We all have people we follow. They may inspire us, speak in terms that we understand and bring us clarity, or uncover topics or information in areas that we don’t frequently research. Whatever your reason, learning from others is the fastest and most efficient way to learn and adopt new ideas and life strategies. But when do we take it too far? When do we get so caught up in what someone else is saying/doing that we bypass our own logic and judgment in exchange for the excitement of a new thought? I’m sure you are all reading this and saying “that’s not me; I think for myself and make my own decisions in life”. I beg to differ, and I think we all need a bit of self reflection now and then.
Research Smesearch…It’s always a matter of opinion
Most things we learn in the age of information have some sort of stemming ‘research base’. When someone cites a reference or some sort of scientific experiment it somehow legitimizes what they have to say. For most of us this is enough to get our ‘eyes up’ and take some questioning away from any given persons spiel. I personally don’t cite references or research for any of my writing or findings because research is biased and quite frankly a bunch of bullshit.
Everyone has their motives- as both the speaker and the listener- and both will find a way of legitimizing what they want to say and what they want to hear; and research is a great way to falsely support our own inner investments. Here are some examples- If you frequent facebook you have seen the picture of the distance runner next to the elite sprinter; the sprinter looking muscular and cut, while the distance runner looks skinny, loose, and frail. If you’re someone like me who promotes explosive movements (sprinting) and somewhat condemns degenerative activities (distance running) it is easy to look at this picture and say “here’s your proof, sprinters look good and perform well and distance runners are flabby losers!” I’ve seen this picture posted by my colleagues and fitness folk alike to prove their point in a totally illegitimate and lame way. They can say ‘research shows that distance runners typically have a higher body fat and lower muscle mass when compared to a sprinter’- and they may very well be right… based on the research they chose to search out.
The worst part about this is that ‘proofs’ like this spread like a disease- with a bunch of agreeable people jumping on the bandwagon and spreading their new found ‘proof’ without asking a single question or looking into how one sided the information may be. You won’t hear questions like “do you think that perhaps big jacked muscular explosive people gravitate towards sprint based activities and excel at them while skinnier, lighter, fiber 1 type people gravitate towards and excel in distance based activities?”. Not to mention the fact that you could easily find a really jacked distance runner and a slightly overweight sprinter, place their pictures side by side and make the same adverse argument; but neither of those things will ever happen with a group of speakers and an audience of listeners that find it more important to prove THEIR point than to prove the point that is most legitimate in the most legitimate way.
You may be saying ‘ok, I get it, but that isn’t really research, that is an optical comparison’. You’re right, it is, but here is a legitimate research paper example that is equally moronic.
I was reading an article in a journal of strength sciences regarding how plyometric exercises (jumping, bounding etc) cause more harm than good. The article explained how they did a 6 week course of varying plyometrics in one group, and then a basic light exercise course in the other. After the full 6 weeks they had several minor injuries in the plyometric group resulting in very little overall gains, and in the other group they showed positive gains in strength.
Well, I did some further research on this article and dug up the stats that they didn’t tell you. Like most lame exercise research papers spread to the average reader, they used a population of elderly people for this testing. So in group one they were having 60+ year old degenerative participants jump around on their old brittle bones and weak stagnant muscles and via their conclusion that jumping around is bad for old people they publish a paper stating that plyometric movements may be bad for ALL PEOPLE. Junk science at its finest, and consequently the most abundant science we have these days.
The point is that you never get the whole story on research, the participants, or the environment- and even if you did, YOU WEREN”T THE ONE BEING TESTED!!!! Research on any other person other than you will never give you a result that should be followed specifically by you. So read your research with caution and skepticism.
Joining the Modern Day ‘Cult’
It’s great to be a part of something. As Seth Godin would explain we all have this deep seeded instinct to find our ‘tribe’ and belong to it. In other words, finding like minded people with similar values to share a portion of our lives with. This is a healthy, effective, and sustainable approach towards becoming part of a good cause, movement, change, or whatever you want to call it. But when does it go too far? When does it get to the point when you’re not so much a part of something as you are ‘under’ something? Where do you draw the line between belonging to something and becoming something?
Losing your true individuality
I come from the mindset that no person should ever just ‘be’ something. I don’t think someone should just be a republican or a democrat. That someone should be a Buddhist, Christian, or atheist. Why can’t someone just be who they are without subscribing to a pre planned train of thought, belief system, or set of ideals?
As soon as you decide ‘this is who I am, and this is what my people are called’, your individualization and potential for growth are over with… done. You build a box around yourself and remove your potential that pertains to everything outside of that box. You are essentially subscribing to one way of thinking in a given subject and blocking out all other sources of competing information.
I can’t think of a worse way to live your life. Having pre-determined thoughts and understandings of everything that surrounds you because you want be a part of something and attach a name to that group.
Unfortunately it is now all around us. In fitness, health, religion, politics and all other topics that allow some sort of adverse thought. You could argue that these different groups allow us to exchange ideas and create discussions, but people are only interested in spreading their own ideas and not truly interested in absorbing others. People these days argue to be heard and spread information to be known- not a lot of people do it to ‘get people thinking’ and create a platform for the open expansion of the mind.
An ‘Open Air’ Approach
People are always complimenting me in somewhat flabbergasted ways in regards to the shape I’m in, the sacrifices I make, and how well I take care of my body. I couldn’t see things more differently. I think getting in shape and taking care of yourself is a fairly easy task. In fact, I think it’s insane that the whole world population doesn’t take better care of themselves because it is the easiest thing you can do. It’s no different than brushing your teeth, going to work, and combing your hair.
What impresses me are the people in this world who have 100% control of their mind, emotions, stress, and intellectual outcomes. I have spent the last 3 years putting far more focus on the health of my mind than the health of my body- and I am nowhere near where I’d like to be. I literally exercise my mind with the intent of making it stronger and more efficient every day of the week, and I am literally moving at ‘crawl speed’ when I think about where I would like to be.
One of the big challenges I faced with the reconstruction of my mind was the ability to understand others first, and not let my own ‘interests and opinions’ affect how I perceived the information I received from those people. Truly listening to another individual who sees something differently than you with the full intent of utilizing their information over yours if it seems more logical is a very difficult feat. The ability to say “I’m wrong, they’re right, what else can I learn from them” is a trait that seems to go against every grain of human nature; but the more I work on it, the better I get, the better I feel, and the more I grow on a personal and professional level.
My point is that we subscribe to an ideal that likely isn’t even ours, from sources that are self serving, and then we put a name on our ‘group’ and shut out all adverse arguments and points, regardless of logic. None of us want to admit it, but we all do it in a completely selfish and childish manner. If you can realize this part of yourself and accept that it is how you deal with a lot of your ‘mental subscriptions’, you will see that you can still have the feeling of belonging to something great and contributing to that movement and yourself, without compromising who you are as an individual and as an independent thinker.
Listen to what others say. Get excited about new ideas. Listen to many many many many different people; but don’t get stuck in a single path of thinking in any given subject, and never think that you or the leader you are following has the answers to all your questions… or even their own. And if you find yourself following someone who is never wrong, constantly condemns others ways of thinking, or suggests that ‘their way is the only way’- you have unknowingly become a member of a modern day idealists cult. I suggest you get out IMMEDIATELY!