First, let’s start with a story:
“Wait… Is she Israeli?” I asked my girlfriend Katie this on Sunday night while watching The Blacklist. I was confused about the history of character Samar Navabi, played by Mozhan Marnò. I recalled Samar’s work history, but not her heritage. The episode caught me up pretty quick: It turns out the character is Iranian and works for Mossad, which is the intelligence agency of Israel. She’s currently working with the FBI as an investigative liaison. Sounds fancy, right?
As one does during commercial breaks, I found myself on Wikipedia doing a catch-up on exactly what the real Mossad does. I got exactly as far as the history of their motto, which is when I stopped. Here’s their original model:
“For by wise guidance you can wage your war.”
These words resonate with me because they’re how I’ve always approached health and fitness. You must learn to be able to act. If we want to see results in our movement, in our physique, or in our performance, we have to specifically learn and train for that. Without that wise guidance, we wage a losing war. The ultimate irony here is that we often don’t know what we don’t know, and rather than considering the knowledge gap, we’re frustrated and confused.
I offer you something that’s trickling into the fitness industry, that I believe we’re all responsible for:
The action gap is more important than the knowledge gap.
Doing may very well be more important than knowing. We know that dedicated strength training, cardio, and a whole-food diet is best for health and longevity. However, when fitness magazines, blogs, and newsletters are pitching intense, extreme bootcamps, with the latest fad diet, we don’t get the entire set of results we’re looking for. We’re chasing the Whole 30, but end up with half-assed 4-5 days of sadness before returning to what we did before.
There’s a current shift in the fitness industry that I’m proud to be part of, and it’s the philosophy that actionable steps are more favorable then raw information. A point of frustration for me is when we as fitness professionals fail to appreciate that. We know so much, want to share what we know, and want to be appreciate for what we know. It turns into data, data, data, data, and rather than making something meaningful of it, it becomes clutter for our clients. Not cool, friends, not cool. This is what happens:
It is not only with wise guidance that you wage your war. It’s with regular practice, coaching, and experience. It’s about the moments in between the battles that we do the most learning in the fitness industry. I believe that Mossad has learned this too, because they updated their motto. Here is the current one:
“Where no counsel is, the people fall, but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.”
If there’s one thing that I love, it’s a damn good organizational motto, and this one is even better than the first. At the Clubhouse, every Ninja has 14 trainers working to ensure they have the best experience and fitness results possible. We’re not working on national security, but we are deeply invested in creating a safe space for the Ninja Army.
Most of my friends in the fitness industry now work in a similar environment, where multiple coaches are involved with every client, and there’s a deep personal investment in improvement. This investment goes beyond technical skill, and considers a more nuanced appreciation for success: It’s not about what you know, it’s about what you do.
One of the things that I am the most interested in is seeing what happens my work within MFF can be supported and enhanced by the other trainers. Sometimes I may deliver a cue that I believe is best, but it might not be interpreted the way that I intended . In those cases I can clarify, but there are also 13 other people prepared to provide their explanation to Ninjas, and help me in my coaching process as well.
More often than not, I can rely on them to provide a simpler explanation than the one that comes naturally to me, and because of that my own ability to simplify complicated information has improved. In the same light, I believe that when someone wants a different explanation from the one they received , I can also provide new context or content when necessary. It is these situations, where the multitude of counselors provide safety.
Just like we learned in our government and science classes, there is a certain level of checks and balances that keep things moving forward. New Ninjas are born into MFF’s versions of checks and balances, as each of the 14 coaches can provide explanations of the things that we’re learning. While you may not be in a similar situation, I believe that other coaches can learn to provide their own checks and balances by working on communication skills and leadership style. While technical skills are still extremely important, it’s the soft skills that are the real differentiating factor at the top of the fitness world.
We grow as a field not in our knowledge, but in our ability to work with those around us. While I admire everyone who’s working on their health and fitness goals, I find great pride for those people who are keen on taking what they know and refining in on a regular basis, always acting and always improving.
In this way maybe MFF is like Mossad, and maybe you can be, too!