John Wooley (Make WODs Great Again) on the essentialness of CrossFit gyms

John Wooley

John Wooley, from the regularly hysterical CrossFit satire account @makewodsgreatagain, wrote a thoughtful response disagreeing with my claim that CrossFit gyms are not essential.
I figured it would be interesting to have a recorded conversation where we hash out where we agree and where we disagree. While John and I don’t completely agree on everything, I think this is a complicated, nuanced issue, and working it out in public is hopefully helpful to some people.

Check out the episode at the links below. If you enjoyed the episode, the best way to support the show is to share with your friends, so send them a link.

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Check out more from John, Make WODs Great Again and Make Pods Great Again here:

Show Notes:

  • [0:47] Quick summary of Todd’s op ed – and the ensuing controversy
  • [3:29] John’s take on my article: What should and shouldn’t be considered an essential business? Also, John’s family’s background with CrossFit.
  • [15:50] How are we defining “essential?” What are regulators thinking about when deciding what should and shouldn’t be considered “essential?”
  • [27:30] How should we think about the trade-offs between the negative impacts of chronic disease vs the negative impacts of a spreading pandemic?
  • [35:50] What do gym owners need to be thinking about as different states start to reopen? What is the potential downside risk of opening early? How can we prevent a second wave of infections and economic shutdowns?
  • [45:49] What will be the role of ongoing government regulations?  What will the regulatory burden be on smaller gyms?
  • [54:20] How will members be thinking about getting back into the gym?
  • [01:05:40] The social dynamics of getting roasted online

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Jeff Wang (Modern Asian Kitchen | Yum Dum Truck) on the Impact of COVID-19 on Restaurants

Jeff Wang

When people think of the culture of a country or a city, food is one of the first things that comes to mind. But, with the economic disruption caused by COVID-19, a lot of folks – myself included – have serious concerns about the ability of restaurants to make it through to the other side of an extended shutdown.
As a fan of regional ethnic cuisine, I’m concerned that a big chunk of my “to try” list is going to be wiped out – and for the implications on the families that run these restaurants.
My friend Jeff owns both a brick and mortar restaurant (Modern Asian Kitchen) as well as a food truck (Yum Dum Truck). We’ve spoken multiple times about the parallels between the fitness industry and the restaurant industry,  so, I wanted to get Jeff’s take on how COVID-19 is impacting both his food truck business and his brick and mortar restaurant business.
Check out the full episode with Jeff to learn:
  • How an industry with already thin margins can survive with reduced dining room capacity
  • How the relationship between restaurants and third party delivery apps really works
  • How to handle negative reviews from self-proclaimed food critics – and actually get something valuable out of them

Check out the episode at the links below. If you enjoyed the episode, the best way to support the show is to share with your friends, so send them a link.

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Check out more from Jeff, Yum Dum Truck and Modern Asian Kitchen here:

Show Notes:

  • [01:11] What is the difference in business model between the food truck and the brick and mortar restaurant?
  • [05:42] What has the impact of COVID-19 been on both businesses?
  • [11:14] How can restaurants – with already thin margins – survive in an environment with reduced dining room capacity?
  • [18:56] How does Jeff react to negative reviews? And what are some of the more ridiculous things people have said on Yelp? is any negative feedback from review sites actionable?
  • [23:59] Are apps like Grubhub and DoorDash a net positive or a net negative for the restaurant industry?
  • [32:49] How do the fees for delivery apps actually work? What do the agreements look like between restaurants and delivery apps?
  • [38:12] Why hasn’t there been a white label online ordering option that competes with delivery platforms?
  • [49:15] What did Jeff’s upbringing in a restaurant family look like? And, how robust are small ethnic restaurants to the disruption presented by COVID-19?
  • [55:45] How to follow – and order from – Jeff’s restaurants

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Brad Stulberg (The Growth Equation)

Brad Stulberg

Brad Stulberg has a list of accomplishments that would make most authors drip with envy.
Hundreds of thousands of books sold. A regular column in Outside Magazine. Contributions to publications like The New York Times, Sports Illustrated and Wired. A blue checkmark on Twitter and tens of thousands of followers.
A lot of Brad’s message is about avoiding the trappings of chasing external validation – yet, he remains acutely aware of the necessity of playing the status game in order to create the opportunity to do the work that he loves and spread the message that he cares about.
Check out the full episode with Brad to learn:
  • How to chase lofty goals without burning out
  • How to properly balance chasing status with focusing on “doing the work” and internal rewards
  • How to mitigate the damage of burning the candle at both ends when it’s necessary to work at unsustainable levels

Check out the episode at the links below. If you enjoyed the episode, the best way to support the show is to share with your friends, so send them a link.

Listen Here

Check out more from Brad and The Growth Equation here:

Show Notes:

  • [01:05] What’s the deal with burnout? Is this a millennial thing or what?
  • [06:13] What are the costs of the performative culture of social media? What are the differences between online environments that encourage performative behavior and “real life” environments that encourage performative behavior? Is this type of performing a net positive for certain personality types?
  • [16:00] When are external signals of your social status the actual limiting factor in achieving your goals? And, why are humans wired to endlessly strive for “more” and “better” rather than being content?
  • [24:41] Most people understand that they should “focus on the process,” but having an environment in which you can focus on the process is often dependent on achieving some level of external success.
  • [29:10] The marketplace of ideas related to performance and self-development is full of opinions that aren’t actually helpful for people because extreme views sell. How do you get attention for your ideas in a noisy marketplace without becoming the thing you hate in order to get attention?
  • [42:00] How do you decide when it’s appropriate to burn the candle at both ends working or to “see God” in a workout? And, when it’s time to go to extremes, how do you minimize the long-term consequences to yourself?
  • [51:15] More about The Growth Equation and Brad and Steve’s weekly newsletter and podcast.

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Jon Callahan (The Great Unlearn)

Jon Callahan

Cal spent a long time chasing money, social status, and all kinds of external validation.
And he didn’t just chase it. He was good at getting it.
As an interest rate trader in Chicago, he had checked a lot of the boxes that people think will make them happy. (Including playing golf with Michael Jordan – crazy, right?)
Cal was in the audience at the Route 91 Festival shooting in Las Vegas, and – since then – his priorities have changed.
Through his podcast, The Great Unlearn, Cal hopes to share his message with other hard-charging, successful people. The happiness and validation you’re looking for isn’t on the other side of whatever mountain you’re climbing.
Check out the full episode with Cal to learn:
  • How to reframe a huge failure into a learning experience – without just engaging in stilted, corporate doublespeak
  • What Cal learned as a trader during the 2008 financial crisis that is applicable today to the situation with COVID-19
  • How to balance the necessities of playing certain “status-seeking” games when growing an audience – without falling back into traps of relying on external validation for happiness

Check out the episode at the links below. If you enjoyed the episode, the best way to support the show is to share with your friends, so send them a link.

Listen Here

Check out more from Cal and The Great Unlearn here:

Show Notes:

  • [01:36] Cal transitioned from interest rate trading into fitness and was an owner of the Phoenix Rise in the National Pro Grid League – but only recently has he been able to view the failure of the NPGL through a positive light. Learn how.
  • [07:03] So, what even was the NPGL anyway?
  • [12:33] Why was Cal so hard on himself for losing money in the NPGL if he knew going into it that it was a very risky investment?
  • [20:35] Reframing a loss – and not just engaging in sanitized corporate doublespeak
  • [24:34] Cal’s personal experience as a trader in the 2008 financial crisis
  • [34:33] Did the 2008 financial crisis offer any opportunities for individuals or systems to shift out of of any negative patterns? Were we able to learn anything from the crisis?
  • [39:23] How being present at the Route 91 festival shooting in Las Vegas made Cal realize that he had been optimizing his life for the wrong things.
  • [52:14] Why is external validation so appealing? And, why doesn’t leave us actually fulfilled?
  • [58:14] How to “play the game” of building an audience – which requires chasing certain kinds of external validation – with the inner work of not needing external markers of success in order to be fulfilled.
  • [01:12:42] The writing process for Cal’s forthcoming book – and how he hopes to share his message with people who are not just chasing external rewards, but are good at it as well.

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Ian Kaplan (Hybrid Performance Method)

Ian Kaplan

So, what’s the deal with chiropractors?
Are they all just full of it?
Ian Kaplan is the COO of Hybrid Performance Method (Stefi Cohen’s training company) and soon to be doctor of chiropractic, and he’s also one of the most thoughtful and skeptical people in the fitness space.
In this conversation, Ian breaks down how he thinks about uncertainty and providing treatment options when a lot of the research shows that most things that we talk about in the fitness and rehab space – well – don’t actually work.
He also lays into some of the most common issues he sees with other chiros.
Check out the full episode with Ian to learn:
  • Where most chiros go wrong – and why “evidence-based” has turned into a catch-all term
  • Why pain doesn’t always have a linear relationship to tissue damage in the body – and how to think about pain and appropriate treatments in an uncertain world
  • The nerdy way that Ian thinks about modeling his clinical decision-making and how it relates to artificial intelligence and information theory – and the future of pain science

Check out the episode at the links below. If you enjoyed the episode, the best way to support the show is to share with your friends, so send them a link.

Listen Here

Check out more from Ian and Hybrid Performance Method here:

Show Notes:

  • [01:04] Ian’s beefs with the field of chiropractic – and what it means to be “evidence-based” in a field with so much uncertainty.
  • [11:50] How should someone actually think about treatment given the inherent uncertainty in dealing with complex systems? How does Ian weigh the costs and benefits of a potential treatment?
  • [18:46] Why are clinicians so easy to fool: regression toward the mean and threshold effects. And, how to give patients hope without lying to them.
  • [25:46] Is it better to try to treat pain with targeted tissue interventions or is it better to focus on the brain?
  • [33:31] The role of artificial intelligence in developing precision medicine models for treating pain patients
  • [39:51] What are the barriers to effectively analyzing treatment data from chiropractors and physical therapists?
  • [44:50] A brief summary of Bayesian inference and its value for treatments, pain science and making business decisions
  • [56:56] How does Ian think about Bayesian inference as a unifying principle for weird stuff we see in pain science like placebo effects and extreme pain sensitivity
  • [01:07:54] How to check out more from Ian

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Jason Collins, PhD on Loss Aversion and Ergodicity Economics

Jason Collins, PhD

People are predictably irrational, right?
We have a poor intuitive understanding of statistics, we leap to drawing cause and effect relationships where none exist, we don’t understand exponential growth very well, and we gorge ourselves on junk food and junk television.
We’re broken!
While there are all kinds of quirks to our built-in reasoning hardware, some of those quirks might not be as irrational as they seem.
Jason Collins has a PhD in economics and evolutionary biology, and he’s long been writing about they ways in which our “cognitive biases” may – in some cases – actually be adaptive decision-making strategies.
In this episode, we dig into some of Jason’s recent posts on ergodicity, and how that may inform the “loss averse” ways that humans make decisions.
While this episode does get pretty technical, anyone who is interested should take a look at Jason’s blog posts on the topic.
[Note: In this episode I talk about logarithmic functions as asymptotic functions. This is incorrect, and I apologize in advance to anyone who I may offend with such foolishness.]
Check out the full episode with Jason to learn:
  • Why the literature in social psychology is so messy, and what four heuristics Jason uses to evaluate the plausibility of social psychology claims
  • Why “loss aversion” might not be quite what it seems – and why humans may be better at intuitively understanding the dynamics of certain types of bets than we originally thought
  • How much variance is there across individuals in terms of their strategy when playing different kinds of games – and how this can translate into understanding the actual effects of different experimental interventions

Check out the episode at the links below. If you enjoyed the episode, the best way to support the show is to share with your friends, so send them a link.

Listen Here

Check out more from Jason here:

Show Notes:

  • [01:50] What is “cognitive bias?” What kinds of systematic judgment errors do humans make – and why do some people think that these errors are actually adaptive heuristics?
  • [06:50] What are the ethics of “nudges”? What are the actual effect sizes of “nudges”? How do the actual results of interventions in things like organ donation and retirement account opt-ins actually play out?
  • [12:40] What heuristics should someone use to evaluate whether a social science claim is worth paying attention too? Is the effect size too large? Why would humans have evolved a certain type of “bias”? And, what is the piranha problem and what is the garden of forking paths?
  • [22:53] How context dependent are social psychology effects? What do we typically see in attempts to replicate studies?
  • [28:53] What actually is “loss aversion”? How do we differentiate loss aversion from risk aversion and negativity bias?
  • [36:07] “Loss aversion” may actually be a rational response to certain types of systems where people have a risk of having their wealth wiped out.
  • [43:01] What is the variance across individuals in terms of psychological effects and different strategies relative to risk taking?
  • [46:32] What is “ergodicity”? What are real-life examples of ergodic and non-ergodic systems?
  • [58:14] What is the optimal strategy for trying to maximize your wealth in a non-ergodic system where gains and losses are potentially compounded?
  • [01:05:20] Would we expect people to have evolved some sort of intuitive understanding of non-ergodic systems based upon the real-life dynamics of things like wealth and prestige?
  • [01:16:16] How can the rules of an experimental game impact the ways that people strategize? Do people have an intuitive sense that they are likely to be iteratively playing the same game over and over again with the same people?

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Joshua Becker, PhD on on Polarization, Collective Intelligence & Social Tipping Points

Joshua Becker, PhD

It’s all over the news: We’re getting more and more polarized. People can’t even seem to agree on basic facts anymore. Politics are tearing this country apart.
However, some of Joshua Becker’s recent research shows that – while polarization potentially makes things more difficult – people are still very capable of learning from each other even in highly polarized environments.
Joshua Becker studies collective intelligence through the lens of computational social science, which means that he studies the ways that groups of people share information, learn from each other, and settle on collective norms.
Check out the full conversation with Joshua below to learn:
  • Why polarization reduces our ability to learn from each other – but why it doesn’t actually prevent sharing information from improving our knowledge about the world
  • How social networks organize to solve problems like “which side of the street should I drive on” – and how groups of people can change those conventions
  • The role of community in creating a better future – and what tangible actions Joshua has taken in his own life to create community

Check out the episode at the links below. If you enjoyed the episode, the best way to support the show is to share with your friends, so send them a link.

Listen Here

Check out more from Joshua here:

Show Notes:

  • [01:14] Are echo chambers a real thing?
  • [12:47] Is the backfire effect real? Or, do people still learn from sharing information with each other – even in highly polarized environments?
  • [21:38] Different studies show different effects depending on exactly what is being measured as an effect of “polarization.”
  • [30:10] Both academics and journalists are motivated to provide “compelling narratives,” “counterintuitive ideas,” and “difficult problems that must be solved!”
  • [39:39] How do people organize to solve collective action problems?
  • [45:12] What types of organization emerge in complex social systems?
  • [49:30] Is there such a thing as a “collective consciousness”? How do people coordinate conventions like which side of the road to drive on?
  • [01:00:58] “Be the change that you wish to see in the world” – this isn’t just a platitude, the mathematics of network dynamics and social tipping points show that this is how you can actually change the world.
  • [01:05:14] How can we create a sense of community – and what actions does Joshua take to create community in his own life?
  • [01:14:32] How to connect with Joshua online

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Jason Crawford (The Roots of Progress)

Jason Crawford (Roots of Progress)

“Progress” sounds like a good thing – in fact it’s almost embedded in the definition of the word.
However, as a mad-at-the-world, angst-ridden teen, I was opposed to progress.
Pretty funny how that works out.
Jason Crawford has been studying the stories behind some of our most game-changing yet under-appreciated innovations like the bicycle, the process of refining steel, and why we use alternating current in our electrical grids.⁠
And, he’s been posting his finds on his blog The Roots of Progress.
Jason and I have a conversation in which we disabuse my 16-year-old self of some misguided beliefs, and we also dig into both the small-scale and large-scale dynamics or our societies that actually stimulate innovation.
Check out the full conversation with Jason below to learn:
  • Why the concerns about excess population growth and rising inequality aren’t all they’re cracked up to be – and why progress itself is potentially the solution to these problems
  • Why a bottom-up view of historical innovation is necessary to better understand our history – and how bottom-up views combine with top-down “grand theories” to give us an accurate picture of progress
  • Why some inventions are “behind their time” (like the bicycle) and what they can teach us about innovation

Check out the episode at the links below. If you enjoyed the episode, the best way to support the show is to share with your friends, so send them a link.

Listen Here

Check out more from Jason and The Roots of Progress here:

Show Notes:

  • [01:04] Disabusing my 16-year-old self of some misguided assumptions about the nature of progress – and all the ways in which life is better now for just about everyone than it was in 1700.
  • [10:10] Common arguments against “progress”: zero-sum thinking and Malthusian concerns about population. And, the unexpected developments that change the population calculus.
  • [17:16] Why Jason is skeptical of arguments about “relative happiness” and increasing inequality.
  • [19:27] Behaviorally modern humans have been around for a long time, so why wasn’t there “progress”? What changed that caused us to start inventing things much more quickly?
  • [28:13] Are there broad sociological trends that kickstart progress (like WEIRD psychology and the Catholic Church)?
  • [34:27] Jason prefers to take a bottom-up approach to understanding progress through specific examples of inventions like bicycles, steel, vaccines, etc.
  • [41:02] What about ideas that potentially require several things to go correctly at a time? Do these kinds of ideas resist “tinkering” or are do they have tangible intermediate steps?
  • [45:40] Are we really in a period of scientific and economic stagnation – as argued by Tyler Cowen, Patrick Collison, Peter Thiel and others? Or, are we just waiting for the next “S Curve” of progress to take off?
  • [53:14] Why hasn’t the increased accessibility to information facilitated by the internet resulted in more progress? What are the negative impacts of things like bureaucratic calcification and institutions that optimize for things like prestige and politics over progress?
  • [01:06:42] Coming soon on The Roots of Progress: Mortality rates and public health improvements, agriculture and the economics of food, and how to build a bridge that doesn’t collapse.

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Brian Speronello (Accelerated Conversions)

Jessica Danger

If you’re actually reading this site, there’s a good chance that you – like me – are often confused by the gap between what people say they want and what they actually want.
There’s one sphere of the internet that takes this in a much more academic and abstract direction – places like LessWrong, Overcoming Bias, and Slate Star Codex.
And there’s another sphere of copywriters and marketers who are much more boots on the ground since their ability to make money and sell products is dependent on a deep understanding of human psychology.
My friend Brian Speronello is in the latter camp. He runs a boutique copywriting shop called Accelerated Conversions, and he works closely with a handful of elite clients helping them optimize their messaging and their marketing.
Brian is not just a great copywriter, he’s a self-aware great copywriter, so he’s able to break down the process that he goes through to craft winning pitches for folks like The Ready State and Organifi in exquisite detail.
Check out the full episode below to learn:
  • Why some of the most well-respected businesses around spend thousands of dollars per month to have people like Brian adjust the words on their websites
  • The most underutilized way for copywriters to show proof of their claims and build trust with their audience
  • The ultimate test of whether your sales pitch or copy was scammy or sleazy

Check out the episode at the links below. If you enjoyed the episode, the best way to support the show is to share with your friends, so send them a link.

Listen Here

Check out more from Brian and Accelerated Conversions here:

Show Notes:

  • [01:22] Why Brian chooses to only work with a select group of clients – and why turning your craft into a “business” can pull you away from doing the work that you love
  • [15:03] Why would someone pay thousands of dollars per month to put words on a website?
  • [19:47] How Brian gets people’s attention – without compromising his ethics or resorting to clickbait
  • [24:02] How does Brian figure out what people actually want and will pay for – as opposed to just what they say they want
  • [30:23] Dissecting one of the most famous examples in copywriting (Schlitz Beer) – and understanding how to prove claims in your copy so your clients find them believable
  • [48:03] The value of constant feedback from clients – and how Brian uses feedback to better understand his market
  • [55:46] The ultimate test to find out if your sales pitch is ethical
  • [57:10] The rebranding and relaunch of The Ready State – and how Brian applied the principles from this conversation to this real life example
  • [01:09:30] The power of a guarantee to further build trust and credibility
  • [01:14:10] How to connect with Brian

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Jessica Danger (Morning Chalk Up | A Fresh Cup of Fitness)

Jessica Danger

I first started writing articles when I was about 16 years old for a polemical political zine my friends and I distributed in our high school.

Since then, I’ve been regularly creating some form of written content, but I can’t say I’ve put too much thought into the craft of my writing.

I’ve certainly done quite a bit of training in copywriting and attempting to write in order to sell something, but that’s not quite the same thing as writing in order to tell a story.

So, I was really excited to have this conversation with Jessica Danger to get some insight into how she actually teaches creative writing and what she recommends to improve the skill of writing.

Jessica is also an editor at the Morning Chalk Up and a podcast co-host on “A Fresh Cup of Fitness,” so she has insights into how to create and curate content for a large audience – without giving in to incentives to post clickbait or use salacious titles.

Check out the full conversation with Jessica to learn:

  • Why it’s so important to separate writing from editing – and why most writers have difficulty with this
  • How to develop the critical eye of an editor – and the most common mistake made by beginner, intermediate, and advanced writers
  • What drives editors crazy when they receive bad pitches

Check out the episode at the links below. If you enjoyed the episode, the best way to support the show is to share with your friends, so send them a link.

Listen Here

Check out more from Jessica, the Morning Chalk Up & A Fresh Cup of Fitness here:

Show Notes:

  • [01:15] Writing is a skill that is learned through constant practice and iteration – just like skills in fitness. It’s less magical than people think.
  • [07:05] There’s one consistent stumbling block that shows up for beginning, intermediate and advanced writers – it just presents itself differently.
  • [14:52] Does reading actually translate into making people better writers? Or is there some other mysterious skill that makes people good at writing? What other drills can people use to improve their writing?
  • [26:15] Most people make this mistake when trying to write and edit their work. And – what are other drills that people can use to become better editors?
  • [35:00] What is worth sharing with the large audience of the Morning Chalk Up? What different types of people read the newsletter, and how does Jessica develop an intuition for what they are interested in?
  • [42:00] No click bait and no “iceberg lettuce” in the Morning Chalk Up
  • [49:40] What should a potential contributor think about when pitching an editor? And what drives editors crazy about bad pitches?
  • [59:13] “A Fresh Cup of Fitness” podcast – and the difference between written content and a more conversational podcast
  • [01:11:11] Jessica’s memoir – and her plans to prioritize getting published after focusing on different aspects of her career

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