We live in an age where there is an abundance of information that is more accessible than ever before. This is a great asset when it comes to making quality information more available to larger crowds. Great information drives better engagement, development, and results as it empowers coaches and athletes to take on more effective training methods. Instead of guessing what is good or bad, we now have a large network of people in constant pursuit of awesome information - and they are more than willing to share it.
On the flip side, having more information at the tip of your fingers makes it more likely that you’ll run into bad information. All information is not created equal. People have different opinions, viewpoints, and interpret things differently than others. Information changes with time and old training regimes can become outdated with new and improved research. Some of the best coaches out there have published things that they no longer agree with. Others aren’t as well-intentioned and publish thoughts claiming their “expertise” as the reason why you should trust them. Either way, you are always going to run into conflicting information.
As a result, it is more important than ever to have a strong filter when sifting through information. The amount of information published is not going to slow down and the quality of that information cannot be guaranteed. You’re always going to have to work through some bad stuff in order to find something that can really help you. Quite honestly, it’s a good idea to collect some bad information early on. You can’t decipher what’s good or bad if you haven’t collected anything that contradicts what you currently think - and what you think is “bad” might actually be exactly what you need to hear.
Below are some tips on how you can learn where to get great information from, who to trust, and how to determine what is useful or detrimental.
- Collect as much information as you can early on. It doesn’t matter if it’s good, bad, or indifferent. Understand a variety of perspectives and learn both sides of the conflicts that you find. When it comes down to it, people are going to generally agree on roughly 90 percent of what you see. The other 10 percent is where you start to see differences in training philosophies. Odds are, you can probably learn something from almost all of the people you come into contact with. Only by interacting with a wide variety of ideas do you really start to build your own opinions and formulate what you believe is true.
- Don’t just look to confirm what you already believe (confirmation bias). Michael Boyle, strength trainer in Massachusetts, made a great point of this saying, “People don’t call for advice, they call for agreement.” Most people are going to search for things that they already believe to be so. It’s uncomfortable to face the facts and objectively look at the validity of what you think is true. If you can put your biases to the side and seek information that contradicts what you believe, you’ll have a large competitive advantage over your peers. You’ll either find a new perspective you never thought of or you’ll only strengthen your argument for what you already know. One of the best ways to build a strong argument is to thoroughly understand the other side of it.
- Beware of self-proclaimed “experts.” Expertise is built through years of experience, skin in the game, and positive impacts on other people. If anyone should call you on expert, it should be the clients and colleagues you work with. If you’re taking the time and energy to validate yourself as an expert online, you probably aren’t one. You’re most likely masking an insecurity where you feel people will only respect you if you have some sort of title next to your name.
- There are no “secrets.” In fact, some of the smartest people/organizations out there share the most amount of free content. If you find someone who claims that have the secret sauce that you can access for $19.99, it probably isn’t worth your time. Don’t waste your time or money with someone who isn’t willing to share their work without a price tag on a public platform.
- There are no free lunches. Don’t be the guy who is always asking for a free-bee. You’re not being thrifty - you’re being a cheapass that no one wants to deal with. Respect other people’s time and put money into resources from people you get a lot from. The free content they put together for you comes at an expense to them. Begging them for more free stuff is another way to tell them you don’t respect their time. Don’t be afraid to spend the dollar - think of it as an investment into your future.
- Beware of jargon. Fluffing up your vocabulary to make yourself seem smarter may fool some, but it doesn’t actually make you smarter. The best in the world are able to take really complex material and break it down to the point where they could teach it to the dumbest person in the room. Using advanced terminology won’t help you do that. As Einstein says it best, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.”
- Context is key. As Eugene Bleeker says best in his book Old School vs. New School, “Everything is great and everything sucks.” Don’t just jump to conclusions when looking at research, experiments, or other outcome-based methodologies. Try to understand the method, who was involved, and how it was used before forming an opinion about it. A poorly executed weighted baseball program should not be rationale to demonize weighted baseballs.
- Seek transparency. Basic marketing concepts will make you believe everything is good and everyone always gets better with training. This just isn’t reality. While many will not go out of their way to publicize failures, the best in the business have no problem admitting them. If you’re thinking of training with someone who claims they’ve never made an athlete worse, don’t walk - run away. Get information from people who are willing to share their failures and shortcomings. Those who aren’t willing to do so are people you shouldn’t trust.
- There are no guarantees. There is no such thing as a weighted baseball program that guarantees 5-10 mph in x amount of weeks. Training with a certain guru will not guarantee you a Division I scholarship. If anything holds true, you are owed nothing from your training. If you find something that promises you an outcome-based goal, don’t trust it. There are steps you can take to improve your odds at doing something, but your training will never replicate an algebra equation. If anything, your progress is going to look a lot messier than you originally thought.
- Beware of those who spend the majority of their time attacking their competition. If you put together a quality product or service, your success should show for itself. You shouldn’t need to spend your time bashing others to make yourself seem like a better option. People who are secure about their value are going to refrain from going out of their way to stir up a storm. Steer clear of those who always find themselves in the middle of a Twitter controversy. Odds are, it’s the only way people will talk about them.
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Feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns. Keep learning, growing, and finding the best information out there.