In Response to Tom Junod's Article

This is a direct response to an article by Tom Junod called "In Defense of Participation Trophies" on

Before anything else, I'd like to just start by saying that the arguments against participation trophies are not a partisan political debate. There are liberal and conservative individuals on both sides of the argument, as perfectly demonstrated by the Johnson Ferry Baptist Church stories recounted in Junod's article. By focusing only on anti-trophy conservatives in the article, we are being kept from having the meaningful conversation that is needed. I'll proceed without partisan arguments because this isn't a right vs. left issue. 

While the author was trying to defend them, the article was devoid of any real evidence that participation trophies are good. It was a "feel-good" opinion piece, but one that tried to convince readers that there was no harm. The problem is that just because it makes you feel good in the moment doesn't mean that something is necessarily good for you in the long run and that there isn't a lot of valid evidence against it. While I don't have any personal experience, I've heard that cocaine makes people feel good when they use it; but there's enough evidence of the long-term addictive effects that we, as a society, have decided that it should be illegal. This is what prompted me to write this response: a lack of facts with good intentions is still missing the facts and shouldn't be construed as a legitimate argument for or against anything. 

There are a few assumptions in the piece. The author says that parents must "have no objections" to the concept of participation trophies "or the arrangement would not exist." That's an incorrect assumption. Obviously, enough people have publicly objected to the matter because we're hearing those objections now, loud and clear. Allowing kids to take part in the culture doesn't mean acceptance of the culture; it means there are no other currently available options. 

Honestly, it doesn't surprise me that some parents, when asked as they were by Danny Downing in the article, would want their kids to get participation trophies. I don't have kids, but I can appreciate that I would want them to succeed at everything. Love does that you. But love's blinding effects can be just as harmful as good, if left to their own devices with no regard for the consequences. We would all do just about anything for our families and loved ones, but it's our understanding of society's mores and the consequences of our actions that keeps us in check. But if the action seemed like a good thing and had no perceptible consequences, we would have no reason to not proceed. So the question is: are participation trophies (and the culture surrounding them) a good thing or is it possible that they're doing harm?

Why do we think participation trophies are good to begin with? We want our kids to feel good about themselves, but why do we think these little pieces of plastic accomplish that? It speaks to one of the most basic, primal human desires: the desire to please others. We are driven by this innate desire to please because it makes us feel like a part of the group and in primitive times, when we were living under the constant threat that a lion (or some other big nasty) could snatch a weak individual, there was safety in numbers. Even though we're no longer exposed to the same threats from Mother Nature, those basic desires are hard-wired into our DNA and the need to please is very much a part of who we are.

I've seen it in action. As a part-time job, I teach group fitness and small-group training sessions. My job is to make adults do something that very few people in their right minds want to do: exercise! Exercising can be hard. We know the benefits, but that doesn't take away from the fact that sweating and breathing heavy in front of strangers is hard work!

So part of my role as the instructor is to motivate my participants to keep working hard. You'd be amazed how motivated a person can get from something as simple as acknowledging their hard work with a simple "good job" or "you've got it". They appreciate being recognized for their actions and they work harder for continued recognition.

So knowing this, it would be relatively harmless to tell everyone in every class that they're doing a "good job", right? Well, actually, it isn't so harmless. If someone isn't really working hard and they get told that they're doing great, one of two things happens: either they stay at the level that they are or they realize that the instructor must not be paying attention and they put in less work. So thanks to human nature, even though I may have the best of intentions, it leads to the exact opposite result.

In his book, "Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us", Daniel Pink (who worked as the chief speechwriter for Vice President Al Gore... To reiterate, this is not a partisan issue.) cites studies that show the long-held belief that rewards and prizes motivate people to do better work is flat-out wrong. When given a reward for doing a task, over time, people will need greater and greater rewards to do the same thing. In the long-run, the reward actually demotivates them. 

Rewards also demotivate in another very important way. We're intelligent creatures and we can tell when someone is trying to motivate us to do something that we wouldn't otherwise care about. "If they have to give us a reward to do this, this is probably something crappy that I don't want to do." So the reward has actually demeaned the task and taken away any inherent motivation that may have been there naturally. 

So getting back to the article: "parents wanted them to have the experience of receiving a trophy". Over time that "experience" of success without doing the requisite work has the potential to demotivate the kids and potentially make them dislike the very activity that we want them to do. 

In the grand scheme of things, it doesn't seem like a big deal to hand out a participation trophy and it may seem like there are "no untoward effects". The problem is the long-term deleterious effects of this "reward" culture. Those far outweigh the possible short-term "feel good" benefits.

So how do we get kids to enjoy the activities and get the most out of them?

The most important way is to allow them to develop an intrinsic motivation for the activity. An intrinsic motivation is one that comes from inside you, as opposed to an extrinsic motivation, which comes from outside. Reading a textbook because I know I have a test coming up is extrinsic motivation; reading science-fiction because I love the genre is intrinsic motivation. One good way to have kids develop intrinsic motivation is to not force them to try to be good at everything they do...

I feel bad for the author because he explained that he was made to feel like s--- playing sports while growing up. I am not advocating that we return to that mentality. I grew up in the same environment and in spite of the fact that I didn't have participation trophies, I loved my time playing sports. I wasn't the most athletic guy growing up, so I didn't win a ton of trophies for my sports prowess. From as early as I can remember, my parents emphasized that I should try everything. They put me in little league baseball, youth basketball, bowling, swimming, martial arts... You name it and I probably tried it as a kid!

I wasn't expected to succeed at everything, but I had to give my best effort. I remember getting some 3rd place ribbons in swimming before everyone else had their growth spurts, but that's about it. I remember my Mom telling me that I won't know what I'm good at unless I try a bunch of stuff. As I've heard before: "You learn from failing and getting back up; but you learn nothing from being perfect." So, sports for me was about getting out there, having a good time, and trying my best. Sure, I envied all those big championship trophies, but that drove me to want to work harder and also to find my specialty. I loved getting out there and having a blast with my teammates. More importantly, I learned to really enjoy playing sports for the fun of it. There was no pressure; there was only the potential for upside!

I won my first sports championship as an adult, playing for a recreational co-ed softball team! (And I cherish that trophy!) To this day, I still jump at opportunities to go out and play sports. The funny thing is my love of sports and physical endeavor got me started on the path of fitness. It's through fitness that I found one of my talents and it's also through fitness that I found my wife. 

Finding that internal motivation for kids is also about the attitude that we as adults have. If we show a genuine interest in sports and in our kids’ activities, they see it and get it. I’m not saying that we should fawn all over them and act like they’re the second coming of Michael Jordan. Rather, pay attention and let them know that we saw them doing a good job out there (when they really did do a good job out there!) instead of spending the game on our phones. Kids pay attention to everything and it’s those little incidental comments that make a world of difference in their lives, more than some cheap plastic trophy. I knew when my dad told me I did great, it meant that I was, because he also let me know when I wasn’t trying my hardest. 

Kids are looking for love and encouragement, not disingenuous praise. Let the job well done be its own reward. 

And that speaks to my final point: nothing can replace a parent's love. One of the reasons we are even having this conversation is partly because parents oftentimes feel guilty for not spending enough time with their kids. We live in a hectic crazy world with all sorts of demands for our time. Know that as a parent, every decision we make will either lead to a self-confident, well-adapted child or to one who isn't. There are no shortcuts. (It’s one of the reasons why so far, I have chosen to not have kids.) And handing out a little trophy may make us feel less guilty, but it doesn't necessarily help our kids.

A trophy will never be anything more than a momentary pleasure. But a parent's influence will last forever. Recognize that influence and appreciate the responsibility that comes with it. If we as a society do that, we will all be tremendously better off. 

Agree? Disagree? Either way, join the conversation and use #unsteadystate! It's only through open discussions that we can move forward as a society... If you enjoy the conversation, please share away!

Looking For Feedback

As a manager for much of my professional life, I've been responsible for hiring new employees and developing existing employees. Employee development is incredibly important for both the company (because every company needs to have up and coming talent to take over as other employees leave or retire) and for the employees (because few people want to be in a dead-end position with no opportunity to move up).

I'm also a National Trainer for LES MILLS® and I train people to become group fitness instructors. In this role, I spend weekends giving instructors the tools to deliver various fitness classes in a way that is true to the essence of the programs, as they were designed.

In both roles, I enjoy mentoring folks to maximize their skills and move forward in their careers. I've been fortunate that I've had a lot of great mentors in my life, so I feel the need to pay it forward.

When I get asked for advice, I try to make it as constructive as possible. It doesn't mean my advice is always right; I don't think being a mentor means giving the right answers, but rather getting someone to think about things from a different perspective.

Most people appreciate the advice and move forward in their attempts to work on the feedback. But I've seen a couple of other responses too...

1. The person who is looking for THE ANSWER™.

They want to know exactly what they need to do. They're not looking for a dialogue or an opportunity to figure things out for themselves. They are looking for boxes to check. 

"Give me a checklist of things I need to do and I'll have it done by next Wednesday!"

THE ANSWER™ isn't always about the destination; often, it's more about the things that you learn and develop on your way to the thing you want. There are a lot of things you can't shortcut, like making good wine and cheese. In the same way, shortcuts in life often prevent us from reaching full development. 

As a mentor, I believe my role is to be a sounding board and help to provide a direction. Nobody has  THE ANSWER™ and those that claim they do are trying to sell you something.

2. The person who is asking for feedback, but doesn't really want feedback.

"But I'm doing that already" or "that doesn't apply to me". The presumption is that I am dead wrong or blind.

Any time feedback is interrupted or met with excuses or a "but," it's a pretty good indicator I'm working with someone who doesn't actually want feedback, UNLESS I tell them what they want to hear. These people aren't seeking feedback. They are seeking validation. They want to be told how good they are or explain how the system doesn't understand how good they are.

If you truly want to grow, you have to take the feedback, even when you don't like it. A mentor tries to provide what they see combined with their own life experiences. I wouldn't offer feedback if I didn't see something worth mentioning, yet often with these folks, I feel like I need to have video proof to get the point across.

I remember in my journey to become a National Trainer, I actively sought feedback from people who had been through the process. I took each nugget and acted on it. Never in my wildest imagination would I have thought, "I'm already doing that". If someone told me I needed to work on something, they clearly saw something and there was room for me to improve.

So as you proceed on your path and receive feedback, how do you respond? Are you looking for THE ANSWER™ or validation? Or are you really, truly, genuinely open to feedback?

We can't move forward unless we know where we are and where we want to be. 


Fixing Mistakes

Nobody likes to admit that they've made a mistake. It's a bitter pill to swallow when you realize a decision that you've made caused you to head down the wrong path. It's always so easy to just ignore the mistake and keep moving in the same direction. After all, you're still moving, right? You may not know where you're heading, but it beats going backwards.

The problem is that the direction in front of you may very well be taking you further and further away from where you want to be. It takes courage to backtrack and change course to get yourself going in the right direction.

Now imagine if there were a lot of people following your lead... A LOT more people...


If you look at American sugar consumption over the past 185 years, you'll see a crazy trend.

Stephan Guyenet and Jeremy Landen, Whole Health Source

Per person, we eat over 5 times more sugar, in all its forms, than our counterparts in the 1820s.

That might be enough to make you want to skip dessert tonight. But the reality is that sweets aren't the main culprit. Sugar is being added to everything: ketchup, breads, yogurt, cereal, and even beef jerky!

It comes down to marketing; the food companies want to make food that tastes better than their competition and there's no easier way to make food taste better than to add sugar! The problem comes when you begin to realize that your taste buds can become desensitized to sugar; the more sugar you eat, the more sugar you need in order to achieve the same level of sweetness.

And that's how we end up with a graph that looks like the one above...

Sugar exists naturally in a lot of foods and in naturally-occurring doses, it wouldn't be a big deal. But in the battle to win the taste buds of the American consumers, food companies have added ridiculous amounts of sugar to products. A typical 12-ounce can of soda could have as much as 11 teaspoons of sugar! Consider that some organizations recommend that a typical adult male should limit their added sugar intake to 9 teaspoons per day and you start to see there is a huge problem.

Consuming too much sugar has been linked to diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and scientists have begun to study whether it is linked to illnesses like cancer and Alzheimer's disease. In spite of that, it's undeniable that eating a bunch of extra sugar just isn't intuitively good! Cavities, weight gain, sugar crashes...

I have a lot of friends in the fitness industry and this is usually where they tell me that it's up to us as individuals to monitor and take responsibility for what we eat. Under normal situations, I agree with that completely. But the reality is that non-fitness professionals are finding it exceedingly difficult to do this. Food manufacturers add sugar to about 74% of the processed foods you find in the supermarket.1

Aren't they supposed to identify the ingredients on their label?

Sure, but the manufacturers use as many as 61 different "names" for sugar that they're adding to products:  Barley malt, Cane juice crystals, Corn sweetener, Dehydrated cane juice, Dextrin, Evaporated cane juice, HFCS (High-Fructose Corn Syrup), Maltodextrin, Mannose, Panocha, Refiner's syrup, Sweet Sorghum, and Treacle are just a few.

No wonder people don't always realize what they're eating...

On top of that, most people don't recognize the link between excess sugar and poor health. I have had conversations with individuals who do not realize that one of the main reasons they may be unhealthy is that they are eating excessive amounts of sugar. Part of the reason for this is, just like Big Tobacco has done in the past, the sugar industry and food manufacturers publish "independent research" that is misleading to the average person.

There's so much mis-information making the rounds that a group of scientists from University of California, San Francisco; Emory University; and University of California, Davis have created a new website,, with the goal of sharing the latest research on sugar and its impact on health in a transparent manner.


Here in America, health care costs are rocketing upwards.

Source: U. S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Office of the Actuary via Project America

According to Forbes, in 2012, health care costs were at $3 trillion; last year, they surpassed $3.2 trillion.

In 2013, CreditSuisse published a document evaluating global sugar consumption.

They estimated that excess sugar consumption accounts for 30% of our US healthcare costs, or about $1 trillion, as a result of afflictions such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

$1 trillion because we consume too much sugar...

But many of my fitness friends would probably insist that it doesn't affect them because they make good choices. They'd be right that they're not visiting the doctor, but we're all affected by this.

How much are you paying in health care insurance? Many companies are finding it hard to subsidize the huge health care expenses so they're passing along the cost to their employees. We're getting pushed into high-deductible health insurance programs, where we are responsible for a larger portion of the health care bill.

Will Medicare/Medicaid be around when you need it? With health care costs rising out of control, these programs are going to run dry unless there are serious reforms.

The reality is that as health care costs continue to rise, one way or another, we're all forced to pay some share of the costs. But what if we can take actions now that will save us $1 trillion annually?


So how do we move forward? There isn't one simple solution. We've been heading in this direction for a long time and it's not going to be easy to change course. So what can we do?

  • Annual US sugar consumption (based on 156 pounds annually per person and 350 million people in the US) is about 27 million tons. A tax of 50¢ per pound of sugar purchased (in all its forms) across-the-board will generate about $27 billion. This should be used to offset rising health care costs.
  • Companies shall be required to identify how much sugar (in all its forms) has been added to each food product. [Last year, the FDA issued a proposal to do this. As expected, many food companies are arguing that it will "confuse consumers". To date, there has been no word whether the proposal will move forward.]
  • Companies that add sugar greater than 5% of the serving size (by mass or volume) will be subject to an added sugar penalty per gram of added sugar above the threshold. (Naturally occurring sugar, as in fruits, or zero-calorie sweeteners would be exempt from the penalty.) This will move companies away from adding sugar at will.
  • No food product having more than 5% of the serving size in added sugar can use the words "organic", "healthy", "natural", or the like. This is a gross misrepresentation and only contributes to the problem.
  • Candy manufacturers will be exempt from the penalty as long as their products are clearly labelled as candy. The plan isn't to eliminate all sugar; it's to keep companies from adding sugar indiscriminately to all foods and not clearly labelling that they've done so.

I'm proposing these measures to kickstart the conversation; it's one thing to just complain, but it's another to propose solutions. If we stand pat, the problem will only continue to get worse. And the sugar industry has lobbyists and researchers that continue to obfuscate and draw attention elsewhere.

I keep hearing that change can't happen. That the world is what it is. But the truth is that the world is what we allow it to be...

We have to be the change we want to see in the world. We can't leave it to someone else to do it for us. Unsteady State is about carving a path and leading even though it's easier to sit back and follow.

Join the conversation! If this resonates with you, share it and use #unsteadystate!


1 Ng, S.W., Slining, M.M., & Popkin, B.M. (2012). Use of caloric and noncaloric sweeteners in US consumer packaged foods, 2005-2009. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics,112(11), 1828-1834.e1821-1826.

I can't

I have asthma. It's a chronic condition where my lung capacity can sometimes drop off and it becomes difficult to breathe. It's a mild case and I've fortunately never ended up in the hospital like other folks I know. This is partly due to the fact that with the help of doctors, I'm managing it fairly well. It hasn't stopped me, in my adult life, from doing all the things I love to do, including fitness.

But earlier in life, I learned that asthma had the ability to very quickly prevent me from exerting myself. The agony of being unable to breathe freely weighed more heavily than the desire to do certain things, and I learned that it was easier to say "I can't."

Let's go for a run. "I can't."

And soon, "I can't" became a convenient excuse.

"I can't..."

Hearing those words calls to mind a petulant child, refusing to do something...

"I can't..."

These words have the power to do harm on a monumental scale. So much so, that in my opinion, they don't belong in the vocabulary of successful or aspiring-to-be-successful individuals.

"I can't..."

By their very nature, often these words do nothing more than perpetuate a lie and that's where they do their damage.

When was the last time you said, "I can't"? What were you doing? "I can't stay on my diet"; "I can't lift that weight"; "I can't run that distance"; "I can't do THAT"...

"Can't" by it's very definition means incapable of doing something.

"Incapable" in its simplest form means lacking the capacity.

So whenever we say "I can't", what we're really saying is that we lack the capacity within us.

But the reality is that we're all human beings. Barring specific physical/mental ailments that may create very specific limitations, our capacity is very similar. If one person can climb a ladder, others should be able to climb the ladder; if one person can lift a weight, others should be able to lift the weight; if one person can solve a crossword puzzle, others should be able to do it as well. Our human bodies have certain capacities and the reality is that we're all more similar than different.

If our capacities are essentially similar, the big differences come in the way that we use those capacities. If I know I want to accomplish a certain task, I will apply my resources and work towards that task; through practice, I get better at the task and stronger in whatever skills are necessary for the task. On the other hand, if I believe the task is impossible, I will not bother and may even unconsciously sabotage myself. And the longer I don't do it, the less skilled I get and whatever capacity I had atrophies: if you don't use it, you lose it!

By saying "I can't", we take the responsibility and power out of our hands. "I don't have the capacity to do this, so why bother?" And in that instant, a world of damage has taken place. You've given yourself permission to be complacent and to not try. You've placed a limitation on yourself that is most likely totally artificial.

I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. - Michael Jordan

“Winners are not afraid of losing. But losers are. Failure is part of the process of success. People who avoid failure also avoid success.” - Robert T. Kiyosaki

I've seen this firsthand every time I've tried to train someone how to do certain weight-lifting moves correctly. It's not that their bodies lack the capacity to do the movements because the truth is that anyone can do it. It's that they've never been coached how to harness their power to move the weight properly. Because of that, they've convinced themselves that they were incapable, that they would never be able, or perhaps even became scared of the task itself. It's a matter of overcoming that fear of the unknown and in the case of weight-lifting, allowing the body to move the way it instinctively and naturally can.

It's not just limited to physical endeavors. We do this to ourselves everywhere: "I can't remember names", "I can't have a healthy relationship", "I can't deal with technology", "I can't..." Actually, yes you can; you've just decided not to...

"I can't" holds us back. It prevents us from doing the things that we're capable of doing. I learned a while ago that "I can't" was actually holding me back more than my asthma was. So I've made a concerted effort to eliminate "I can't" from my vocabulary.

In my experience, successful people don't use "I can't." Doing so relinquishes power. Instead, they make conscious decisions and retain that power. They'll say "I don't want to" or "I won't". It's not that they're incapable; it's that they choose not to. And this gives them the freedom to try and either fail or succeed.

The next time you're about to use that four-letter word, ask yourself if you're really incapable or if you're just scared to try. Change your vocabulary and in doing so, change your mindset.

Let me know how you're finding your unsteady state! Leave a comment or tweet me (@ultrasmoov) using #unsteadystate. 

Reality check...

To everyone that "pressured those disgusting people at GoDaddy" for putting together their Lost Puppy Super Bowl commercial, I feel obligated to let you in on something: it's not real life... It's comedy. It's clearly a spoof of the Budweiser commercial that is also airing during the Super Bowl this year; there are several identical shots used and it couldn't be a coincidence.

This is no different than Saturday Night Live or Mad TV or South Park. They took what will surely be a beloved Budweiser commercial and spoofed it. Whether it was funny or not plays no part in whether it should air or not. I've seen plenty of skits on SNL over the years that probably should never have seen the light of day, but as artists, they have the right to put it out there. The marketing person that came up with the concept is still an artist, even though they sell their work for commercial use.

No puppies were harmed in the making of this commercial and this commercial isn't condoning illegal activity, so there are no violations of any sort except for possibly bad taste. But the response to bad taste isn't to pressure the company to not release it. I seem to recall someone else who recently tried to pressure a company to not release a film that he thought was in poor taste. Yeah, I just drew a straight line from North Korea to you.

Instead of getting upset about a stupid commercial, why don't we channel that emotion towards ending puppy mills or ending dog fighting? Probably because it's easier to complain from your easy chair that you've been offended than it is to get up and actually work to end some of the REAL horrible abuses going on in the world.

Be the change you want to see in the world. Don't just complain about things.

Unsteady State means questioning why we do things and trying to rise above the petty arguments that blind and distract us from the real issues. We may not always like the result, but it's not about us. It's about the greater good. Sound off and let me hear what you think!

Making better sushi

I love watching movies around the holidays. Because of the weather and the hordes of people rushing around trying to get last-minute presents, sitting at home with a movie has always appealed to me. It's a great opportunity to get caught up on that movie you wanted to see during the year, but didn't get the chance to go before it was pulled from theaters. Surprisingly, I didn't get a chance to watch any good movies this year (although I did catch up on some Modern Family and South Park episodes, and just recently finished watching True Detective... (That's going to be a whole other blog post once I've fully digested it!) I was thinking back to last year, and I recall that I watched a movie called Jiro Dreams of Sushi. If you don't have an issue with subtitles, I recommend watching this movie to gain insight into a unique way of doing things.

It was a documentary about Jiro Ono, an 85 year old Japanese man who just so happens to serve the best sushi in the world. He's had all manner of celebrities in his small three-Michelin-star restaurant, including heads of state.

The man is obsessed with the notion of continuing to make better sushi and delivering the best possible experience to his patrons. How does he do this? By focusing on the details. He has his staff massage the octopus meat for 40 minutes to ensure it is perfectly tender; not thirty or thirty-five minutes, exactly 40 minutes. He's worked out the perfect amount of vinegar to add to the rice, which gets fanned for a specific amount of time so that it can be served at body temperature. He even pays attention to his customers as they sit at the table: are they left- or right-handed so that he can serve everything exactly where it's most convenient to make the meal an incredible experience. He has literally dreamed of sushi!

Some of you probably think he's crazy. In Japan, he is called a shokunin - someone who spends his whole life pursuing the perfection of his craft. A master.

You don't get to be world-class by taking shortcuts. Michael Jordan's intense practices with his teammates followed by hours of work on his own is the stuff of legends. Tiger Woods is said to practice 7-8 hours a day.

Bruce Lee, no slouch by any means, put it best when he said:

I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.

If we're going to spend time doing something, why wouldn't we work to do it as well as we possibly can? Isn't our time worth more than putting in a half-hearted effort?

Part of the problem, in today's culture, is that we have so many things vying for our attention. It's hard to prioritize, so we're constantly thinking about what's next and not giving nearly enough attention to the present.

For example, as a national trainer for a company that produces pre-choreographed group exercise programs that instructors have to memorize, I hear things like:

  • So what if it's a deadlift instead of a dead row? It works the same muscle group, right?
  • I have to learn 6 different programs, so sometimes I mix up the choreography. Why do they always use the same music in all my programs?!
  • It's only the abdominal (or cooldown) track; it doesn't matter if I do the exact choreography.
  • It's only group fitness. They'll still get the work as long as I get most of it right.

Would you be happy with the service technicians fixing your car if they said they fixed most of the issues?

What would happen if a bridge designer ran most of the calculations for the bridge?

Tacoma Narrows Bridge [Lenz, Garrett. "Tacoma Narrows Bridge Collapse." 10 Nov 2008. Online video clip. YouTube. Accessed on 11 Jan 2015. <>]

Every job is important; especially one in which people are putting their well-being in your hands. And it's not just group fitness. There's an attitude in which people can't focus on the things at hand; they're just getting through what they're doing to move on to the next thing. But if you want to be world-class at anything, every thing matters.

So does that mean we can't make mistakes in life? That we have to be absolutely perfect before we do anything? Of course not. But there's a difference in saying to yourself "I'm going to strive for perfection in everything I do" rather than starting out by giving yourself permission to not bother in places where you'd rather not.If you do your best and make a mistake, that's fine; accept it and move on.

So here's one way of avoiding this problem: Make it Matter! In everything you do, make it matter. Don't do things just for the sake of doing them. Put yourself into everything you do fully and completely.

And maybe one day, we can all find our "perfect sushi".

When you give yourself fully and completely to all that you do, you start to find your unsteady state! Let me know if you're making it matter in all you do. Use #makeitmatter or #MIM and share a story of how you make it matter. Spread the word!

Black Friday!

So here in the United States, November means two things: Thanksgiving and Black Friday! Black Friday

Black Friday is the official start to the Christmas buying season.

Stores used to open at midnight Thursday night and stay open through the weekend. Most recently, they've started opening as early as 8pm on Thursday night (which unfortunately means Black Friday is spilling over into Thanksgiving).

These stores put together incredible deals to attract new shoppers. Where else can you get a brand new 60" plasma television for $10?!? And most of these deals have very limited quantities because companies would go out of business otherwise!

Over the years, Black Friday is also a night for incredible drama. In their attempt to get one of the 5 available Xbox units on sale for only $5, people trample all over each other, use pepper spray on each other, and threaten each other. And even worse is how they treat the employees who are giving up their Thanksgiving holiday with their families to open the store: they yell at them and blame them for not having enough Wild Wacky Action Bikes in stock, and out of fear of missing out on the early sales, I even read that someone had once defecated in a washing machine floor model! Seriously.

The madness makes you realize that a lot of people have forgotten the spirit of the season that they're supposed to be celebrating. The holiday season is about love, kindness, peace, and happiness. Giving gifts is a part of the season, but not necessarily at the expense of treating everyone else like garbage.

For some reason, on Black Friday, people focus on their own needs and wants, and completely ignore everyone else.

In much the same way, I've seen a lot of people focused on their own needs when it comes to Reebok and its new Les Mills® clothing line. I've seen some disrespectful and impolite comments on Facebook and in blogs.

I get it. Everyone wants the latest gear. But that's not an excuse to forget that there are actual people behind the logos, Facebook pages, and websites.

Reebok has stated that they underestimated the demand of the worldwide Les Mills® instructor population. They're making efforts to make more product available, but working in the manufacturing industry, I know that you can't magically produce more inventory on a whim; it takes time and planning, especially if you don't want to rob Peter to pay Paul and jeopardize future products.

I guess what I'm most concerned about is that as part of the LES MILLS® family, we talk about being One Tribe. We're supposed to be one family, supporting each other, and respecting each other. Well, we just had a huge new group of people join our tribe and yes, they're bringing along some fantastic, shiny new gear. They're also going to help us spread the word about battling global obesity and help us change the world. There's so many great reasons to welcome them into the Tribe with open arms, rather than make them regret the decision to join us.

We're not entitled to have that BODYPUMP® tank top or those BODYJAM® jeans any more than the Black Friday shopper is entitled to that plasma television. If they run out of stock, we shouldn't badmouth the employees and threaten to never shop there again. I guarantee you that they're just as upset at themselves for not having more stock available.

Just remember that we're all part of this movement together...

Relax. Breathe. Put things in perspective: Be happy that we actually have the freedom to do this thing that we love, because if you read current events, you know a lot of people in this world don't have that luxury... As a culture, we've begun to drift into this unhealthy place where we don't give a damn about anyone else; where everybody is out for themselves. It's always been true that you have to look out for yourself, but for some reason, now we have to step, trip, and spit on the rest of the people as we pass them by. There's a general lack of consideration and courtesy for others.

Do unto others as you would have done unto you.

In this increasingly electronic age, where you can type anything and put it out in the world in a heartbeat, we forget that there are others affected by what we type.

I wonder if recalling the golden rule before we hit SEND would cause us to re-think what we just typed.

I wonder if it would cause us to act a bit more civilly the next time we're in line at Best Buy on Black Friday, to remember that the person next to us is no different than us. Or that the employees behind the registers are missing out on their holidays so we can buy our gifts.

We have to remember that it's not always about our needs and wants. It's about having a meaningful experience during our time here and making every moment count for something. It's not about tank tops and televisions. Do you want to be looked at as an example of what not to be or as a role model to be looked up to? Do you want to leave a bad impression on someone or do you want to make a difference? Because that's really what matters in the long run...

Join the conversation. Reach out to me, @ultrasmoov on Twitter, and use #unsteadystate. Join the conversation!

Golf lessons

Some guy who is much better than me at golf.  [Source:]Golf can be a ridiculously frustrating sport. And still, I have attempted to play the game for many, many years.

I say "attempted" because I don't consider myself an actual player.

Back when I was living in Western NY and we had about 4 months of good weather, I was fortunate to get out 2 or 3 times a year. That's not nearly enough practice to get better, so I considered myself lucky to crack 100.  (Most of the time, I didn't even bother taking score.)

There are so many minute details involved in swinging a golf club that it looks like magic when someone can consistently hit great shots.

Among the myriad of things to think about and perfect, there's your stance.  Then there's your grip on the club, your backswing, your follow-through, your shoulder position, your hips - and that's just you and your body!

There are also external factors like the wind, and where the ball is lying (and I always seem to find myself in shin-high grass that won't let go of my ball!). Even the golf clubs themselves impact your swing.

It's enough to make you crazy.

Clearly, I haven't found the right combination of details because I have what's known as a "boomerang slice."

When I hit the ball, it shoots off like a rocket towards the hole, and then, as if it has a mind of its own, it hangs a right in mid-air and ends up somewhere else entirely.

The ball has actually been known to turn so sharply that it ends up behind where I started! I've tried anti-slice clubs and balls, but not even technology can save me.

But to me, the most frustrating part of golf is this:

After playing an absolutely horrifying round - peppering every fairway except my own with golf balls; trudging through every sand trap; and donating case-loads of balls to every pond, creek, storm drain, and puddle on the course - I would resolve to never pick up another golf club.

Then, on my last shot of the day, I make one incredible shot that so impresses the people I'm playing with it leaves them "ooh"-ing and "ahh"-ing.

I stand there in awe, feeling like the golf gods just aligned the planets, my body, my swing, for the sole purpose of sucking me back into this game that I suck at most of the time.  I get just enough of the taste of perfection that I want to come back and do it again.

Miraculous swings and sucky games aside, I'm not going to be a professional golfer in my lifetime.

For me, golf holds a different attraction. Aside from the obvious joy of being out in nature and spending time with friends,

Golf is a microcosm for life:

  • In golf, the ultimate goal is to get that little ball in the hole. But the harder you squeeze the golf club and wish that ball closer to the hole, the farther away it gets. It is only in relaxing that you get closer to your goal.
  • Every shot you take is different: the circumstances, the lie of the ball, and even your body are all different every time. You have to forget about every bad shot that you've taken before and every good/bad shot that you'll take in the future.  You only have this one: the shot in front of you right now.  You have to be fully and completely present.
  • Lastly, it's easy to give up when things aren't going your way. When the ball is flying everywhere except where you want it to go, it's maddening and you say four letter words and throw your club on the ground. With each stroke you take, all you can do is keep aiming for that hole.  Each shot - however good or bad - is bringing you closer to your goal and that's progress - even if it doesn't look that way.  You just have to keep swinging.
  • In golf, just like in life, the worst thing you can do is give up.


Remember to follow me on Twitter (@ultrasmoov) or Facebook. Click the link below to find me. And I'm looking forward to telling you about LFB's first golf experiences!

Moving Out

So, on Monday this past week, I happened across the Billy Joel Town Hall on Sirius XM radio. Let me start by saying that as a native New Yorker that lived on Long Island for much of my early life, Billy Joel's music was a huge part of the soundtrack of my life. I went through many phases, but Billy was always there in the background. It was an amazing listen and if you like any of Billy Joel's music (and if you can't find at least ONE Billy Joel song you like, I would question whether you're actually breathing...), I think you need to track down his Town Hall and give it a listen.

It was great hearing him talk about the inspiration and tell the stories behind so many of the songs that I've come to love. "Angry Young Man", "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant", "Just the Way You Are", "Longest Time", "She's Always A Woman", "New York State of Mind"... It was great remembering all of these...

I took note when he started explaining that "Moving Out" was about people who go through life working to be able to acquire the trappings that are seen as signs of success. Billy mentioned it's sad to see someone who never realizes their full potential because they're so focused on working hard to acquire things. They're pressured into working to make a living and they never get the opportunity to truly fulfill themselves.

And it seems such a waste of time If that's what it's all about Mama, if that's movin' up then I'm movin' out.

It struck a chord in me when he talked about fulfilling ourselves because we do get caught up so easily in the daily grind. There are so many demands on our time and it's easy to wake up one day and realize that we haven't really done anything.

You've got to find the things in life that you love; you've got to experience your life; you've got to make your time count for something.

Speaking of finding your potential... Howard Stern was the emcee for the Town Hall. And love him or hate him, the man is constantly evolving and getting better at everything he does.

He has this reputation that he earned from all his hijinks and run-in's with the FCC. I've been listening to him since I found him doing a television show on WWOR in New York, oh so long ago and I'll readily admit he loves to shock. For all that lewd stuff, folks like La Femme Blanquita have misunderstood him and she flat-out refused to listen to him back in the day. But the reality is he's an incredible interviewer and he's at least earned LFB's respect for that. That's saying a lot!

But you'd figure that being the "King of All Media" and arguably the world's greatest interviewer would be enough... Yet, he talks about a lot about hobbies that he's picked up recently like photography and painting. He continues to embody the spirit of Unsteady State by continuing to grow and expand. If someone like that can avoid being complacent and keep challenging himself, it only serves to inspire those of us who have yet to find our niche.

So are you caught in the daily grind? What are you doing to continue your journey? Reach out to me and join the conversation. @ultrasmoov on Twitter and use #unsteadystate. Join the conversation!

Change Takes Time

This one goes out to all the Les Mills instructors out there... At most clubs in the United States, the new releases have been launched and in my opinion, this round of releases was outstanding! It never ceases to amaze me how our Program Directors back in New Zealand manage to re-invent their programs each and every quarter! Being an engineer, I just don't have the creative juices to come up with these brilliant ideas, so I am incredibly appreciative of all that they do.

Take BODYPUMP®, for instance. For the first time in the history of the program, we have a back track that doesn't have a variation of the clean and press! This is an opportunity for our participants to really increase their weight, knowing that they won't have to take the bar overhead. The "pull" muscles are big and capable of doing big things, but too often in back tracks, our members stay light out of concern for having to go overhead. And if you really go big with your weight, you stand to see some serious strength gains.

La Femme Blanquita had resigned herself to the fact that she would never be able to do a proper, unassisted pull-up. I've seen her spontaneously reach for the pull-up bar and try with all her might for years and she just hasn't been able to get there.

This quarter, as any good BODYPUMP® trainer would, she ratcheted up the weight in the back track. Not one or two times. Not for one or two weeks. She did it through several weeks, as she was practicing, doing certification modules, launching, and then teaching the release. As she's prone to doing, she grabbed the pull-up bar this week just for kicks and just about freaked herself out when her chin went over the bar!

By following the focus of the latest BODYPUMP® release, she was able to get the result she's wanted for a very long time. I'm ridiculously proud of the way she keeps trying and trying and finally doing...

Seeing her results got me thinking:

What if she only did the release a couple of times?

What if she kept the same old weight on the bar as she usually lifts for track 4?

It made me think about our participants who come to our classes looking for results. They're not going to get the results they want unless we, as instructors, give them a chance to work through the new release more than a couple of times. And isn't it their results that we should be most concerned with?

In my experience, for BODYPUMP®, I found that a 4 week release schedule works best. I tell my participants this every quarter so that they understand what's coming:

  • The first week is their first time seeing the new stuff, so they're going to be tentative. That's perfectly ok! You need to have confidence that you can do the moves before you can make the conscious decision to do the moves all-out.
  • Now that they're familiar with the release, week 2 is all about trying to follow the instructions as closely as possible. That means following the recommended weight selections to really feel the workout intensity.
  • Week 3 is their opportunity to add a little weight in a few tracks where they'd like to increase strength. By now, they're familiar with the movements and they have confidence that they can get through the workout. Adding two 1kg plates in a couple of tracks will give them the high of hitting a new personal best and will challenge them without being unbearable.
  • In week 4, I ask them to try to maintain the new strength that they found in week 3. By matching their best, it creates a new plateau from which they can climb higher.

As an instructor, I can't allow myself to fall into the trap of "being bored" and constantly trying to change things up. It's not about me; it's about the people in my class. I have to give my participants an environment in which they can develop confidence and push harder because that's when they start to see results.

The same rules apply for any change that we want to create in our lives. We need to give ourselves enough time to make the change or we're setting ourselves up for failure. We're not going to learn a new skill or accomplish a new task without having sufficient time to practice, make mistakes, and eventually find that success.

You can't rush the process to find your Unsteady State. Send me a message or comment and let me know what you do to give yourself appropriate time to reach your goals. And instructors, I'd love to hear what you do to make sure your participants reach theirs!

Elixir Vitae

So, I've taken a little bit of time off since my last post. Things got a bit more intense at work as I finished up a project and got prepared to take on a new one. I was running around, facilitating fitness modules on the weekends, during one of the busiest streaks since I became a trainer. It didn't help that some different flu/strep strains were making the rounds and I found myself sick for a good part of the time. Something had to give...

Everything pointed to the fact that I needed to take a break, so take a break I did!

La Femme Blanquita and I packed up and took off for Paris, France.

I've done a fair bit of travel, but I've never been able to find an excuse to spend time in the City of Lights. And it happens to be one of L.F.B.'s favorite places in the world, so it just made sense that we should cross the Atlantic for an extended weekend.

I always marvel at the fact that there is so much history in places. Here in the U.S., we are rightfully proud of our monuments and our buildings and our Disney parks. But the reality is that there are buildings in Europe that have been around longer than our country has existed! I think it would give everyone here a completely different perspective on life if they took the opportunity to travel outside the U.S.!

Highlights included:

  • walking along the Seine at sunset with the silhouette of the Eiffel Tower in the distance

    Sunset on the Seine

  • Walking around, people-watching in Montmartre

    Moulin Galette

  • Seeing all the little shops and enjoying the "cafe mentality" (parking yourself on a stool with a cafe allonge to admire life)

    City Life

  • Seeing the incredible medieval architecture and imagining how awe-inspiring it would be to a serf that had never seen skyscrapers or electricity

    Notre Dame

  • I could have spent days at the Louvre, admiring all of the incredible works of art

    Venus de Milo

It was just the mental, emotional, & physical recharge that I needed. I came back and hit the ground running.

Interestingly enough, the reaction from most folks was amazement at the fact that we chose to escape to France for a long weekend. It was such a common reaction that it made me stop to think why our trip was so unusual.

Some folks would say that a long weekend isn't enough to see Paris and that they would rather wait until they could have at least a week free to go.

Some would say that there are so many easier places around here and that it must have been so difficult to deal with the long flight.

Some couldn't believe that L.F.B. and I would go to a French-speaking locale when neither of us could speak the language.

The fact is there are always reasons why we shouldn't do something, and if we give those reasons any validity, we'll never do anything! L.F.B. and I lead pretty busy lives by choice, and if we waited until we were both free for a week, we'd never take a vacation!

If we were dissuaded by the time difference, long flight, and "hassle", we'd miss out on all the wonders that this world holds. And with a trusty phrasebook, a little patience, and some common courtesy, the world will open up in front of you.

I've been in the position of waiting before. I've missed out on opportunities to do things that I've wanted to do. But you start to realize that those opportunities won't last forever. In keeping with the concept of unsteady state, I've come to realize that we've got to make the most of our time and experience life. And so I consciously take those opportunities when they come now. Fortunately, L.F.B. shares my zest for life, as long as there's good food and a clean bed!

What is holding you back from doing the things you want to do? What steps can we take to experience the life we want to live?

“The key to change... is to let go of fear.” - Rosanne Cash



Over the weekend, I checked out "Her", the new Spike Jonze movie with Joaquin Phoenix. Great movie! Unusual premise, but it makes sense. In any case, there was a great line in the movie that keeps replaying in my head.

The past is a story we tell ourselves.

Meditate on that one for a bit!

Winston Churchill said "history is written by the victors". So, when we look back at the past, it's always colored by our perspective. No matter how impartial and unbiased we want to be, the past will always take on some of the way we saw things unfold.

So, because of this, even though the past is a great tool and reference point, it becomes unreliable when dealing with anything that has to do with emotion. When I remember a bad experience that took place running across a pedestrian bridge up above a highway, it makes me deathly afraid of heights today.  The reality is that the bridge and what happened there have absolutely nothing to do with the ladder I need to climb or the plane I'm about to jump into. But my experiences and my past form a convenient story, or excuse, that makes it easier for me to say "no" to things in the present.

We do this all the time: "I can't do that! I had a bad experience way back when." So that story that we tell ourselves can create an insecurity that prevents us from experiencing life today.

What stories are you telling yourself that are keeping you from being all that you can be? Why are you allowing a memory to have power over your present? Can we re-write our history by taking charge of our decisions today? One day perhaps I'll be able to say that historical pedestrian bridge was a funny little moment as I bungee-jump off a present-day bridge. What about you?


As we near the end of another year, it's time for those most controversial of things: the New Year's Resolutions. Most folks fall into one of two camps: 1. I'm going to make my New Year's Resolution and I promise that this year, I'm going to make it happen!

2. New Year's Resolutions is 'da devil, Bobby!

I'm sure that if you're in camp #1, you have the best of intentions in mind and you sincerely intend to make an effort to do whatever you resolve to do. But the reality is that we get carried away sometimes. We come up with the Mount Everest of New Year's Resolutions when we've barely tried climbing the hill in the park down the street!

And if you're in camp #2, you're tired of falling off the wagon (or seeing your family and friends do the same), so you resolve to abstain from resolving! But the reality is that we always need something to work towards. As the old adage goes, "If you're not growing, you're dying."

I've always been partial to finding somewhere in the middle. The coming of a new year is a natural opportunity for change, and here at Unsteady State, we want to leverage that desire for change into tangible action. I usually try a New Year's Retrospection instead.

What's that? I look back at the year that has passed and I think about the good things and bad things. I give thanks for the positive things, people, and events. This gives me a feeling of accomplishment and a sense of appreciation. That is the solid foundation upon which I can build.

Then I look at the things that didn't go quite so well... I don't do it in a defeatist beat-myself-up way or a the-world-sucks way, because that doesn't accomplish anything. I use them like thumbtacks on a map so I can chart my course and see where I'm going. With this perspective and my mission statement, I can tell if I'm heading in the wrong direction. But what can we do with that kind of information?

Have you ever been driving down the road and noticed how a tiny turn of the steering wheel can carry you into the next lane? Ever played the Telephone game where a message gets passed along from one person to the next to the next until the last person gets a message that is drastically different from the original? As a pilot, I was taught that planes rarely have completely catastrophic failures; it's usually a chain of little mistakes, mishaps, and misunderstandings that cause the overwhelming majority of airplane accidents. In all of these cases, we can see that the smallest of changes can lead to completely different results. (Want to read more on the subject? Check out The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell!)

Likewise, if you sense you're heading in the wrong direction in your life, small compensations to your direction can start to get you back on track. So rather than saying "I want to look like Brad Pitt (or Angelina Jolie), so I'm going to spend 3 hours at the gym every day," we can say "I haven't been nearly active enough this year, so I'm going to take the stairs up to my office." Instead of saying "I'm going to starve myself until I drop 10 sizes," we can say "I didn't make the best food choices last year, so I'm going to try adding more protein and vegetables to my lunches." It's that subtle shift in our thinking that will help to keep us from creating unattainable, wishful goals for ourselves and to give us a clearer path to get to where we need to go.

And know that my New Year's Retrospection doesn't happen only on New Year's. It becomes really powerful when we begin looking at our course on a regular basis and continue to make small corrections. After all, if you're flying from Auckland to Paris, you're not going to look at the compass once when you take off and pray that you get there!

So this New Year's Eve, join me in a little New Year's Retrospection. Because you can't know where you're going until you know where you've been...

What will you be doing this New Year's? Tell me how you're planning for 2014 in the comments below and don't forget to follow me on Twitter! Join the conversation...


It's that time of year. People getting sick everywhere. The "flu" has been going around, especially in TX. Any of you feeling overcome by affluenza? No, that wasn't a typo: affluenza. In case you haven't seen the news recently, a 16 year old boy was sentenced to just 10 years of probation after stealing beer from a local Wal-Mart, getting drunk to the point that his BAC was three times the legal limit three hours after the crash, driving 30 mph over the speed limit, and causing an accident that killed 4 people and injured others. His defense team did a fantastic job of painting the 16 year old as a victim; he wasn't responsible for his actions because he had wealthy parents that never set limits for him.

There's been plenty of response to the verdict. I've seen and heard plenty of outrage over the fairness of a judicial system where four lives can be cut short and the person responsible essentially walks away with a slap on the wrist. Whatever your opinion on the case, you have to admit it raises significant controversy for our justice system and points to how it is skewed to those who can afford a brilliant team of lawyers.

I'm not going to talk about the verdict or the judicial system today. Instead, I'm going to use this as an opportunity to talk about consequences.

Back in the day (when I was growing up), we were taught that every action had consequences. If we did something good, we were rewarded: medals for winning a race, trophies for winning a tournament, an allowance for doing chores, or maybe even a toy or gift for just behaving. If we did something bad (or performed poorly), we were punished: time in your room to "think about what you've done", watching others win, loss of privileges, getting grounded, or if we really pushed the boundaries, there might be a strap or belt involved. We got positive reinforcement to make us want to do better and punishment to discourage us from not acting properly. We were instilled with the concept of societal norms and what is expected of us. In spite of that, we weren't always angels and we tried to get away with things, but more often than not, we found that it was better to work hard and do the right thing.

But somewhere along the way, parents got scared of disciplining their kids, teachers lost the ability to do the same, someone decided it was better for all the kids to get trophies so they all feel like winners, and kids realized that they could get away with more. Why work hard? Why act like society expects us to act? You can do whatever you want if you have no sense of consequences and very often, these individuals do, to varying degrees.

The problem is that by not providing them with boundaries, we've stunted their growth. They act out of a selfish desire to fulfill whatever instantaneous desires they have. It's instinctive action driven by their baser needs.

What does this have to do with Unsteady State? The idea behind Unsteady State is that we are always looking to grow and learn; that we are not satisfied with our current condition. Change is hard and the only thing that gets us through difficult change is our faith and belief in the consequences of our action, either good or bad. But when you don't understand consequences, that doesn't exist.

Think about this: as the story goes, the world's greatest basketball player, Michael Jordan, was cut from his high school basketball team as a sophomore. He was so distraught over being cut that he went home, locked himself in his room, and cried. In his words:

"It was good because it made me know what disappointment felt like," he said. "And I knew that I didn`t want to have that feeling ever again." [Greene, Bob. "When Jordan Cried Behind Closed Doors." Chicago Tribune, 15 May 1991. Web. 14 Dec. 2013.]

If he had floated through without this disappointment, it's possible that he never would have developed the killer instinct that drove him to be the greatest of all time. Consequences are opportunities for learning more about ourselves and growing beyond ourselves. Without consequences, there's no catalyst for change.

Join the conversation! What do you think?

Getting to the root cause

I'm an engineer. I've been tinkering as long as I can remember. It's taught me to think differently. When something is broken, I trace things back to find the root cause. I remember traveling to a remote location for work to help troubleshoot a piece of equipment. I was waiting for some technicians to resolve a problem with a huge motor before I could do my part. The motor wasn't running the way it was supposed to run; it kept turning on and off abruptly. And as I'm sure you can imagine, you don't want a brand new $100k motor starting and stopping on its own every few seconds! They had checked everything and had all but given up. The plan was to replace the motor, but even worse than that, I would have to fly back home and schedule another trip because I couldn't finish the work.

I asked them to take a step back and look at things from a different perspective. Let's assume the brand new motor isn't the problem, but rather a symptom. We began to look at the motor starter and the control system that told the motor to start and stop. We looked at all the sensors that monitor and protect the motor, and started to trace the wires from each of them. Lo and behold, we found a loose wire leading to a $50 relay in a control panel in another room. The wire would sometimes make contact and sometimes not, causing the motor to get the signal to turn on and off. A little wire almost cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars and several months' delay.

I'm glad that engineers are taught to find the root cause of a problem rather than addressing the symptoms. It's a philosophy that isn't as prevalent in our medical industry. It sometimes seems that doctors are more apt to prescribe a pill or recommend surgery to address the symptoms before figuring out the real problem. (Don't believe me? Read Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science by Dr. Atul Gawande!)

A few years ago I was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis. If you don't know what it is, it's essentially an inflammation of the fascia (connective tissue) on the bottom of your feet. It was excruciating! You wake up in the morning and you don't want to put your feet on the ground because you know how badly it's going to hurt. My doctor told me I was going to have to get used to the condition and work to mitigate the pain. He recommended that I stretch my feet every morning before I get out of bed. If the pain got really bad, the next step would be a big cumbersome brace that I would have to wear while I sleep to keep my foot flexed. I would have to cut back on the fitness classes I was teaching because he thought the impact was causing the problem. I was facing a lifetime of pain and limited mobility.

Suffice it to say that I didn't like the assessment. My engineering brain couldn't wrap itself around the fact that the stretching and boot were dealing with the symptom; but what was causing the problem? I started doing research and realized that everyone in the medical industry says the same thing. You can find boots and sleeves and wraps and splints... There are books and creams and lotions... Everyone has something to sell you, but everyone will tell you up front: plantar fasciitis can't be cured.

A month or so later, I happened across The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook by Claire Davies. He believes that the overwhelming majority of musculoskeletal conditions are caused by myofascial trigger points (in its simplest form, it's a knot in the middle of a muscle where the muscle fibers have bound themselves up and will not release) and are mis-diagnosed. At the same time, I was speaking with a non-medical colleague who told me that the inflammation was just a symptom that was masking the root cause; in order to find the cause, I would have to slow the inflammation down for a little bit by taking some anti-inflammatories. When the inflammation dissipated, I paid close attention to my body and felt a dull but constant twinge in my calf. I started to perform self-myofascial release on my calf and within two days, the twinge was gone. With it, the excruciating pain disappeared...

That was almost exactly 4 years ago and I have never had a problem with plantar fasciitis since. I have continued to teach group fitness and continued to do all the physical things I love.

What does this have to do with Unsteady State? My takeaway from this was that it's easy to get caught up in the symptoms of a problem. Whether it's a mechanical system, a piece of software, or the human body, those symptoms can sometimes call a lot of attention to themselves. But more often than not, they're just hiding that little loose wire or that trigger point in your calf, and it's up to us to find the cause. It's a way of thinking that is not taught in this world of instantaneous gratification. We're always looking for the magic button and we immediately gravitate towards the big, flashy symptoms.

In case you were wondering, Claire Davies' book actually says that trigger points can cause "referred pain" in places in the body far away from where the actual trigger point lies. The body is an incredible system and everything is inter-related. And trigger points aren't really part of the typical med school curriculum, although they've been documented for about 150 years. That's why doctors commonly mis-diagnose musculoskeletal problems.

Ever had a similar experience? What do you think? Sound off. Join the conversation and let me know what's on your mind...

Cut the Cord

I've been thinking about this for a long time. I've been wracking my brain over this for a while now. It's far from an easy decision, but one that makes a lot of sense. I think I'm going to give up... my cable subscription. "What??" "You can't be serious!"

I can hear the responses in my head. We've all become so incredibly addicted to having our myriad of cable channels that to some, the thought of giving it all up is bordering on obscene. But along with that addiction comes a hefty price. If I could pay only for the channels & shows that I actually watch (like NBC's The Blacklist, Comedy Central's South Park, and Discovery's Shark Week) rather than the stuff that takes up space on my tuner (like HSN, QVC, or CMT), I would gladly maintain my subscription.

This weekend, my TiVo kicked the bucket and precipitated a long philosophical debate: to cut the cord or maintain the status quo. Cutting the cord would definitely push my unsteady state...

On which side of the debate do you land? Any ideas that would make either option more palatable? Sound off and I'll let you know how I fare... And don't forget to follow me on Twitter: @ultrasmoov

Appreciating Value

I enjoy shopping at Target. OK, I've admitted it. It's great to be able to make one stop and get everything you could possibly need. I can get milk, bacon, protein powder, a laminating machine, an HDMI cable, and a new set of towels all under one roof! If that's not convenient, I don't know what is... Even more important is that all Targets have a similar layout and similar offerings. This means that no matter if you're in Tuscaloosa, AL or Bozeman, MO, when you walk into Target, it feels like you're in your local store. Trust me when I say that my fellow trainers and road warriors appreciate and take full advantage of this!

As I was waiting in line to pay for the spoils of my latest trip, I saw a little boy try to sneak a toy into his mom's shopping cart. Busted! Mom picked up the toy and asked: "Don't you already have one of these?" In a very matter-of-fact way, the little boy said, "I broke it." I started shaking my head. Dude, don't you know that's not how you ask for toys?? You don't lead by saying you broke it; that's the kiss of death!

I brace myself for the tantrum that's about to start. I overhear mom say, "Oh, ok." EXCUSE ME?? She put the toy on the belt and proceeded to pay for the purchases. WHAT?? I can't believe what I'm seeing. That's not the way it's supposed to go down... Or have I become so out of touch with the world?

Growing up, my family didn't have a lot of extra money. If we broke a toy, we didn't get to buy a replacement. As a result, we tried to make everything last. To this day, I still take good care of everything and it bothers me when something is broken or in disrepair.

As I thought more about the kid and his mom, I started to think about the culture that we have. With technology, better manufacturing, and globalization, we're able to make things more cheaply than ever before. Big box stores like Wal-Mart, Amazon, and even my favorite, Target, have streamlined distribution so that those cheap goods are readily available to consumers. As a result of cheap manufacturing and sometimes, planned obsolescence, these goods don't last long and aren't easy to repair. All of this means it's easier to buy a new item when something goes wrong. And if we're going to end up buying something new anyway, what's the point of taking care of what we have? "Use it, abuse it, and throw it away" is the mantra that's sprouted from our convenience.

It's not just the obvious environmental issues that I'm concerned about. I'm more worried about the pervasive mentality that starts with this culture. When we are used to throwing things away, where do we draw the line? Is it ok to throw away a dirty shower curtain? How about an older-model flat-screen tv? A car that we haven't maintained properly? Do we get rid of a pet that doesn't behave? How about an aging family member? I'm not literally saying that I'm seeing Fluffy or someone's grandparents in a dumpster, but the mentality is there to easily drop a pet off at the pound or a grandparent at a nursing home and never worry about it. When you get into the habit of throwing things away, habits become awfully hard to break. But when do we take responsibility and make the effort to take better care of things? When do we realize that there's a price to be paid for our convenience? We can easily replace anything, so we value nothing.

As I stood in line at Target, I started to question whether I really needed that new laminating machine and new towels. My old towels work just fine and as cool as it would be to laminate some sheets that I regularly use at trainings, I could just as easily do it at Kinko's or Staples. I guess if I want to change the culture, I have to be more proactive about my own behaviors. Change starts with each of us.

What do you think? Sound off. Join the conversation.

Weekend lessons

Just got back from another weekend module. I am a national trainer for a couple of fitness companies and I spend weekends showing people how to be group fitness instructors. To some, it's just another job and to others, they wonder why I would want to "squander" my weekends. For me, it's worth the time that I'm giving up. It's something that means something to me and it's no different than anyone else passionate about their weekend hobby... The cool thing is I get to meet a lot of people doing this. You'd be surprised by the wide range of people who decide they want to be group fitness instructors! Young, old, fitness junkies, and fitness newbies... Worked with 'em all... And I've been really fortunate because I've learned just as much from all of the folks in trainings as I've taught them.

This weekend I did a Les Mills training and had the opportunity to meet several new instructors who had either quit their careers to pursue a passion in fitness or who were putting themselves through this as a way to break out of their routine. It is so inspiring to see people who recognize the need for change and who do something about it. Too often, we're paralyzed by fear: fear of inadequacy, fear of failure, or fear of change. It takes some big brass ones to hand in your resignation with just the thought that you might try a career in fitness. Or to put yourself in a completely foreign situation because you recognize that you want to grow. It's the ultimate embodiment of unsteady state. And it's why I travel after work on Fridays and get up at the crack of dawn on weekends. I love what I do...

The right direction

So since I had a post about getting lost, I think it's appropriate that we  should talk about how to get back on track. When we're physically lost, we look for  landmarks that we may recognize, like a tree or a particular road sign or a familiar store, depending on where you are. The best landmarks are up in the sky. The sun always rises in the east and sets in the west. The stars can provide cues to get us back on track as well.

In much the same way, it's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of our hectic lives and lose our way. It's helpful to have a landmark that we can rely on when we get lost. For me, that is my personal mission statement. Who am I? What am I doing? How do I deal with others? When I'm in the middle of a confusing situation, an ambiguous moment, or an opportunity to try something new, I go back to my mission statement to get my bearings.

"Aren't mission statements something that companies have?" you ask. Sure. Companies have turnover and new people come in. The mission statement is the company's way of ensuring continuity.

As people, we don't have to worry about continuity, but it's easy to get pulled in different directions nowadays. It's easy to forget where you want to go, what you want to do, and who you are. That's where having a personal mission statement comes in handy. It's a roadmap that you create for yourself.

And it's an interesting exercise on its own. How often do we take the time to really meditate on what we want to accomplish? Without knowing this, we're just fluttering around aimlessly from situation to situation. Without a long-term vision, you don't know if you're going to get where you want to go. It's like trying to hit a bulls-eye without seeing the target!

Try it out. The next time you lose your way, you'll be glad that you left yourself a trail of breadcrumbs...

New language

dukeSo, we've been fostering a sick kitten from the animal shelter. We found him roaming around the parking lot and took him in to get looked at. He's an incredibly curious little guy who has made it his mission to get into as much as he can. I'm finding kitten hair on everything. And nothing beats the way he chases his favorite Yoda toy around the living room! Heck, he's even learning to use the toilet! Take that, Mr. Jinx! About a week-and-a-half with our new 6-month old roommate and his youthful energy started to pose some problems. We started to find out that he loves getting up at 5am. I get up early for work as it is, but 5am is a bit before my alarm clock goes off. We tried keeping him in the spare bathroom overnight, but he just decided to start yelling at us... The most pathetic, whiny, "please come save me from my miserable existence" meow that you can't sleep through.

We started out by coming over and playing with him for a while, then putting him back and going back to sleep. But multiple 5am mornings takes its toll on you. It turned into a quick pop into the bathroom, a "what's wrong?", a little petting, and then back to bed. Then it became "be quiet", play a little bit, and back to bed. Then it devolved into throwing some food in the bowl, telling him to "shut up" and back to sleep. Through it all, he was nothing  if not consistent.

I thought I was a smart guy. But here I was in my sleep-depraved stupor, wondering how this sly kitten was getting the best of me. And it clicked... He's just a cat... We had gotten used to him and we had started talking to him as if he knew what we were saying. Pet owners do that. And for his part, he followed around and acted like he understood us. So, when we got out of bed to pet him and tell him to stop meowing, we thought we were doing the right thing by comforting him and getting him to quiet down. But the moment we left the bathroom, he's be back at it.

The obvious thing I realized is he doesn't speak English! But more importantly, our actions didn't line up with our intentions; we were sending him mixed signals. We wanted him to stop waking us up at the crack of dawn, but every time he meowed, we responded with a visit. Even though we would pet him and say "No", in his mind, all he needed to do to get some attention was meow for a bit and we'd come running. Without the benefit of language, all he had was our actions, which told him that if he cried long enough, we'd be there to reassure him.

It occurred to me that we humans are a pretty crazy lot. We do this even with other people, who DO speak the same language. How often do we say one thing, but our body language contradicts what we say? Or worse, we actually take actions that betray what we say. Like a bad tell in poker, our actions are giving us away. No wonder we have such a tough time communicating with one another.

As I strive to find my unsteady state, I commit to trying to consciously line up my actions with my words. Consistency in words and deeds removes confusion and makes it easier for people to understand my message.

Will this help my 5am problem? I'll let you know...

Let me know what you think. Join the conversation...