Quadrant III and the Baby
The problem with the Quadrants System, besides its brilliance, is the interesting fact that nearly everyone thinks they elite, collision living QIIs. How do I know this? I am dumb enough to read my emails!
We have guys who want to learn the Olympic lifts that do them once every two weeks and the other thirteen days are filled with cardio busting workouts, bodybuilding, and circuit training. Trust me, putting the bar overhead with 400 is NOTHING like doing 95 pounds for fifty reps. I know, if you do the math (!!!), you will find that 400 for one is only 400 pounds of total work but 95 for 50 is like, well, a lot more, but, somehow, 400 still feels heavier.
I get emails from people who want to lose some fat and spend time doing plyometrics. I just don’t get that either. I also get emails from people who watch a one-minute clip of my DVDs on youtube and ask if I can just send the rest to them. I always wonder if they want me to cook and clean for them, too, because they think I am their mother.
The problem is this: most of us are QIII. I embrace it. I love it. The greatest moment of clarity in my life came a few years ago when I had two full-time jobs, high school teacher and college instructor, two little girls at home (Kelly and Lindsay) and a wife on the road all the time. When I discovered, at best, all I could squeeze in each day was an hour of training, my career exploded. Oddly, it is the same advice I give my athletes, but there is no way I can possibly hear my own sound advice.
When you only have an hour to train a day, and to be honest you should consider what you would do with only an hour a week, you have an opportunity to scrape away the excess and decide (from the root “to cut” remember) what is important to you. It is a life changing, and in my case, life illuminating, moment.
True, QI, that wonderful time where you really should learn every skills, sport, game and movement, is a period that can be formative and informative for a lifetime. I learned how to Power Clean, Military Press, Front Squat and Bench Press as well as play golf, volleyball, soccer and dozens of other games and skills. I still drink deeply from this well of knowledge.
It is this beginning that develops this concept that the Greeks called: “Arete.” Now, sadly, when someone is discussing Homer and the twin epics, we often just sum this term today as “ethics.” It’s much more than this: it is more the notion of being good at things. I can only be a footnote here to the great work of George Leonard, but the concept of “Mastery” is being lost in many fields. Sadly, in fitness, mastery has been taken over by the idea of “Look, look at me. Look! I can do this and this and this and this and this and this. Look. Look!! Look at me!”
Arete is what Achilles had going for him. I never liked Brad Pitt until I saw “Troy.” The movie is an unwatchable, badly acted, over the top, “what the hell?” movie save for one part: the part that has Brad Pitt in it. I don’t have a man crush on him, but he nailed the qualities of Achilles. He was simply good at everything.
Quadrant One develops the tools and fundamentals to build this quality. I always argue: if not now, when? I feel the same, by the way, about reading Great Books. My shelves are lined with books from Homer to Harry Potter (Thank you J. K.). I also have “Jurassic Park,” the complete “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” “Dune,” and “The Godfather.” When I kept raging on last year about Paul Murray’s “Skippy Dies,” some of my friends thought I was crazy. (Crazier?) Yet, in this delightful book, we see the epic discussions of love, lust, death and God with fully played out characters.
That wasn’t a segue: the point I am making is important. I can read a modern book or series, like “The Hunger Games” or “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and layer back upon a lifetime of struggling and reading through the great traditions of classic literature. I have something to bounce the material off of in my brain.
I am working with a major league baseball player who grew up with baseball and bodybuilding magazines. He is convinced that he needs to train like a professional bodybuilder. Now, as a professional baseball player, he is drug tested, so he wants to train like a pro IN ANOTHER SPORT and, wait for it, wait for it, train like a pro in HIS sport.
I know, typing with capital letters is shouting. But, when you are talking to someone whose training is undermining his sport and the coaching staff has brought me in to talk some sense to him. I imagine half of my readers thinking: “They brought Dan John into talk sense?” That hurt.
The problem for this player, who is not as young as he used to be, is that pro bodybuilders often use supplements banned by baseball…now. Moreover, how can anyone train by trying to do two professions at once? Truthfully, maybe half a century ago one could do this and I am aware that Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson did this for a little while each. I have a hard time imaging how you could do two sports at the Division One level in this era.
The issue with this baseball player is that he doesn’t have anything to bounce this idea off of his head. He knows nothing of the Olympic lifts, kettlebells, wrestling, and many other things. He thinks a 315 pound squat in a workout is amazing, but he doesn’t know that this would be fairly standard in a typical high school weightroom. I am not being mean at all; this is a question of having the basics covered in QI. By the way, he may have, but it is not uncommon for good young ball players to only do one thing.
For the bulk of us, we move from QI to QIII and stay there. Sure, like me, you may have played a few years of football (QII), but the bulk of life is spent here. It’s my fault that QIII is thought to be feeble. I often joke that “we don’t do much and we don’t do it very well” in QIII.
Now, I always follow up that point with the minimums it takes to be an elite discus thrower:
400 Bench Press
450 Back Squat
One of the points is that you need all four, but I found these numbers so light that I used to try to do them within days of starting up my new year of training. This is braggadocio, it’s exactly what I tried to do. Most of the people who train regularly their entire life will probably never get one of those lifts and all four are the minimum to have enough strength to achieve elite status as a thrower. Now, unlike our baseball playing friend, all I have to do in addition to this is master the discus technique.
And this is where the confusion comes in. I literally was woken up the other night from a dream where some Special Operators were asking me for clarity about this point. My dream got it right and I will do my best to explain it. As many of us know, I have been using the Yin Yang symbol to explain the dynamic relationship between, in the case of a discus thrower, the role of absolute strength and technical mastery. It’s pretty good, as the two “eyes,” as they are sometimes called, help show the carryover. That would be the black dot on the white side and the white dot on the black side.
My dream helped a lot and drove me back to my career in Religious Education. There is far better way to explain this: the baby. Now, before we go to far, “Either…Or” options are usually considered an issue in theology. It is used by some for specific issues, but often misses what I call “Radical Consistency” when measured against a lot of other things. If you want the whole lecture, pay me. “Both…And” tends to be a better way of viewing key aspects of theology. Let me use this example:
“Later, two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. 17One woman said: “By your leave, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house, and I gave birth in the house while she was present. 18On the third day after I gave birth, this woman also gave birth. We were alone; no one else was in the house with us; only the two of us were in the house. 19This woman’s son died during the night when she lay on top of him. 20So in the middle of the night she got up and took my son from my side, as your servant was sleeping. Then she laid him in her bosom and laid her dead son in my bosom. 21I rose in the morning to nurse my son, and he was dead! But when I examined him in the morning light, I saw it was not the son I had borne.” 22The other woman answered, “No! The living one is my son, the dead one is yours.” But the first kept saying, “No! the dead one is your son, the living one is mine!” Thus they argued before the king. 23Then the king said: “One woman claims, ‘This, the living one, is my son, the dead one is yours.’ The other answers, ‘No! The dead one is your son, the living one is mine.’” 24The king continued, “Get me a sword.” When they brought the sword before the king, 25he said, “Cut the living child in two, and give half to one woman and half to the other.” 26* The woman whose son was alive, because she was stirred with compassion for her son, said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby—do not kill it!” But the other said, “It shall be neither mine nor yours. Cut it in two!” 27The king then answered, “Give her the living baby! Do not kill it! She is the mother.” 28When all Israel heard the judgment the king had given, they were in awe of him, because they saw that the king had in him the wisdom of God for giving right judgment.”
I Kings 3
There are lots of ways to look at this story. On Verse 28, some use the phrase “they all shuddered” as this story could also be a warning to the Northern Tribes that this King is willing to “cut the baby in half,” so forget about Civil War or Succeeding.
Others point out the notion that the loving true mother will always worry about her child. The story certainly supports this, too. I also love the inner dialogue, like Tevya in “The Fiddler on the Roof,” where we see this conversation of the mind.
Personally, I love the line: “Get me a sword!” If a couple divorces, cutting the children in half will work perfectly: each gets half. The downside is that the children die! In western tradition, and this has slowly changed, a spouse can’t go on trial in a criminal case involving the husband or wife as, legally, a married couple is one person, “the two become one.”
So, how does this relate to QIII? Think of this in the case of the discus thrower: there is strength and technique. But, it is not 50/50. You can‘t unlink the DNA from the father or the mother, so the child is truly 100/100 per cent each parent. With our QIII athletes, technical work is strength work, strength is technical.
For a fat loss client, the same holds true: the diet or food program must be linked so tightly to the exercise (I argue strength here, of course) program. In the same way, the strength program should inform the diet. This is the genius of Josh Hillis’s insistence that the personal trainer spend as long as it takes reviewing the food journal and the upcoming week with the client. Without the food journal and the peek into the reality of the week ahead, training is half a baby.
So, the longer I spend in this game, the more I realize that QIII is NOT an “either…or” proposition. Oh, certainly, we know people who move from fad diet to fad diet and get some improvements. But, it rarely sticks. And, we all know the modern cliché, “you can’t outrun a bagel/doughnut/twinkie/whatever.” It has to be “both…and.”
What is great about the image of the baby in this story, and, yes, I recognize that it is brutal, is the simple genius that if you use the sword, you kill the progress.
Until next time.