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Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘wall street’

Disruption vs. Disrupting

In any competitive arena, be it sports or business, a ‘zero-sum’ environment demands a level playing field for all contestants. Rigging the game makes one segment of the players winners from the get-go, and all others simply dupes who are there to feed the riggers. Rigging the game is different in my opinion from figuring out a better way to play, or just simply being better. It’s like knowing the next 5 cards that will be turned in poker, or being the only player to have a map of every obstacle on the course before you start.

A true disruption is a deviation from the status quo, one from which no one turns back. The micro-computer on the desktop spelled the doom of the hegemony of the mainframe. Constantly varied functional movements performed at relatively high intensity may prove to do the same to what we think of as traditional fitness. The business model of decentralized ownership of fitness training facilities is certainly disruptive to the established fitness business model, as is the “least rents” business model of CrossFit, Inc. to the franchise model which thus far still dominates.

The connection between the concept of disruption and game-rigging is this: when the game-riggers represent the status quo, the disruption is more often loud and messy as the establishment clings to their position with ever smaller handholds. Think high-speed stock trading, where the incumbent industry powers can see your bids before your sellers’, getting in and out of a trade before you and profiting because they could see your offer but you couldn’t see theirs. This is hardly true disruption, it’s just a better version of something called “front running”. The game is rigged, like having one of those table cameras in the poker shows and seeing your cards. It’s pretty hard to feel OK about their profits in that game, pretty hard to see where they are adding any value to the system.

It’s a little like that in the fitness world right now, isn’t it? The feisty newcomer has what looks to be a truly disruptive model, both from a system standpoint and a business model standpoint. The established powers are fighting back in many ways, some of them loud and messy. Bad science and straw man arguments beget a flood of bad PR, while at the same time businesses that see the true disruptive nature of the methodology are not content to simply adopt it but try to usurp the brand. The established powers beseech government to regulate the disruption back to the status quo, the last option for the in-power and they are stripped by disruption.

How will either of these examples end? What will become of the disrupters in the financial world who have discovered the rigged game and propose to re-boot the system without the rigging or the riggers? Will they be regulated out of existence, still-born because of crony politics? What will we see in the battle for the hearts, minds, and membership fees between CrossFit and the ACSM/GloboGym axis? Will we see frivolous regulation layered onto the faux scientific attacks?

In the end a true disruption eventually wins out, while something that looks on the surface like a disruption but is actually just rigging the game is ultimately defeated. You either acknowledge the disruption and adapt (IBM builds desktop computers), or you acknowledge that the disrupters will own the space they created and seek another way to profit from the new environment (IBM sells its desktop/laptop divisions and becomes a consulting company). The people who try to rig the game, perhaps by attempting to coerce existing customers to adhere to the status quo, or who deny the reality of the rigged game, only succeed if they invoke the aid of government. Hence the entreaties from entrenched interests in both finance and fitness for regulation of the disruptive entities.

Who will win? Who should win? Who do you wish to win? I hate a rigged game not matter where it is, who’s playing, or why I’m in the game. Well-meaning disruption has led to many (most?) of the fantastic advances in developed societies. I type on a laptop connected to all of you in ways unimaginable by the person feeding the Facsimile Machine in my Dad’s office in 1978. I will check in later on with a computer that fits in the palm of my hand and contains more computing power than the Mainframe that filled a room in that same office in 1980. I’ll do so from the gym where I will continue to advance my fitness and health by performing constantly varied functional movements at relatively high intensity, a gym that is providing a living for its owner, my son. What do you think?

Rigging the game is the last bastion for those left behind by true disruption.


Secular Tailwind

“Well Hannah, we really think ABC, Inc. is poised for a big uptick. We see them riding a strong secular tailwind in the 3rd quarter with earnings to follow”

Excuse me? “Secular tailwind?” Seriously, WTF is a secular tailwind? Does the presence of a secular tailwind mean that there must be a secular headwind hiding out there somewhere? And how about the “secular” part of this weather front? Secular always seems to be accompanied by sectarian. You know, like Sunni’s and Shiites. The yin to someone’s yang. Heathens and infidels on one side, true believers on the other. If a “secular tailwind” is good, how bad is a “sectarian headwind”?!

For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, I not only play a doctor on TV, I also play one in real life. We doctors have been vilified for using impenetrable language to make ourselves look oh so very smart, all the while confusing the heck out of our patients and making them feel unintelligent. Small and embarrassed. Kinda like when you ask the wine steward for a suggestion and you just know… you KNOW… everything he said about the wine was pure nonsense, and your wallet’s about to get violated. Heck, at least we doctors had the decency to use opaque phrases in a different language. We really sounded pretty cool and very smart when we said everything in Latin or Ancient Greek.

Not the good folks in finance, though. The don’t even really SAY anything. They’re just making S__T up. “Secular Tailwind.” Seriously, how do they say stuff like that and keep a straight face? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that everyone who watches or listens to those financial shows is doing so by choice; unlike a patient in his doctor’s office who has some kind of illness to be sorted out, the people watching CNBC or MSNBC are voluntarily tuning into Cramer and his buddies. Not a soul in that audience needs to be listening. Their reward is to be insulted.

It turns out that the relative “literacy” rate for medical information is roughly akin to the vocabulary of an eighth grader. In other words, if I choose to use words or phrases that would not register with the average eighth grader a substantial percentage of my patients will not understand what I am trying to get across. Real research has been done on this stuff and reasonably so; it’s important to understand what your doctor is trying to tell you. Many of us in medicine really do get this, and really do try to neither speak above or speak “down to” our patients. Gone are the days of multisyllabic jargon sandwiched between words from a dead language.

Imagine if that wasn’t the case. Even worse, imagine what it would be like if physicians and other caregivers acted like all those financial talking heads and not only tried to confuse you but just blatantly made crap up while doing so. “Well Mrs. Jones, I’m afraid there’s a involitional reservoir of hard fluid residing in the retrosplenic attic which appears to have suspended all glomerular transport underneath. There are a number of ways it could have gotten there, and of course there’s no guarantee  that we are right, but we are pretty sure it was blown there by a Secular Tailwind.”

Don’t worry, though. We’ll just start a little IV Novena…

Anthem For A Single-Payer System*

*Sung to the tune of Janis Joplin’s “Mercedes Benz”

Uncle Sam, won’t you buy me, a Mercedes Benz.The Aetna guys drive Audi’s, I must make amends. Worked hard all through med school, make less than my friends. Uncle Sam, won’t you buy me, a Mercedes Benz.

Uncle Sam, won’t you buy me, a flat-screen TV. American Idol is trying to find me. I’m smarter than a banker; I’ve got my MD. Uncle Sam, won’t you buy me, a flat-screen TV.

Uncle Sam, won’t you buy me a night on the town. Big Pharma’s been busted, you’ve run them to the ground. Sold m’soul to my gov’ment, got pennies on the pound. Uncle Sam, won’t you buy me, a night on the town.


Uncle Sam, won’t you buy me, a Mercedes Benz. The Aetna guys drive Audi’s, I must make amends. Worked hard all through med school, make less than my friends. Uncle Sam, won’t you buy me, a Mercedes Benz.

That’s it…