Learn from the past
Impact the present
Change the future
Healthcare providers and fitness professionals need to reform, rebuild, and live principle-centered lives or we will cease to exist. The good news is that I don’t think we have reached the point of no return yet. Other groups however, have not been quite as lucky. There are some, who by their own doing, have imploded and lost all hope in regaining the trust and respect of those whom they serve. Politicians are an example of such a group. They have driven themselves into a deep, dark, disrespected, and distrusted hole with little hope of ever resurfacing. DON’T WORRY! This post is not about to get political.
What words come to mind when you think of politicians? Foolish? Untrustworthy? Greedy? Money motivated? Lies? Deception? Argumentative? Close-minded? Ineffective? Inefficient? Not team players?
Besides being vice president of the student council in 8th grade (Licameli 2004!), I have no experience in politics or government and therefore am not an expert. That being said, the preamble of the Constitution states, “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”1 The idea was that our government was to be run by the people, for the people. Politicians were meant to be stewards of that promise and be representatives and servant leaders of the people. So what the heck happened?
In my non-expert opinion, politicians did it all to themselves. As Jacob Marley says in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free-will, and of my own free-will I wore it.”2 Politicians were once the most powerful and influential people in the world, but due to consistent abuse, arguing amongst each other, deceit, ulterior motives, poor results, and greed of power, ego, and money, they are now laughed at by those whom they serve. Their loyal followers have looked elsewhere for influencers. Individuals like Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk are far from politicians, yet have had more power and global influence than any politician has had in at least my lifetime.
We in healthcare and fitness need to learn from the mistakes of politicians because the exact same thing is happening to us RIGHT NOW! We spend our time in an ego driven identity crisis arguing on social media and in forums about minutia while failing to produce results for those whom we serve. As we argue and debate about whether or not joint mobilizations are effective in physical therapy and whether volume or intensity is more important for hypertrophy, people are watching from afar, laughing, and losing respect. Click bait does not lead to lasting trust and respect. Add in lies and deceit in the form of treatment interventions and narratives not supported by research, encompassed in a system that incentivizes providers to do “more treatment,” and I’d say we are well on our way to becoming irrelevant, disrespected, and obsolete.
What happens then? It’s the same story as what happened with politicians. The system breaks down. Insurance companies handcuff us and stop finding our services necessary. Healthcare practitioners become laughable and the people we serve will look elsewhere for care. Fitness magazines and Mr. Olympias were trusted resources for decades, and now they are laughed at. Online personal trainers and coaches were trusted partners in one’s fitness journey, but now in the era of YouTube ads with flashy cars and secret diets, I predict that the public is beginning to view online fitness professionals much differently.
The actions of a few impact the many until all faith, trust, and hope are lost. For every Strength Together or Clinical Athlete, there are handfuls of Dr. So&Sos with the 3 best stretches to cure low back pain. For every 3DMJ there are handfuls of Joe Blow personal trainers with the secret to 6-pack abs or magic diet to get you shredded for summer. Unfortunately the public is quick to generalize and lump everyone together. They don’t just lose faith in Dr. So&So from the So&So Institute of Clinical Excellence and Joe Blow personal trainer, they lose faith in healthcare providers and fitness professionals as a whole. Are all politicians corrupt? Of course not. Our professions continue to consistently lose trust and respect from our beloved followers as we scratch our heads wondering how this ever came to be.
So Can We Fix It?
It’s great to be alive right now. We live in a period where things change at light speed. Some falter in times of change, while others flourish. In an ever-changing world, how do we find stability? How do we stay true to ourselves and to those whom which we serve while bending and adapting to the times? Principles.
As Jim Collins puts it, “In a world of change, disruption, chaos, and relentless uncertainty, people crave an anchor point, a set of constructs to give them guidance in the face of turbulence.”3 You focus on timeless principles rather than current techniques. You focus on “building character rather than achieving success.” The greater the change and more difficult our challenges, the more relevant principles are. Stephen Covey notes that, “Our problems and pain are universal and increasing, and the solutions to the problems are and always will be based upon universal, timeless, self-evident principles common to every enduring, prospering society throughout history.”3
Upon seeing the gravestone with his own name carved into it, Ebenezer Scrooge has this beautiful dialogue with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.
“Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point,” said Scrooge, “answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of the things that May be only?”
“Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” said Scrooge. “But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me!”
“Spirit!” he cried, tight clutching at its robe, “hear me! I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I must have been but for this intercourse. Why show me this, if I am past all hope?”
“Good Spirit,” he pursued, as down upon the ground he fell before it: “your nature intercedes for me, and pities me. Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me by an altered life?”2
Scrooge soon discovers the key to changing his path, as we so desperately need to do in healthcare and fitness. He pleads with the Spirit and outlines exactly how he will change to prevent his fate from coming into fruition.
“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!” “Holding up his hands in a last prayer to have his fate reversed, he saw an alteration in the Phantom’s hood and dress. It shrunk, collapsed, and dwindled down into a bedpost.”2
Charles Dickens so beautifully depicts the importance of learning from the past and living in the present in order to have a meaningful and impactful future of prosperity and service to others. Let’s start exploring the things that bring us all together rather than what divides us! Healthcare and fitness need progressive evidence-based thinkers with open minds, empathy, honesty, integrity, humility, and a drive to do good for others. Anyone who doesn’t embody those qualities will be left in the dust. As Jacob Marley said above, we are doing it to ourselves, link by link and yard by yard. We need to stop dividing ourselves into camps and start coming together in synergistic teams because we are exponentially more powerful together than we are alone.
1 U.S. Constitution, pmbl
2 Dickens, C (1843). A Christmas Carol. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.
3Covey, S. (1989). The seven habits of highly effective people. New York: Simon and Schuster.