The Importance of Multiple Perspectives

Written by: Kevin Cann

I was doing a podcast earlier today and this topic dawned on me.  I was discussing training with a coach and lifter that has been around a long time.  We both do things very differently, but also have a lot in common.

I love having these conversations.  I love talking about training, telling stories, discussing the history, and discussing the philosophies that we all have.  I also feel that these conversations are really important to have for my own knowledge base and my progression as a coach.

Biology is a complex system and getting people as strong as humanly possible is very complex.  It is easy for a while, but there will come a time when progress gets to be more and more difficult.  

I have heard coaches and lifters say that training is not complicated.  They are right, it is not.  Complicated and complex are entirely different things.  This example has always stuck in my mind to explain the difference.

The space shuttle Challenger was complicated.  One malfunctioning piece and we saw a horrific accident where the space shuttle blew up.  Humans are complex.  We can lose a limb, adapt, and continue to live our lives.

We all know that we do not just progress in a linear fashion towards world record after world record until we retire.  Some are born with greater gifts than others, and there are so many variables that go into the person and the realization of their results.

These variables are constantly changing and constantly making the same individual a different person as time goes on.  I have had the benefit of coaching quite a few people at this point for multiple years.  I have seen these pieces play out.  In fact, it is one of my favorite things about being a coach.  I can see people grow not only their totals, but in life and in character.

Every coach will sit high upon their Instagram throne and scream out how great their training programs are.  They will back this up with cherry picked lifters that have shown great results in this program.  I do not care about the highlight reel, but I want to see the graveyard of lifters that failed and how the coach was able to adapt.

I needed to fail over and over again to get to this point.  In fact, that is how we progress.  We have success until we get stuck, then we figure it out and have success again, that is, until we get stuck again.  This process happens over and over.

My graveyard is huge.  Those lifters that I have had the pleasure of coaching for years have all taken up space in that graveyard.  They had to for me to learn.  It is not over yet either.  They will all find themselves back there over time.

Many times when a lifter feels they have a lack of progress (whatever that means), they switch programs or coaches, or turn to drugs.  If you have a coach that is unable to adapt to the changing needs of a lifter than that is not a coach, but a programmer.

The world of powerlifting is filled with these programmers.  Coaching is developing a skill set and an understanding of the sport and its general principles and being able to help lifters continue to get better over the long term.

There will be periods of time where progress will stall no matter what you do.  That is the fucked up thing about complex systems.  They are non-linear and fluctuate up as well as down over time.  A coach needs to understand this process, understand the uncertainty, and know when and where to apply different means.

Coaching is a skill, just like strength, and just like any athletic ability.  Variability is important for skill acquisition.  An elite athlete has the ability to adapt to the ever changing environment almost effortlessly.  This is how an elite coach needs to be as well.

Each athlete is different, and each athlete is constantly changing.  The coach needs to be able to adapt effortlessly to meet these changing needs.  We can’t do that if we do not learn from multiple people and multiple perspectives.

We live in a world where everyone feels the need to impose their beliefs and philosophies onto you and if you do not agree you are a terrible person, or stupid, or some other negative adjective.  We see this in politics, religious beliefs, and any other thing that people will disagree upon.  If you are having a hard time finding an example just log into Facebook.

The world is a better place when we have multiple perspectives and differing beliefs.  We need both republicans, democrats, and every third party in politics.  People have the right to differ in their perspectives and philosophies to make the world a better place.

The world is its own complex system.  Without multiple perspectives we end up getting a lot of blind spots in our thinking and our problem solving skills become less variable and less flexible.  Face it, the world would be a pretty boring place if we all saw it the same way.

The same can be said for the sport of powerlifting.  If we all did the same training routines it would be boring.  I wouldn’t get to have all of these conversations that I enjoy so much.  We also would not learn anything from each other and develop more adaptable solutions to the problems we face with complex systems.  

There is one caveat, these solutions need to be based off of principles, but with a dose of healthy skepticism.  This is true of powerlifting and societal problems.  We need principles and facts to guide us not feelings and emotional reactions.

When someone disagrees, we tend to get emotional and react in a negative way.  What we need to do is listen and try to learn as much as possible.  My goal is to be the best powerlifting coach that ever lives.

I do not give a fuck if I am wrong about something if it leads to me learning and getting better results for my lifters.  I want to absorb what I can from everyone and take pieces from what I learn and apply it when necessary.

This gives me a larger skill set as a coach over time.  This is how we become more flexible and adaptable in our problem solving abilities.  This is how we learn to embrace uncertainty and to navigate those murky waters.

If you are a coach or person that tries to impose your belief system on everyone, think about this for a minute.  People will say Louie Simmons does not know what he is talking about when he has been in the sport of powerlifting for 6 decades.  That is a dumb thing to say.

If you think about that and continue to impose your beliefs onto others, and you do so with negativity and tearing others down, you are just a fucking asshole.  This is true in sport and in life.  It is ok to disagree, but we can all learn from one another.

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