic enough.

I’ll see you next week…