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“The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism” – Norman Vincent Peale
Feedback is a valuable tool in any endeavor. However, as the above quote states, people tend to solicit compliments as opposed to seeking out constructive feedback. The reason is simple – praise feels good and criticism stings. It’s an easy trap to fall into. Another variable affecting this dynamic is the person giving the feedback – not always an easy thing to do depending on the person you are interacting with. We all know the person who needs a huge dose of “honesty” but it’s not worth the emotional explosion that follows.
A starting point is yourself – have you done an honest assessment of your strengths and development areas? If you can’t be straight with yourself, there is a high probability you won’t be receptive to direct advice from others. Write out what you see as your talents and weaknesses – be specific.
As an example, if you are looking to improve your k-bell competition lifting, evaluate yourself in the following areas:
The above list can be more detailed/specific depending on the person, and of course, it has to be objective, otherwise it’s a waste of time. In addition to the above, video your competition lifts and evaluate your mechanics, alignment, breathing, k-bell trajectory etc . Often times, you will be surprised at what you see. Another incredibly value tool is a training journal. The numbers don’t lie and will be your best indication of what direction you are heading.
So, you are now being honest with yourself. From this point, it’s a great idea to solicit feedback from others. Seek out people who really know you and aren’t afraid to be direct. Avoid people like your Grandma…“Ken, you are such a handsome young man”……and instead ask your Dad….. “Ken, don’t mean to bust your ass but you are no Tom Jones. Developing your personality will be critical.” …ha ha…My dad is a great guy and his point was well taken. Thus, that is why at that time (I was around 18), I chose not to emulate Tom Jones (who would really??) and opted for Jean Claude Van Damme instead. My closet was loaded with “Van Damage!” – cowboy boots with silver tips, dress pants and tank tops with clips. Oh yeah! Couple that with some jump spinning kicks on the dance floor and I had found my niche. All good things come to an end though. The outfit is now retired to a dark area of my closet like some old superhero costume. Makes me misty thinking about it….
Okay, way off topic. When getting feedback from others, make it easy for them. Getting in their face and yelling.. “Go ahead, tell me something I suck at” may not be productive. Same thing for… “Hey, my set looked good right?”. Intimidation and fishing for compliments isn’t what we are looking for.
Instead try the following:
As it relates to the k-bell sport world, attend a competition. This will give you feedback on where you are at and it’s a great environment to get an evaluation of your performance from lifters you don’t normally interact with.
The more you repeat this process, the more comfortable you will become. Make a habit of being honest with yourself and continually making it easier for others to be honest with you as well. From there, reflect on the information you’ve gathered and make the necessary adjustments to your game plan. The data you gathered is of no use if you don’t apply it. Of course, it goes without saying that you will have to filter the feedback you get – not all information is valuable. Some folks are too critical or simply just don’t have a clue.
To give you a real world example of this process in action, let’s look at the movie career of IKFF UK Director Rannoch Donald. Below is a promotional poster for his first movie “Heartlight”.
It’s a passion project paying tribute to Rannoch’s two favorite things – the Twilight movie series and his muse Neil Diamond. His idea was to create a musical centered around teenage vampires and the struggles they face (Rannoch has always attacked meaningful topics). However, because he was so excited about the project and its success, he avoided the opinions of others to protect his feelings. The end result was a disaster at the box office that rivaled even “Waterworld”.
This story has a happy ending though. After Rannoch opened himself up for input, he hit a homerun and produced an independent film on the life/times of Madonna. What made this so extraordinary is that he cast himself in the lead role. Below is a still from the movie:
“Rannoch’s reenactment of the “Like a Virgin” video is Oscar worthy”……Entertainment Weekly
“Despite a much needed bikini wax, Rannoch’s performance is superb, brave, and inspiring”……USA Today
”My t-levels have never been lower”…Mike Mahler
So, let Rannoch be our inspiration. Be truthful with yourself, solicit honest information from others and watch your performance skyrocket!
Keep on truckin!
Historically, this is the time of year we all make our “New Year’s Resolutions”. We create all kinds of goals that will take us to the next level.
“I am going to lose 20lbs”
“I will go to the gym 5 days a week”
“I will reduce my monthly expenses”
“I will stop waking up at 4am, sleep walking to the refrigerator, eating half a jar of peanut butter and returning to bed looking like a deranged homeless guy” (Yep, that’s me)
Actually, my girlfriend says I look like a “gargantuan infant with a goatee covered in Jiff”. Go ahead…picture it…I don’t think it’s a compliment…ha ha
Anyway, in looking at myself and those I train, I noticed several variables that influence the probability of achieving goals. Following are some of my observations:
1. Think big! - Steve is the best personification of this principle I can think of. Steve thinks global instead of local. He thinks of being in a movie vs. just being on You Tube. You get the idea. Why limit yourself by defining a narrow range of possibilities? And for sure don’t let ANYONE else define what your limits are.
2. Progression – Although it’s important to have “big” goals, you need to have smaller goals that bridge the gap between now and then. You have to conceptually connect the dots until you can truly picture/feel that goal is a possibility. This is critical. If you really don’t feel it’s a possible, you will eventually lose steam.
3. Modeling – No need to reinvent the wheel. If you know someone who has accomplished what you want, find out how they got there. Research not only the process, but how they thought – their attitudes, their beliefs, how they responded to obstacles etc.
4. Write it down – It’s been said the simple act of just writing down your goals will increase their probability of happening by 15%. This starts the manifestation process and creates a sense of accountability (more on that later). Similarly, develop a “vision board” - a wall or cork board with pictures connected to the things you want. If you desire to visit the UK, include pictures of London and Edinburgh. If you want to do bad ass feats of strength like IKFF Instructor John “Wild” Buckley, include the below:
If you want to be part of the IKFF rap group “Double Snatch”, include the below:
5. Be specific – ambiguous goals are like ambiguous driving directions; your chances of getting where you want to go are slim. State them as specifically as possible.
6. State as a positive – The unconscious mind doesn’t understand negation. So, when people say things like “I don’t want to be fat”, the unconscious mind hears “I want to be fat”. It’s more productive to state “I want to be super lean with a bodyfat percentage of 9% by April, 2010”.
7. State in the past tense – Again, to get the unconscious mind working for you; state your goals as if they have already been accomplished. Example – “I won my division at the Arnold Sports Festival Kettlebell Championships and set a new PR”
8. Include a timeline – All goals should have a clear start and completion date. Example – “I will jerk the 40kg k-bell 100 times in 3 minutes by March 7th”.
9. Make it Measurable – One of the reasons I love training for kettlebell sport is because it’s very measurable. I can track weight, repetitions, length of set, recovery time etc. There is always clarity as to whether I am moving towards/away from my goal. Thus, regardless of your desired outcome, ensure there is always a clear way you can measure progress.
10. Failure is only feedback – although easier said than done, learn to disconnect from the emotional component of failure and just see it as feedback. As Edison said - “I didn’t fail ten thousand times. I successfully eliminated, ten thousand times, materials and combinations which wouldn’t work.” So, in a sense, if you aren’t failing, you are not trying.
11. Awareness – Always be aware of whether your actions are taking you closer/ further away from your goal. Having the sensory acuity to stay dialed in to what’s going on will save you time and keep you on track. Thus, make it a daily task to assess where you are at.
12. Flexibility – It’s been said that the person with the most flexibility within a given system will have the most impact on that system. In other words, your ability to deal with adversity and create new plans of action when things aren’t working is a huge component of success. So, as mentioned above, if you become aware of a better way, it’s critical that you adapt and change your game plan.
13. Make yourself accountable – set timelines for your goals, tell others and share them in other ways (like blogging about them). Example - below are some of my training goals for 2010:
· Long Cycle: 32kg’s x 10 min x 82 reps
· Long Cycle: 24kg’s x 10 min x 110 reps
· Jerk: 24kg’s x 3 min x 100 reps
· One arm jerk: 40kg x 3 min x 100 reps
· One arm Pressing: 32kg x 2 min x 100 reps
· Chair Press: 32kg’s x 10 min x 72 reps
14. Congruency – This is important on several levels. Your goals need to be in alignment with your desires, beliefs and values. Example – maybe what initially pops into your mind is a promotion to a new position at work. However, maybe that position isn’t really congruent with who you are? Thus, in the goal setting process, it’s key to do a comprehensive inventory of what is important to you, what things you value most, identify your strongest beliefs etc. In addition, once goals are set, you need to ensure your follow up actions are in alignment with attaining those goals. This ties into the comments on awareness mentioned above. You may be crushing it in the gym, but if you are staying up late/not getting enough sleep, your recovery will be compromised and so will your results.
15 .Study motivation – Research and learn what motivates you. This is your fuel! Everyone is excited and passionate about goals in the beginning. However, this tends to dwindle with time as the hard work accumulates. Utilize whatever tools you need to stay motivated – visualization, setting short term goals, telling others and so on. Also, give yourself some rewards along the way as you reach certain milestones - plan a night out, order a new fitness product, or set up a photo shoot with IKFF heartthrob Jason Dolby.
16. It’s not always fun – Our friend Mike Mahler wrote a good article about how doing what you love is not always easy. Actually, it can be more difficult than doing something you really don’t care about. Thus, have a strategy in place for how you are going to deal with the low points in your journey – it’s inevitable it will happen so have a plan for that as well.
17. Have goals in all areas of life – Everything is interrelated. Your finances affect your ability to travel, your job affects the amount of time you can train, your relationships will support or undermine your goals etc. So, have goals in all the key areas: physical, mental, spiritual, family, social and financial. Have all areas working FOR each other instead of against each other.
18. Action – All of the above is useless unless you take action. To quote Aristotle – “We become just by performing just actions, temperate by performing temperate actions, brave by performing brave actions”. Many folks do a fantastic job of writing out their goals, creating vision boards and implementing the right mental strategies. They just don’t take the next step – implementing the plan.
19. Act as if – Once you start this process, DO NOT wait to feel good about yourself. Thoughts and behavior are habitual. Thus, the sooner you start “acting as if” you have already reached your goal, the more those thoughts/ behaviors will contribute to making that goal a reality. Muhammad Ali is a terrific example of this. His actions were that of a champion on every level long before beating Sonny Liston for the Heavyweight Championship. Below is an awesome video connected to all of this. Enjoy!
As part of my long cycle/jerk training, I have incorporated a great assistance exercise called the “bump”. The bump is essentially the first part of the jerk – generating power via leg drive and thoracic extension. Your legs and rib cage “bump” the bells up. The arms are flaccid. Okay, let’s change the wording on that. The arms are very relaxed. We want to ensure the primary movers (legs, back) are doing almost all the work.
To see a demonstration of the bump, check out the below video of Mitch working with the 32kg’s. Note – his bodyweight is only 135lbs and the bells are 141lbs; a solid example of the strength/endurance and structural integrity developed via proper k-bell training.For a detailed explanation of the bump, check out Coach Denis Kanygin‘s clip below as well:
These drills, along with assistance work in general, function as valuable assessment tools. They highlight a strength/expose a weakness you may not have been aware of. Most of the folks I train struggle with the bump because they are unfamiliar with using their ribcage/thoracic spine as a source of power. Good news though – they fix that hole in their game and their progress is going to take a nice jump forward!
Embrace the idea of finding weaknesses in the k-bell puzzle. Ignore the ego’s tendency to focus only on what you are good at.