Having your ideas rudely smacked around

I just spent the last several days at OPEX in Scottsdale as part of an “apprenticeship” that felt a bit more like a “mastermind.”

There were 6 coaches along with OPEX founder James FitzGerald discussing the finer details and ins and outs of coaching athletes to compete in mixed modal sport – aka the CrossFit Games and similar competitions.

James has both won the CrossFit Games (in the early days, just saying…) and coached several elite competitors like Marcus Filly, Mike McGoldrick, Nate Schrader, Amanda Goodman, and others.

Mike Lee has been the head coach at Big Dawgs (the rebranded remote coaching and competitive fitness arm of OPEX) and also coached elite competitors like Marcus Filly (taking over for James), Tennil Reed, Colleen Fotsch, and others.

So, through the experiences of James and Mike as well as the backgrounds of the other coaches present (myself, Ian Kaplan, Carl Hardwick, Whitney Welsch and Kyle Livak), we were able to challenge our minds quite a bit to really clarify our thinking surrounding how to best train athletes for sport.
I’ve made no secrets of how much I dislike social media and the negative incentives it creates for engaging in challenging, long-form content and having nuanced disagreements (without resorting to tribalism and ad hominem).

But, this experience reminded me how much I value detailed discussions with people who can challenge me on my thinking and my ideas.

Back in the early 2000s, the internet was this kind of place for me.

Through involvement in a variety of forums and communities, I was exposed to a lot of people who were a lot smarter, more worldly, quicker witted, and more tasteful than myself.

In this case, the instinct to rank myself in social hierarchies and attempt to impress my superiors resulted in accelerated growth and forced me to get funnier and more insightful, to offer clearer thinking, to be exposed to more music and culture, etc.

Which I am eternally quite grateful for.

My recent experience at OPEX felt similar in that I had to quickly bucket and clarify my thinking on topics that have been a bit half-formed in my head – since anything I said was going to be picked apart and examined by people with a lot more reference experiences and successes than I’ve personally had.
I found this to be hugely valuable in terms of pushing me to level up my own thought processes – and to avoid anything sloppy in my mental models.

Now, I’m thinking about if/how humanity can take the internet back from the algorithm-driven aggregator models of places like Facebook and Instagram which incentivize lazy appeals to “revealed preferences” through catering to our worst instincts – rather than incentivizing deep discussion and fighting to keep up with people who are, quite frankly, just a lot better than you.

I’m not sure if aggregators will ever be displaced due to the robust network effects that they capitalize upon, but is there some way to instead push folks into distributed networks where the incentives are to impress clear-thinking, highly judgmental people who are going to hold everyone to a ridiculous standard of thought?

That would be nice – even if it’s only for a corner of the internet that enjoys such intellectual sparring.

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