Book Summaries with Jeremy

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The Education of a Coach by David Halberstam

Summary:

This book is a biography of Bill Belichick but told in a way that illustrates how Belichick became the coach he is today. His father has coached for his entire life, making a mark as a terrific scout and then lasting many years as an assistant coach for Navy. Bill would help his father break down game film as a child and always had an interest in football and coaching. While Belichick played football, he was too small and slow to play at the highest level in the collegiate ranks, but always knew the game extraordinarily well and would serve as an informal coach at times. It was his intense passion for the game and tremendous ability to break down film in an effective manner that leads to jobs. Belichick took his first job in the NFL without pay, and quickly gained a reputation for a smart coach who could break down film extremely well. He had the ability to pinpoint the key focus of an offense and design a way to eliminate it. Belichick spent time with Bill Parcells, a Hall of Fame coach and had great success with the New York Giants in the 1980s. He finally got his head coaching start with the Browns in the 1990s, but struggled with the media, causing tension that was aided by losing. He had a multi-year plan but was unable to fulfill it. It wasn’t until he got a chance from New England that he could do things as he wished. His focus was on having a system where veterans did not have egos, they would pave the way and groom the new players so that continuous success could occur. Everyone would do their job and work as a team. He would only draft players he wanted and trade other picks to better be in position for the future. He has had tremendous success in his career.

Influence on me:

Three main themes stuck out to me during this book, being really good at something is helpful, passion drives all, and networking with your people is useful. Belichick was great at breaking down film from a young age and capitalized on that ability. Other people in the profession would overlook or delegate that task, but it enabled Belichick to get a job and become really good at his job. If there is something that separates you from others, you can create a name for yourself. Once you start to move up, depending on the need, you may decide to keep doing it, such as Belichick does as the head coach, or delegate it as well. He has always loved football and coaching. It is another reminder of the same premise that if you love what you do, it does not truly work. This is what allows for long work days and tremendous amounts of effort. Find what you have a passion for and seek that out. Lastly, coaching is not a secure position as a losing season can mean no longer having a job. Coaching is a profession where who you know can mean having a future job. Being a good person to others and not burning bridges is always a good practice. Too many people get bitter at others and ruin relationships due to emotions at the moment. It is better to take a moment, gather oneself and act professionally as no regrets can come from it.

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Value of Gym People Watching

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Everyone that has spent time in a gym has seen some interesting things. There can be guys or gals with muscles popping out everywhere, people going crazy intense, people going easy, people doing some really weird looking things, and more.

People tend to watch people. This is true at the gym, airport, food court and many other places. It satisfies our curiosities, but also on a fundamental level, it keeps us safe. If we see others doing some activity that is harmless, then we can have higher confidence we will be safe. A small example is at work or a conference when there is some procedure such as checking in. The newbie may not know what to do, but by taking a moment and watching others, they can follow suit and be fine. Another example is deciding where to eat. Finding a full restaurant with many people usually indicates the food is good. This is a concept of following others is called “consensus” in Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence, here is a link to a quick summary on our webpage.

This concept can be very useful in the gym as well if used properly. As I’ve mentioned, there is a variety of people and experiences in the gym so observing with the right lens is critical to maximizing the usefulness.

The lens to have is one of growth. This means identifying what people are doing right, and what can be improved upon. Regardless of knowledge and skill level, intuition will provide a basis for identifying what is safe and what isn’t. For those still new, as you watch over time, it will be easier to see commonalities and outliers for exercise technique. A way to accelerate this growth is to look at good resources for exercise technique.

One good resource is here on the CrossFit website. Some people bash CrossFit and say there is poor form, but it is like many things where many do it properly and some do not. The craziness of poor form tends to stick in people’s minds more than proper form, but it is still a worthwhile resource.

Another resource is Strength Training Anatomy by Frederic Delavier as it has amazing illustrations showing exercises per muscle groups. Understanding what the muscle looks like and how it functions can aid in correctly performing the movement.

There are some people that love Arnold and some that don’t but his book, The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding is another wonderful resource for weight training.

The last resource is a bit of a shameless mention, but it is still valuable in my biased opinion. Your Future with Fitness is written by yours truly and gives a good foundation towards being effective with your workouts.

Now that we have taken a bit of a detour with some resources, we can get back on the main topic. Watching people at the gym can be beneficial for those with experience as well. As we train more, we need to maintain vigilance in our own form. Our body is great at adapting to make a movement easier, such as bending the back during shoulder press to engage the larger pectoralis major (chest) muscles. The issue is that through this change in movement, it increases the likelihood of injury. As such, we must maintain our focus on form.

The exercise or weight can be easy, but to continue our progress we increase the weight, which brings us to the need for attention again. A good way is by keeping ourselves honest by using mirrors for feedback and asking a workout partner to correct us if our form is slipping.

Keeping a growth and learning mindset can help us learn from others. The gym then becomes a wonderful human experience.

-Jeremy

Book Summaries with Jeremy

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Born to run: A hidden tribe, superathletes, and the greatest race the world has never seen by Christopher McDougall

Summary:

A writer has a foot injury and that starts a journey to learn more about distance running. In particular, there is a culture of Tarahumara Indians that are legendary for their epic runs, simple diet, partying and remote lifestyle. McDougall tells a few stories along the way. These intense 50-100 mile trail runs in various places and certain individuals that not only run in them, they dominate the competition. After each mini-story, we hear how the various individuals are invited to a secluded race with the Tarahumara. The race is extremely challenging and close but also a great display of friendship and joy with running. Some keys through the book are shorter strides and lesser cushion on shoes. Most running injuries correspond to new shoes. Cushioned shoes through research have shown to elicit harsh impacts. Shoes would minimize the temporary pain but not injury. A minimal shoe or barefoot causes the foot to react and strengthen. With smaller steps, the foot is efficient at this. There is also mention of research and possible explanations. It seems we as a species became upright and the main advantage was our distance running ability. We could cool ourselves and breathe while maintaining pace. Other animals cannot. This led to outrunning animals. This leads to more protein, helping to expand brain size over time. The book makes a push to illustrate that we are made to run when we rely on our natural makeup, something the Tarahumara have maintained. The other big takeaway is the joy they had. Each of the elite runners had a pure smile of joy as they ran. They found a way to fully embrace some or multiple aspects of it.

Influence on me:

I liked the discussion revolving around the evolution of our species to become distance runners. Personally, I had never called myself a runner. Most of my exercise experience was weight lifting as I found it to be more enjoyable. Knowing this information though gives me a new confidence that I too can improve. I can embrace running and get the numerous benefits it offers. As I was reading through the book, I had talked with runners and biomechanist to start and have a shorter more efficient stride. I have to report that my own plantar fasciitis has been reduced greatly. Lastly, I look to have joy during the run. It is easy to get down on yourself, thinking how tired or hot or thirsty you may be. As I think back to the book, these other individuals were capable of so much more. I think about what I enjoy about the running process. It, in turn, does make it go better and as each run has less pain physically and mentally, then I truly do enjoy it more. It’s a nice book for someone looking to get into running.

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Book Summaries with Jeremy

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Built on Values by Ann Rhoades

Summary:

Built on Values stresses the importance of instilling values within an organization and living up to those values. Too often an organization struggles for its identity and culture along with poor results. Defining and living up to values provides a blueprint for how the organization and each employee will conduct itself. There are various strategies within the book. Some key aspects are identifying the A players, the best employees of an organization who live up to the values. Use them as input for creating values as needed, but also as examples. Everyone from the front line to executives should be expected to live the values daily. This is easier when hiring is done in accordance with values, finding examples of behaviors from candidates that live up to the values. Performance reviews and goals should also be value driven. Those acting in accordance should be properly rewarded. Communication is vital, especially when integrating a new value system, as some employees may not take it with full seriousness. Instead, acknowledge it will take time and be consistent with message and actions. This is aided by direct input from all levels. The focus is to look at all aspects of the business and identify methods to increase awareness and functioning based on the values. Doing this over time will lead to greater retention of employees, greater products, and greater experiences for customers.

How it influenced me:

When I first started to read this book, I thought how it was such an echo of what I had been saying all summer, meeting with 200 gym and brewery owners across the USA. I recall speaking to a friend and former colleague of mine in Florida regarding the importance of values and how I would keep referring to values for numerous topics of discussion we had regarding some organizational development he was implementing. I then thought there were opportunities for me to help other organizations as well. As I read more, I had a feeling of validation, but also learning and “oh yeah” moments where I realized there were considerations for value implementation that I had not previously thought of. I am also in the process of looking for a job for some stability and this has made me consider the perspective I had when applying at organizations. I look forward towards the future with greater confidence regarding values as I work within and with various organizations.

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Eleven Rings by Phil Jackson and Hugh Delehany 

Summary:

Phil’s basketball journey is addressed throughout the book. It starts with his playing days, covers his start as a coach, and of course the successes he had with the Bulls and the Lakers. The ending of the book is after the Lakers lost their playoff series against the Mavericks. Throughout he relives some game time moments, describing what happened in certain games and in a variety of playoff series. Phil has always been more well known for his philosophy of zen and bringing his players together to play well-rounded basketball. He discusses his various approaches to doing this, sitting quietly, doing yoga, meditation, and different ways he’d communicate with the team. At times he mentioned various zen, or Buddhist teachers and intertwines those lessons with what the team or he as an individual were going through. He gives an inside look at the behind the scenes issues and concerns that would arise and his thoughts along the way.

Influence on me:

The simplicity of the attitude in the book struck me. There are times when there was great success or failure and Phil had a very matter of fact attitude. Instead of dwelling or letting it get carried away each event was treated as just an event. Even with this approach, there was not a lack of emotion. He would say when he was angry or sad and cried. These are just events and they do take place. If we want to let them constantly be a part of us and weigh us down then we will. Also as individuals we all constantly learn and grow, and sometimes we want to learn and grow how to be strong in difficult situations, or how to not let anger or rage overcome us in situations, but unfortunately, the only way to test and see if we have grown is to go through such trying times. To me, it seems that even when things seem taxing and difficult, it really just enables us to have an opportunity to see how we are in that moment, and to learn from it. The other main concept was being in the moment. This idea of chopping wood and carrying water. Those are simple tasks and other emotional things may happen around it, but in the moment it’s not beneficial to be elsewhere, instead, we need to be in the moment and focus on the task at hand.

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The Starfish and the Spider: the unstoppable power of leaderless organizations by, Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom

Summary:

Organizations can be categorized into either a starfish or spider organization. This metaphor relates to the characteristics of the animal. A spider has a central head and body with legs extending out. This is an organization with centralized leadership that dictates what every single leg does, or what every aspect of the organization does. If something were to happen to the head/body then the legs would fail to function. This could occur within organizations that would not function when their leadership is dismantled. A starfish is the opposite, if one leg is chopped off it will re-grow and flourish. The book highlights companies such as craigslist, Wikipedia, eBay, and organizations such as AA, music sharing services and others that operate as a starfish. They allow the people to have the power and when they do so the organization is able to accomplish much more. It also makes it extremely difficult to dismantle it since one leader cannot result in the downfall as other areas will survive and often rally to keep moving forward. This is still a continuum of sorts as some companies such as eBay have a centralized function of leadership but give great power for people to sell to people and rate each other all monitored by the people. This enables greater responsibility, sharing, and less oversight of management.

How it influenced me:

This was an interesting perspective of how an organization should function. As someone looking to grow and improve as a leader, it is unique to hear about putting power out to others. This is applicable in the concept of being a lovecat and sharing koozies. I had developed some koozies to give to lovecats and it became a time where I thought about making it something of an organization to reach out and help others. But I realized while reading this book I can allow them to connect better. It also stands out as another possible avenue of how to run a business in a different way than the status quo. As I progress as a leader moving up the ladder there will be opportunities for growth and providing direction for my section or perhaps the company overall. This is a reminder that just because we have done something a certain way, it doesn’t mean that we will have to continue that. It is important to be aware of changes that occur both through society and especially in regards to the use of technology. I need to make sure I shift my lens of focus to look for a change in trends.

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Book Summaries with Jeremy

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Brain Rules by John Medina 

Summary:

There are 12 brain rules to help people in their daily functions. The book is presented 1 rule at a time, with corresponding research, anecdotal evidence and possible suggestions of how to implement the new information. 1) Survival, the brain evolved just as we did as a species. It is quite large and continues to grow. 2) Exercise, getting cardio helps our capillaries in our brain to open up, allowing more blood flow. The basic recommendations help brain function of nearly every type. 3) Sleep is very important for key mental functioning. There is a system working to keep us awake and another to get us to sleep. They are constantly in flux, and some people tend to be night owls and others morning. 4) Stress was critical as we evolved but today it lingers longer, leaving cortisol to have negative effects on us. Gaining control of our lives is the best thing to do. 5) Wiring our brains literally rewrite itself. People’s brains grow, develop, and store information differently. 6) Attention can only be one thing. We shift attention but don’t multitask. 7) Memory is strengthened by encoding more information at the time of learning. When we recall information it is a mix of new knowledge and past memories. The best way to have a good memory is to repeat it in timed intervals. 8) Sensory information is how we acquire information and transfers it into electrical signals to the brain. Working the senses together is much more effective. 9) Vision is by far the most important sense using half the brains resources. 10) Music is still being researched a lot but formal training improves intellectual skills in cognitive domains. They are generally able to detect emotion in speech. 11) Gender is dependent on the male. Females are genetically more complex due to 1,500 genes per X chromosome they have. Women use left hemisphere of the amygdala and remember emotional details of stress, men use the right side and recall the gist. 12) Babies show that we learn from experimenting to see how things are with all of our senses. We can learn things throughout our lives.

Influence on me:

It was very informative and there are certain skills that can be applied immediately. Things like using a hook to get interested during a presentation. Looking to utilize emotion to help the material stick better by those in the audience. The book is full of a great amount of information. The potential issue is that it is difficult to retain all that is presented with it. I feel that each chapter needs more time and focus to be fully applied to life in order to maximize the information presented. It would be a good book to refer back to occasionally or perhaps pick one rule to understand and implement during a period of time. It can be a good source of reference for individuals that show a great interest in knowing more about how the brain works. As I learn and present information going forward, I can refer back to the book to add to my understanding.

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