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Posts Tagged ‘greg glassman’

The CrossFit Games: Defining Moments

“Defining moment”: a point at which the the essential nature or character of a person, or a group, etc. is revealed or identified.

Buzzfeed reported that Rich Froning signed an endorsement contract with Oakley, calling it a “the defining moment in CrossFit’s history.” Think about that for a moment. The signing of a single endorsement contract by Rich is being called THE defining moment in CrossFit’s, not the CrossFit Games’ mind you but CROSSFIT’s entire history.

I prefer to think of Rich’s Oakley signing as just one more milepost along the maturational highway of the CrossFit Games, CrossFit as sport. When we eventually have a Nike sponsored athlete or a Gatorade commercial (hmmm…who do you want to see with the fluorescent perspiration cascading down the body after a clip of butterfly PU?) then we will know that CrossFit the sport has broken through to the masses, not unlike that snowboard kid–what’s his name, the Floating Eggplant or something like that–getting an Amex commercial in the Olympics OFF season.

No, I think there actually have been a couple of defining moments this past year or so, one that is CrossFit in general and bridges the CrossFit/Non-CrossFit divide, and one which is specific to CrossFit, the sport and is confined for the moment within the CrossFit community. I don’t think either one of them is a promotional deal.

The first one is easy: CrossFit, Inc produces and sells the CrossFit Games to ESPN. Now THAT, boys and girls, is a defining moment. There is no Oakley contract for Rich, heck there’s probably no Reebok without the gut check Greg Glassman (universally know in the CrossFit world as simply “Coach”) and the CrossFit HQ staff made when they went it alone at the Home Depot Center for the 4rd rendition of the CrossFit Games. I’d had some conversations with Coach that winter as he worked through the various options available to CrossFit as media companies started to circle the new phenomenon that was CrossFit (my role and impact were trivial; I was simply a sounding board as Coach thought out loud).  Year 1 at the HDC was live-streamed to CrossFit Nation for free, and done so at a substantial financial loss.

Signing that ESPN deal is the very essence of a defining moment: CrossFit and Greg Glassman would control all things CrossFit, including how its signature event would be produced, and they were willing to not only walk away from silly money to do so, they were willing to LOSE money.

Think Adidas is happy about that? The Reebok/CrossFit Games and the Reebok/CrossFit deal are also a defining moment for the second largest athletic company on the planet, let alone just CrossFit. The international awareness of Reebok and its growing association with the pursuit of fitness may actually save the original Adidas deal to purchase Reebok, thus far a money loser. Reebok benefits from the buzz generated by CrossFitters talking about CrossFit, something we are known to do on occasion! Reebok has been re-defined in part as a fitness company. Now that the CrossFit Games are on “The Deuce” almost all of my conversations about CrossFit occur without the need for an introductory explanation, a true paradigm shift for CrossFit. I’ll bet that’s changed for most other CrossFitters, too.

The other defining moment is an internal one and involves CrossFit the sport, the CrossFit Games, for both participants and CrossFitting spectators. It speaks to the growth and continued maturation of both the sport and CrossFit. Each year the Games season has had an “issue” that in retrospect has made perfect sense as it related to the particular stage of development of both CrossFit and the Games. We had entries cut off at a particular number without a qualifier, and CrossFit Inc. was excoriated by the excluded. We had locally-run Regionals which generated controversy about WOD choices, and CrossFit HQ was accused of favoring certain Affiliates and athletes. We had the first Open and the surprising number of participants straining the resources of the Games staff, which was taken to task as unprepared (in truth, the volume and growth was impossible to forecast). We had Regional venue variability and therefore presumed issues of fairness. All of these were acknowledged by HQ, and ALL of them were resolved in each subsequent year. None of these, however, constituted “defining moments”, so provincial was each one.

Now we have folks at home making rules calls. Evaluating judges’ calls no differently than we see people talking about balls and strikes, one foot inbounds or two, charging or a block. This feels an awful lot like the “Big Time”. The event and the audience have now grown so big, and both have become so sophisticated, that this year people are talking, arguing,  about pretty darned subtle judging issues. The Games have grown and CrossFit has separated along the lines of those who compete in the Major Leagues and those who compete for fun (if at all). Not unlike golf or tennis or any manner of endurance sport, the divide between the 0.1% and the rest of us now exists in CrossFit, too. As far as The Sport of Fitness (R) goes, we are now all witnesses.

The gulf between Games Athlete and CrossFitter is no less wide than that which exists in any professional sport you can name, and its existence or significance does not rest on an endorsement contract. The power of this defining moment in my opinion (no endorsement, here or ever, from HQ) is that we have reached a point where we all understand the nuance of CrossFit to the degree that we are knowledgeable enough to comment on judging. We watch the events and we care enough to argue calls. At the Games, at the Regionals, and at the Open. The fact that some of us choose to do so may or may not be a good thing, but the depth of knowledge that is now present across the spectrum of people doing CrossFit, manifested by our collective awareness of the act of judging, is a significant defining moment for CrossFit, the sport.

So best of luck to Rich and all of the athletes going through the Regionals right now. Congrats to Rich on signing a landmark endorsement deal, whether or not it is a “defining moment” for CrossFit (I loved his Oakley toss to the crowd at 13.5 in Santa Cruz, by the way!). Good luck to anyone who wants to buy a pair of Rich Froening Oakleys though–in my day job we sell the brand, and let’s just say that they haven’t figured out the inventory/customer service thing.

But mostly, best of luck to all of the judges at all of the Games events. Let’s remember that every year HQ has evaluated the Games experience and come back better the next, solving each year’s issue as the Games grow into next year’s. This year will be no different. Each one of those judges is you, and they will be back with you in the Box next week in the never-ending struggle of you vs. you.

Each of you looking for your own, personal, CrossFit “defining moment” each time you walk through the door.



CrossFit Transference

What have you done, or what are you doing, to make yourself better? Not just in the Box, not just more fit, but in general.

We talk about the transference of the stress response from the WOD to life, how our willingness to put ourselves under significant physical duress teaches us that we can, indeed, perform at times of stress. This really happens; your neuro-endocrine stress response really does require a bigger stimulus to fire in that way that makes you “freeze up” after you’ve been dosed with the CrossFit prescription.

There is more to be learned in the Box or wherever you do your own version of CrossFit, of course. We learn to look at people differently once we’ve done CrossFit side-by-side, or once we’ve shared our results here. It becomes less “what do you look like?” and “what did you say?” but more “what did you do?” and “how did you do it?”. This trait has gone with me out of the gym, been transferred to the larger and more inclusive domains of my non-CrossFit worlds.

Every day, in countless Affiliates, commercial gyms, and garages, folks who do CrossFit are engaged in the active pursuit of “better.” A thinner band, a first Pull-up, a kip, a butterfly…an endless pursuit of ‘better’ at what we do in our pursuit of fitness. This, too, should transfer, eh?

There is a willingness to try new things in CrossFit, often things that are at first glance simply unimaginable. “You want me to do WHAT with that Kettlebell?!” It’s a kind of knowing fearlessness, a faith in self and a belief in self that comes from choosing to enter that dark place where we know it will be hard, but we’ve learned it will be worth it. This openness to trying new things, to learn new stuff in the pursuit of a generally better you should transfer too.

The concept of transference from Box to life is one more of those things which was discovered after the fact of CrossFit. In my day job I deal with neuroplasticity, the re-wiring of the adult brain in response to purposeful stimuli. Al!ison Be!ger’s work shows us that our pre-wiring for connection in response to shared experience explains the CrossFit community. My experience with neural training to enhance vision explains in part the transference of the stress response.

Our willingness to try new things, to learn new things in the pursuit of greater fitness, can also become ingrained. Wired. It can become just one more example of transference. “Constantly learn” need not apply only to “new sports”, nor does “and play” necessarily have to apply only to “new sports”. I’ve found not only an increase in my curiosity about things far removed from my knowns and knowables, but also a willingness to brave what it takes to learn and play new ones in the pursuit of some better version of me.

So, what are you doing today to apply what you have learned in the gym in the pursuit of a better ‘you’ tomorrow?



The Highlight Reel: Sunday musings 9/16/12

Sunday musings…

1) Floss. Floss and then brush, or brush and then floss?

It’s the new “over or under” for a new century.

2) Flossing. Traditional PT, rest, injections? All ineffective, ultimately. Several sessions with a Voodoo Floss band sandwiching a trip to Savannah? No pain.

Do the Voodoo.

3) Epic. “There are decades where nothing happens; there are weeks where decades happen.” –Lenin

Do you have that same, eerie sense that one of those weeks is nigh?

4) 35. It seems that most Nobel Laureates make their signature discoveries before the age of 35. They may not get the word out right away, and given the average age of Nobel Laureates they certainly don’t receive recognition for those discoveries until years or decades later. Some of our non-Laureated geniuses certainly came up with their stuff pre-35 for sure. See Gates, Bill et al.

Doing a little math with a calendar in front of me it looks like a certain guy we know, a trainer with a little math in his educational background, came up with an idea at age 35 that has turned out to be pretty important in the fitness world.

A little thing called CrossFit.

5) Reel. Real life in many ways is more like the CrossFit Games than it is like CrossFit training. In the Games we have winners and non-winners; in the Box we have you vs. you. We are trained it seems from early in life to not only compare ourselves with others, but to allow ourselves to be compared BY others. In this we somehow allow the creation of a zero-sum game of our own sense of self, and we allow the scores to be kept by others as well as ourselves.

Kinda like all those singing contests now on TV; the judges are supposed to be judging only the contestant singing at the moment, the contestant to be focused only on herself and the judges. Invariably though, both judges and judged compare the contestant with others, for this is an openly zero-sum game. Someone will only win because everyone else lost.

I’m more than OK with this for the Games, and I’m quite fine with this for all of those silly contests (which I admit are a guilty pleasure Chez bingo). There is a real problem, however, if we allow this kind of process, this kind of judging, to be a metric for how we view ourselves. We have an unavoidable frame of reference bias that threatens even the healthiest among us when we use these external controls to judge our internal outcomes.

Why? We tend to compare our “behind the scenes” moments, our rehearsals and our trial runs, with everyone else’s “highlight reels.” We are not usually privy to someone else’s dry runs, the failed efforts that eventually culminate in the masterpiece before us. We cannot forget our own struggles, the efforts we ourselves have made out of the limelight, and we all too often use these memories as the “compare to” when ourselves evaluate ourselves against others.

I’m reminded of a story that Grambingo tells often and well. I am one of 4. We were pretty successful youngsters, at least in the eyes of the community and at least by the standards then in place by which we (and by extension Gram and Grampbingo) were measured. My Mom would listen as fellow parents bemoaned this or that child-rearing difficulty, often followed by “oh Anne Lee, you wouldn’t know anything about this; your kids are all [whatever].” Grambingo would politely nod and smile, all the while thinking “oh boy…if you only knew!”

You see, Grambingo remembered all of the hard work, the heartaches when her kids disappointed and the battles fought so that they, the kids, might succeed. The other parents were comparing their “behind the scenes” with Grambingo’s “highlight reel”, but she knew better, she couldn’t help but remember her own “work in the gym” so to speak.

What’s the ultimate lesson here? We all compare, and we are all compared. It would be simply lovely if life were a non-zero sum game but alas, ’tis not. The lesson is as simple as making sure that you are always comparing things that are alike. Your rehearsals with someone else’s. Their highlight reel with yours.

When you are comparing apples to apples you must be sure that you are either looking at the fruit itself, or recalling the labor required to fill the basket.

I’ll see you next week…

Posted by bingo at September 16, 2012 6:20 AM


Sunday musings 9/9/12 (Anniversary Addition)

Sunday musings…


1) Jobs. Need more. ‘Nuff said.

2) Job. “The best job is the one you don’t need. That way you have permission to do what needs to be done. You can always do the right thing.” Sheri Lansing (?)

3) Life. “We’ve added years to life, not life to years.” George Carlin.

My bid is that those of us who are doing CrossFit add quality years to our lives. We can expect our senescence to be much freer of decrepitude than that of our predecessors, which will allow us to spend less time simply checking the required boxes of our days.

We are also adding a communal life to our years, at least those of us who are members of an Affiliate gym or who engage the online CrossFit community. I’ve had more substantive   conversations about more varied topics with the people I’ve met in the CrossFit community than I have in my medical community. We engage one another. We join together in our WOD’s, join together in living.

We cram just as much life into every time domain as we do work in our WOD.

4) Anniversary I. We did “Haddie”, the memorial WOD for our beloved pet that left us this time last year. The WOD included Burpee PU and runs; Haddie had a stroke in her spine and for the last two years of her life would continually fall while running, only to pick herself up and keep going. Tough chick.

Pets, dogs in particular, teach us some valuable lessons. We learn responsibility because they depend on us for the essentials of life. Every day we see what unconditional love looks like when we are smothered in puppy love upon awakening. Heck, we get it when we return from a 90 second errand.

And we learn how to say goodbye. Our pets teach us that life is finite. Our love cannot change that, nor can theirs. Before we say goodbye to our people we typically have to say goodbye to one of our dogs. It’s a lousy, ouchy lesson; it’s a measure of their love for us that they typically handle it so much better than us. We are left with memories, and even here our dog teaches us about remembering our loved and lost.

Who, after all, really remembers anything truly bad about their dog?

5) Anniversary II. Mrs. bingo and I just celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary. My “Better 95%” and I have been together 30 years in all. Pretty cool. Actually, VERY cool. One of my CrossFit buddies noted that my ROI on that 5% I contribute is pretty huge!

Marriage is hard work, and given the atmosphere around here right now it’s probably not very cool for me to offer any advice, so I’ll just channel the grace offered to me on this occasion by another CrossFitter. Robin hoped that “[our] wedding day was the day that we loved each other least.” If CrossFit is seeking to become a better you tomorrow than the you of yesterday through the work you’ve done today, perhaps we can say this about marriage:

Seek to have more love tomorrow than you did yesterday by loving more than you ever thought possible today.

I’ll see you next week…




Bingo Does the Open II

How am I going to approach the 2012 CrossFit Open? I’m a realist. I will not qualify for the CrossFit Games. I’m in the Masters age 50-54 division and even here I am simply too small and weak as a kitten (at least in comparison with my competitors). We will be required to use the same loads and do the same exact WOD’s as the 20-something firebreathers. Last year the weights were simply too much form me; I don’t see ’em getting any lighter this year.

So what will I do? Well, I’m certainly going to make the effort to get a legit score on each workout. Like the 2011 Open it’s exciting to be a part of the conversation. I have every expectation that the loads will be on the very edge of my abilities, but so what? It’ll be a worthy test.

However, I did learn a very important lesson last year. The Open totally messed up my training. Wrecked it in fact. Five weeks of inconsistency. I altered my WOD’s early in each week, and I rushed to CrossFit Cleveland every Thursday to get the Open WOD done at a registered Affiliate. Remember the mantra “form then consistency then intensity”? Consistency got the shaft.

This year my approach will be a bit different. My CrossFit program is designed to fit around my life, specifically my OR schedule. Some of those Open workouts were so beyond my reasonable ability that they were essentially worthless as training, and that made me lose one workout each week. One of four. My Open experience this year will fit my schedule and my training program. I train for tomorrow…for life. I’m pumped for the Open, excited to be part of the conversation, but my competition still needs to be “you vs. you.” After I give my all to the Open WOD as Rx’d my plan is to do a scaled version adjusted so that I get the same TRAINING  stimulus from the WOD as the better CrossFitters are getting.

Will it work? Heck, I dunno. Might be the best of both worlds, but then again I might crash and burn, too. I like the idea that I’ll be testing myself not only against the rest of the CrossFit community but also against myself. Last year I allowed the Games to occupy me.

This year I occupy the CrossFit Games!

Sunday musings 9/18/11 Seeking Answers…

1) Fear. “I used to fear the workouts…” Playoff Beard. Perspicacious previous post from PB.

This is important in light of CrossFit’s epic success w/ the Games, culminating in 12, I think, 30:00 segments showing on ESPN2. Many will come to CF based on viewing The Games on The Deuce, but many more will react with nothing but fear.

Opportunity knocks. Read through PB’s post to the part about “I realized that I’m competing only with myself” to find the answer to all of those folks who will respond “I could never do that” and remind them that these were a few hundred among hundreds of thousands doing CrossFit.

Universally scaleable. You vs. You. Brought to you courtesy of Playoff Beard.

2) Hard answers. A little help? Sometimes the answer is “no”. Can you help a little bit, here? Every now and again the most honest answer is “no, I can’t”.

These should be rare occurrences, to be sure, but they should be acceptable answers if honestly offered. Indeed, accepting “no” as an answer when we ask for help is sometimes an even greater demonstration of our regard, respect and affection for someone than the consideration given to us if they’d said “yes.”

Sometimes the only honest answer is “no.”

3) Resolve. I landed on “Cool Hand Luke” while surfing yesterday. Man, was Paul Newman something, or what? For all of his faults, and despite being guilty of whatever landed him in that prison camp, Luke was resolved to fight the injustice of his existence. He was resolved not to lose the essence of who he was, despite the hardships imposed on him by those who would break him, break his will, make him relinquish that which made him, well, cool.

Movies are usually an escape for me. I’m not often prompted to terribly deep thought while watching. But I wondered, what of my life that occasionally seems so hard, is actually hard enough that I must bend from a true course? And if it is, indeed, that hard, how long could I hold out against the constancy of the difficulty, like Luke, before I broke?

Luke, knowing that he may finally be broken, seeks answers in the church he forswore. He stands in a doorway. “What we have here is a failure to communicate”. A last act of defiance, or a capitulation? One is left to wonder: did He answer?

4) Charity. I would be remiss is I did not mention the incredible generosity of the CrossFit community in general, and in particular yesterday’s epic Fight Gone Bad series of benefits that have thus far raised >$2MM. We are a generous lot, no matter what detractors may say. It stems from a deeply ingrained generosity on the part of the founders of CrossFit, and this permeates our extended family.

How do you choose your charitable contributions? You know…to whom you will say “yes” and give a donation? We give this conscious thought chez bingo, but it’s not necessary to do so, not necessary to have a charitable plan in order to be charitable (if that makes some sense).

No plan chez you? I like this if that’s the case: the Kismet or Karma of the “run-in” (phrase courtesy of Brad Pitt). When asked how he chose the various and sundry causes that he and his family support Pitt disavowed any plan whatsoever, instead admitting that he supported the needy who he “ran into”. Kismet, some karmic thread, brings one into contact with some someone or some something where you have the opportunity and the ability to effect something positive by answering “yes’.

No charitable plan? No worries. You’ll “run-into” something sooner or later.

I’ll see you next week…

Posted by bingo at September 18, 2011 11:50 AM


The Most Dangerous Man In American Healthcare

The most dangerous man in American health care is Greg Glassman. That’s right, the man who will make the biggest difference in making our country healthier, and thereby reducing the cost of providing health care, is a fitness trainer from Santa Cruz California. And you have no idea who he is.

That’s okay, though; you’re in good company. There are lots of really important, really influential people in American healthcare who have never heard of Greg Glassman. Donald Berwick, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services? Not a clue. Toby Cosgrove, CEO of the vaunted Cleveland clinic foundation? Nope, never heard of him. So it goes, as well, for the presidents and executive vice presidents of all the various and sundry medical “letter” organizations like the AMA, the American Association of ophthalmology, and the like. The man who might hold the key to economic healthcare salvation is not even a blip on the margins of the healthcare establishment’s radar screens.

So what’s the big deal? Why is Greg Glassman the most dangerous man in American healthcare? There are two reasons, actually. First, he is right. Glassman has identified not only the most fundamental and foundational problem with the health of Americans, but he has also discovered, defined, and implemented the solution. Americans are not fit. There is an appalling lack of physical fitness in the populace. Fat and slow, or skinny–fat and weak, we are a nation of the unfit. What Science Daily calls “frailty” in an article linking a lack of fitness to poor health outcomes (ScienceDaily.com/releases/2011/04/110426122948.htm), Glassman calls decrepitude. Skinny or fat, how healthy can you be if you can’t get yourself out of a chair without assistance?

Somewhere around 2001 Greg Glassman co–founded a fitness system which he dubbed “Crossfit”(http://www.crossfit.com). He offered  the first actionable definition of fitness ever created: work capacity across broad time and modal domains. How much stuff can you move, how far, how quickly. It’s not enough to be strong, you must also be able to travel long distances. By the same token, it’s not enough to be able to travel long distances if you are not strong enough to lift your own body. This definition led to a measurement of fitness, power output or work.

To achieve this level of fitness Crossett offers the equivalent of a prescription. Exercise should consist of “constantly varied, high intensity, functional movements.” Intensity is the key. Fitness gains are not only magnified but are achieved in the most efficient manner when the exercise is performed at relatively high intensity. Functional movements include fitness standards like running, swimming and biking, but also weight training using major lifts like the deadlift, the clean, and the squat. Crossfit has returned those staples of gym classes in the 60’s, pull-ups, push-ups, and squats, to a prominence not seen since the days of Kennedy’s Presidential Council on Fitness.

Caloric intake matters; you can’t out train a bad diet or a bad lifestyle. Crossfit’s dietary prescription is quite simple: “eat meats and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but NOT BODY FAT.” Crossfit preaches the merits of both quantity and quality when if comes to food. Carbohydrates with a low glycemic index, protein containing all essential amino acids, AND FAT are all essential to producing physical fitness. Food should be seen as fuel and should be measured as such. Even the highest quality foods consumed in the most balanced proportions will produce increased body fat and decreased fitness if taken in too high volume

A funny thing happened on the way to revolutionizing the fitness industry. In addition to increased strength, increased endurance, and decreased body fat, which translated into a dramatically fewer inches and lower dress sizes, it seemed as if everyone who did Crossfit became healthier. Lower cholesterol. Lower resting heart rates. Decreased blood pressure. Elevated moods. It looked like a move away from decrepitude and frailty was actually a move TOWARD health. Toward WELLNESS.  A scientist at heart, Glassman digested this information and in 2008 made the following statement: fitness is a proxy for health. Indeed, Glassman declared that fitness EQUALS health. In this, Greg Glassman is right, or at least more right than not. At a minimum, fitness is the foundation upon which health is built. A healthy nation is one that need not expend countless $Billions on curing diseases that could be prevented by becoming fit. This is the first reason why he is the most dangerous man in American health care.

The second reason is that he doesn’t care.

Greg Glassman is like the little boy standing at the side of the road watching the naked emperor parade by who declares “the Emperor has no clothes!” He is standing there watching a parade of the fat and the weak and he is saying “hey look…they can’t get their butt off the throne!” It’s uncomfortable to hear someone say that, but he doesn’t care; it needs to be said. The standard dietary dogma of high carbohydrate, low-fat diets with little or no meat? A straight ticket to decrepitude! He doesn’t care that statements like that make all of the Oz’s and Pritiken’s sputter and squirm. When asked once upon a time how to gain weight for a movie role Glassman famously responded: “ easy…non–fat frozen yogurt.” It’s no different with exercise. Walking and other low-intensity exercises? Better than nothing, but only almost. Cue the howls of the Jillians and the Jakes, and every glossy, muscly, fitnessy magazine editor in the English speaking world. Glassman is right, and he doesn’t care.

Greg Glassman has looked at what is wrong with the health of Americans and he is willing to say what that is and say it out loud. He is willing to say that we as a people are unfit, and that this is the primary cause underlying our lack of health, and our accelerating need to spend money to cure disease. He is willing to say that the vast majority of the advice that we have received to fix this is flat out wrong, whether it comes from the government or the cover of Fitness Magazine. He is willing to say the the road to economic salvation in American Healthcare leads through the gym, the grocery store, and the kitchen, not to or through something as meaningless as an “Accountable Healthcare Organization” (whatever that may be). Although he is convinced that he is right he is presently spending gobs of his own money studying the effects of the Crossfit prescription on the health of regular people.

Yup, Greg Glassman is right, and he doesn’t care that all of the so–called experts in healthcare don’t know who he is yet, or that they wouldn’t agree with him if they did. Judging by what’s going on in the physical fitness world right now as Crossfit grows 30% PER MONTH, I’d say that makes Greg Glassman the most dangerous man in American healthcare.

Better learn how to spell his name.

The Genius Gene

The genius gene. I didn’t get one. To be fair, I was born in the deep end of the gene pool for all kinds of really cool stuff. I did get a very healthy dose of the “smart” gene; my mother is still convinced that I’m brilliant. But a genius? Capable of creating something totally new? Something that is earth–shaking, a game-changer? Nope. Don’t have it. I didn’t get that gene.

I got the “Salieri” gene.

You remember Salieri, don’t you? Salieri was the miserable soul who was not only capable of recognizing the genius of Mozart, but he was instantly aware that he would never possess that particular kind of genius. What  made him miserable, of course, was the fact that he was insanely jealous and bitter that his particular gift was the ability to identify someone else’s genius. This is one thing, though, that Salieri and I do NOT have in common. Rather than being bitter and jealous when I identify someone else’s genius, I am instead delighted, simply ecstatic to have made the discovery. Even more so, I am happy to trumpet my discovery, to tell everyone I know about a new genius or a new genius idea. And then I STEAL it!

Any genius ideas that I have ever been given credit for have essentially been derivative. I do have the gift of taking someone’s really good idea, maybe even a genius idea, and making it a little bit better. I have learned to take someone’s genius in one area and apply it somewhere entirely different, in a slightly different way, making something that appears to be totally new in that new place. Now, I always give credit for the original idea. It just wouldn’t be right to either take the credit for the “aha moment” or to fail to give attribution for the origin of my derivative. That would be a little bit TOO much like Salieri, wouldn’t it? It’s just really interesting how powerful the work of a true genius really is, for a true genius creation is applicable in areas that can range far and wide of its original intent.  It’s fascinating how few people do this, take a really good, original idea out of its universe and apply it somewhere else.

Take for instance Skyvision Centers.  From the outside sSkyvision looks like any other high–end specialty medical practice. But if you look just a little bit deeper you notice that Skyvision is actually a consumer service business; our product just happens to be eyecare. When I talk to other physicians about how we run Skyvision I get all kinds of feedback that includes the word “genius.” Looking not too terribly far below the surface, though, and you see lots of really good ideas from other parts of the business world that are simply being applied in a different setting. Our patient–flow principles are lifted directly from Toyota whose manufacturing principles, moving something through space and applying different processes to that something along the way, are widely viewed as a true genius breakthrough in manufacturing.

Skyvision is the first truly patient–centered eyecare practice in America. We built the entire business around one single patient, and every single member of the Skyvision team is borderline obsessed with maximizing the pleasure of a patient’s experience in our office. The office itself is designed to evoke other settings where patients have had a good consumer service experience. Our lobby looks much more like the front of a high end spa. High ceilings and wide hallways give the constant impression of space… elbow room… uncrowded. Even our carpet pattern was chosen to maximize comfort and minimize stress; it turns out that certain patterns make older patients unsteady on their feet and we gave our designers the task of avoiding anything that would cause subtle discomfort.

Not a single one of these ideas is new. I do not own the creation of any single element at Skyvision. What we have simply done is acknowledge good ideas elsewhere and put them together in a slightly different way in a slightly different place. Kind of like what would’ve happened if Salieri had been free of jealousy, free to simply revel in Mozart’s genius.  That’s me, a kinder, gentler, huggable Salieri, content to discover other people’s genius and then maybe  apply that genius in a little different way in a little different place. It doesn’t always work of course. Imagine if Salieri tried to adapt Mozart to the harmonica!  I’ve certainly done the equivalent of that, too.

Have you ever met a genius? A true genius? I think I’ve met a couple over the years. There’s a guy in New York, a neurologist, who may be the smartest person with whom I’ve ever actually spoken. He had about a dozen patents by the time I finished my residency. Of course, there’s also my brother-in-law Pete, the electrophysiology idiot savant. Pete’s actually probably a real, live, across the board genius, but he IS my brother-in-law and, come on now, there’s only so much credit you can give a guy like that who’s in the family! Pete can see stuff in an electrical tracing and relate it all the way down to the electrons changing spin, and then figure out how to fix what he sees with some new, off the wall solution. While he’s doing this, of course, what he’s really interested in is how he’s going to ambush me just before bedtime with something like “so, what do you think about God?” Genius.

There’s a genius in every walk of life. It doesn’t have to be something phantasmagorical like the gates to calcium channels along the heart’s electrical highway. No, it can be something as mundane as trash disposal. Baking bread. Or fitness. My most recent brush with genius has been in the world of physical fitness. That’s right… fitness. The most recent genius I’ve met is a fitness trainer from Southern California who came up with something no one else had ever been able to figure out. Something that no one has been able to dispute, argue, or contest. Greg Glassman defined physical fitness.

Herein lies another one of the characteristics of genius. You’re thinking to yourself, physical fitness, everyone knows what physical fitness is. Sure you do. Give me a definition. Define fitness…I’ll wait…ahem… still waiting… thought so. That genius thing always seems to make us go “of course!  why didn’t I think of that?” So it is with Greg Glassman and fitness. Work capacity across broad time and modal domains. Work, something you can measure. How much did you move how far how fast. Simple. Everything is now measurable. Every program designed to increase fitness can now be observed, measured, and compared.

Like most geniuses Coach Glassman didn’t stop there, though. The next little bit of genius was figuring out HOW to improve fitness in the most efficient and effective way. By utilizing “intensity”, by maximizing power  output while exercising Coach Glassman  as postulated a more direct, efficient, and effective route to producing physical fitness. Unlike most geniuses he didn’t require the help of any “derivative genius” like me to apply his two great discoveries. The creation of Crossfit, the broadly applied commercial version of his two genius breakthroughs, has done quite nicely without any help from me, thank you very much!

Nope, the place where I might be of some little help is in applying Greg Glassman’s fitness genius in the area of health. Not too very different from what I’ve done with the best practices that I found in manufacturing and consumer service in building sky vision. Coach Glassman has recently offered that fitness is a proxy for health; he has actually stated that measuring fitness is tantamount to measuring health. I think there’s a little more to it, just like I think there was a little bit more to applying best practice consumer service principles to medicine than just putting Nordstrom’s shoe salespeople in a doctor’s office. Sometimes the genius idea is just the starting line when it’s applied in a new way in a new place. Not too surprisingly, Coach Glassman and I don’t agree entirely on this at the moment, but that’s okay! Like Salieri I can find genius and geniuses frustrating at times. Unlike Salieri, though, I’m a patient man, comfortable with my role  when in the company of geniuses.

After all, they’re the ones with the genius gene.