I’m Not A Team Player (But Neither Are You)

Disclaimer: Before this post gets under way, I want to provide my perception of the Americanism team player. Team player is a noun that originated in the late 19th century that describes a person who willingly works in cooperation with others. As you know, cooperation is a joint action. We do this instead of doing it myself, you get the idea. I’m of the opinion that in a joint action, no one should ever wonder “why am I working harder than them?” By the time you’re thinking that thought, the team has already broken down. There’s not much joint in the action and there’s no action in this joint.

I’m not a team player. That’s the one phrase that you’ll never say during a job interview. I often mutter to myself, “this is why I hate working on teams”. You see, it’s not that I’m not a team player. The issue is that others are not team players and the people in charge of the teams rarely do anything to stop social loafing (more on that later). How many times have you heard this one, “Together everyone achieves more!” It’s true. If we work together to build this house, we’ll achieve more than if I were to attempt it on my own. I’m guilty of preaching another nonsequitur to my former team. “If everyone does a little, no one has to do a lot!”, I would say. It wasn’t until I found myself in a non-leadership role again that it occurred to me that everyone has a different definition of doing a “little”. Some people are fine with mediocrity, have no ambition, and do the bare minimum. That’s not a judgment, it’s truth. Don’t believe me? Work in management for two weeks! Going back to one of the previous statements, it’s true that together everyone achieves more. But, that doesn’t mean that everyone attempts more or gives a stronger effort. In a team environment, it’s quite the contrary. This week’s post is about what I call the TEAL factor (Together Everyone Attempts Less) and what you can do about it as a leader in your organization (corporation, sporting environment, non-profit fundraisers, etc.) to mitigate such behavior.

It’s worth mentioning… There is a Grand Canyon-sized difference between leaders and managers. I could write 2,000 words on that subject alone. But, there’s a good chance that you can tell the difference between a leader and manager through your colleagues that are in managerial roles. In short, all leaders should be managers but not all managers know how to lead.

If you’ve taken a psych class, there’s a good chance that you’ve heard of Social Loafing. No, it’s not that internet rabbit hole time suck that causes you to lose track of the day due to fucking around on the social internet. Social loafing is what happens in a team environment. Most people will try to pull their own weight but, they’ll be resistant to pulling anyone else’s weight. Because of that, people make less of an effort. I’ve certainly been guilty of it. On a recent clean up crew, I would size up how much had to be moved and how far it had to go. Based on the number of us to get the work done, I did some quick math and figured that moving two stacks was more than my share. So, I did more than my share and I did it faster than anyone else. While everyone else was struggling with one stack, I was done and ready to bounce. Then everyone was looking at me because I wasn’t helping them. I was resistant to pulling anyone else’s weight. Perhaps, I’m not a team player. Perhaps they should have worked just as hard as I did. Another way to define social loafing is when there exists a task that everyone views as low priority. Everyone will assume that someone else will get that. It will get done, many will say. No one will actually do it.

It’s worth mentioning… One definition of team player is a person that is willing to assist their team members in a task when their abilities are not as substantial his/her own. It’s like the Hulk doing more of the heavy lifting than the rest of the Avengers because of his strength.

Perhaps you’ve also heard of the Ringelmann effect. Have you ever been at a picnic when someone starts selecting people and positions for a rope tug of war? What do you notice? The person that’s organizing the game will try to evenly distribute the strength of the two teams. Some insist that the strongest should be in front. Some insist that the strongest should be in back. Which team will use their strength to win the war? Well, the disappointing news is that strength won’t determine the winner. The Ringelmann effect can best be summarized by stating that individual effort is inversely proportional to the number of people in the group. Let’s say that you are able to pull 100 pounds attached to the end of a rope. If we were to measure the amount of effort you put into pulling a rope while alone, we’ll call that 100 pounds 100 percent effort. Now, let’s make this a tug of war with you and someone on the other side of equal strength. Both of you exert 100% effort in your respective groups of 1. Now, let’s give each side an additional person and make groups of 2. Both group members will only exert ~92% effort. Assuming that 1% is equal to 1 pound, two people would be able to pull 184 pounds (together everyone achieves more). If they were to give their full effort (together everyone attempts less), the two group members should be able to pull 200 pounds. Back to the tug of war. Let’s bump each group up to four per side. Each group member will only exert between 78-86% of their full effort. The range of effort tends to float around those same numbers for groups of five or six. Here’s the best part. When actors were paid to pretend to pull on the rope on the same side, group members were tested one at a time and they still exerted less than their full effort. Why? Some believe that group members felt their contribution would do little to change the outcome if five other people were pulling with them on the same side. I’ve been guilty of it. I was in an organized tug of war a few years back and I kept thinking how stupid it was and how I wasn’t going to fuck up my hands for a silly game. I did not give my full effort. Neither did anyone else. You are not a team player.

It’s worth mentioning… This information on the Ringelmann effect can be found in the textbook Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology on pages 173-174. The suggestions below were inspired by a combination of the textbook and my own personal experience and language to put it in my own words. I’m not just restating the textbook.

So, before you begin bragging about how well your staff works together as a team, I challenge you to ferret out how often Social Loafing or the Ringelmann effect are happening under your supervision. When you find that it is (and it is) here are a few ways to reel it in.

-Create Specialists As a leader, you should be able to rattle off any of your team member’s special skills at a moment’s notice. Whenever possible, give your team tasks/roles that are specific to their talents. Some people-in-charge (PIC) have a tendency to just say “git-r-done” without assigning specific tasks/roles within the team. Instead, ask individuals on the team to do what they’re good at, treat them like specialists. Specialists don’t assume that their contribution won’t matter.

-Acknowledge Individual Contributions To The Team (This is very different from giving everyone a goddamned trophy just for showing up. If that’s happening in your kid’s school, you might want to consider what this will do to their future work ethic.) When the project is complete, take the time to say thank you to team members by name for the specific contribution they made to accomplishing the goal. Based on the size of your team, this may be difficult. You may end up (intentionally) leaving some people off of the thank you speech because they didn’t give their strongest effort. In that case, see the next suggestion.

It’s worth mentioning… Make sure that you can see the effort in full before you judge it to determine each player’s level of contribution. This is easy on a 5-person basketball team, not on a 100-person corporate team.

-Conduct Individual Meetings This is the most important way to improve any team. Preaching to the choir is pointless. They already believe in the gospel. When one teammate is fucking up, don’t send out a choir email suggesting that everyone stop doing [fill in the blank] when there are only a few fuck up ducks that are doing [fill in the blank]. I’ve asked PIC to not send me emails asking me to stop doing things I’ve never done. It’s a form of passive aggressiveness. It’s even worse when a PIC sets up a meeting to make sure that everyone is on the same page. The same thing happens at every meeting, the fuck up duck goes quack and never shows. So, the entire choir is sitting around listening to the gospel while the heathen (the reason for the team meeting) is not in attendance. Set a one-on-one meeting with the fuck up duck and set them straight. It’s the only way the weak link in the chain will be fixed.

-Role Reversal When possible, have your team members walk in each other’s shoes for a while. Maybe this only makes sense during a practice session. But, there’s no better way to form appreciation for what the rest of your team does than by doing it. As the PIC, try to make this happen during your next team building exercise and then talk about feelings and shit to make sure that everyone gets the point of the exercise.

It’s worth mentioning… Not being a team player isn’t necessarily a bad thing. So, as a PIC performing an interview, encourage people to be honest about their feelings towards teams. If someone says, “I’m not a team player.” Ask why and let that answer be the catalyst of your decision. If someone claims that they work harder on their own, think back to the Ringelmann effect. They’re not just blowing their own horn or bullishitting you. People actually work harder when they think that all of the responsibility is on them.

Until next week (and beyond), continue to work hard on your own! Work harder (than 78% effort) on your team while being communicative, consistent, and considerate. Don’t be a fuck up duck!
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The Mutual Experience Of Good Sex

When I was in my teens, I remember when my mother took me to one of her favorite bookstores. The Shrine of the Black Madonna Bookstore and Cultural Center on Detroit’s West side – no longer open for business – was always the one shop that generated more questions in my curious mind than answers. I wanted to read all of the books. This was a point in my life where I carried around a copy of Eldridge Cleaver’s “Soul On Ice” and I viewed a chance to cruise the aisles of the Shrine as an opportunity to find more questions. I hoped to find answers in some of the pages on those shelves as well. There were times when I wasn’t sure that I was ready for the question that the pages would prompt. I’ll never forget seeing this title on the shelf:

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At that point in my teenage years I had, of course, been made aware of pussy and what some men were willing to do to gain access to it. But, this book sparked the question: “WTF is GOOD Pussy?” and by default “What is BAD Pussy like?” At this point in my life, I hadn’t even seen a vagina that wasn’t on a screen or in a magazine. So, I had loads of questions. I didn’t attempt to buy the book. Even though it wasn’t kept in any sort of adult section (that didn’t exist in that bookstore anyway) my instincts told me that a teenager attempting to purchase this book wouldn’t go over well.

It’s worth mentioning… You’re about to read a blog post from a heterosexual male about his thoughts on what defines a good sexual encounter. There will be euphemisms for vagina used. There will be words like “lover” used as well. If you’re uptight about shit like that, just stop reading now. If you’ve ever in your life referred to a vagina by any other name, hold your judgment and take a breath before you get up in arms.

It’s also worth mentioning… The word good is a purely subjective word. There is no good day without the individual perceptions of those that boast it to be so. Much the same, there are no bad days until the label has been applied from the mouths of the beleaguered. Now, back to Good Pussy. I never read the book but the cover photo has always been etched in my brain. If you’ll take a moment and listen to a reading from the book, you’ll hear that it’s not necessarily about pussy as a treasure sought after by those that choose to objectify. (Again, I’ve never read the book.) Here’s a video of David Cross reading an excerpt from the aforementioned book that he refers to as his Bible.

Are you good at sex? I’m of the opinion that sex is much like dancing. We can only be as good as our partner. I find it interesting when I hear (mostly) men brag about their skills in the bedroom. The common assumption is that a man with confidence in his abilities will have more frequent chances to have sex. Much like a peacock showing off his feathers for the female, some men brag as a way of piquing a woman’s curiosity. I also find it interesting when a woman asks another woman if a man is good in bed. Even if her (subjective) answer is yes, that doesn’t mean that the same man would be good with another woman in the same bed. For any peacock to suggest that he’s good at sex is to assume that all of his dance partners will dance and respond exactly the same. My apologies for blending metaphors. But, you dig what I’m saying. I once heard a man say: “If your hands were tied behind your back and nothing on the body could touch the pussy except your dick, you wouldn’t be able to tell one from the other.” Wow! That’s some surreal shit! Yes, there are people in the world that actually think that way. Welcome to earth, humans are interesting. Obviously, there are numerous things wrong with such a misogynistic statement. But, for the sake of this post, I want to focus on the misguided idea that sex is the same from one person to the next. It’s that ideology that leads people to think that they are good at sex.

“Jet, you’re full of shit. All the ladies love the way I put it down! I put on a dab of Bitch Come Runnin cologne and they ALL tell me that I’m the greatest lover ever! I’m good at sex!” Okay, let me ask you this Mr. Pimpadelic Relic, the Playa from the Himalayas. What’s your technique? Can you tell me what you’re going to do to that woman before you get in the bedroom? You can!? It sounds like you have a playbook and you’re going to treat her the exact same as your last lover. That doesn’t sound like you’re concerned about her pleasure. That doesn’t even sound like you recognize her as an individual! That sounds like you’re using a formula to solve a riddle instead of paying attention to what she wants. While that may end up bringing her pleasure, it’s more of an ego stroke for yourself than it is a genuine attempt at pleasing your partner.

Everyone is familiar with the golden rule (treat others the way you want to be treated) even if it’s not practiced. In relationships (and especially during sexual relations) I’m of the opinion that the platinum rule (treat others the way they want to be treated) is key to a mutually enjoyable experience. “Alright, Jet. What’s the deal? How do you define good sex!?” Thanks, narrator in my head, I’m glad you asked. I think that good sex is a mutual experience instead of any sort of delineation between top/bottom as to an individual being good at sex. The mutual experience of good sex can be broken down to four R’s. [Please note: These four R’s are meant to be universal. Ignoring gender or top/bottom/side-lying roles, this criteria can apply to all.]

Response (Feedback) Of the many sexual encounters I’ve had, the most memorable were the ones that I could hear/feel/see responding to my efforts. There’s nothing worse than having sex with a voluntary mute. If it’s your first time with a partner, find a way to communicate with them that you like or dislike what they’re doing. Don’t use a certain look. Side eyes don’t really explain anything. Use impeccable communication that can’t be confused. During my first few times with a partner, I’m making a mental map of her body. In order to know that I’m heading in the right direction, “right there” are the two sexiest words a partner can say. If your partner is doing something you dislike… the words, “I don’t like that”, will prevent a lot of displeasure.
On the flipside… If you’re not receiving any sort of response from your new partner, check in with them. Communicate in a clear manner (that doesn’t feel like an interrogation) and find out the specific acts they like. This sort of communication can take place before the bedroom at the dinner/breakfast table, in the grocery store, or during your run together. Later on, it doesn’t hurt to casually ask if there’s something your partner would like more or less of during sex.
My challenge to you… Is to avoid thinking that your new partner should just know or figure out where your points of pleasure happen to reside. “Jet, if they’re good at sex, they should have a playbook and just do their thing all up on me!” No! Unless you’re making sweet love to a mind reader, give some goddamned feedback.

Rhythm (Give me something I can work with here!) We’ve all heard the assumption that good dancers are good in bed. Well, that’s been true… in most of my personal experiences. But, when the rhythm is off, goddamned it’s OFF! Two people can’t lead a dance. They can take turns, certainly. But, there can’t be two leaders.
On the flipside… This is a good time to look back at Response. Tell your partner to slow down, speed up, switch their hip rotations or pelvic thrusts to counter clockwise, etc.
My challenge to you… Is to dance with your date/friend/other before they become a lover. Don’t dance with them as a test. Dance with them as a form of foreplay. The dance could even happen in private once you’re naked. Put on some music and dance, laugh, relax, and then get down to business time.

Resistance (Open-mindedness) What are your boundaries? When was the last time you asked that of a potential partner before doing the deed!? Everyone has boundaries, some more than others. I’ve found that the shorter someone’s list of boundaries, the better the sex has been. That doesn’t mean that everything has to be on the table or that the person must be willing to perform every sexual act found in the modern lexicon of sexy talk. It does mean that a person with a closed mind that doesn’t want to do sex acts that you consider standard operating procedure is probably going to be a boring fuck.
On the flipside… Some people have personal rules against oral sex before they feel a certain level of comfort with a new partner. I’m not talking about those situations. I’m talking about people that have blacklisted certain sexual acts and have vowed to never perform certain sex acts. While people are entitled to their boundaries, a long list of boundaries makes for a limiting experience with a new partner.
My challenge to you… Respect people’s boundaries. If you ever find yourself convincing, repetitively asking, or selling the idea of doing a certain act, you’re not respecting boundaries. Don’t be an asshole.

Reciprocity
(Give/Receive/Repeat) When is sex over? How many times did you have sex and what distinguishes one round from the next? If you’re basing that data on when you had your orgasm, you’re not embracing the platinum rule. Give your partner what they want, not just what you want to give them. Let your guard down and receive pleasure from your partner. Allow that to be the dance that you share.
On the flipside… Don’t convince yourself to give/receive something just because it will make your partner happy. If you’re not comfortable doing it, don’t do it and revisit Response. “I don’t like that.” or “I’m not doing that.” Four easy words to avoid confusion.
My challenge to you… Offer alternatives. Maybe you won’t give your partner that HJ under the table at Applebee’s. But, maybe you can give it at your neighbor’s house party.

It’s worth mentioning… Communicating intentions before sex is a possibility will avoid a lot of blurred lines of consent. If you don’t want to have sex with a person, please take a minute and call (not text, not email, not fucking facebook message, but CALL) them before your date. Let them hear your voice and state clearly that “we are not having sex tonight.” Don’t play games, change your mind later, and give up the sweetness. Stick to your conviction so that they can respect your boundaries, respect that you mean what you say, and walk in with no assumptions. No one gets mislead. All intentions are made clear, BEFORE the date.

Isn’t it obvious… Emotional connection will amplify all of the four R’s of good sex. But, the reason that I didn’t define emotional connection as a parameter for good sex is because I have (and you probably have as well) had some great sex with some women with whom there was little to no emotional connection. Emotional connection requirements are so vastly different from one person to the next that such a connection could take up 2,000+ words on its own post. I’ll let you all define emotional connection for yourselves. I’ll let you all define good sex for yourselves. This is just my opinion based on observations and my limited experience. Until the next post… may you all have so much sex that masturbation seems pointless.

Avoiding Advice From The Inexperienced (or Non-athletes Advising Athletes)

When I was younger, my mother made a comment about something she’d seen on the news. Apparently, that night’s story was about how “…a recent study finds that [fill in the blank] may cause cancer.” In response, my mom said, “You know, after a while, even apples will be bad for you! They make me sick, everything is bad for you eventually.” That statement has stayed with me for decades. Partially because I’ve wondered who exactly they were and more importantly why she kept trusting the information they shared. Over the years, I’ve heard people of every level/type of intelligence put faith in what they say. It’s because of this societal norm that I try to think critically about the information that I receive. Further, I encourage anyone that’s listening to (or reading) me to think critically about what I say (or write). I often remind my clients to take things a step further and research any information I’ve passed along.

It’s worth mentioning… Researching facts is different from performing a Google search. I’m not suggesting that you blow the dust off of that World Book Encyclopedia. But, for information that has been vetted (read: not from some dumbass magazine) check out Google Scholar. I’m also a fan of the Journal of Applied Physiology for exercise-specific research. Above, I mentioned passing along information. Remember the pitfalls of the telephone game. Don’t take your perception of your coach’s information and attempt to research what you feel they said. Instead, make sure that you understand what they’re dropping on you before you try to debunk it. I often get the, “Jet, what should I eat?”, question. I always give the same reply. “I’m not going to tell you what to eat. I can tell you what works for my body and why it works. You should experiment with different foods to see how your body responds.” Despite that spiel, people still come back to me and claim that I recommended eating X-Y-Z. No. I didn’t.

My apologies for the digression. This post was inspired by the mentality of people in a scholarly field that will go to a weekend seminar (or online webinar), hear a new angle/suggestion/approach to a common problem, and then come back to the general population to spread this new gospel without thinking critically. During a recent visit to a doctor, I explained that my wrist had been in pain for a while after a dance move had gone awry. I went on to explain that I was unable to do push-ups since I couldn’t place my wrist into extension without pain. She then said, “you shouldn’t be doing push-ups anyway.” After she made the statement, she searched my face making intentional eye contact as if she were expecting a response/debate. I didn’t let her down. Out of an attempt to keep the story as accurate as possible (based on my imperfect memory) I’ll hold off on using anymore quotes. The remainder of the conversation went something like this:

Me: No one should be doing push-ups? What!? That doesn’t make any sense.
Doc: 95% of our clients have rounded shoulder posture and push-ups accentuate that.
Me: While that may be true, 95% of your clients can’t do a push-up. So, why would you tell them not to do something they can’t do in the first place? What about bench presses?
Doc: Are those the ones where you go like this? *her arms raised up at an awkward angle*
Me: I don’t know what that is but I’m talking about a bench press. *I laid down on my back and mimicked the movement.
Doc: No, they shouldn’t be doing those.
Me: You don’t even know what a bench press is, yet you’re suggesting people stop doing them!? *I waived my hand in a dismissive manner in her direction.* (At this point in the conversation I’d lost all respect for her credibility on the subject.)
Doc: What happens when you do either of those exercises? The pushing motion adds to the rounded shoulder posture! It’s like the forward head posture that comes from bridges.
Me: Yeah, but if the modernization of our society has lead the majority of the working world to sit in cars with rounded shoulders, sit at computers with rounded shoulders, and to stare at their phones with forward head posture, think about how many hours per day that people are doing those things as opposed to the maybe 60 cumulative seconds per day that they might do some push-ups (for those that are even able to do push-ups properly). Wouldn’t it make more sense to change the ergonomics of their work environment than to run around telling people (especially athletes) that no one should be doing push-ups? Where’s your logic/science to back up this statement?
Doc: Do you expect me to rattle off who performed the study and cite a research article?
Me: Actually, yes. I do expect that. If you’re going to work in a scholarly position, present an argument to someone that’s studying these very subjects (in school and through personal experience), and expect to be taken seriously, yes. You bet your degree that I expect you to cite your sources. Even when you do, that’s not going to stop me from thinking critically because they say that push-ups are bad for us now.

For anyone (especially Doctors that don’t lift) reading this that plan to present an argument telling someone what should not be done. Here are some things to consider.

1.) Offer Alternatives. You can’t tell a contortionist not to stretch any more than you can tell a fish not to swim. Start by telling the whole story. It’s an annoyance of mine when I hear coaches tell part of the story. “Coffee dehydrates you!” How many times have you heard it? That’s not the whole story (and therefore it’s misleading.) Coffee tends to act as a diuretic. Every body metabolizes coffee differently. Therefore, not everyone will respond the same to a cup. It’s only after coffee causes you to poop and pee (if it affects you that way) and your body eliminates fluids that you will need to replace fluids. But, I am not immediately dehydrated after finishing a cup of coffee. I will happily concede to her argument that improper push-up form is horrible for the neck and shoulders. This is what I see most often and this just looks painful.
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However, instead of telling a room full of people to avoid push-ups because of seeing the above, I’m going to offer alternatives. I’ll explain to the people in the room why their butts tend to go up (weak core recruits help from the low back and the butt goes up). I’ll explain why their hands are in the wrong position and how it will cause shoulder pain (placing the fingertips under the deltoids before the first push-up is ideal). I’ll explain why the neck gets out of alignment and how to correct it with a visual cue (I draw a dot on the floor and remind them to focus on that spot). In short, I’ll offer alternatives instead of telling an entire population that pushing exercises are bad for them.
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It’s worth mentioning… Because of all of the sitting we do in our daily lives we need to get in the habit of doing the opposite (pulling exercises) in our weekly workout routine. That does not mean that you should just row all day everyday. But, talk to your trainer about your daily posture and how to counteract it with stretch and strengthening exercises.

2.) Get some first-hand experience. As I mentioned in the anecdote above, I don’t tell people what to eat. That’s because I have no first-hand experience as a Registered Dietitian or Nutritionist [Here’s a good break down between the two.] I also don’t tell Chiropractors how to adjust spines because I have no first-hand experience. So, if you don’t have any experience strengthening your anterior chain, perhaps you should get some before you tell people to stop doing so.

When I was a performance poet, the best advice that I ever received was to never take criticism/suggestions from those that are unqualified. I had written a book of poetry and I let a computer programmer friend read it. He asked me about one poem in particular. “What are you saying here?” *he waved his hand over two and a half pages of text* “I’m telling this woman that I love her!” I replied. “Why not just say that, instead of writing all of this?” That’s when I understood why I should never take suggestions from unqualified people.

It’s worth mentioning… There are plenty of computer programmers with artistic intelligence and an appreciation for half-way decent poetry. The gentleman in my story was a human calculator. Be careful with whom you share your art. Be careful with whom you discuss your workout.
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3.) Go After The Big Fish. When many activities exacerbate a problem, suggesting that I eliminate the least likely contributor to said problem seems like you’re grasping at straws and it causes me to question your credibility. Here’s the biggest fish in my opinion. Does this picture look familiar? Think about how many hours a day this is happening to your body and make an effort to change this habit.Blog 2I’m lucky enough to work in a field where I’m always moving around and active. I used to work a desk job and I looked like this picture.
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Encourage your supervisor to invest in ergonomic workstations and be sure to take ergonomic (walking around) breaks. Attack this big fish of postural deterioration. This, in fact, is bad for you.

4.) Stop vilifying exercise. Fitness professionals of today have the same thing in common with fitness professionals of the 1990s. For well over 20 years we’ve been trying to get the majority of the population to move their bodies for 20 minutes a day for 3 days a week (minimum). We still aren’t successful. Everyone will agree that exercise is good for the body. But, few people tend to workout for the aforementioned minimum amount of time. When they say that crunches, push-ups, planks, bridges, etc. are bad and should be stopped then it tends to discourage people that are already confused about the what the right exercise is for them. Body shaming magazines, infomercials suggesting fast results, and myths about “muscle confusion” have confused people enough. Doctors shouldn’t add to the confusion. If you want to make a difference, talk to coaches and explain to them the problems that certain exercises can cause, why they’re causing those problems, and then see #1 above. Without alternatives, you end up being the non-athlete telling athletes what not to do. No one will respect your opinion on the matter. It would be like me telling Tiger Woods what club to use.

It’s worth mentioning… Fitness Coaches and Doctors should be allies, not enemies. Does your Doctor even lift? If they don’t, introduce them to your trainer. Talk to your Doctor about positions your body should avoid. Take that information to your coach (or your lover-HA!) and let them guide you from there.

Are push-ups bad for you? When executed properly, no. They’re not. Will apples be bad for you? Perhaps if you forget to chew! Will bench presses cause cancer? Probably not. But, maybe it’s time you changed your work set up to be more ergonomic and raised your phone up to your line of sight instead of hanging your head to stare at videos of cats riding Roombas. There are much worse things for you than push-ups. But, don’t take my word for it. Do your own research and stop listening to what they say.

Societal Mediocrity (Breaking the Fourth Agreement)

The important element of the 4th agreement is that it reminds us to keep trying our best even if our best, today, is not as good as it was yesterday. While others may be doing their best, it may still not be up to par with the expectation. It’s in those times that someone’s best may not be good enough. Even worse, someone may consider “good enough” as their best. You may work with someone like that. That colleague that always does the bare minimum, skates by, and some how still keeps their job. I used to be that guy.
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Did I ever tell you about the time that I got away with murder!? Figuratively, of course. I used to be that guy that was late to work all of the time. It was a bad habit because even though I was late, I still arrived before my manager. So, I got away with it. What I did was good enough to skate by. One day, she asked someone about what time I arrived. Once I realized that she was hip to my tricks, I got my act together and started arriving on time. Why did it take the threat of consequences before I got my shit together? What was my motivation? Why didn’t I do my best without any reminders? I was intrinsically motivated to arrive on time once I began to worry that my manager would actually find out. My definition of work ethic is to make sure that the person who hired me never regrets their decision. That sort of motivation works for me. Not everyone thrives on the same type of motivation. Those that are driven by extrinsic motivators need some sort of tangible reward for small accomplishments like arriving on time. Arriving on time without any sort of stimulation for the brain’s pleasure receptors won’t highlight the benefit of arriving earlier for some people. {i.e. Arrive early for a discount. Arrive early for free donuts.}

It’s worth mentioning… I’m sure you’ve heard the saying before. “Early is on time and on time is late.” If you arrive early, you have time to chop it up with friends, put away your things, use the restroom, grab a coffee/tea/water, and get started on your shift/tasks for the day. If you walk in at the exact time you’re scheduled to begin work, you won’t actually begin working until you get settled. I grew up in a blue collar environment where employees were expected to punch in on time if they wanted to keep their jobs. Even with the Auto Worker’s Union, the employee dealt with a very real risk of losing their job if they were habitually late. That was Detroit in the 1980’s, before poor business strategies and government bailouts. That was in a time before children began receiving trophies for showing up. If you failed at something, the world told you that you performed poorly and there were consequences.

Without the possibility of repercussions, why would anyone change? There are many techniques for managing employees. Many business owners seem to only rely on two methods, the carrot or the stick. I once worked for a restaurateur that made his management give a “write-up” to every employee that didn’t follow a rule. He let it be known that after three write-ups, that employee was to be fired. The management staff was passing out several write-ups a shift. Many people had more than three. No one was fired. How long do you think it took before the staff stopped giving a fuck about those write-ups? I do believe that everyone needs incentive/motivation to step up higher than the average effort (that’s job responsibility number one as a coach). However, I don’t believe in managing/coaching by empty threats.

I believe that threats should come from healthy competition. When I talk to people about hustling or grinding, I mention my idea of overlapping ambitions. Consider a place as densely populated as New York City. Now, imagine that a job opportunity (about which you feel lukewarm) comes up. You can move slow if you want to, but someone else’s ambition will overlap yours. Imagine that a much more exciting job opportunity presents itself. Your ambition will help you to get in gear and do your best. But, if the competition is hungrier, they’ll win again. Many people want the same things that you want (overlapping ambition), once you get your foot in the door, it’s important to continue doing your best lest someone else take what you assume will always be yours. When I was a server/bartender at a shitty Tex Mex restaurant chain, we had something called “boned”. If you were late for your shift, you got boned out of your section by any server that was on premise and wanted your (often higher cash-yielding) section. HR got wind of it and, for obvious reasons, we started referring to it as something less rape-y than boned. The point is, if you got boned and made shitty money in a lame section, you were never late again. Real consequences eradicated mediocre efforts! Overlapping ambition challenged people to step up their game and redefine what it meant to do their best. Extrinsic motivators work better on some people.

It’s worth mentioning… More can be accomplished with cooperation than competition. If you’re a team leader, try to figure out ways to get departments to work together instead of pitting them against each other all of the time.

At some point, being five minutes late (for social engagements) stopped being a point of contention. It’s no big deal if I’m five minutes late to brunch, right? Then you found out that the entire group couldn’t sit down until the entire reservation arrived because that’s the policy of the house. Think it’s a stupid policy? Tough shit, your tardiness still caused your friends to miss a table and wait 30 minutes longer because you were five minutes late. Real consequences as a result of mediocre efforts! We do what others allow, that’s no secret. Let’s imagine some extreme examples of how this could stop. What if you began firing your employees for being five minutes late? Sure, give them the courtesy warning first. But, the second time yields an end to their income. How many more employees would be late after firing the first one? What if you ended friendships for blatant disrespect of your time? You know that friend that’s always 20 minutes late… for everything? What if you divorced that friend, never made plans/calls/texts again until they respected your time? They may just tell you to fuck off and the friendship may be over. They’re not your employee and they may not appreciate/respect your time (and they may be okay with that). The only reason they’re consistently late is because you allow it. What if you found a way (less extreme than a friend divorce) to no longer allow it? I had an employee that generally didn’t give a shit about her performance and often half-assed things. I asked her what she would do if the job paid a million dollar annual salary. She scoffed and reminded me that it did not. “Yes, but if you develop these habits, at minimum wage + tips, you’ll never get the million dollar job. If you get that job, you won’t keep it. Mediocre people don’t make millions of dollars.” She still laughed and didn’t care to hear my message.

It’s worth mentioning… There are plenty of mediocre millionaires. People do the bare minimum and turn it into loads of spondoolicks all of the time in this capitalist society.

Every day is an interview. You’re being interviewed right now. We’re on camera over 200 times a day [I heard that made-up statistic ten years ago. It seems feasible, considering how many cameras there are on buildings and in our pockets.] and people look at our posture, presentation, body language, tardiness, attitude, and effort. Whether I’m doing my best or not is irrelevant if my competitor’s best is better. When I was training for a marathon, the quote was something like… “when I’m sleeping in, my competitor is training and that’s who’ll pass me on the hill.” I can’t remember exactly how the quote went. But, that was the gist of the message: Don’t be mediocre. Someone else is hungrier. Always do your best.

Mediocrity is the reason businesses fail, they reap a few rewards and start doing the bare minimum to get the job done. Good enough becomes good enough. Everyone starts singing the California chill out tune, “It’s all good, dude. No big deal, man. I’m only a few minutes late. No worries.” Mediocrity is why people don’t assert themselves to improve upon skills. Mediocrity is embraced by society. Everything is cool and nothing is a big deal. Every kid gets a trophy for fear of a child feeling like a loser. (Isn’t it better to learn it young than to be disappointed later on in life?) No one wants to challenge a colleague or an employee to step their game up, even if it means that the entire team’s reputation will be tarnished. While it’s important to do your best and you are the only person that you can control, please hold others accountable and call them out when they aren’t doing their best. More importantly, let them know when what they claim is they’re best isn’t good enough for the expectation.

One day, in class during a group project, this happened…
Me: *looking at the person that contributed nothing to the assignment* Do you think your name should go on this paper? Do you really think that you’ve done your share?
He: I mean, it’s whatever man. Whatever you want to do. *shrugs*
Me: I’m not putting your name on this.

That dude and I never became friends. But, I believe if we’re going to work on a team, you will not receive a trophy for showing up. You’ll earn it for doing your best or you can bow out early with no hard feelings.

It’s worth reiterating… That this post is about doing your best, not matching someone else’s effort, just give it your all. Even if you fail, people will recognize/respect your efforts.

As an entertainer and coach, I spend a lot of time in front of people that I only see once. Many of those people, I don’t even see. There’s nothing more surreal than someone recognizing/stopping me on the street and recalling a class that I taught two years prior. Sometimes, they refer to a 4-minute performance that happened a year ago. It’s always a jarring experience. I never know who’s in the audience and I love that! As long as I choose to always do my best, I never have to look back and wonder if I gave my all. Every day is an interview. Like that one time when Angela Davis was in my cycling class. I was unaware until the class was over. Questions like, “Did I do a good job?” or “I hope she liked it?” quickly dissolved once I reassured myself that I had done my best. It’s a great feeling to know that much. I’m not stating that everyday is an interview in order to scare you into being perfect at everything at all times. I’m just saying that every job I’ve ever gotten came from what people saw me doing when I could have easily embraced mediocrity and “phoned it in”. {Like that time that I was at a club and had a dance off with a dude and it turned out to be the show producer. When the dance moves ended, he said he wanted to book me for a stage performance. We interviewed on the dance floor and I was just trying to win the dance off to keep street cred.}

Fight against societal mediocrity. If you’ve lost passion for what you do and you’re doing the bare minimum, stop doing it. “Jet, I can’t just quit my job! It’s not that simple!” Actually, it is. If you’re doing the bare minimum to keep your partner from complaining, stop the relationship. “Jet, I can’t just leave my Boo! It’s complicated!” Everything has strings, cut them shits and break up if your heart’s not in it. If you’re doing the bare minimum to maintain ‘connection’ with friends, just stop. “Jet, I need Facebook to keep my FOMO from flaring up!” Staring at a screen is not connecting. Hug your friends, call (instead of text) your friends, send your friends cards in the snail mail, and find 100 other ways to connect in real life. To keep things simple, you could just keep the fourth agreement. Do your best in everything that you do, knowing that your best will change from one moment to the next. Do your best and avoid getting boned.