Why we are bad at predicting our own behavior and what that means in coaching.

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I’m a science junkie. I admit it and while when I was a teenager I might have downplayed that side of me, now it’s something I wear quite openly on my sleeve. This couldn’t have been displayed more openly when at the post-USA’s Run Gum party, I was sitting at a table with coach Daniel Goetz, Phoebe Wright, Angela Bizzari and the Brooks crew talking about a study. Yes, I was at a post-race party, detailing a psychology study. If that doesn’t sum up me up, I’m not sure what will.

In a particular set of studies, they looked at how accurate people were at predicting their own behavior versus a stranger predicting their behavior. In one study, they had college students predict how nervous they’d be when talking with new people. The individuals were worse at predicting than people who had just met them. Another study looked at how well people could predict their future behaviors, in this case in purchasing flowers for a charity drive. 83% of the individuals predicted that they would buy flowers, while strangers predicted that 56% of the people would buy flowers. The actual percentage of people who bought flowers for the charity was 43%. So the strangers predicted behavior outcomes to a much larger degree. The same effect can be seen on giving donations and a lot of other behavioral outcomes.

The point is we suck at predicting our own behavior. As Timothy Wilson writes in his book, Strangers to Ourselves:

Episode 14- Taking advantage of distractions- Part 1

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Part 1-

Once again, Jon and I come to you from a coffee shop on location and simply talking shop. This week we’re covering distractions; how to deal with them, how do you adapt to them, and when they might be positive or negative.  We start out with the “Once A Runner” myth about living the life of zero distractions and how this might work for some, but it should be about learning how to thrive in a real environment. The oft-cited counter to this argument is the East African running only lifestyle. While this works well for them, the cultural differences and ADD type culture that infiltrates modern society, doesn’t allow for many Westerners to function in this type of set up. Instead of recovering during this type of environment, the “disease of doing nothing” creates a stressor because of ingrained societal norm of being a “productive worker bee.” It’s about finding balance in your life that allows for recovery and self-fulfillment.

From here, we jump to how to frame distractions and how pattern recognition is the key to successful coaching and performance. It’s about taking what your environment and conditions afford you and framing them as an advantage instead of a disadvantage. A great example of this is altitude vs. heat. Altitude has been framed as a positive adaptation because of the physiological benefits even though it makes you run slower workouts that feel consistently hotter. Yet, heat and humidity which makes workouts more difficult and slower in a similar way to altitude, is seen as a negative, despite similar positive shifts in blood volume, for example, that aid performance. Despite Frank Shorter training in Florida, the framing is different, although both offer benefits.

To end part 1 , we talk about Seth Godin’s principle of “just ship” and how we have to make mistakes, screw up, and fail fast to grow as coaches and athletes.

I hope you guys enjoyed another in-person podcast with Jon and I.

Thanks,
Steve & Jon

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Resources mentioned in this episode:

Strangers to Ourselves- Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious





Episode 13- Advice for a young coach- part 2

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In part two of Advice for a young coach, we start with the concept of coaching as a partnership versus a dictatorship. What does this mean? The goal should be to take athletes from dependence to independence, not the other way around. The goal of the coach shouldn’t be to prove their worth, but instead it’s to help the athlete foster independence so that they can be adaptable and ready under a wide range of situations, so that they are ready for whatever is coming at them.

From there we delve into what coaching actually is. Is it about collecting accolades, padding our resume’s, hitting PR’s, or is it about something else? Jon and I make the argument that it’s about development of people. Not just about hitting certain times, but developing people’s skills that not only help within the world of track and field, but also translate across life. One of the myths that comes along with that is that, excitement is dependent on the level of athlete you are working with. There is a great misnomer that the faster a person runs that you coach, the more enjoyment you get out of it, when the truth is that coaching is coaching, regardless of level. Along the same lines of this idea, is the trickle down effect where ideas/training/concepts come from the pro’s to the college to the HS level.

Finally, we summarize our thoughts with discussing how coaching should be about leaving your “space” in a better position than you found that. It’s about developing the culture, the team, and the circle that you have around you.


In the end, Jon put it best when he says that coaching is about relationships. We should continue to treat people with respect, kindness, and dignity, and above all treat people like actual people. If you work hard, accomplish that goal, then opportunities will present themselves.

As always, thanks for listening,

Steve & Jon


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Episode 12- Advice for a young coach- Part 1

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Coming to you from Austin, Texas, Jon and I take on the topic of "Advice for a young coach" in our first in person podcast. In this episode we take a step back in our young careers and look at our development as coaches. Starting with tracing our history of how we got into the job of coaching, how we actually got our jobs versus how we thought we would get our jobs, and from there carry on with a dialogue about some of the big misunderstandings in coaching development.

We try to down some of the myths and expectations that we all had when we got into coaching and try to give advice on how to navigate the world of coaching, from resisting falling into the trap of 'climbing the coaching ladder', to the importance of focusing on development of people versus accumulating accolades. We then go into into talking about the misnomer of seeing coaching as a business, and some of the issues in the college system that are often overlooked.

The goal of this podcast is to have a simple dialogue about what coaching is. In ending Part 1 of this 2 part conversation, Jon and I discuss the temptation to fall into the trap of dependence based coaching versus independence based coaching. Instead of seeing the coach as the dictator who has to have all the answers, we talk of the advantages of moving towards always moving towards a two way street of a partnership based model. Escaping the world of micromanaged coaching, as athletes develop, they should gain independence.

We hope you enjoy part 1 of our 2 part conversation on advice for a young coach. As always, hit us up on social media if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions


Steve & Jon

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Patterns of Performance: What We All Can Learn From the Practices of Elite Athletes

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The further along I go in this coaching thing, the more cross-domain connecting becomes. When we start out, the fundamentals and basics are necessary to give us a base of support, not unlike a base in running. It's why learning about the X's and O's of coaching, the science behind it, and the history of great coaches cannot be skipped. But as we grow as coaches, the innovations in training shifts to seeing patterns in ideas that may not come directly from our specific discipline.

All of that being, said, Brad Stulberg and I wrote a piece recently on how we can take what elite athletes do, add in a dash of the latest research, and translate that over to lessons that reach beyond sport. It's part of a project Brad and I are working on that hopefully will result in some really interesting and thought provoking work. For now, enjoy the article below:



Specialization, a bedrock of our modern economy, is generally held in a positive light. The notion of gaining expertise in a specific field is widely celebrated, and our fascination with the "10,000 hour rule," popularized by Malcolm Gladwell (i.e., it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert), is based on this premise.

But with specialization often comes tunnel vision, and we fail to recognize what other disciplines can teach us about how to excel at our own. As world-renowned psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi writes in his book Creativity: The Psychology of Discovery and Invention, "It is important to keep in mind that most breakthroughs are based on linking information that usually is not thought of as related. Integration and synthesis both across and within domains."

Through our (i.e., Steve and Brad's) collective experience working with elite performers in sport and intellect, we have recognized two practices common in great athletes that can also be used to enhance more cerebral work: (i) taking control of personal evolution; and (ii) cultivating a self-transcending purpose.

Personal evolution, be it physiological or psychological, results when a stressor challenges the body or mind and then is followed by adequate recovery, yielding a positive adaptation. The hard part is striking the right balance between stress and recovery.


Continue Reading on Huffington Post






"People remember the last interval"-Why you should go out on a high note

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Human psychology is a strange thing. We’re full of bias, fallacies, and weird quirks. Philosophers, scientists, and all around intelligent people have been trying to make sense of the world for centuries with varying degrees of success. It's a side interest of mine because in the end we are coaching people, not hunks of muscle that respond to some training stimulus via following a set pattern of adaptation. 

          As a coach, we can exploit our natural tendencies and for lack of a better term, flaws. One such flaw is what I call recency. It’s a made up word as far as I know, but the general gist of it is simple. We tend to remember what occurred more recently. I’m sure there’s some correct term for this cognitive bias barried away in a psychology textbook, but for now I’ll stick with this made up term. The idea is that if we go through an experience, whether it’s watching a movie, reading a book, hanging out with friends or going to a concert, we’re biased by the last thing we remember. It weights our experience much more so than what occurred early on in the experience. It’s why bands often reserve their best song for last, or the invention of the word “grand finale” came around.

Episode 11- Dealing with Failure

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In this episode of the Magness & Marcus podcast, we take on the topic that no one likes to deal with: failure. In the world of running, we deal with a sport that has a hard line, either you ran faster than you ever have before or you didn't. Unfortunately, it's incredibly easy to define yourself by reaching this set standard or not. We start off with defining what failure is in comparing a championship style race versus a time trial one. From here, we discuss how to handle failure. What should you do as a coach? Do you immediately address the "problem" or do you let an athlete digest it first? These topics and many more are discussed where we tie in a bit of science, a bit of experience, and plenty of lessons on how we've dealt with failure. Including a bit of talk on how High School phenoms should approach the transition to the college or professional level. Hear how I failed spectacularly as a HS phenom, what I learned from it, and how that failure shaped who I am as a person.

As we always do, we meander through a few other topics along the way and end up with an almost plea for coaches to see their job as a mentorship and not a business. It's not about doing anything you can to score an extra point or say you coached athlete X to a fast time, instead your in the people business. It's about interactions and relationships built.  Hopefully after listening to some of our stories it puts what we do as coaches into perspective and we all see that the results are secondary and will follow if you take care in the process.

As always, we hope you enjoy the podcast and feel free to hit us up on twitter if you have any comments or suggestions,

Jon & Steve


Resources mentioned in this Episode:

Books:
The Art of Work by Jeff Goins
The Sports Gene by David Epstein
A Beautiful Constraint by Adam Morgan
MiddleMarch by George Elliott

Articles:
The Plight of the Ego Coach

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