Cal Wysocki is the founder of Fulcrum Education Solutions, a company dedicated to improving the quality of instruction in our schools.
As South Loop Strength & Conditioning has grown, we’ve found it more and more important to re-focus on the quality of the product that we’re offering in our facility – and the main arbiters of that quality are our coaches who are working with our members on a daily basis.
We’ve begun to build several systems for continuing education, dialogue, and feedback with our coaches – and we’ve seen massive changes in what’s happening in our classes. Logistics run more smoothly, workout explanations are more clear, and our coaches do a much better job of handling the social dynamics of delivering coaching and correction to members who may be frustrated, distracted, or confused – without running into nearly as much pushback.
In this discussion with Cal, we focus on the strategies and tactics that he uses to elevate the processes by which schools improve their own teachers. This is not a simple discussion of a few “quick tips.” Instead, Cal is thinking in multi-year processes surrounding building trust with staff, getting quick wins for teachers in the classroom, building trust with students, developing consistency in order to change the dynamic of feedback in a school’s culture, and integrating all of this with long-term professional development strategies.
As a person who is concerned with the quality of coaching going on in my gym on a daily basis, I found this discussion invaluable – and we’ve immediately implemented some of the ideas from this conversation at SLSC. From the bigger picture of a person who is concerned with the quality of education and the pitfalls of misaligned incentives in the school system, this conversation gave me a better foundation with which to think through the problems that we encounter as we try to improve the quality of our public schools.
[2:13] Teachers having meltdowns and abandoning children due to improper feedback
[6:36] When tactics fail – why building trust before implementing changes is paramount
[8:54] What is the process that Fulcrum Education Solutions uses to work with schools? And how do you actually improve teaching performance?
[17:30] How do you build trust and cut through skepticism with teachers since you’re an outside consultant”?”
[22:37] What are some of the typical quick wins” that you see work well for teachers to immediately improve the quality fo their instruction?”
[28:42] Using role-playing to practice skills of classroom management with teachers.
[36:00] What is the assessment process for figuring out what a teacher needs to work on – and what a school needs to work on asa whole?
[45:47] The nuts and bolts of the observation and coaching process for improving teacher performance.
[59:28] How do you coach teachers to handle students who are disruptive or who push back?
[1:04:06] Creating systems for deliering feedback effectively to create behavior change – and avoiding resentment and mistrust
[1:16:46] The many parallels between the fitness industry and education consulting.
Resources and Individuals Mentioned
“I’ve come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.”
-Haim G. Ginott
Carleen Matthews is a multiple time individual CrossFit Games competitor. It’s always interesting to hear how people competing at the highest level in a sport think and operate on a daily basis – but Carleen’s story has another layer.
She has a history of addiction as well as eating disorder, and this gives her insight into the mental battles people fight underneath the surface that we don’t always see.
Carleen owns and operates CrossFit St. Helens in Oregon, and also runs a program out of her affiliate specifically for people who are on the path to recovery from addiction.
Through some enterprising members and her connections in the local community, Carleen was able to get government help to fund this program. If you’re interested in working with the recovering population in your area, Carleen almost certainly has some insight in terms of how to set up a program, hurdles you may face, and how to potentially get help from your local government. Direct message her on Instagram if this is something you’re interested in: @teamcarleen
From the above photo, you may think that James is an intimidating and frightening man.
But, it turns out that he is one of the weirdest and funniest people I know.
It’s difficult to appropriately categorize and convey all the disparate traits that exist in this enigma of a man, and hopefully this interview does his character justice.
Check out this discussion to learn about James’s long-standing fascination with Fear Factory, the process of stealing riffs for Harm’s Way songs, and how he trains for powerlifting while injured and on tour.
Austin and Megan have both spent significant amounts of time at South Loop Strength & Conditioning as both athletes and coaches, and – last year after competing at the Central Regional – they’ve moved out to Scottsdale, Arizona to be part of OPEX‘s sponsored athlete program.
The goal of this program is to allow athletes to train full-time – and not have to worry about coaching classes, working a day job, or running from gym to gym throughout the day. Getting better in training is all about maximizing your ability to respond and adapt to stressors – which means minimizing the stress in your life outside of the gym.
Check this episode out to learn how Megan and Austin have learned to trust the coaching process (and avoid self-doubt and constant questioning of what they’re doing), what they do to prioritize their recovery outside of the gym, and how they approach the mental grind of training on a daily basis.
[3:12] What is the OPEX Athlete program? What does it look like to professionalize the process of training for the sport of CrossFit?
[7:45] Transitioning from a remote coaching relationship to working with a coach on the floor – and how to accept constant feedback and what could be perceived as criticism
[14:06] The dynamics of being around so many high level athletes. How do you stop yourself from just constantly doing more training?
[24:30] Balancing external stressors and finding your own personal “why” – and what do Austin and Megan actually think about during tough sessions?
[30:50] A slight SD card error – and how to be consistent over tie. What personality traits correlate with maximizing time spent outside of the gym, and how do you make decisions on what to prioritize as far as recovery and stress management?
[38:53] What is the biggest learning you’ve had from having a coach watching you on the gym floor?
[42:30] Competing for Instagram followers
[45:51] What does prepping for the Open look like? How do you maintain a culture with a healthy competitiveness amongst so many elite athletes without them starting to bicker and cut each other down?
[56:00] How do you handle the pressure to succeed during the Open – and how do you prepare emotionally for the stress that will come during the Open?
“An alpha hippie is a tree-hugger who can rip out the tree and smash you with it, too.”
I’m not huge on inspirational quotes, but I think that quote has inspired me.
Angelo is one of the most interesting people I know – which is saying a lot because I know a lot of freaks (and you may have heard some of them on the podcast).
We first met way back in 2011. I was a new CrossFit coach and he had recently opened O’Hare CrossFit. Since then, we’ve both continued to learn and soak up information – which is pretty fascinating to see from two totally different personality types.
Angelo has built O’Hare CrossFit into a thriving business, which is much, much harder than it seems in this market, and he was also head of coaching for Barbell Business/Barbell Logic – which means he was overseeing the coaching for 100s of gyms.
Check out this conversation to learn what bizarre depths Angelo will sink to in order to keep learning, how he finds mentors, how he changed how he changed his on mindset and relationship with conflict despite having tons of success, how he helps business owners prioritize what they need to work on, and why strange men harass him because of his chest.
[2:55] Angelo showed up to a kipping pull-up clinic at Atlas CrossFit that was intended to be just for members. Why put yourself out there and go into situations that you don’t totally belong? How did Angelo learn about CrossFit and training methodologies when there wasn’t a ton of information online?
[7:35] Having a bootleg pizza business selling pizza outside of bar – making really good friends with everyone and making sure that relationships are not one-sided
[11:58] Starting to train people in the “early adopter” days of CrossFit – and why people skills have become much more important over time as the marketplace changes
[15:11] Tipping points in the growth of O’Hare CrossFit over time – how becoming a better listener and unlearning emotional habits that had led to a certain level of success were both crucial to long-term business development
[20:13] Becoming an alpha hippie – “An alpha hippie is a tree-hugger who can rip out the tree and smash you with it, too”
[27:08] Finding a mentor in Jason Leydon – Taking a trip to Milford and staying at a seedy motel,
and relentlessly following through on advice given
[36:23] Jason Leydon’s fear of male nudity
[40:38] How to prioritize areas of focus for business coaching clients – aligning your perfect day with your vision for your business and making sure that your product is good enough to achieve the level of success that you want
[50:20] Creating a specific client experience in a gym – “People are coming here for an emotion”
If you can’t tell, that picture above is me hanging loose with my audiobook version of “Getting Things Done” by David Allen.
I’m obviously someone who is interested in and obsessed with systems, so, when I first read this book in probably 2009, I immediately implemented many of the strategies and tactics recommended.
This was relatively easy for me since it immediately lined up with my natural way of thinking of things. Want me to create an elaborate mental model and sort and categorize various items within that model? Sounds like a great time – please sign me up immediately.
(I’m also good at sorting recycling and knowing the various rules about what can and can’t be recycled.)
I recently re-read Getting Things Done as part of my obligations for a book club that includes my business partners at South Loop Strength & Conditioning, and I realized I had gotten sloppy with a few key areas and I had simply failed to implement others.
Also, my life as a business owner has put me in a situation where I will always have a never-ending to-do list – which is a totally different psychological space than a person working a part-time job and spending a lot of time working on music (which was my life situation when I first read the book).
I put together a nice little cast laying out some of my biggest takeaways from my re-read of the book – which was probably one of the best and most well-timed re-reads of my life.
[0:50] The purpose of to-do lists: Don’t forget stuff and prioritize the stuff that you have written down. Most people think they’ll remember (they won’t) or they have endless, unprioritized lists that are numbing to look at.
[4:11] Effectiveness, prioritization, and efficiency – These are all different but are all key to long-term success and completion of projects
[5:52] At some point in my life, I had more to do at any given time than I could ever realistically accomplish. This leaves me with a constant sense of unease, but I’m getting better.
[9:36] One of David Allen’s most crucial insights is thinking of tasks as “next actions” rather than nebulous projects like “dentist” or “redesign website”
[15:35] Capturing tasks vs Processing tasks vs Prioritizing tasks vs Executing tasks (All are slightly different and all require different mental states and amounts of cognitive energy)
[21:25] The necessity of creating a frictionless inbox for capturing tasks – without having to categorize them at the same time
[23:01] The necessity of creating completable projects (ie “redesign layout of workout of the day blog posts”) vs amorphous categories (“Legion website redesign”)
[25:38] Protect your calendar and your daily to-do list. Don’t allow everything you might “like to do” to end up cluttering your list of “must dos” for a given day.
[28:53] Don’t just “buckle down” or “try harder” – learn how your psychology works and set yourself up for success
But, instead of deleting this episode, deleting my website, and closing my gym due to shame and regret, I’ve got a nice episode of the podcast for you.
Misbah and I discuss being overly analytical and potentially socially awkward, the process of connecting with influencers even when you have “nothing to offer,” and creating narrative and story through interviews and conversations.
Even for those folks who aren’t playing the podcasting game, Misbah offers some really actionable and insightful tips based upon his own story. Over the course of a just over a year, he went from being a guy in Philadelphia who had the idea of starting a podcast – to moving across the country to intern at one of the most well-known CrossFit gyms in the world (Invictus) and working as a coach with multiple-time CrossFit Games athlete Marcus Filly.
How did Misbah connect with these influencers without being needy or leeching value from them? How was he able to help them – which in turn led them to help him?
My first memory of Stefi is her asking me after a CrossFit class what she needed to do to get a muscle-up – and being obviously and almost uncomfortably intense about her desire to get on top of a set of rings.
It seems that this extreme internal drive for success has served her well, as she is now setting world records in powerlifting.
Stefi used to coach weightlifting at SLSC during some of the dark times when there were basically no members and there was a giant bulldozer in the gym. We had fun, though.
Stefi is currently pursuing a doctorate in physical therapy at the University of Miami, and is back in Chicago doing some clinical rotations. So, her understanding of training isn’t colored simply by powerlifting – she has backgrounds in a wide variety of sports (including soccer at the national team level in Venezuela) and rehab.
In this conversation, we discuss screaming at walls as a childhood Scientologist, autoregulation in training, and holding onto perceived slights to motivate yourself in training.
Oh yeah, and here’s that video of Stefi’s 525 pound deadlift.
[1:45] On dealing with negative internet comments and having a thick skin: “I’m a fucking dinosaur”
[5:52] Approaching athletic endeavors with an intense mindset while simultaneously understanding the process of long-term progression – including working on getting a muscle-up when starting CrossFit and being benched for years on the Venezuelan national soccer team
[9:30] Balancing long-term progression with the desire for immediate results in training. The use of autoregulation in programming to allow flexibility in the design of training. Getting injured and being force to re-evaluate training methods and mindsets.
[15:52] Deadlifts and L. Ron Hubbard. The benefits and learnings from screaming at walls as a childhood Scientologist.
[22:43] Paddling to America from Venezuela in a canoe. Competitiveness and background in sports like soccer, distance running, CrossFit and weightlifting – and a future in archery.
[26:00] “Are you more competitive with yourself or with other people?” How to find internal motivation from perceived slights.
[29:30] Strange messages from fans on Instagram – including stomping on small pets and study lessons from L. Ron Hubbard
[32:15] Physical therapy clinical rotations: How to provide effective treatment while overwhelmed with patients.
[34:25] Integrating principles from training and coaching into a rehab setting. Balancing the expectations and policies of a clinic with individualization of treatment and the desire to utilize unconventional methods. Utilizing different movement patterns and planes of motion to rehab individuals who have overdeveloped certain skills.
[44:20] How did Hybrid Performance Method start? Plus, the real economics of running a brick and mortar gym.
[53:24] How does Hybrid Performance Method online coaching work? What different programs and options are there?
[55:34] In-season and off-season training protocols for powerlifters and other strength sport athletes. The benefits of training outside of sport specific application and how to structure this in a yearly template. Prioritizing meets and doing some meets as “training” rather than “competition.”
I first met Dylan at a show that I was booking probably back in 2011.
Just checked my e-mail, and yes – it was 2011. And Dylan was weirdly e-mailing me from Spencer’s e-mail address. Have some boundaries, guys.
As a supporter of the DIY punk, hardcore, and metal scenes, I facilitated a subcultural event that involved doing a workout, playing extreme music, and feeding an apparently malnourished group of youths in Full of Hell some sort of enjoyable scramble of treats.
Since then, Full of Hell has gone on to become a force of nature. They blend grindcore, powerviolence, power electronics, and death metal in a totally cohesive (aka not post-modern jumbled mess) layered mess of aggression.
Full of Hell is an insane live band. Please observe:
And, if you favor such sounds, please also listen to their most recent album Trumpeting Ecstasy. I think it’s really wonderful.