Written by Christopher Kelly
Sept. 8, 2018
Christopher: In a previous episode of the podcast, I mentioned that I was traveling down to San Diego to record an upcoming program with the husband of Lesley Paterson. I am now here ready to record the first of a series of interviews with Dr. Simon Marshall. Simon, say hello.
Simon: Hello, Chris! Thanks for introducing me as the husband of Lesley Paterson. You are already trying to tweak my identity. I know your dark arts.
Christopher: It's one of my super powers, is pushing people's buttons.
Christopher: We're going to start this series of interviews with perhaps the most important of topics. The book that goes along with this topic is called "The Growth Mindset" by Carol Dweck and this is a book that I've seen Simon recommend to the clients of our Elite Performance Program on many occasions. I'm very careful to read all of the book recommendations that Simon recommends and they've all been fantastic, every single one of them, but "The Growth Mindset" is a particularly special book. When I read it, I realized that I was of the growth mindset in some areas of my life and then of a fixed mindset in other areas.
To give you a concrete example to begin, my background is in engineering and finance. And especially in finance, but also in engineering, you always want to pay special attention to your mistakes and your failures. Everybody notices mistakes. The question is how are you going to embrace them. In finance, if you don't embrace those mistakes and understand why something went wrong then typically the next day when the market opens, that same problem comes back and bites you in the ass even harder and there's the potential to lose a huge amount of money, so I think people will get very serious about embodying failure in finance. But then if you just said to me, "What makes a great musician?" I probably would've said, "Well, people are just born musical, aren't they?" I'm never going to be musical because I'm just not one of those people.
Perhaps that's a fairly good summary of what I think is a growth and a fixed mindset, but perhaps it would be better to ask you, Simon. How would you define a growth and a fixed mindset?
Simon: The examples you gave are spot on and I have those exact same things about things that I do like my ability at languages. I find it really difficult to learn foreign languages. I'm not that way inclined and so on.
The way I think about fixed and growth mindsets is that we all have perceptions of our own abilities and traits and talents. When they're fixed in place, in other words, we have a preconceived notion of whether we're good at something or bad at something, we consider it to be fixed. So someone who says, "Oh, I'm not really the sporty type" would have a fixed mindset about sport or athletic ability. "I'm not very good at foreign languages" would have a fixed mindset about the ability to learn foreign languages. It's this notion that we have talents, attributes, or skills that are kind of fairly immutable, that there's a ceiling to which we're good or bad at them and we don't really think about how our effort or the persistence that we put into developing that makes much of a difference.
If you contrast that with a growth mindset, well, it's not to ignore that we have such thing as a genetic potential or that we have some ceiling to our ability. It's kind of a theoretical point. We don't really know where that is and all we can focus on is cultivating our effort towards getting better at something, so that really differentiates between the fixed and the growth mindset, but it isn't just a description. Actually, it has quite strong implications by how much effort we put into things.
If you think that you're not the sporty type or you're not very good at languages, you're less likely to try because effort doesn't make that much of a difference. When you're in situations where you're forced to have that talent or attribute exposed or used then it really messes with how we are trying to constantly confirm that we have that ability. Fixed mindset for example in sports or athletics might be that you constantly try to prove or avoid any confirmation that you don't have that or that you do have that, so it really becomes less about how I can show that I'm improving in something. It has implications for the motivation that we put into things and how hard we try at things to improve.
Christopher: I've heard in the past you used a sculpture analogy. Can you tell us about that?
Simon: Yeah. I like to think of all performances and anything that there's an achievement element to it that no one performance or no one event really defines our ability at how good we are at something. I give the analogy of creating a sculpture. With each training session or race or each lesson that you have or each something where you're trying to develop that skill, you're just chipping away one little bit more, trying to make this object what you think that you would like it to become like.
Our goal with most things that we try to accomplish is that we're just chipping away so that we're constantly refining or improving a version or an identity of something that we're trying to work towards and then it becomes less about this one event or this one instance defines how good I am at something. It's just another chip off the block to make that sculpture be the better version of what I'm trying to accomplish.
Christopher: Talk about what happened with Lesley when she first did some VO2 max testing.
Simon: Lesley was on the national team, triathlon team from a young age, around the age of 14, and around 17 or 18, they start to get you into the lab to do VO2 max test and lactic threshold test, all these physiological test to try and give an indication of your potential and also to know how to train you a bit better. Some of the features of this physical test are that they are largely genetically determined like VO2 max, for example, the amount of oxygen you can utilize, the kilogram of your body weight. It's sort of estimated to be about 85% genetics. We know that to be an elite endurance athlete, most of them seem to have VO2 max within a certain range so that we know once we test it early on, we might be able to improve it by 15%, but there's not much that you can do.
When Lesley would test -- and she had a whole bunch of parameter tests on her that really pointed to the same conclusion, was that you're probably not going to be able to make it in an elite sport with this "raw, basic talent" that you have. Despite that, she would somehow outperform her lab data, so when it came to races, she would perform better than was expect often, not all the time. For many athletes, if you're in a talent identification program or a talent grooming program, they might stream you out or devote resources to you based on somebody's test, not strictly or solely because of that, but that shapes what you think you can do. If someone tells you from the outset that you're probably not going to be X, but we can help you get Y in some level then that's going to shape not just how the effort that you put into training and racing, but the mindset you have and that actually determines how you perform.
This is a self-fulfilling prophecy and we know this from the educational literature about how you encourage children in different classes and the words that you use to get them to improve or to get them to see progress, how that shapes how they end up performing. This is a fairly robust finding and this is what Carol Dweck, the Stanford psychologist, has spent their career doing. It comes from the educational psychology literature that since been adapted into sport coaching and a whole host of other domains too.
Christopher: Now you really got my attention because I've mentioned on the podcast before that I have a four-year-old girl and a six-month-old boy, so this is crucial, profoundly important, and it affects the way that you talk to your children. My default approach would've been something like Ivy just drew something for me and it's a picture of a chimp and she says, "Here, Daddy, it's you." I would say, "Oh, you're so smart. You're so clever. You're so talented." Maybe I would've put that drawing up on the fridge and idolized it in some way, but what you're telling me is perhaps that's maybe not the right thing to do.
Simon: Yeah. It's very difficult because as a parent or as a coach or anybody where you're in the business of trying to help people improve or encourage them, you want to make people feel good. One of the ways that we do that is by we comment on their character or things about them. They might be independent of actually the effort that they put into it, so we want to say things like, "Oh, you're smart. You're talented," "Oh, you look so pretty" or "You look smart" or any description that we use that describe an essence of them. One of the problems with this of course for a small child is that they're getting feedback not about what went into creating that, but of the outcome itself.
We all do it. It's not something that is sort of bad parenting, but it's just to be a little bit more aware of the words that we use to describe how someone has created or got to the point where they are. Often what they recommend for when children produce drawings or have performances, you really comment on the effort that it took. "Oh, you spent a lot of time on doing this. I can see that you've taken a lot of time to do this drawing," so you're really rewarding or commenting on the effort it took to create the outcome. Whether the product is good or bad or whatever it is, that's not important.
Christopher: What about encouraging failure? I'll say something like, "How many times did you get that wrong before you finally got that chimp's face perfect?"
Simon: Right. One of the things that we know with a fixed mindset for example is that the information about failure or when we hear something that's not very good, it tells us something if you have a fixed mindset that what you believe to be that sort of attribute or skill is not as good as you thought it was, so it undermines your motivation to continue to try. We end up spending all our time trying to avoid getting that feedback, so failure is very scary because it confirms perhaps what we thought either what we already knew, is that "I'm not very good at this" or "I shouldn't have tried." Well, why don't you do something that you're good at instead of this? So part of shifting to a growth mindset is fundamentally changing our relationship with failure. Maybe that's part of the problem, is that we use the word "failure" and we need to have a whole new terminology to describe what it is we actually mean, which is like this is just another form of guidance or feedback to help us make a better sculpture.
Christopher: I've heard you say something that I want to get printed on a t-shirt, which is "Not a something yet." For many of the NBT listeners, perhaps the right word is athlete. "I'm not an athlete yet." How fantastic is that?
Simon: As a coach, it's interesting as an endurance coach when athletes come either looking for a coach or interviewing you as a coach and they say, "Well, I'm not an athlete, but I'm looking to try and become one" and then you ask about their background and they're doing all of the things that athletes do. They're training, they're racing, and they are athletes. They don't see themselves as that, but there's a little window that they have a little fixed mindset on what it means to be an athlete.
One of the things that we do is that we try and encourage people to see that it's really part of a continuum of developments. In other words, just like creating a sculpture, you're not that yet or you don't see yourself as that yet, meaning that it's possible that you can change and you can become and develop that skill or attribute by hard work and perseverance and all those other things. It takes a lot of failures along the way to get there because we learn through our failures. We don't learn through our successes. So the more that you fail and the quicker that you fail that you're probably just a more efficient learner.
Christopher: Another thing that you said that I want to get printed on a t-shirt, I remember the first time I said this to Julie and she's like, "Whoa, that's profound" and that's the idea that people don't fail; actions do.
Simon: Right, and I think when we talk about changing your relationship with failure, that's one of the fundamental assumptions that you try and challenge, is that whenever things don't go well or things don't turn out the way you want to is that it's not a real reflection of you as a person or as a character. It's easy to say that because of course we all intellectually know that, but when you listen to people and the way that they talk about why things happened or what psychologists call the attributions that they make for outcomes, they're often really defending character. They're defending their person because obviously it's a comment on a fixed mindset that I'm good or bad at something inherently. Really it's just our behaviors that fail, our actions fail or don't succeed, not you as a person. This is why again there's this sculpting analogy, is that the sculptor doesn't fail, but just not being able to wield the chisel very well fails; hence, you create sort of a one-headed monster when you're trying to create a porcelain figure.
Christopher: There's a book that carries on from "Mindset" by Carol Dweck that I really enjoyed it's another one of your recommendations. It was "Black Box Thinking" by Matthew Syed. I understand that Matthew Syed is currently working on a book about the Growth Mindset for Children that I look forward to reading. In this book, "Black Box Thinking", the premise of the book is of a literal black box. On the podcast, you've heard us talk about machine learning and black boxes and whether or not you can interpret what's going on inside of this black box, and that's not what Matthew Syed is talking about.
He's talking about a literal black box that goes inside of an aircraft and he tells the story of how in aviation, it used to be really dangerous and most army pilots didn't survive their career. And then through the use of the black box, understanding how every crash occurred down to the minute detail of what was going on with the mechanical sensors and the position of the throttle and even down to the black box voice recorder in the cockpit, understanding in excruciating detail how each and every failure occurred, they made aviation better over the years until it is what it is today, which is one of the safest modes of transport that we have. Then he contrasts with what's going on in medicine and he tells some really fascinating stories that were real light bulb moments for me.
He tells a story of a surgeon that tragically -- or a group of surgeons actually that tragically killed a woman. They said to the husband of the woman, "Oh, these things happen. We did everything we could." Actually, I don't think they did. In the story, Matthew describes how the problem that they faced was lack of situational awareness and it was a well-known problem described in the psychology literature. Obviously, Simon, you know more about that than I. It's this idea that rather than embracing failure, the surgeons are trying to rationalize it and in doing so, they forego the opportunity to get better next time.
Simon: Yeah. I think the many professions, when you look at some of the medical professions -- and not just medical professions, but the helping professions in general, human service professions, there are a couple of career paths that stand out where expertise or experience doesn't seem to make that much of a difference experience to expertise. Psychiatry is one of these when you look at some of the research literature is that the amount of time that you've been practicing doesn't necessarily quite equate to more expertise. Radiology is another one. Reading film, having lots of experience reading film doesn't necessarily make you a better radiologist.
One of the reasons I think this is -- and because Syed talks about this -- is that where's the feedback loop, how distal the feedback is to the actual performance itself. If you really never get information about whether you're right or wrong until very long down the line, it's very difficult to learn and make these minute improvements along the way, so closing that loop is really important.
Christopher: I wonder whether part of the problem is the fear of litigation. I know this is not your area of expertise, but I would like you to comment on that. Do you think that's why these surgeons are rationalizing their failure, is because they're worried about getting sued?
Simon: That may be part of it. I think that a lot goes into how outcomes are evaluated in any field, some of which there are financial consequences of outcomes, some of which there's life and death consequences of outcome and the more heavily that those outcomes are stacked, all the more weight that's on them. Obviously there's going to be greater attempts to explain those outcomes when they're not favorable. I think the human mind generally has what we call an attribution bias. When things go well, we like to explain it was all because of me and when things go well, well, it wasn't because of me. It was because of other events. It's external attribution versus internal.
We often talk about attribution bias retraining in athletes, a fancy way of saying when things screw up, own it. Fortunately, in many disciplines, the fear of litigation or failure, failure is litigated against because fingers are pointed and there's money or lives are at stake and for a good reason, but it ultimately affects our relationship with failure because if you know that if an outcome is going to be evaluated as somehow of negligence or just bad decision making in the moment, which is all part and parcel of human error as well, training and that kind of stuff then of course you want to avoid those things at all costs and that makes people explain outcomes in very unique and different ways.
The difference in the aviation industry from the medical industry of course is that the people who are in part involved in the outcome, their lives are at risk too. So if a plane goes down, the pilot often dies as well. That's not the case in other industries. That might also, when you look at who's advocating for safer measures or their relationship with failure, then this is the skin in the game concept, one you're fond of, Chris.
Christopher: I'm a big fan of skin in the game, yes.
Simon: So if you've got not much skin in the game, the outcome might affect you on some fairly superficial performance evaluation level. It's probably going to have implications for the efforts that you do to correct for future promises, right?
Christopher: It'll be interesting to see how that pans out in aviation because I think we are going to see some pilotless passenger aircraft coming on to the market in the next few years. There's one I believe that's currently underway being designed in Bonny Doon in Santa Cruz. JV Aviation has a pilotless octocopter, electric octocopter. Maybe I'm wrong on this. Perhaps check the website if you're interested. I believe that the pilot is going to be on the ground controlling the aircraft with --
Simon: An iPhone.
Christopher: An iPhone. "Sorry, my iPhone crashed."
Simon: "Sorry, the signal dropped. I'm in the woods. Oh, you dropped as well. I'm so sorry."
Christopher: So it'd be interesting to see how aviation changes once the pilot has no skin in the game, but another crucial difference between medicine and aviation was the idea that it wasn't seen to be the fault of the individual pilots concerned, but rather as a systemic failure, so you don't blame the individual. In fact, you incentivize the individual to report the problem and then the problem is seen as a systemic failure, so the lack of situational awareness problem has also happened in aviation.
Matthew Syed tells this interesting story. I'll link to the details in the show notes if you want to look this up, but apparently there was some problem where the pilots put down the landing gear and it seemed like the landing gear were down, but the light had not come on to indicate that they were down. They got so fixated on trying to figure out whether the landing gear were down or not, they didn't realize that they're running out of fuel and in the end, they crashed the plane into an urban neighborhood.
Simon: When psychologists have studied attention, which is what we think of as concentration, but psychologists have a broader definition of concentration in the sense that how do I know what to pay attention to and when and what information to process to write the correct decisions. A lot of that research came from radar operators in the Second World War. What we know for example is that under conditions of stress or pressure is that our attentional field narrows, so we lose what we call attentional flexibility. The ability to switch to different types of attention changes or reduces and we miss things that are very relevant to us doing our job. In the case of getting fixated on the landing gear, the more stress or the more pressure you feel, the problem gets worse. This is the deer in the headlights approach and that actually partly is one of the contributors to what we consider in sports as choking.
Our attention is narrow to such an extent, triggered by the stress response that we've now started to eliminate task-relevant information as well in our decision-making. We do a whole bunch of stupid stuff and that might not be as life-threatening as trying to land a plane, but I work with athletes and we see this constantly. You run in as a triathlete and you're running out of the transition to go on the run and you've still got your bike helmet on. You leave after the swim and you're still wearing your wet suit and you started the run. It's because you're kind of anxious and you're feeling a bit of pressure because now you're entering this environment where people are standing around and they're watching you and you end up making a whole bunch of silly mistakes partly because your attention is narrowed.
Christopher: You've been working with our clients for over a year now and one of the things I wonder if you're seeing is the fixed mindset with respect to diet. Back in the day, I was very proud of my diet. I suppose I am still quite proud of my diet, you might say, but I've always been proud. I put a lot of effort into cooking and shopping. I used to bake my own bread and go to farmers' markets and do all this stuff and clearly it wasn't working for me. Eventually, I had this "come to Jesus" moment like literally it couldn't have gotten any worse. The pain was so extreme. I had to face the fact that my diet was no longer working for me, so the change came quite easily.
I wonder now if you speak to some clients that have come to the conclusion that whatever problems they're having are not anything to do with their diet because they've listened to so many podcasts and so many experts and read so many blogs and all the rest of it that they must have found the one true diet for humans, so they're reluctant to make a change for that reason, so their ideas about what the perfect diet is have become fixed in time and space. Is that something you see?
Simon: I think there's a general tendency, a cognitive bias, as we like to say, a silver bullet thinking. We're all out there for something that we find challenging or difficult. We're all hoping that there's this single simple solution that we just haven't discovered yet. Our minds are wired to sort of discount information and use information that confirms that there is this one single solution. Once we find what we think is the perfect diet for us -- and of course we know that's fallacious. There's no such thing as the perfect diet because it's very individual and so on, but when clients find that they're sticking with something and what they thought is the perfect diet and it's not working or they're not getting the changes then this attributional error starts to create pain. "Well, it might not be anything that I'm doing. It must be because of there are other factors that are outside." You're pointing fingers about why it's not working.
I don't find that though as a common theme actually. There's a fixed mindset about them. There's certainly a fixed mindset about body shape and size. "I know I'm just big boned" or "I'm never going to be like this because that's not who I am." That will probably affect diet certainly, the fact that if you've got a fixed mindset about your body fat or the size that you are because you know your family history and all the other things then that might have an influence on how you eat because "Nothing I do is going to make any difference because I have a fixed mindset about my body."
Christopher: What about looking to external factors for validation? We see that quite a lot. More commonly it's known as blaming like, "Oh, it was my MTHFR that did it" and people love that. They love that genetic test because it's literally fixed in time and space. So if I run this test and it tells me I have a problem with this specific pathway, this gene, whatever it is, I can't change it. Obviously, that's what's causing my problem, so it wasn't me. It was the [0:23:38] [Indiscernible]. Is that something you see?
Simon: Absolutely. It lets us all off the hook because when we can point a finger at something that really the subtext of which is, "See? It's not my fault," it reduces a lot of the anxiety or the concerns or those thoughts and feelings that we don't want about that condition. Again, it's a condition of making external attributions. If we can point a finger at some things, "The reason the way I am is because of things that are outside of my control," it's comforting in many senses because it reduces the anxiety that there's nothing that I can do to change that. Of course, we fall into this pattern where it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You start to adopt the behaviors that confirm that and before you know it, you're really digging a hole for yourself, so it's challenging that mindset when you can have an influence on the behaviors that actually can make a difference.
Christopher: As Robert Sapolsky so elegantly wrote in "Behave", do genes know what they're doing, the triumph of the environment -- I know you've read that book.
Christopher: You've enjoyed that chapter, this elegant takedown of the idea that we know what genes are doing or genes know what they are doing, and the answer is no. It's one of the mantras of the book, is ask not what a gene does; ask what a gene does in a specific environment. Of course, the environment you have absolute control over if you so wish to embrace it.
Simon: Right. Again, this comes back to this rather tied, clichéd mantra in sports, "Control the controllables," right?
We find this certainly particularly when you're talking with clients who have really hard health habits to change or they're robust and they're really resilient to changing because they're difficult and they're exhausting and it takes a lot of mental effort to plan your food and all those sorts of things, so what actually is in my control? This comes back to a fundamental sort of assumption that we make in all of the behavior change work that I do certainly, is many thoughts and feelings that you have that are not in your control. This is the mitigated free will, in Sapolsky terms. A lot of the experiences that I have are really I can't control that much, but what I can control at all times are my actions.
This really now comes back to a discussion about motivation and commitment because ultimately if we can focus on changing behaviors even if the underlying thoughts and feelings behind that are sort of rebelling or unhappy, it doesn't really matter.
Christopher: Talk about the paradox of success.
Simon: Well, the paradox of success in sports certainly is that we all become sort of obsessed with outcomes and in an athlete's outcome, which is a very clear, cold, harsh, objective reality, I think like times that you take to cover distances, paces, that you can see -- you can watch an Olympic athlete on the TV and you can go out tomorrow and say, "Well, how long would it take me to do that?" So by definition, outcomes are extremely helpful because they help us figure out where we sit in the social standings of some attribute or skill.
The challenge of course is when we get caught up in saying, "Well, I want to be able to run a five-minute mile" or "I want to be able to complete an Ironman Triathlon in under 12 hours" or what have you and I become obsessed with the outcome to the point that I forget all of the things that it takes to create the outcome. So the paradox of success is not to say that outcomes don't matter, but the quickest way to not get the outcome you want is to become fixated on the outcome, is that you focus on the ingredients of success. This is the classic process focus or get obsessed with the journey.
If you're talking about baking a cake and you've got this picture in a book of this perfect cake that you're trying to make and you try and make the cake simply by staring at the picture of a perfect cake, it doesn't really help you, so you have to get lost in weighing ingredients and mixing at the right time and adding things, getting the oven in the right temperature, all the ingredients, all of the steps or the processes of making that perfect cake. That's really what success is about.
When you listen to the anecdotes of successful athletes or business people or in whatever endeavor, when they've achieve some level of "success", one thing that defines their journey is that they don't become obsessed with the trappings of success. They become obsessed in the details of how you get from A to B and that becomes the whole mark and anybody can do that. You don't have to have won the genetic lottery as well or you don't have to have the financial ability to be able to not have to work two jobs so that you can train or devote time to that passion. It's about how that you can control the controllables, how that you actually get invested in what it takes to be the best version of myself with all of the cards that I've been dealt.
Christopher: Those are the words I wanted to hear you say, playing the best you can with the cards that you've been dealt on the day.
Simon: Yeah. In fact, one of the most common questions I get as a sports psychologist is athletes dealing with pre-race anxiety or "How do I improve my consistency in races? I'm great in training and then in competition, suddenly I can't put a great race together." Often this comes back to being your relationship with failure, but also on that day, you've been dealt a hand of cards. Some of those cards are known and predictable like you've done X amount of training, how prepared are you on the day, but others, some mysterious dealer just slips a card into your hand on the morning, that little niggling cough that suddenly decided to show up and you haven't felt this for that long, so long, and now suddenly you do, or why is it that of all the days that I need to eat a great breakfast for a race, I suddenly am feeling as though I've got nausea, and I can't keep anything down. They're the cards that you have, or how much sleep you didn't get the night before because you're in a new place or the people next door kept you awake and all you become fixated on is, "Well, today won't be my day because everything hasn't gone exactly the way I know it needs to go for me to have good race."
Well, listen. Guess what. Nobody on the start line has the perfect hand. Everyone has a hand. Everyone has to deal with the same, the water temperature, the air temperature, whether it's raining or not, environmental elements that affect everybody, but we all have our own individual thing that we have to deal with, that little joker that's been put into our hand at the last minute. The person who plays the best hand with that card they've got on the day is often the one who does the best and that becomes a skill. You can develop strategies to be able to play the best hand you've got and accept what you've been given.
Christopher: Can you give us any general advice to switching to a growth mindset? What everybody seems to intuitively know is that problems are jarring. Whenever a mistake is made, you always notice it. It's very rare for you to not notice that you've made a mistake, but the question is what do you do about that? Do you embrace it and do you own it or do you rationalize it and shy away from it? What tips do you give to people for switching to a growth mindset as a practical concern?
Simon: The first thing is learn to love failure. Learn to love feedback that you get that gives you some information about how to be better. In the cold reality of sports, that's a challenge because every session that you go out of, you have either some hard metric that tells you whether it's been a good day or not a good day from parameters on a sports watch or something, but it's learning to start to develop sessions where the goal is failure. That's the goal today. I often give the analogy of in the weight room, lifters often talk about reps to failure. The goal is to keep going until you can't go anymore, but most athletes don't have that as a mantra embedded in some of their training sessions. They always have X number of intervals at X pace and so on, and these are all in critical elements of training, but what they don't do is develop the ability to embrace failure because if you pull something off or you succeed then okay, you're getting a training effect, but you're not really learning to cope with not being able to do something.
The reps to failure approach in sport training is really critical, is when you start to have more open-ended sessions or you start to say -- well, instead of saying, "I'm going to do six-mile repeats," you're going to do six-mile repeats and then you're going to keep going until you can't do any more. Then if the goal is to say it's not to be able to do eight or nine at the same pace, it's just to keep going until I can't hold that pace anymore, the goal is to experience not being able to achieve or not being able to accomplish something. We now know that that has quite a profound effect over time on your brain if you expose yourself to failure repeatedly. I'm not talking repeatedly in the chronic sense where you develop learned helplessness, but in the sense that you're introducing it quite in a systematic way, so your brain learns to adapt the information or environment in which it finds quite challenging.
And because what we now know about neuroplasticity and even specific structures in the brain that help process pain perception and effort perception, those sorts of things, you get physical changes. The brain thanks you for it by becoming a little bit more resilient in the future, so having the lesson would be that make sure that in any endeavor that you're involved in, if you want to be successful, make sure that you have an opportunity where the goal is not to try and not fail, but the goal is actually to know where is the failure point.
This is the classic minimum viable product in entrepreneurship, is that you fail quickly, fail fast. Agile or lean systems is modeled on this. I want to know as quickly as possible whether something works or not. I don't want to wait until six months down the line, so I'm going to put myself in an environment where I know all the time how tight that screw needs to go. Occasionally, you need to overtighten it to know how tight it goes and most athletes don't actually do that on a consistent basis.
Christopher: Do you think it crosses over? If you're used to failing on a regular basis in the gym, do you think that would cross over to other areas of your life?
Simon: It might do. I think we have an incredible ability to compartmentalize things. I'm not sure directly that failing in relationships can be learned by how that you learn to fail on a running track. By forcing your head to be in a space where you're not very good at something or you haven't accomplished something in your head that you thought was a milestone or mark and being exposed repeatedly to that develops coping skills for that resilience whether there's evidence for this or not, but it's just common sense that that will have a fundamental effect on how you cope with other things and other parts of your life.
If you're never allowed to fail, for example -- and we know this is one of the unfortunate symptoms of the failed Self-Esteem Movement of the '60s and '70s where we coddle children. We're always telling them how great they are. We never let them fail. Everybody gets rewarded for participation independent of effort and that sort of stuff -- is that we end up really growing up never really knowing what it's like to metaphorically fall out of the tree and pick ourselves up and that comes with a huge cost because we've really divorced effort from success, so yeah, it's a real difficult challenge.
Christopher: Just to fill people in, the Self-Esteem Movement failed because the self-esteem came as the result of competence and not --
Simon: Right, this is the classic correlation of causality problem. When there's a relationship between success and self-esteem, we thought that the self-esteem must come first, so in order to be successful, you have to be confident, not just confident, but you have to have the ability to believe in what you can do and the fact that you're a worthy individual and you can cope and so on.
These are all noble causes. Unfortunately, we found that when it comes to achievement situations, the causation was the wrong way around. Actually, esteem and confidence comes from the mastery and the success, not the other way around.
There's a famous psychologist named Albert Bandura who developed what is now one of the most seminal theories in psychology called Self-Efficacy Theory. Self-efficacy is sort of a task-specific form of self-confidence, is that the best, most potent driver of self-efficacy, my beliefs about my ability to do a particular thing are driven. The most potent driver of that is having success in the past, so if you've done something in the past, you're more likely to have confidence you can do it in the future. The take-home message for this is if you want to help people push that snowball of confidence, you want to gather momentum. You have to give people opportunities to feel successful, to feel mastery. If you're only ever tackling or setting yourself these huge, monumental, stretch dream, reach-for-the-star goals that we know are really difficult to achieve then you're never going to feel what it feels like to succeed. So small increments, that's the whole principle of goal-setting essentially, setting small incremental goals so that you have a chance to build the momentum of confidence which drives persistence and so on.
Christopher: You know what? I've just seen that recently with getting Julie back into the gym. She's always been an active person and she used to race a bike. We had a couple of kids and she struggled to get back into it, in particular the strength training. It was something I think she wanted to do, at least when I asked her about it, she said she did. I don't know how much of this was me saying, "Oh, you must do this because Tommy said that strength is an important predictor of health span" or something like that, so the small successes were so important and having a little bit of structure.
So we signed up for a gym and we just did one movement. We're just going to do deadlifts and the whole workout took eight minutes and then we left and picked up the kids and went. Next week, it's like, "Okay, we did that already, so what's next? I feel like I haven't really done anything yet. Is there something else?" so you build these small incremental gains. Now, actually I don't think we're going to go back to the gym. We're just going to use the weights I've always had in the garden. Before then, I don't know, for some reason they wouldn't happen and I think that's what it is. You just need to build some momentum and then it just gets easier and easier.
Simon: Yeah, and it's not just confidence that builds momentum. Motivation builds momentum as well. I always say motivation begets further motivation, so the hardest thing for people is to get started and take the first step because what we know about the mesolimbic dopamine system and the reward pathways in the brain and thinking about rewards, they're stacked against us when we try and do hard things for the first time, one because there's very little reward at the end of it. The thought of someone who is morbidly obese, has a bad diet and hasn't really moved in a structured sense for many years, there's very little reward in brain world for walking about the block for five minutes. "Oh, this is uncomfortable and painful and difficult." There's nothing pleasurable about any of that, so it's really hard to build those habits because the carrot is not really a carrot. It's a withered prune at the end, so it's not very motivating.
What we know for example, a dopamine which we can talk ad nauseam about dopamine specifically, but dopamine in addition to thinking about the reinforcement or the reward of something drives the need to want to continue. It kind of works both ends at the motivation spectrum or the behavior spectrum. The more that you can accomplish something, the greater the drive or the want to continue is and it's caused almost not exclusively, but pretty dominantly by dopamine. So if we can get that ball rolling as well, sort of a double-edged -- we double the bang for our buck. It's improving our confidence that we can now feel that we've done something, but it's driving exactly the sort of things that you talked about. "I think I want to do a bit more of that."
In a very practical sense, when you ask someone, "Do you think that you can do a 15-minute brisk walk today?" "15 minutes, I can barely -- I'm exhausted after two minutes." "Okay. What about instead of 15 minutes, why don't you just do two minutes? And then after two minutes, decide whether you want to just come home or stop. That's fine. Let's do two minutes." What happens when you ask people to do that -- and you can extend this to an Ironman athlete who has to run for three hours and you're saying, "I can't face doing a three-hour run." What about if you just run for 20 minutes and then figure out whether you want to come home or not? What happens is that once you get the first two minutes, 20 minutes, "Actually, I'll do another ten. Well, I'm halfway through now. I might as well continue" and what you're really doing is you're in that dopamine snowball. That's why it's so powerful segmenting large tasks into small manageable ones and you're just giving people the carrot, the option to turn around or to stop after a certain point, but you really know that the momentum of it and the way it certainly feels to you is that it's a lot easier to do minute two to four than it is from minute zero to minute two. It's just basic brain chemistry.
Christopher: Talk about cognitive dissonance. It was a term that I think I had heard about a long time ago, but never really understood what it was. It had the word dissonance in it, so that made me think about distance, but before I met you, I'm not sure I really knew what that term meant. Can you talk about cognitive dissonance?
Simon: Sure. A lot of psychological theories actually predate language that we're using now and cognitive dissonance is a good example from the '50s and '60s. A guy called Leon Festinger had this notion. His theory was that we have contradicting thoughts about many things in our lives. In other words, many smokers know that their risk of lung cancer is probably much greater -- not probably, but it is much greater the fact that they smoke, but they still smoke. So for all things that we do, there are dissonant or competing -- there are two sides to it and this can be as simple as being the inevitable hypocrite where you think one thing and do another. "Don't do as I do; do as I say."
This is just part of the human condition and for all things that are difficult or challenging, there are two sides in our own heads. What cognitive dissonance theory is saying is that when that conflict appears, when that dissonance appears, our brain, instead of just automatically changing its mind or changing your actions so that there's more harmony between them, when that change is hard or difficult, we actually end up rationalizing one side over the other so that we can restore some sense of harmony. This might be the classic going into denial about something because I know deep down that those pros or cons are there, but I've kind of somehow managed to -- well, you've got to die of something, right? Why should I spend five more years in a nursing home? Live for today.
We do this about our diet, our exercise, our finances. When you come home from work and you're trying to be really good about the food or what you put in your body but you feel somehow, "Well, I've earned this second glass or third glass. It's been a really stressful day at work. It's a reward. I've got to have some pleasures in life. I've got to have some vices left." We all do this and it gets us into trouble. In fact, whole schools of behavior change focus simply on unpicking or needling that dissonance. Motivational interviewing is a technique where therapists try and -- rather than tell you what to do or convince you that this is how you need to be changed, they just [0:42:36] [Indiscernible] what is the pro and con list in your own head about this topic that you're struggling with or this issue. The stuff that you've been sweeping under the carpet or in denial about, they try and get you to give it a louder and louder voice and that's what motivation interviewing is.
We talk about targeting ambivalence, the fact that we have some dissonance or dissonant thinking about most things or contradictions and then how I get ultimately myself to resolve that because no one likes to live with being a hypocrite or the brain does not like to have constant argument in our head, so we use all these little wonderful cognitive tricks so that we can still sleep at night.
Christopher: What about Tony Blair? My favorite example of cognitive dissonance. Probably everyone knows the story that Tony Blair made the decision to go into Iraq in 2003 I believe it was and the premise was we were looking for the weapons of mass destruction, then the news emerged that there were no weapons of mass destruction, so then we were looking for the remnants of the weapons of mass destruction, so it went on. Now, when you hear Tony Blair being interviewed today, he says things like, "I'm more sure now than I've ever been in my life it was the right decision to go into Iraq." It's a quintessential example of cognitive dissonance.
Simon: It really is. In fact, one of the interesting things, the psychologists use the word "cognitive bias" to describe the mental acrobatics or the tricks that we play on ourselves either to make decisions easier or more efficient, so we've got to think through the logic of everything all the time. It's like a mental shortcut to making decisions. In an effort to reduce cognitive dissonance, instead of just thinking through the logic, "It doesn't really make sense to believe this. Should I really change my behavior? Let's look at the pros and cons and dissect them in the true cognitive behavior therapy sense world would" is that we use another cognitive bias. We just keep stacking biases one on top of the other. We're sort of in the movie "Inception" after a while. It's called confirmation bias.
Confirmation bias is a natural thing that the human mind does. Once we have an opinion or a view about something or it could be a world view, it could just be an attitude towards a particular object, person, thing, or belief system, is that we actively seek out information and pay attention to that stuff that confirms that belief and we discount information that contradicts it independent of the objective evidence of that.
We now know this for example when you have a strong belief about something that then is suddenly told or explained in a clear way that that's not true. Everything that you believed about this is actually not true. Are you going to change your mind now? And contrary to what you might think is the people don't change their mind. They actually become even more entrenched in the Tony Blair example of your belief system because that's the only way that they can rationalize that, keep that internal harmony, that cognitive dissonance game playing. We're all victims of this. It doesn't just have to be Fox News is your channel or CNN is your channel or MPR is your channel. It's the echo chamber, which the four echo chambers are a form of confirmation bias.
We all do it to a certain extent, so how am I able to occasionally force myself to be exposed to dissenting views? This is a nice little analogy for people who are trying to make sense on decisions about making sure that they always stay on the right path. People, whether it's in management or even in sports organizations, it's, "What one thing I can do so that I don't fall foul to confirmation bias?" It's hire a dissenting voice. Always make sure in your camp there is someone who is willing to speak truth to power as it were. You don't necessarily have to always go along with that or agree with that, but make sure that you've outsourced some objectivity to help counter your natural tendency to use cognitive bias. We call it a bias and it's a floor in the way that we make decisions independent of rational and logical thought, but it's so pervasive that it must serve some evolutionary function because we all do it and we do it consistently, and now we have some sense of why we do it, but it doesn't always help us make good decisions. So how do we protect it? Well, you can outsource some of that dissenting voice to others by having a naysayer in the camp.
In science, we talk about Karl Popper's falsification of philosophy of science, which is kind of I should always be looking to disprove my theory and you seek out. Supposedly the scientific method is not entirely adhered to, but the scientific method is we want to poke holes in what our belief systems are and the more we do that, the fewer examples that we can find to poke holes, the more robust that belief system becomes. Unfortunately, many of the things that we believe in life are like Gruyère cheese, but we just choose not to have a big foam pointy finger at the hole. We can rationalize that with confirmation bias way into thinking. That's why it's there.
Christopher: This leads us on very nicely into the radical candor. I'll give you an example. I've talked about in the podcast that I've got great results eating ketogenic diet in the short-term and I think I did make a lot of mistakes. If you've never done the keto diet, I would go get some of the really fantastic resources that are out there. There's a lot of [0:48:02] [Indiscernible]. I've talked about it in the podcast. I had a conversation with Steve Phinney quite recently and we talked about how long it took me to become keto-adapted, if such a thing exists, and he said, "Yeah. The reason it took so long was because you weren't managing your electrolytes appropriately. You just needed to take some more salt and magnesium." "Oh, you're kidding me." Yeah, I would highly recommend that people check out some of the fantastic resources out there like the Keto Reset book. Robb Wolf has a fantastic keto program.
Anyway, I've got to a point where it clearly wasn't working for me. My sport was cyclocross and cyclocross on paper looks like a time trial, but when you look at the power data, if you look at the training peaks, the data that's come out on my power meter, you'll see it looks like a series of short sprints. There are so many corners. You're constantly sprinting. Obviously, that's glycolytic and that's not great when you're already glycogen-depleted or you're not very good at burning carbohydrate. Perhaps one of the pyruvate dehydrogenase has gone away of something. I don't know, but for any reason, you're not that great at burning carbs, so you've become metabolically flexible in the other direction. I used to be a carb burner. Now, I'm just a fat burner. I can't really get to the carbs, so the goldilocks is somewhere in the middle.
Anyway, I was really lucky that I had Tommy to be radically candid with me and tell me that perhaps what I was doing was not working and then that did lead to the reintroduction of some carbohydrates and I saw a massive improvement in my performance once I did that. I'm back on the goo, 1.2 kg of carbs per day. We're talking about 150 grams of carbs a day. What I would've wanted you to talk about was this idea of radical candor and how it can be used to overcome a problem like cognitive dissonance.
Simon: Radical candor is a phrase that comes from a technology executive actually, one we call Kim Scott who was an exec at Facebook and Google, among others. It's a model of management and leadership, but really the real nuggets in it are about communication. The central tenet of radical candor if it's a theory or whatever you want to call it is that life is about relationships.
Life is about communication and communicating particularly if it's in a helping, hierarchical relationship, coach-athlete, boss-employee, parent-child and so on. It's our moral obligation to tell the truth when people are screwing up or not doing something or doing something that's sabotaging their goals, but it turns out that we're not very good at doing that. We're not very good at telling the truth, the cold, hard truths, sort of the tough love approach to helping people improve.
Communication, as Kim Scott's model goes, is really based on our ability to communicate. It's based on two dimensions. One is the willingness to piss people off scale. This is how direct are you in the way that you communicate. If I was to ask anybody who has some conflict and you wish you could tell them this but you don't, you might be not confrontational or what have you, but if you were to write what would you actually really like to say to them, you're not going to say this to them, but just write what would you really -- everyone can usually articulate what they actually want to say but they don't, so this is the willing to piss people off scale. When you ask people, "Where are you on the scale? Are you willing to confront people directly and specifically about what it is they're doing?" they all rate themselves, take this arbitrary one out of ten scale, they all rate themselves --
Christopher: I think I'll be 11.
Simon: Yeah, eight to ten, right? They all rate themselves as high. Actually, when you watch what they do or you ask other people to give feedback about it, they're usually twos or threes. People are terrible at knowing whether they are good at this, so willing to piss people off is one of the dimensions.
The other dimension is your compassion that you have for other people and compassion not in the sense that I want you to do something because it serves my interest. I've got a genuine interest and concern of your development as a person, as an employee, as an athlete, as a child of mine or whoever, and how you communicate that passion to them. This is the whole mark of empathy. So when you plot these two dimensions, willing to piss people off and compassion, when you plot them [0:52:13] [Indiscernible] in crosshairs, for want of a better word, it creates these little four quadrants of our communication style.
Radical candor is when you are both very direct and very compassionate for people and this is considered the Willy Wonka's golden ticket of communication. You're able to take hard to hear information when it's given to you in a way that I know that you genuinely care for me. So in a great mentor-mentee relationship, you would hope that it's radically candid, but if you have no compassion for someone but you're very direct, you're just considered a bit of an asshole. This is the boss who doesn't really care if I offend you. I'm going to tell you when you screw up. Whilst that might be awkward and uncomfortable --
Christopher: At least you know.
Simon: At least you know, right? It might even be better than the opposite of that, which is where you are very compassionate for someone, but you're so unconfrontational that you skirt around the issues, never really tell people what they're doing wrong. They call this ruinous empathy.
Christopher: I love that term.
Simon: I like this analogy in relationships. You have a partner and after you break up, everyone suddenly tells you, "I've never liked that person." "Well, why didn't you tell me then?" "Well, I didn't want to upset you and I knew that you were into them." So you go along and we do this in many areas of our life that we never end up -- people think of a certain way and they never end up telling us and you wish you'd have known.
The challenge with radical candor is that before you can be direct, you have to earn the right to be direct with people unless you're in an environment where it's life and death. I don't care whether you like it or not. Do this or we're going to die or someone will die, but in most professions where we're talking about the office politicking or sport coaching, if we want someone to really act on hard to hear information, the first thing that we do is we have to have the belief that we genuinely care for them, so you live with compassion and empathy. You build up the right to be direct rather than vice versa.
Christopher: You recently had an experience with a world tour cyclist. Can you talk about that?
Simon: Yeah. One of the first things -- this is from my work with BMC Tour de France team. One of what we call our GC riders, our overall guys who are trying to win the race, the very first session I had with him, he said, "What I actually need is for you to tell me when I'm being a…" c-word. He was Australian, so he didn't really mince his words. "I want you to tell me when I'm being an idiot." In essence, that was the communication, so it was like an invitation to be radically candid. He was even skipping the compassion part because as you rise up -- and this isn't just true of cyclists. This is true of any profession. As you rise up the ranks in success, you get surrounded by people who have a vested interest in keeping you happy.
That's not exclusively, but there are people who have a vested interest in keeping you happy and many of their jobs depend on you keeping them happy. So you end up being surrounded by "yes" men and women, people who will tell you what they think you want to hear whether it's the truth or not. It takes some self-awareness to recognize that that's happening and to seek out that dissenting voice that we talked about when you're outsourcing that -- when I'm actually being a bit of a divo, when I'm actually being a bit of a this then I need someone to tell me that because at the moment, I don't feel as though I'm getting that.
This is why people who are successful often have childhood friends that go through the entourage. That's the role that these people play for them is because they've earned the right to be direct with them because they've got history together, but if you're in an environment where you don't have that and bearing in mind that you're likely to not hear the truth unless you actively seek out. You make someone that's their job to tell you when that is and you don't make their job or performance dependent on giving you bad or hard to hear news.
This is setting a culture of one of which that it's your moral obligation in this company, in this team, in this organization to tell me when we're drifting off from what we think is consistent with our values system, our performance goals and so on.
Christopher: One of our fantastic EPP clients, Dave, had a question I think that you've already answered, but I'll restate it here just to summarize. He said, "Where do you know where your blind spots are?"
Simon: Well, confirmation bias tells us that it's very difficult to spot them because we're so subconsciously primed to seek out information that confirms what we already know. The best strategy is literally to outsource that until you get a better barometer for it, so you designate someone or a team or you make it okay for people to tell you what they believe is the "truth" in something. So when you're building teams, sports teams, management teams, you make sure that there are personalities or people who are able to do that for you or say that to you because you cannot be trusted with your own barometer. It's not something that's a weakness or a limitation. It's just an artifact of how we spin tails in our own head, so yeah, it's really important to do that.
Christopher: Another really great question that Dave had was what do you do with people who say they want to hear it straight and then you tell them straight and then they don't want to hear it and you can't take it back?
Simon: This is a difficult one because on the one hand, they've recognized the need to have hard to hear information, but yet when they get it, it's still hard to hear. It threatens that essence of your ego. It threatens the essence of who you are. It might even be that you're still committing that fatal mistake of assuming that people fail and no actions.
One of the things to do partly is offense is taken at the lips and also at the ear, so it's how that message is communicated to you. It might be that if someone is telling you, "Tell me when I'm being an idiot" and you tell them when they're being an idiot, but there's really no compassion in the message or there's no empathy in the message for them, in other words, you're communicating that you're doing this in a way to improve then all you hear is the criticism.
It's probably a combination of helping people deliver that information as well as you reminding yourself constantly that you've asked for this and it's not you that's failing. It's simply an action. It's another way to say, well, when you chisel out you sculpture, don't lop the ear off, but focus on still working on this form. So it's really important that you are constantly reminding yourself to doing this, but the really skilled therapists or the communicators or the people who just seem to attract advice-seekies, they've developed the skill to be good at it. They're not good at it naturally because that would be a fixed mindset. They've developed the ability to be able to give people hard to hear information in a very supportive, compassionate way and it doesn't feel like criticism.
Christopher: Simon, I could go on with a lot more questions here that we've had from our clients and from listeners of the podcast, but I think this might be a good place to pivot and tell people about the new program that we're going to be running over on Patreon. For people that don't know, Patreon is a way for you to pay for premium audio and video and after calls and I'm going to launch a new podcast on that platform. The reason I like Patreon is because you can pay for content, but then continue to consume it in whatever app you like. With podcast, there's going to be a private fee that you can add to your existing podcast player, so whether that's the native Apple app or whether it's Overcast is the one that we really like. You can continue to listen to the new private premium podcast whilst using your existing app.
We're going to start with a series of interviews with Simon and the reason I got to this point is because about a year ago, I launched the 7-Minute Analysis. If you remember, I've talked about this quite a lot on a variety of podcasts at the time, but the podcast utilizes machine-learning algorithm that would predict the results of some of the biomedical testing that we do as part of our Elite Performance Program. Since then a year ago, 10,000 people have completed the analysis. The analysis consistent entirely of close-ended questions that you answered using radio buttons. It's set for the very last one. That final question was when it comes to maintaining health and fitness, what's the biggest single challenge you've been struggling with? So far, we've received 7500 unique responses and then you've got this problem like what do I do with 7500 responses? I can't possibly read and make sense of them all.
So I used another machine-learning algorithm to summarize those responses into eight topics, and I think these eight topics, they best represent your most significant health challenges. At this point, I kind of had an existential crisis because I thought all these questions were going to be things like, "Well, what's the best supplement to take to lower homocysteine or what should my nutrition strategy be for [1:01:35] [Indiscernible]? Should I be using a ketone ester? You can. SuperStarch is the best.
The questions were nothing of the sort. In fact, perhaps the most important topics were time management, motivation, energy levels, consistency. What I heard from you is that the problem at this point is not a deficiency of knowledge. It's not like you don't know what to eat or that you should be meditating and you should be moving your body and you should be prioritizing sleep at night. The problem is you're having trouble finding the time and the motivation and the energy and you're having trouble with consistency. My plan for the first few episodes of this new premium podcast on Patreon is to go into some greater depth on those topics with Simon.
Also included in the Patreon subscription will be access to our elite performance members club, so this is a discourse for -- and Discourse is the name of the software that we've been using to run this forum and it's just fantastic. Forget anything you knew about internet forums. This is internet forum software done right for the web of this day and age, absolutely fantastic software, way better than Facebook. I would never force people to go to Facebook to interact with other members of our community. I think you're really going to enjoy that. Simon, it was actually your idea because you've set up the forum. Can you talk a little bit about it?
Simon: One of my roles at NBT is to speak to the clients, but in addition to learning about who NBT clients are, also to try and get some feedback about the things that they want or that they need. One of the things that was a clear theme after speaking maybe to 20 or so clients was that many people struggle with chronic health complaints that they feel alone in them. They either know very few people, their friends or their family who have the same issues and that feeds that emotional roller coaster that you go on when you have these issues that you don't know where to turn and you're Dr. Googling constantly.
I would speak to maybe three or four people who have very similar symptoms, but these people are in different parts of the world. They don't know each other. It made sense to try and connect these people. There's a sense of relatedness, for want of a better word, but there are other people who are struggling with the same things as you and they might have discovered things that have worked for them that are independent of NBT or from NBT, so to connect that, so creating a community of people who have things in common. That's really where the NBT forum came out of. It came out of listening and trying to join the dots on the themes that were coming through from clients about a service or an additional benefit that they would find useful.
Christopher: It's also great for accountability. We've got a thread going at the moment. We're doing a seven-day meditation challenge and I've been surprised at how much that lit a fire under me, just that little bit of accountability. You should talk a little bit about accountability right now because it's important that you do it right because it could backfire on you.
Simon: Absolutely. Whenever we try things that are quite challenging or difficult, we want to know how we're doing. One of the ways that you can do that is you ask other people who are doing the same thing how they're doing. That creates this little cycle of accountability, what we know of accountability, is the fact that if I know that I have to disclose to a group how I'm doing, progresses, warts and all, failures, that's going to increase my motivation to continue and my commitment to doing it. This is a really robust psychological finding. That accountability or some level of disclosure to a group who are also doing the same thing is really helpful. It's a powerful motivator.
One of the challenges with the accountability challenges is if you fall off the wagon or you're not able to continue or something, you'll feel a little bit embarrassed about going back to the little group and saying, "I'm here again and I haven't been able to do any of it" because you just feel as though you're a failure, right? This is really one of the reasons that many exercise social forums or group exercises forum fall apart. I've been on this weight loss challenge and I've gone away on vacation. I've put back all the weight and now I have to go back and say, "Hey, I'm back. You've all moved on without me" and that just feels alienating and a bit embarrassing. People, instead of going back and trying that again, they just stay way, so you end up getting this concentration of people, the final, robust, resilient few and that doesn't really represent the --
Christopher: You've got a fantastic term for that. Was it the loser avoidance?
Simon: Loser avoidance bias, yeah. You're trying to avoid looking like a loser, right? So what you do is you try also incentivizing the failure stories as well, so the accountability part isn't just about rah-rah, "I'm great. I've don't it all perfectly." We learn a lot from our failures coming back to this, our relationship with failure. We learn a lot. In fact, probably most of the coping skills we have for getting back on the wagon, whichever behavior you want to try and change, we learn not from quitting or stopping or starting, sort of cold turkey and everything is perfect from then on. It's a roller coaster. We'll have times where we suck at it. We'll have times that we're great.
Actually, our ability to come pick ourselves back up after a relapse moment is really, really important, so you want to make it okay, and not just make it okay. You want to actively reward, if you can, stories about "I haven't been doing well, but this is actually how I found myself to get back on track" or it's a call for help. "I'm struggling. You all have done five straight days. I haven't done any and here's why. What do I do?" You have to make it okay to be able to have that little interjection.
Christopher: You did that deliberately, didn't you? You were part of the meditation challenge and you deliberately didn't do it so you could write a story on failure.
Simon: No, not at all. I genuinely didn't do it, but we made it okay in the group to be able to say I've been running this triathlon camp in Cozumel, Mexico. I was exhausted and partly -- it wasn't even that I forgot. It was just that, oh God, I just can't bear another --
Christopher: Ego depletion?
Simon: To you. Yeah, saying, "I'm back on track" and so on. I think it's really important to do that with the accountabilities, not just about accountability of success.
Christopher: Well, I hope you're going to enjoy and join us over on this new community. You can find the Patreon account at patreon.nbt.ai. I'll create that URL so it's nice and short and easy to remember. That's patreon.nbt.ai. If you're already a Patreon user, I know it's quite confusing. There's the word Patreon and then the domain patreon.com. The platform we're using is called Patreon, that you are a patron. This is very confusing. If you search for us, Nourish Balance Thrive on Patreon, you will find us.
We're going to start this program with a deeper exploration of these topics, time-management, motivation, energy, consistency, but I won't stop there. I plan to do a similar deeper investigation with Tommy and I'll record those interviews in person as well. I think there are some really good things that Tommy is going to be -- in fact, it's difficult to -- we were talking about this before we started recording. It's impossible to tease these topics. They look like they're well-defined, but they're really not. They've very much interconnected, so diet, sleep, exercise, weight loss were also things I think Tommy has so much to offer that we've not fully explored on the podcast yet, so I'll do a deeper exploration on those topics with him.
Then of course, Simon, obviously you know about weight loss too, so there's going to be some overlap for sure, but don't think this is just going to be psychobabble on the new podcast.
Simon: How dare you use that phrase.
Christopher: And then of course you will get access to the forum so you can join us in our accountability challenges, and answer your questions as well. You're going to get access to me, Simon, Tommy, Elaine, Tammy, Clay, and Megan. There's a team of us now at Nourish Balance Thrive that's doing the coaching, so you're going to have people to ask questions and then you're going to be part of a community. Thank you for listening and I'll see you over on Patreon.
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