Tamara and I spent the entire day at the gym with many members of our team drinking bourbon, coffee, lifting, and watching the USA Weightlifting Nationals.
Yes: Bourbon + Weightlifting = Fun!
We can do that, because our gym is full of real adults, not just people who are of drinking age. That difference is profound.
If there was a bar you had to reach to be considered a real adult, most American’s would fail to reach it. They can drink, smoke, and drive a car. But give them responsibility over themselves and they fall apart.
The Evil Curse Of Responsibility
Their time, other than daily group meetings, was theirs to manage. “This was pretty unheard of — teens being alone most of the day,” Powell notes.
They explored math, science, social science and literature topics that interested them, choosing one question each week, researching it, and presenting their findings to the group.
It was a project, designed by a high school student, to find a way to get students more engaged in their own learning.
The way the did that was to give MORE control to the students, not LESS. However, they didn’t do so lightly.
Instead of just giving them free reign to do whatever they want — they give the students something more powerful: responsibility.
I believe in this model.
If you don’t give someone enough rope to hang themselves, they will never learn how to tie a knot.
Benevolent Dictatorships Have More Fun
Our gym Asheville Strength runs under what is called the Benevolent Dictatorship model, in the Hobbesian-style.1
Both of those words — “benevolent” and “dictatorship” — are key.
On the one hand, if you act a fool, or try to fuck up our vibe — I will kick your ass out (physically if I have to).
On the other hand, you are completely responsible for your OWN success. I let you do whatever you want, so long as you don’t fuck up someone elses vibe.
I am here to protect the group from you, not to protect you from yourself.
- I will not force you come to the gym
- I will not force you to do the programs
- I will not force you to “try hard” on your sets and reps
- I will not yell at you and be your “external” motivation
YOU are going to be your own motivation, or you will fail. Period. I won’t care at all. Hell… Maybe that’s what you wanted? I’m not here to force goals on you! (That would be rude.)
- If you want to succeed, I will be there.
- If you ask for me to help you, I will.
- If you need special attention, you will always get it.
What I will NOT do is be your own personal Jillian Michaels, and force you to do something.
If you need someone else to motivate you, you’re a loser. And you don’t belong in my gym.
We have a gym full of ADULTS, not children.2 That’s why we can have more fun and drink bourbon on Sundays!
Responsibility for YOUR OWN training comes first, coaching comes second.
Now go lift something heavy,
- The photo at top is of Steven Pinker, a Cognitive Scientist, and a bit of modern-day Hobbesian in all the right ways. He has written, at length, about the necessary balance between freedom and authority — which any coach cannot afford to take lightly. ↩
- What’s funny is that we have a LOT of kids (under 18 real kids) in our gym who are far more adult than most adults. While they certainly don’t drink on Sundays, LOL, they DO work their tails off, laugh, and help promote a great environment. ↩