[Note: I began this draft in December, and have revived it after sitting on the idea. There hasn’t been a second, secret MFF retreat.]
There was plenty of conversation at last month’s #MFFStaffRetreat and one gems was Mark’s assertion that consuming the news is a ticket to sadness and despair. Those weren’t his words exactly, but the sentiment sticks. The idea was that spending endless hours finding and following up on current-events leaves little room for personal development and enjoyment.
Later that weekend, I happened across an article from The Guardian that discussed the very same thing. The headline read:
“News is bad for you – and giving up reading it will make you happier”
The subtitle continued, “News is bad for your health. It leads to fear and aggression, and hinders your creativity and ability to think deeply. The solution? Stop consuming it altogether”
This made me think about what Mark said and how we typically get the news. My news consumption is relatively bare bones, limited to a few minutes of quick current events on Stitcher or from the New York Times on Twitter. Several times a week, I’ll watch the opening of Jon Stewart on the Daily Show to add some fun to news. Here’s a light bulb moment:
Watching the Daily Show is like doing Zumba.
I know exactly what you’re thinking:
Before we get there, I want to explain how I was unwittingly following the Pareto Principle. Also known as the 80-20 rule, the Pareto Principle states that in any situation roughly 80% of the results come from 20% of the causes. This is the lovechild of bastardized economics, and is touted by efficiency aficionados who want to do more with less. Thing is, what if you want to do more?
Let’s look at Zumba. Über-hip among the social exercise crowd, Zumba combines elements of dance and aerobics and urges you to “Ditch the workout, join the party.” It’s often chastised in exercise physiology circles for outrageous claims of calorie burn, and lambasted in “hardcore” training circles for not being real exercise. When stripped of branding, few will argue that it’s intended to be anything other than a really fun dance class. The Daily Show does the same thing.
Jon Stewart (and the writers) cover current events in a lighthearted way so that they’re not intimidating; they’re accessible, not-elitist, and fun. These are the exact reasons why I happen to enjoy Jon’s character; because he takes traditionally serious information and makes it accessible to anyone who desires that connection. Rather than demanding that his audience knows so much about US or international politics that they must invest their free time in learning everything, he allows us to get as much as possible in a more engaging, enticing way.
If you you’re quick to claim, “But it’s Comedy Central” or “It’s not real news,” Then you’re creating the same problem as elitist physiologists. The general view seems to be that this is unacceptable, and that’s totally cool, but I ask: How is that helping everyone get better?
I am all for the advancement of science, but I favor empowerment over elitism. How are you making people better? (Click to Tweet!)
While we’re on our high horses of politics or exercise, we forget that some people don’t want to do the best possible exercise proven by a lab, or know the names of every person ever on C-SPAN. They want to feel that appropriate balance of challenge and success. We want new things, but not so new that they scare us. Zumba has been a power at pulling in those who don’t like traditional exercise, and catches flak for it. According to (the elitist caricature) Dom Mazzetti, Zumba makes you lose weight by embarrassing it off. Apparently;
[Zumba] is where a bunch of moms get together and flail their arms and celebrate being women.
How does it make you lose weight? You just embarrass it off.
While that character jests, we mustn’t forget that this is a valuable source of physical activity for people who wouldn’t otherwise be active, or who want to do it. Hell, I’ve even sent clients to Zumba to spare them from the physical abuse and mental drain of the treadmill. We must also allow those who want to get that minimal effective dose to enjoy their short-batch events, have a laugh while doing so, and continue about their day.
In both cases of elitism, we’re focusing on what we think should be the case, rather than the situation that we’re actually facing. This does little to help the person who engages the Daily Show or Zumba, make ourselves feel better, or advance the field. Is there really anybody that it helps?
When we argue over varying degrees of effective or efficiency, we do little to engage the motivations or emotions of those involved. There is incredible merit in staying up-to-date with your local happenings and world events, but the majority of us may be happier if we focus on less and enjoy how we experience it more.
The same can be said for exercise. The most important factor, and often biggest hurdle, is following a consistent plan. The “best” exercise program in the world is complete crap for someone who isn’t going to follow it, and we’ll only see our physical culture return when we start to accept that forcing people towards programs they’re not prepare to engage in is only foolish.
P.S. If this is your reaction to my potential support of the Daily Show or Zumba, take a deep breath and think about how they may help others enjoy feeling engaged: