About a month ago, at the Agatsu affiliate summit, the most important things I learned came from a place I least expected. On the schedule were gymnastics rings, strength training and programming, kettlebells, clubs, and maces. Oh, and social media marketing.
Really, that’s what I thought about it — “Oh and that too, I guess.” I’m not particularly passionate about social media, and it doesn’t take much for me to drift away from it for large chunks of time. And yet I have a business and overall career that is very social, very personal and involved. I need to know this stuff.
Trying to learn about it in the past has actually made me more jaded. Because there are so many “tricks.” The ways to get people more involved online always stunk of get-rich-quick mentality. The kinds of people writing articles and consulting on anything related to building an audience/brand/whatever are the same kinds of people who, if they were in the same industry as I, would be writing articles about getting “beach body ready!” and hocking multi-level marketing scheme nutrition supplements.
I didn’t want to trick anyone into giving me money, or likes, or follows. If I was going to bother doing it, I want to do it well. And right. I don’t want to build a following based on schemes, ever. I want to talk to real people, in my actual voice. I want to find the people who want to find me and what I have to say/teach/share. I don’t want to be a personality, a face, or a brand. This puts me at a distinct disadvantage in an age where people are all about the pomp, flair, and shortcuts. Especially on social media.
Taylor is different. Not the least of which because she uses the word FUCK as punctuation. She is brash and direct, and it got everyone’s attention at the summit. There was no sugar coating anything. No “tricks.” Just a whole lot of honesty about what it means to communicate authentically as a business in this day and age.
“How many of you hate social media?” she asked. Everyone raised their hand. “Well, you’re going to hate closing your business a whole lot more.”
…Okay. Fine. We’re listening.
Most of us aren’t very good with communication. We hide from it the same way most people say that they need to exercise more… while thinking in the same moment that they will be changing absolutely zero about their exercise routine anytime soon.
The kinds of questions she asked the group were confronting, and generated a lot of discussion. I took more notes during her sessions than any of the fitness stuff that I’d been looking forward to.
On the first day, she asked us for our general thoughts about social media and online engagement. Most especially, what did we dislike? What kept us from being more involved? When we were engaging, how did it makes us feel?
I scribbled down a whole lot of thoughts while waiting my turn. There are many reasons that I’m not more involved online. Even on any of the countless blogs I’ve had over the years — one of the only online activities that I always enjoy — I’m inconsistent in posting.
Of the many things I wrote, several were short and predictable. Not enough time. Uncertainty what kind of content to post. But there were a couple that were higher on my list.
First and foremost… does the world really need another white guy’s opinion? On almost anything? I mean, really. I hear about it every day. White males have the biggest mic in virtually every conversation. Especially in fitness.
There are people who would disagree, and would argue that white guys still should be able to speak up and whatnot. And sure, that’s true. But why? Why bother? There are so many white guys talking that we even step on each other’s toes constantly. The big battles happening at the top of almost every level of politics, art, and industry take place almost entirely between white guys. Just constantly shouting and waving their dicks at each other.
No, I don’t think that the world needs another white guy talking from that particular podium. And as I get older, I take that to heart a little more. I sit a little further back from the mic every day. Even when I want to write something just for fun in my personal notebook, or share a funny thought with friends, I hesitate. Who cares? Why bother?
Naturally, this bleeds into my (un)willingness to open up too much online. I even catch myself slowly removing past-me from the internet a piece at a time, hiding old facebook posts even when they’re about nothing in particular, making sure old accounts like myspace and ebay and livejournal are closed up or deleted. (Side note: I am SO GLAD that the social aspect of the internet didn’t really catch on until I was finishing up college.)
I didn’t say all this when addressing the group, though. I just said: does the world really need another white guy talking?
And Taylor said, “Do you really think that’s all you have to offer?”
I mumbled or maybe even said no, but yeah, really, I do think that. But, I didn’t really want to get into that. Maybe in part because one of my other answers as to why I don’t involve too much with social media.
I wrote this, and read some version of it aloud: “I have a history of depression, and that can drag me down from sharing. I do enjoy and appreciate being part of a community, but I feel pained to ask for it — which is what talking on social media feels like. It’s like I’m the new kid sitting alone at recess, asking people to like me. Also I can be more easily wounded by criticism than I’d like to be, so I try not to invite it.”
She said: “Could you talk about your depression? Could you share that?”
I said: “Sure, yeah.”
But I thought: FUCK NO.
I don’t want to talk about depression. I don’t want to talk about my feelings. I don’t want to share hard stories. And no, I definitely don’t want to cry any more or have any more anxiety attacks or nervous breakdowns. Talking about it all invites it in.
I recognize my good fortune in life as a whole. I know all the possible negative responses and trolling comments that people might unleash for somebody like me talking about mental illness. And I just don’t want to do it. I’m not interested in doing it and I wouldn’t be ready for it even if I was interested.
As anyone who has been depressed and pulled themselves through it, one of the most powerful coping mechanisms is to just be careful not to stare it too closely in the eye. Or it will see you looking and will pull you back in with a vengeance. It grows with attention.
I don’t want to talk about all those kinds of details. I’m not quite there yet.
I am also a coach. I left a really solid, well-paying career in the corporate world to work for peanuts (relatively speaking) teaching strength training, movement, and overall physical fitness. Because I really believe in this stuff.
But even with a lot of passion, it can be hard to promote fitness. People know it’s important to move, and yet they don’t. Not really. And that’s because they “know” it in the same way that they know that eating fast food or binge drinking is bad — in that they understand the dangers and just don’t really care. The point isn’t reaching them, for whatever reason. Or in some cases it is, and they’ve just decided that the consequences are acceptable.
When it comes to exercise, the message (most) people are trying to convey is: I would rather have a shorter lifespan — with lower quality of life in the meantime — than exercise thoughtfully and well.
Or more succinctly: I would rather die than exercise.
This is what our culture is saying. This is where we are, mentally and emotionally.
I want to change that. Any way I can. We have to do better, as individuals and as teachers.
So no, I don’t think the world needs another white guy talking, from that particular perspective. But I do think the world needs more honest talk about mental illness — and specific to my interests, about how much physical fitness can help make things better.
I believe we all suffer from mental illness, it’s just a matter of what kind, how many, and severity. Even (maybe especially) those who are adamant that they don’t have anything lurking within. Those are often the ones who are ticking time bombs.
I believe this to be true because I do not think we are behaving in the ways that match our biological history. That confuses and harms us, both physically and mentally, in some obvious ways and in many ways we don’t even think about or notice. We need to not sit at desks all day. We need to move. We need to be challenged, frightened, laughing, sweating, jumping, running, rolling, climbing. We need to be having more and better sex. (And we need to generally not be so uptight about it.) We need to do more things we love. We need to be stimulated, constantly, and in a wide variety of ways.
Worse still, technology is changing faster than we are evolving. And we will never catch up — things are changing too fast. We are beyond a slippery slope. Culturally, we are plummeting.
There’s not much we can do to stop the overall scenario — it’s got too much momentum. Technology is going to continue to outpace our evolution, and society will drift still further from our natural preferences and behaviors. The forces behind that are too big to stop, though I sincerely applaud the people working to prove me wrong.
What I DO think we can change imminently is our own individual relationship with nature, our bodies, our minds, and our overall physical fitness. Doing so can contribute to not just a longer life, but a better quality of life. Not just a little bit better — EXPONENTIALLY BETTER. I believe a regular practice of mindful movement improves every minute of every day. You’ll sleep better. Food will taste better. Your relationships will be better, not to mention your sex life.
Becoming physically fit is the best overall investment a person can make with their time. It’s the only investment that’s a sure thing. It has saved my life a thousand times over. It has brought me so much happiness and peace.
I am a trainer who consistently talks about the value of positive self-talk, being kind to oneself and others, communicating clearly and honestly.
So this is me being honest. My passion is teaching people movement, sharing what I’ve learned about how physical fitness is good for you. The industry in which I work, as enthusiastic as everyone is, has done a poor job at really convincing a larger number of people to exercise thoughtfully, regularly, and well. Me included.
I don’t think we’re going to bring many people over with promises about abs, getting “beach body ready,” or just generally putting pressure on and finger wagging at people.
But I do think we can bring some people over if we talk about how exercise can make every aspect of your entire life better. If we can get back towards a lifestyle of activity, if we can feed our minds and bodies with the best and most necessary parts of life that evolution has built us for, perhaps we can heal some of our mental illness.
I don’t want to talk about my feelings. I want to talk about this: how movement can help strengthen your body and mind.
Want to talk?