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Book Review #3: Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder

“Nature does not find its members very helpful after their reproductive abilities are depleted… Nature prefers to let the game continue at the informational level, the genetic code. So organisms need to die for nature to be antifragile—Nature is opportunistic, ruthless, and selfish.”

Book Review Written by Jaymin Chang, ATC:

 

Recently, in the fitness industry, the importance of understanding complexity has been growing, and our overall understanding of stress has also improved. Fortunately, this has encouraged care providers to take a more holistic view with their clients and to incorporate a multi-disciplinary, client-centered approach. However, the pendulum never swings in moderation: with the emergence of terms like variability, the prescription of “reset exercises” in order to make clients more resilient to stress has subsequently skyrocketed. Yes, we experience loads of stress as social organisms, especially when compared to less-evolved species. But maybe, this focus on social stress and the over-prescription of “reset exercises” is fragilizing our notion of the human organism, and is also shifting our aims from “Let’s grow through stress” to “Let’s prepare ourselves to recover from stress.” Two different strategies; neither approach is useless, but prioritizing the latter over the former may not be helping your clients progress as much as you think. 


Overview
 
Through Antifragile, Nassib Taleb shares his thoughts on the significance of variability as he argues that it correlates with a complex system’s ability to adapt through the unpredictable future. He uses his background in finance and economics to show the similarities in complexity between human organisms and financial markets. He continues to explain how this concept may provide useful methods of lessening the risk of a physiological equivalent of a market crash from occurring. 
 
Taleb begins the book with an introduction to the book’s most fundamental domain: the continuum of fragility. He believes qualities of fragility, robustness, and antifragility exist along a continuum, and that this continuum can be used to describe any complex system. Since fragile objects are irreversibly damaged when stress is applied, complex systems that improve and grow with stress (aka hormesis) are characterized to be “antifragile.” So one of the ways Taleb defines being antifragile is “having greater upside than downside from random events.”
             Fragile            Robust          Antifragile
Figure: As an illustration, each quality along the continuum is represented by a mythological figure: fragility is represented by the Sword of Damocles, robustness by the Phoenix, and antifragility by the Hydra. 
 
The book continues to explore the complex nature of self-autonomy and modularity. Taleb states that overcompensating a system by adding redundancies allows it to be more ready to adapt to stress. Having multiple interdependent components provides the system various strategies to buffer the effects of stressors. However, for the system to learn where/how to add redundancy is through experiencing unpredictable hardship (which he refers to as “Black Swans”). As an example, Taleb describes the airline industry as being antifragile, because they are able to learn from emergency events and then efficiently optimize their protocols in order to improve future outcomes.

The Fragility Continuum

The continuum of fragility Taleb describes is simply another mental model to characterize a complex system, and like all other models, there are appropriate contexts to use it in. Let’s first deconstruct the concept itself.
 
A continuum is defined as “a continuous sequence in which adjacent elements are not perceptibly different from each other, although the extremes are quite distinct.” This tells us 3 things about the continuum of fragility: (1) knowing only one point along the continuum has no relative value, (2) the distinct ends provide direction, and (3) this specific continuum compares the number of productive strategies to their relative costs.
 
The first two points indicate that where you or your client exists along the continuum, regardless of how it is measured, does not really matter. What matters more is in which direction you choose to move from that position. If you find a quality that makes someone more fragile, work on making that specific quality less fragile. This also means that robustness is inapplicable when attempting to describe any of the constantly adapting qualities of a human. We cannot just return to an original state as if nothing happened, like the Phoenix. This explains why activities, like the “reset exercises” mentioned above, may encourage the idea that the body must be “normalized.” Interventions aiming to reduce sympathetic tone can be crucial for creating an appropriate internal environment that allows optimal growth and recovery. Using those interventions to adjust neuromuscular tension could also reduce the risk of movement impairments. However, this preparation for growth does not cause the body to grow. Robustness is not enough.
 
The third point shows us why the continuum can be replicated in various contexts. Similar continua include performance versus health, impingement versus variability, product market versus service market, inductive reasoning versus deductive reasoning, commercial banking versus investment banking, etc. There are always two sides when it comes to comparing volatility of possible decisions, but none of these continua function for a single purpose. This is why they cannot be dichotomized into good or bad.
 

Overall, this book introduces an encompassing explanation of both organic and man-made complex systems and a possible mechanism that allows them to be adaptable. But as always, critical thinking is required to apply the book’s lessons appropriately, especially in terms of human development. Everybody has unique goals, and sometimes the individual must move away from becoming antifragile to accomplish their goal. Maybe blindly aiming for antifragility in all contexts actually creates a fragile system. Possible confusions like these explain why context always trumps the model being used, but this mental model is valuable in certain contexts and knowing it may over-compensate your process of decision-making. Continue to become Antifragile.


Big Hitters and Quotes
 
  • Domain Dependence: the inability to take higher level lessons in one domain, or area or category of activity and apply them in other domains
    • For example, some doctors prescribe exercises to promote resilience, but also prescribe painkillers to reduce stress perception.
  • Causal Opacity: difficulty of seeing cause to consequence when regarding complex systems
    • “In the complex world, the notion of ‘cause’ itself is suspect; it is either nearly impossible to detect or not really defined.”
  • Stress-testing a system using the worst cases in the past to estimates its resilience is problematic
    • Lucretius Problem: the fool believes that the tallest mountain in the world will be equal to the tallest one has has observed
  • Information is antifragile because “it feeds more on attempts to harm it than it does on efforts to promote it.”
    • Therefore, types of information like reputation and fame should not be controlled. Caring less about it may give you more.
  • “We know more than we think we do, a lot more than we can articulate.”
  • “Most humans manage to squander their free time, as free time makes them dysfunctional, lazy, and unmotivated—the busier they get, the more active they are at other tasks. Overcompensation here again.”
  • “Your body gets information about the environment not through your logical apparatus, your intelligence and ability to reason, compute, and calculate, but through stress, via hormones or other messengers we haven’t discovered yet.”
    • Recovery allows stressors to do their jobs as messengers.
  • “My mood, my sadness, my bouts of anxiety are a second source of intelligence—perhaps even the first source.”

Overall Score:  5.2/10

Alright, Franky. I recommend listening to Nassim Taleb speak about the subject before getting the book. Some criticize him for sounding a bit too pompous when he speaks, and I’d say he tends to write in a similar manner. 
 

The book’s actual content gets a 1.2 for its premise and long-reaching examples, because the book fails to generate any strategies for becoming antifragile. Such suggestions would probably be dangerously generalizing and under-appreciative of the context of application. But that’s the thing about these globally applicable, theoretical measures. The most important lesson I took away from this book is the importance of context and perspective. Fragility can be applied to so many areas because it subtly shifts between different contextual hierarchies. Although indirect, I thought this lesson was worth the remaining 4 points. Maybe you’ll learn something else.


About Author:
Jaymin Chang, ATC
– Former intern at Northeastern University Sports Performance
– Current Graduate Student at Teachers College, Columbia University (New York City, New York)
 

Book Review # 2: Legacy: 15 Lessons in Leadership.

“What else is a legacy if not that which you leave behind after you have gone?”

Book Review:

Legacy: 15 Lessons in leadership. By James Kerr (2013)

James Kerr extracts lessons of leadership from The New Zealand All Blacks rugby club, which is considered the world’s most successful sporting team.

The structure of the book consists of a chapter directed toward a lesson in leadership, such as character. Kerr provides a brief explanation of why that lesson is important to the All Blacks organization, connects it to other successful organizations or individuals, then summarizes the chapter.


“Only by knowing yourself can you become an effective leader.” – Vince Lombardi

Okay I can get on board with that…

I consider this book ‘a reminder’. It’s a reminder to be conscious of your environment as you will be a product of it. The book is focused on creating the right environment for the right behaviors to occur.

Strength and success comes from creating a learning environment concerned with adaptive problem solving and continuous improvement (humility). Creating self-awareness is the answer.

I extracted components of the lessons to a collegiate environment in which coaches and staff have a major role and responsibility to develop athletes as people. There should be emphasis on individual/personal development and teaching young adults how to articulate themselves and start to understand who they are. Only then can a team truly exist. The players and team culture should be valued rather than obsessing about the results. There should be a focus on character over talent as there is a competitive advantage through cultural cohesion. 


“No one person has all the answers, but asking questions challenges the status quo, helps connect with core values and beliefs, and is a catalyst for individual improvement.”

Leaders must provide a higher meaning. Purpose and meaning is everything.

Require people to write down their purpose and core values.


“Adaptation is not a reaction, but a systematic series of actions. It isn’t just reacting to what’s happening in the moment, it is being the agent of change.”

Big Hitters:

    1. We all need reminders.
    2. Do not expect things to be handed to you. Humility is required to be a leader. “Sweep the floor” analogy. Entitled players hinder your chance for change.
    3. Create the highest possible operating standards. Structure a learning system and make strateges. The challenge is always bringing value-words to life, such as integrity, responsibility, and collaboration.
    4. Real Leaders Create Leaders. Identify qualities in others and help them succeed.
  • Create a ripple effect
  • Leave something in a better state than when you started
  • Humans can’t exist in isolation, we need connection
  • Don’t make people feel inferior, build people up and bring people together
  • Your legacy is what you teach
  •  5. Find Solutions. Problem solving techniques are important.
  • 6. Embrace expectations. There is a difference between fear of feedback or failure and harnessing that fear to positive effect. 
  • 7. Learn how to think, not what to think. Constantly question. Practice with intensity and problem solving. Think for yourself.
  • 8. In order to make a change their must be a plan: A Case for Change, A Compelling Picture of the Future, A Sustainable Capability to Change, and A credible Plan to Execute. There is a cyclical process of peaks and valleys to organizational cultures.

“Our social footprint is the impact our life has – or can have – on other lives.”

…To me this is probably what the purpose of coaching, sport – and/or – life is.


Overall Score: 4.0/10

I am just not a big fan of ‘inspirational books’ that are a bit over dramatic. My biggest pet peeve is when a 200 page book could be a 50 page book and just contains too much filler. I extracted a few good reminders relating to leadership and personal development that I will apply to coaching. However, I need to know the why; why these skill are important in relation to a transcendent goal and the book does not provide that. The last 4 chapters were also unnecessary and did not provide any value.

If you want to learn how to understand yourself, others, and explore human psychology, nothing is better than Jordan Peterson’s Maps of Meaning: Architecture of belief Course

Up next: we shall see…

 

Book Review #1: Lucifer’s Legacy: The meaning of asymmetry.

“A book is like a portrait as opposed to a photograph. A portrait is something that you layer on and layer on in which there is still this single image but there is a depth to it. A book allows you to think and then rethink.” -Dr. Jordan Peterson

Welcome to my first Book Review.

Lucifer’s Legacy: The meaning of asymmetry. By Frank Close                          Oxford University Press Inc., New York, NY. (2000)

This book was recommended to me by Michael Mullin.

It opens with the line, “The world is an asymmetrical place full of asymmetrical beings.”

We tend to try to make things simply: “We are asymmetrical because our liver is on the right and our heart is on the left.”

Sure. Why though?

This book allows you to explore and appreciate complexity: 

Why is our heart left oriented?

Each amino acid has a left (L-type/’laevo’) or right (D-type/’dexter’) asymmetric form (mirror images of one another) and chains of amino acids will twist in a direction. Left or right asymmetry in an amino acid is determined by how the molecules will rotate polarized LIGHT.

There is a natural selection of left handed amino acids; life on earth almost exclusively uses the left handed form. Left handed amino acids were discovered on the Murchison meteorite indicating they may have arisen from outer space. Left handed amino acids have lower energies and are more stable. Nature tends to seek the states of lowest energy.

The asymmetrical shapes of molecules force the DNA to be twisted or coiled. Spirals link the resulting right-handed DNA double helix. DNA is the perspective of which life is based on.

A preferred handedness in molecules is necessary for the origin of sustained life and the formation of our solar system.

…So why again is the heart oriented left?

Left handed amino acids power Monocilia on Henson’s Node that have a greater concentration of specialized proteins on the left which ONLY push fluid in one direction. Clockwise: right to left. These specialized proteins during embryo development create asymmetrical orientation of the heart.  

Yeah. Let’s go.

If you’re going to read this book be ready for some physics. Frank Close will explore mirror images, the structure of the atom, forces (gravity, electromagnetic, weak, strong), particle physics, antimatter, chiral asymmetries in molecules, and hidden symmetry. The last few chapters explore how the origin of life is currently being investigated at the European Centre for Particle Physics CERN in Geneva, in relation to the loss of symmetry in the early moments of the universe; the singular occurrence of the Big Bang.

Close also explores right-handed dominance in prehistoric peoples and asymmetries of the brain linked to handedness. Beginning in Chapter 5, Close details scientific, Nobel Prize awarding discoveries including X-rays, Cathode rays, and types of radiation. The last few chapters of the book mostly discuss the experiments of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN related to ‘Higgs’ field’.


Big Hitters:

Creativity is a right-brain activity. How people differ in brain structures and in what ways in which this influences personality and language is questioned.

  • Right brain crosses over to left side of body so maybe stimulate the left side of the body? 

Prediction is the real test of a theory. Processing each and every piece of sensory input is too energy consuming and inefficient.

  • Maybe we don’t just react in response to input…we predict.

Antimatter was explored in relation to the current theory of Creation: The perfect symmetry between matter and antimatter was lost forever and  a small proportion of the matter was left over (this is the Big Bang) to form us and everything around us as far as we can see.

Light is a form of electromagnetic radiation. Our eyes respond only to a very small part of the whole electromagnetic spectrum; but the whole of the spectrum is alive.

  • Is what you see the only thing there? 

Perception. What is reality? There are things that our subjective senses can not detect, so do they exist? “Our view of the history of science is the building of machines to extend our perceptions…Modern natural philosophers would claim that these are no less real (and no more?) than the subjective perceptions formed with our unaided five senses. They are but the current extremes on a continuum of experience.”

  • Perception is in relation to the continuum of experience…I like that.

“Scientists will continue to improve measurements; some day perhaps this will explore patterns that are currently beyond our imagination.”-Frank Close

…maybe what we know now, is nothing compared to what there is to know…


Overall Score: 7.2/10

This is definitely a book ‘out of my scope of practice’ but I found great value in exploring something new. I have a personal interest in particle and quantum physics so I enjoyed it. The last Chapter discussed ‘Higg’s field’ which is a theory addressing the fundamental questions of our existence.  How can that not be interesting? I enjoyed this book for perspective, reflection, and exploring complexity.


Up next: Legacy: What the All Blacks can teach us about the business of life by James Kerr.

Elevator Analogy: Bring me to the 10th floor from the LOBBY.

Bring me to the 10th floor from the LOBBY.
In reference to full range of motion at a joint; It’s okay if you start in the lobby and ask for ten floors then return back to the lobby, but what happens if you start on the 5th floor?


This is an analogy for consequences.
  • There is a difference between externally rotated which implies orientation (stuck on 5th floor) vs externally rotating which implies ability to move through a range of motion (move ten floors)
  • If you don’t consider axial skeleton and pelvis position you may be pushing past the tenth floor which may come at a cost
  • Some people may benefit more from a trip to the lobby instead of continuing to push the tenth floor: this can also be used in reference to high level athletic performance/explosive extension
  • Don’t be surprised when consequences manifest

Women in S&C Leadership Positions

 
It may not necessarily be getting females into leadership positions. Many individuals who hold leadership positions or titles do not demonstrate leadership qualities. The conquest of a title may be less important than the acquisition of the skills and qualities of leadership.

Providing females in the S&C field with these skills may have more value long term. 


Provide solutions in skill sets that include:
  • Critical conversations skills
  • Thinking about solutions (which most likely can be found in your own behavior) instead of identifying faults in others
  • Self awareness (there is purpose in understanding yourself)
  • Learning how to promote the growth of others (empowering) instead of spending time establishing hierarchies/inferiority
  • Identifying skills in others that will help them succeed
  • Listening skills instead of waiting to speak over others (creating mutual respect)
  • Being adaptable to how you interact with different people (not being rigid in your own behaviors)
  • Learning how to be adaptable/open minded (without being overly agreeable)

  • This is similar to pursuing grades over education, money over satisfaction, or individual accolades over team goals.
  • Don’t teach them how to win, teach them how to play

  • Where is this in the academic system? 
  • Where is this in internship curriculum? 
  • How are we providing solutions within ourselves?

Check out the following article for more insight:  Cultural and Occupational Barriers Facing Women Professionals in the Field of Strength and Conditioning 

Growing Your Model

Look at that left stance and right trunk rotation…
Sometimes we don’t always speak the same language but we can find ways to understand each other. 


Be grateful when people share their training models and make connections with your own model, that’s growth. 
I am thankful for Train, Adapt, Evolve for sharing what they do as they are one of the best.

Cells to Performance Seminar:
– Question. Question when simplicity is applied to physiology.
– Utilizing less oxygen for the same task makes you more efficient and comes at a lower cost
– Respiratory mechanics matter for respiratory limitations
– Athletes need to be able to load and explode on each leg and side and we need to understand how our anatomy is biased – Let biology grow in an environment and build structure
– Place value in frequency by not abusing volume


Also follow Justin Moore as he has been posting some great physiology resources that were explored in the seminar.

Coaching: Perception, Context & Perspective.

Coaching: Perception, Context & Perspective.

“More awareness translates into greater survivability” (Lipton, 2015)


“We don’t see things as they are, we see things as WE are.”

Perceive: become aware or conscious of (something) or to interpret (someone or something) in a particular way. Self awareness is the conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires. There is a difference between how you perceive yourself (a false perception can differ from who you actually are), how you think others perceive you, and how they actually perceive you. 


Context: the external circumstances of the present moment and your internal state that has been influenced by past experiences. If context is different, your perception is different, thus your responsiveness is different. 


Coaching is both understanding how to best interact with others that may have a different perspective than you and being aware of your own behavior. All are needed to assist in the goals of the athlete/ client.

Cells to Performance

Great weekend in NYC at the Cells to Performance Seminar by Train, Adapt, Evolve. These are some big takeaways:– Energetics dictate structure: the goal is to load tissues more often without damage to tissue

– CO2 is needed for the structure of the cell and indicates a signal for O2

– Frequency can be a powerful driver and people don’t take advantage of it because they crush themselves and need time to recover from the damage

Find a left hamstring then do whatever you want.



  • Find ways to do accessory exercises incorporating left stance (weight bearing and shift to left side) = loading phase of gait on left leg

  • Get position of ribs and pelvis (thoracic and pelvic diaphragms)
  • Use vision to get cervical lordosis (look ahead or slightly high and far distance)
  • Find heel as a reference for hamstring
  • Experience frontal plane muscles by elevating left hip and keep left knee toward midline feeling adductor
  • Get left hip elevation and rib depression with exhale will get left ab wall
  • Then get those delts….if that’s what you want to do…but I am still reaching with my arms and retracting a ribcage

  • We tend to be stuck in propulsion phase of gait on left side
  • Incorporate stance into other exercises such as cable rows and pushes

This vs That Medicine Ball Slam

This vs. That Medicine Ball Slam.


This. Extension

  • Set a position by exhaling to move ribs down, back and in
  • Keep ball in front of head
  • Get tall and pull yourself down

That. Hyperextension

  • I bring ball behind head
  • Ribs come up, forward and out