Podcast 26: Dan John - the fear of the obvious

Podcast 26: Dan John - the fear of the obvious

Dan John is a coach, discus thrower and weightlifter. He has participated in Olympic weightlifting, the Highland Games and Weight Pentathlon.

Now he is officially retired, but still has a lot of work to do. He loves his job - coaching - so he is still traveling around the globe to give workshops.

One of the important things in coaching, but also in his private life, is to teach people how to deal with tension. This means that everyone is able to build up tension and to release it. It makes you stronger as a human being.

In his opinion, people have been influenced by the industry so that they no longer want to believe that you can achieve your goals with the obvious things in life.

He will tell me now what the three most obvious things are that he would advise to everyone.

  • Moin, Moin. Hamburg Kettlebell Club. Training mit Herz und Verstand. Ein Podcast über Motivation, Krafttraining und Lebensart. #00:00:08-2#
    My guest today is Dan John or at the moment it's vice-versa I am his guest, because I'm at his room at the moment while we record the podcast. So, we just finished a two-day seminar on coaching. Yeah, we both did. I mean. I listened, you taught and then recertification for RKC2. It had been brilliant four days and for the people who do not know Dan John, he is a great coach and has written books that I can really endorse and is not afraid of taking off fluff from teaching and coaching and just gets down to the basics. And thanks Dan. #00:01:05-0#
  • Thank you. And I hope it's not too weird that you're in my bedroom, but that's/ I'll just lay it out there. #00:01:11-0#
  • It looks pretty clean and tidy, so just yeah. #00:01:14-0#
  • I was not able to get the blood stains up, so yeah. #00:01:17-0#
  • Perfect, perfect. Dan, I'd like to focus on two things. Why are people so much/ Why do they fear the obvious? #00:01:32-0#
  • Okay, that's the Freakonomics concepture. Well, I mean if you sit down with a child who's 4 years old and you say, "Where do you want to be when you grow up?" And they say something like, "Does it matter? A lawyer, a writer, a horse" sometimes you're with 4-year old’s and you were to say, “Okay, so what do you need to do, to do that, is you need to go to this thing - we call school - and learn this thing - we call words and letters and paragraphs and books"; "Okay." "And then you have to learn this thing - called numbers. And they just keep adding up and then after that you'll learn how to add them, subtract them, divide them, multiply them" and the child would nod and agree with you. And then we say, "You're going to do that probably about 16, 17, 18 years and then you'll be able to do this thing." There's not a single person in the world, that will go, "That's ridiculous." But we do it with little kids every day. It's obvious how you get an education. "You are going to read books about history." "What's history? “Things that used to be”; “Oh! Okay.” You are going to read about Harry Potter, you are going to read about/ and they would not balk at a single thing I said, yeah. If you sit down with somebody and you say: “Oh! You want to lose body fat. Okay, so here's what I want you to do. Every day I want you to get up and drink 2 glasses/ Oh! first I want you to sleep eight or nine hours, I want you to drink water, I want you to eat some vegetables, I'd like you to have protein in every meal, go for a walk every day. Here's an idea: Go for a short walk before every meal. Okay, and then I want you to come in the weight room here two days a week and we'll just do 15 reps of these four exercises and then we are going to have you do something a little bit harder. Nothing crazy." I would have so much pushback on what I just said. "What do you mean? I eat vegetables. Protein, what's protein? Water, what about this miracle drink that I saw on television?" Basically, I retired - legally I retired in 2010, but I'm the worst retired person of all time. I have 27 full time jobs. People say to me, “How do you do it?” I say, “Well, you remember the thing we went to that workshop and the guy said if you save 10% of your money that you'll be able to retire in your early 50s.” “Yeah.” “I did that.” “Wait - what's the secret?” “I saved 10%” and so I think the problem we run into is that the obvious isn't sexy. The obvious is not mysterious. I can't sell it - the two best tools. Let’s see, what are the three best tools that a person in my industry can offer. I want you to sleep every night. I want you to drink water - unless it's good beer - and go for a walk. I am serious. Those are three brightest things I can tell you. I can't make a nickel off of it. And yet if you got 8 or 9 hours/ let's say this - if you slept for 12 hours, you drank two gallons of water every day and you walk - do you want miles or kilo/ #00:05:06-0#
  • It doesn't matter. #00:05:07-0#
  • And you walked 6 miles every day there would be no need for the fitness industry. All your dreams will come true. #00:05:13-0#
  • So, 6 miles - 10 kilometers about. #00:05:17-0#
  • Yeah, 10 kilometers yeah. And people will look at you like you're crazy. "Well, then how about nine hours sleep?" "Well, yeah, nine, I would have to miss." And then they start pushing back against you. Push, push, push. So, what I've noticed with fear of the obvious is that - you know, what? I work with discus throwers, you are going to throw the discus every day for the next 30 or 40 years. Eight years. Seven years. Three years. Six weeks and you are going to do these basic lifts and they look at you, and they wait. They wait with the cliché, the other shoe to drop. There is no other shoe. That's what works. Is it against human nature or is it against capitalism? And I think it's more against capitalism. When you read great philosophers, when you read great literature, going all the way back to the Epic of Gilgamesh, I mean the Odyssey is all about a guy who just want to go home. I'm tired and I want to go home. Everybody knows that the happiest things in life are a friend worthy of the name, someone who loves you, a good drink, enough to eat. The simple pleasures. And yet, I just said, I mean it's too obvious. Sorry to ruin the whole day, everybody. #00:06:45-0#
  • No, this is perfect because that's important. And I think it's an easier path to happiness. So, this is something which I learned from my grandmother. So, she had to flee in the war and stuff like this and was asked, "Oh! Would you like to get your old home back and stuff because now it's Polish and whatever?" And she's going, "Fuck, no. It's not worth it, just forget it." And she was happy with what she had, and it was not much but she really enjoyed it. She enjoyed her daily morning newspaper. She enjoyed her coffee and her cigarettes. #00:07:33-0#
  • I think her, and my father knew each other, that sounds like my dad. You're right. I mean I am quite a bit older. So, my father was that generation, he was orphaned when he was young, raised by aunts, rough life. One of my memories of him was very much him reading the paper, smoking cigarettes and drinking his coffee. And folks, I am not telling you to do that. I'm just saying that's the example. My wife and I have discussed this many times with my career, my athletic career. Some of these goals I have succeeded at, this thing I wanted to do for so long. When I got it, it meant very little to me. So, at the workshop I talk a lot about achieving a goal versus being successful. And when you get to certain - I don’t want to pull the age card, but you get to certain spots in your life where you realize that success isn't having the trophy or the name on the placard, sometimes success is really being able to sit down with friends and family. With this thing called practice Thanksgiving we do at our house, almost monthly now. Where we cook a turkey and people come over and sometimes we drink too much and sometimes you play games and sometimes we just laugh. That's delightful and everybody says no matter what, no matter what happens, everybody says, "I can't wait to do this again." I can't wait to do this again. I mean now I look back at the highlights of my life. Everyone always expects me to say things like, this championship or this thing or that thing that you put in a resume but when I look at the happiest moments in my life it's not the things that go into my vitae, my resume, it's the things - dance with my daughter at her wedding and holding my grandchildren. Actually, tomorrow I'll be going home and seeing my wife. And I am going to be picked up at the airport by my godson Seth and my future son-in-law Thomas who have become best friends and I am the meat in the best friend sandwich. I mean what a delightful sentence to say. Hard to explain. Now having said that five sets of two, fast every day, go for a walk. Be sure you do hinges and loaded carries, because that's what people want to hear. But the truth is it's all important, there's no unimportant about anything we said, but you also have to make sure you're happy. I'm going to tell you one thing if you're happy with some things, things like fitness and health and longevity tie in pretty well. #00:10:34-0#
  • Yeah, the funny thing is before I was just pumping iron at my apartment and I was getting stronger, but I was not getting a teacher, so I was doing it wrong. And over the years I just seriously crushed my shoulders. Then I came to the Kettlebell to rehab my shoulder. And the funny thing which happened is that actually I could rehab my shoulder and that I proved the doctors were wrong. They told me that I would never be able to lift or do strength stuff again. And so, Kettlebell for me became more a health thing to get into it not to get strong. And secondly then I discovered that I got really, really strong - at least far, far more than before. Before I thought I was strong, but I was not knowing jackass. #00:11:37-0#
  • It is weird when you first get into the business - I talked about it a little bit at the workshops about max and sort of max and max, max, max, what we consider strong versus what like normal people. I always use example do you want kilos or pounds? #00:11:54-0#
  • Kilos would be nice. #00:11:56-0#
  • Okay, so the woman has a 10-kilo child and a 15-kilo child, and she carries them around all day, holding on to a bag that weighs 10 kilos. On her other shoulder she's balancing her phone as she talks. Then comes at a gym and picks up something that weighs 4 kilos and goes, "This is heavy. "So, in my world strong is such a high charged word. I was around some people a few years ago who were always bragging about their strength because of some bizarre lifts. I mean you did a bad press there. Sorry, folks, if it gets technical, but there are certain exercises that are pretty old, and no one really does them anymore. So, you might think you're the king of the heap and then you will accidentally say something and a number that we all know, like we brag about if you weigh 125 kilos and you squat 180 and you brag about that, your audience will open their eyes and go, "You should shut up because you're weak as a kitten." In our world anyway. Does that tie back into the other thing? I think so. Because it does because when you meet truly happy people sometimes in life the fear of the obvious question is that very often it's not measured with what they have. It's sad that I come from a country that has an extremely wealthy person as President, he is bully, but I am not fully sure he's happy. #00:13:30-0#
  • Yes. #00:13:31-0#
  • And I look at the way things are turning in my country right now and this idea that more and more and more and more and more is the only answer and I've never met a truly happy person that was consumed with toys, things, stuff. I could gladly trade the four days I had for a yacht for example. I really enjoy what I do. #00:14:02-0#
  • Okay. Tension levels, because a funny thing is which listeners of the podcast know, I suck at pull ups. And the thing is/ In the summer, for my understanding, I was pretty ripped, so I was weighing about 87 kilos. Then my father died and then I had to take more - just taking care of family business. Just the thing is so the weight went up and, so I had the decision just/ Yeah, and also, I tried - the weight to pull up, it hurt my tendons here. #00:14:57-0#
  • Sure. #00:14:58-0#
  • The brachialis, and so I had to back off again, it was very difficult, the weight was getting up and up and up and then it was also holiday with the family. And I know I could not train pull ups. And I know last time with the RKC certification - the first time - I went also over 100 kilos to do the weight pull up just with the 16-kilo kettlebell. And the thing was this time that I really, really struggled with getting this pull-up up. So, I failed and then with the last attempt then I just made that. And I just was getting down and was shaking, I was not feeling good. I mean I was feeling good, but I was really shaking and just getting to the coffee machine just getting another coffee and the tears started. So, this is what I wanted to, the tension level, just/ #00:16:12-0#
  • Sure. It's okay, it's not unusual. The tension, I mean we humans we get stronger and more powerful when we control our tension levels. The master quality is being able to drive our tension up and then instantly pull it off. I always use the example, snapping your fingers, massive amount of tension, it's released, and it makes a noise. That's what athletics is. Lots of tension, let it go. Bow and arrow. How do you say it in German? #00:16:48-0#
  • Pfeil und Bogen. #00:16:49-0#
  • Of course, you do. With the bow and arrow, you have this maximum tension. But what makes the arrow fly is letting it go. And so, we have to teach people to build it and then blow it off. It has to be done two ways. The physical side we can put you in a refrigerator and build up a lot of tension because the cold will make you tense, putting you in front of 15,000 people with a lot of spotlights will build a lot of tension, which kind of like what happened to you a little bit today. But then you also have to be able to have that master skill of bringing that tension level down to the appropriate level. If you're too tense I would do the opposite. I mean I would put you in a hot tub, put you in a sauna, have you shape things out, do all kinds of calming you as well. If you want to coach people you have to learn the skill of teaching them how to do tension, then teaching them to relax. And then you begin to wave it up and down, tense relax, tense relax, tense relax, and then all of a sudden, this miraculous thing happens where people figure out how to do it and how to do it and how to do it - without having to go through all the/ It's a master life skill too. I told a few stories about my daughters and how I actually using my athletic career was able to wave up my tension when I needed it and bring it way down when it's more appropriate. If you mess with my daughters I will wave my tension up to a level to deal with the issue. If my daughters do something stupid I wave it down so that I'm not just another mouse trap or I snap when you touch me. So that is the master skill. It's the master skill and it's been the master skills since we discovered weight training. And you have to learn to bleed it off and it's hard to do that. Any time you add more factors and I talk about in my book now about performance. People are convinced that/ I'm going to explain it this way. There's a lot of new exercising programs where doing the workout is the competition, so five days a week you compete, and you put your name on the board and everyone is high-fives and they bring your names up on the screen and some of those places and high-five you because, look, I won the day. Well, who cares? The level is so low no one cares. In my world there's a thing called performance where every June there's this competition where everyone gathers, and it starts at 9:00 am and by the time 9:31 rolls around, we have been at it/ the competition is going on. And now I'm in a situation where I have to up my performance which I thought was pretty good. But I have to perform even better. My sister-in-law is a famous Broadway actress and I talked to her and her husband, Jack, my brother-in-law about this kind of thing about when those lights hit you what you do. They're very good. They understand it. It's weird because their secret is, first, you got to practice, you got to work harder. And then number two you got to love it, you got to love the limelight, it's called the limelight - you got to love it and for most people/ L. Frank Baum wrote, and I don't need to be rude at all listener, wrote a book called Wizard of Oz which he thought was a political satire, turned out to be a children's book. So, he wrote 13 more children's books and he made a lot of money. In the Scarecrow of Oz, he says, ordinary people are leaves in the trees, they just die, and they fall off. I like the extraordinary people. And I am not being mean to anybody but when you're around extraordinary people the first thing you learn is that their concept of performance is different than the rest of us. Their concept of performance is they get bigger when their name is called. They're looking for the great white sharks, they are looking for the killer whales. They are not in there/ they're fishing for sardines, which is a hard thing to learn. They're in there looking for the big beasts. It's of great worth to study people like that. There are some very famous/ Well, we have an American who's very rich. He lives in a place called Nebraska and his hobby is making money. He loves what he does. He loves it. My hobby is strength coaching. I love it. I not only would do it for free, I do - do it for free most of the time, I love it. So, I think in life when you find those things that you are ready to suffer over - and that's actually one more - the word passion comes from the Latin, to suffer. So, what you look for in life if you're passionate about something, you're willing to suffer for it. This is a long way, but my point is this. When that spotlight hits you in the face and 15,000 people are sitting there and you need to step up. Trust me there is more joy in doing a good job than all the pain and suffering you will have for the rest of your life if you fail. Now, having said that only the best and brightest do well with the joy. Most people do much better with the pain side. In the talks I always talk about the thing called the Alpo diet. Alpo is a dog food that has a smell that's recognizable for blocks. And the joke is if you decide to lose 5 kilos in a month, you are going to get 28 days, if you don't you have to sit in from of all your friends and eat a can of Alpo and if you have good friends they'll make you eat it. And the idea is that the pain of failure is so high that if you fail/ That Alpo is much worse than that candy bar. The tiny bit of joy you get from that chocolate isn't even close the amount of pain. So, it's fascinating when you work out with the best of the best. The best of the best are able to use happiness and joy as a stimulus. Most of us need pain. It's the opposite of what you would ever think. Opposite, yeah. It's crazy. Yeah, we're crazy. Humans are different. Humans in 2017/2018 we are different than any other time in history. We are being coded by food companies and fast food companies and soft drink companies, they are rewiring the way our brains think. They are rewiring us. And we're going to be an interesting species very quickly because we are being reprogrammed by fast food and chocolate bars and soda. And to deal with that I'm not sure what the approach is but it's obvious to me that telling most people that if you continue to drink this stuff, down the line some time you're going to have diabetes and heart attack. The pain isn't working. The future pain isn't working. I guess we need more present pain. I don't know. I rambled, I apologize. #00:25:23-0#
  • No. The problem is if you eat too much or too much bad choices you are not instantly in pain. So even if it's hard to get the stairs up but it's not that bad. And once you are up the stairs it's [breathes heavily] okay, then you can have your soft drink, and everything is right again. Yes. It's not like [breathes heavily] and then/ #00:25:49-0#
  • So, there's an old joke, the instant gratification isn't fast enough. So, you are saying the opposite then, that's interesting. So, what your point is it that tiny little bits of pain now, aren't that big a deal if you/ So this downtime thing, this future event is just not that big a deal as long as I am only mildly inconvenient. #00:26:20-0#
  • It's not perceived. The thing is a lot of people smoke and we know this is dangerous, a working colleague of mine died from lung cancer far too early leaving a wife and a 10-year-old son. Yeah, but a lot of people play the lottery, the chance of winning the lottery is far lower than dying from lung cancer. But the thing is if it's a lottery people say, "Yes, but some people win really, really big." So sometimes we are just bad at evaluating chances. #00:26:58-0#
  • Yeah. So, getting back to your first point, fear of the obvious, I mean if you don't know that smoking is not the best choice you can do, simply if you look just at the economics of that, I don't know what cigarettes cost here, but if you do the math on cigarettes, it's a concept and in economy it's called opportunity cost. If you just took the money that you spent on cigarettes and enrolled it into some kind of retirement plan, you wouldn’t have to work the rest of your life, you would be okay. #00:27:31-0#
  • I know, I used to smoke two packs a day. And it was very interesting two things happened - no three things actually, when I quit smoking. The first thing is I was tired of myself smoking. And then I saw a documentary about more people just quitting on heroin and then on cigarettes, and never come back again. And that was just very few people who had this mind strength to do this and then something in my ego just kicked in. And then I thought, okay, just ride that wave. #00:00:28:13-0#
  • I've heard that it's easier to stop heroin than cigarettes. I don't know if it's true. #00:00:28:18-0#
  • And the funny thing is it's very simple to succeed, you just have to stop doing it. Just don't buy another cigarette. Don't lighten it up. And the funny thing is that later on I always got, when things get tough or so on, I always had this: Okay but I'm in this, how to say, mindfully tougher group because I did not start again with smoking. That I am also in the group who was extremely stupid to start in the first place - I can't just let that drop under the table. And you realize that smoking is tied to tiny habits. I was driving to work and there at this one traffic light I was getting nervous, something was wrong. Something was wrong. It was snowing, and then: Ah! Normally I lighted up a cigarette there - at that traffic light. And this was really, really, strange. Second strange thing is I suddenly had money. I had new CDs, new clothes. #00:29:31-0#
  • Yeah. But it's funny you said about the traffic lights. We had an American comedian who had a funny joke one time, he says, "I don't know what it is about traffic lights but why does everyone have to pick their nose at them?" It is funny how habits happen. Of course, my whole world view is just really trying to/ I try to make myself just absolutely bought in to habits. I go out of my way. You know my workshops, you know my psychotic behaviors. #00:30:06-0#
  • Yeah, but I can totally endorse both. #00:30:09-0#
  • For example, folks, I'm wearing a black Polo shirt and blue jeans and shoes. I own 16 of the exact same black Polo shirt, four pairs of the exact same pants and six pairs of the exact same shoes. I never think about what I'm going to wear, so I always wear the exact same thing. So, for me instead of wasting a lot of time deciding what I am going to wear I just wear this. when I drive, I floss my teeth. I have these/ I mean you can call them crazy habits if you want but it's habits that helped me with health, longevity, fitness and performance when I do perform. It's like stealing, I think stealing personally. I was telling the group the other day that one of the things I was doing for this Olympic team meet I went to was I choose eight different vegetables a day to eat. I figure every time I think about what vegetable to eat I'm on the platform (unv. #00:31:14-7#). That sounds weird but that's how we work. That's how we roll. I had a coach one time tell me, "Whatever you do first is what you do." Whatever you do first is what you do. And it's a strange thought but you have to/ So think about your typical day whatever you do first that's who you are. So, when you first walk into the gym for a workout, whatever you do can kind of first really defines who you are, how you start your day. There's the old phrase. Well begun is half done or something like that. And it's odd because in my life it's an absolute truism. If you start a good day/ You start a good day the night before. You start a good day by how you go to bed. And people say, "Well, that's crazy." I do my to-do list at about 7 or 6 every night. And frankly very often my to-do list for the next day is done before 7 or 8 o'clock. I just do it right then. So, the next day comes around and I've already done the bulk of the silly things I need to do and now I could just focus on whatever I deem important. I don't know what is importance. Sometimes important is just being with my wife, being present, being around, for us doing a turkey, get the tables out, just who knows? Rallying back to our earlier point, yeah. #00:32:54-0#
  • Okay. Thank you, Dan. So sadly, we have to stop. It has been a real pleasure talking to you. Thank you very much. And for all of you listeners who can go to Dan John's seminars just go, just go. Thank you very much, Dan. #00:33:14-0#
  • Oh! Absolutely, and great job this weekend, four days I don't think that's weekend. I think people have started asking questions about the two of us. #00:33:23-0#
  • I won't tell everything. #00:33:26-0#
  • Yeah, don’t tell everything. #00:33:29-0#
  • Thanks. #00:33:30-0#
  • Good stuff. #00:33:31-0#
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    Zum Abschluss: Bewege jeden Tag Deinen Körper, Deinen Geist und Dein Herz. Mache jeden Tag zu etwas Besonderem. Nicht immer stellt sich der Erfolg sofort ein, dann notiere Dir einfach einen Punkt in der besten App die es gibt. Denke dran: Was Du heute noch nicht schaffst, ist Teil Deines Trainings für den Erfolg von morgen. Große Leistungen sind nicht das Produkt eines Zufalls, sondern Jahre konstanter, harter Arbeit. Insofern: Packe es an! Dein Frank. #00:34:15-2#

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