Two Ears, Two Eyes, and One Mouth

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We’ve all heard the classic saying/joke relating opinions to assholes. For those unfamiliar, it goes something like this:

“Opinions are like assholes. Everybody’s got one and everyone thinks everyone else’s stinks.”

Similarly, I find Stephen Colbert’s quote on fact/opinion hilarious (if not entirely true – satire or not – given the world we now live in where access to information is seconds away):

“You see, the facts can change, but my opinion will never change no matter what are the facts.”

The fitness industry, maybe more so than any other industry, is rife with opinions – on both sides of the argumentative fence, on any given topic – despite the presence of facts, research, and real world application.

Opinions and personal biases always get in the way. More to the point: people tend to be more concerned with proving everyone else wrong and that they’re unequivocally right.

We have those who feel eating animal protein is the key to a lean, well-performing, healthy body (research backs it up). And we also have those who feel eating Bambi’s mom is worse than joining a Satanic cult and is a one-stop ticket to a heart attack (research backs that up too.  The heart disease stuff, not the Satanic cult jab).

Likewise, we have people who feel crushing deep fried Pop-Tarts covered in maple syrup and garnished with rainbow sprinkles is okay so long as if it fits your macros.  IIFYM in the house!!!!!!! I “think” there’s research to back that up.

Bringing the conversation to the weight room, there’s a camp of people who feel all you need to do is perform one-set of any exercise to failure in order to elicit an appropriate training response, and then there’s those on the opposite end who feel that that’s a load of B to the S.  Research backs both.

Sit ups will cause your spine to explode and shit out its own spine! No, wait, sit ups are okay and are actually efficacious for spinal health! Pick your poison, because research backs both cases.

Like the Energizer Bunny I could keep going and going.  Intermittent fasting vs. eating 4 square meals per day, steady state cardio vs. HIIT training, low reps vs. high reps, CrossFit vs. the World, Hulk Hogan vs. Rowdy Roddy Piper.

It doesn’t end. It never ends. Everyone has an opinion on what works and what doesn’t. And everyone – right or wrong – has “research” to back them up.  I mean, if I tried I could probably find research that shows sticking your finger in an electrical socket increases T-levels by 718%.

This isn’t to say that leaning on research is wrong; it isn’t.  It’s just sometimes, as I noted above, people are more concerned with being right than listening to what other people have to say.

I’m not impervious to it either, and know full well that I’m just as much a culprit of it as the next person.

Having said that, no matter what, I always seem to go back to a quote Mike Boyle said a few years back when I first started in this industry:

“You have two ears, two eyes, and one mouth. Use them in that order.”

When I heard that I couldn’t help but think back to something Pai Mei would say to The Bride (actress Uma Thurman) in the movie Kill Bill during her training:

“It’s the wood that should fear your hand, not the other way around. No wonder you can’t do it, you acquiesce to defeat before you even begin.”

Both quotes are an example of colloquialism at it’s finest. Simple, yet profound. And yes, I just compared Mike Boyle to Pai Mei. Who wins the internet today?  This guy!!!!

The point I’m trying to make? Sometimes we just need to drown out the incessant white noise surrounding us, and listen (and observe). Sometimes, we just need to shut-up!

I was in Washington, DC this past weekend for the NSCA Personal Trainer’s Conference. I was invited as a speaker and had the opportunity to represent the governing body that I’m certified through, which was a huge honor. It was an amazing experience, and assuming my 1-2 swear words during my presentation didn’t elicit a lifetime ban, I hope to be invited back.

Outside of meeting all sorts of new people and the plethora of networking opportunities, one of the major draws for me is being able to hang out and chill with some of my colleagues.

Here’s a picture I took during one of the dinner breaks over the weekend:

From left to right: Dean Somerset, Jonathan Mike, Brad Schoenfeld, Nick Tumminello, and Bret Contreras. Batman was in the potty.

It was like our own little wolf pack, and whenever I have the chance to hang with these guys I always come back more energized and invigorated.

Not surprisingly, that’s a table full of not only strong dudes, but strong opinions as well.

And, speaking truthfully, more often than not, I found myself following Mike Boyle’s advice from above. As I was sitting there, I found I spent the majority of the time just listening.

Don’t get me wrong:  I partook in conversation and offered my own insight on certain topics. But it was far more valuable for me to just sit there and listen to what these guys had to say. I didn’t agree with every nook and cranny blurted out, nor did I feel I had to.  But there’s really something to be said for actually shutting the eff up and listening to someone explain their viewpoint and rationale for thinking how they think.  I don’t need a research study for that.

That’s my opinion, and I’m sticking to it.

Feature Photo Credit (above): Steven Shorrock

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Comments for This Entry

  • Bob

    Tony, you might be tempted to think "real" scientists (e.g. rocket scientists, neurosurgeons, and nuclear physicists) don't have these same issues with facts and opinions. If so, you'd be wrong. It's all part of being human. We don't know everything, and informed opinion is critical for doing good science. And science is the best (or only) way of eventually learning what is false. (We learn truth by running out of opinions that could be true, but aren't.) So keep your opinions coming. Along with the salt shaker.

    October 6, 2014 at 10:34 am | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      Couldn't agree more Bob. Hopefully I didn't come across as someone who's poo-pooing on research altogether.

      October 6, 2014 at 1:06 pm | Reply to this comment

    • B Max

      Pretty sure that if a neurosurgeon/strength coach came out and said, "Stop squatting, it's too goddamned dangerous", the other neurosurgeon/strength coaches would say, "Shut the fuck up, Dr. Boyle, you're senile, and you need to have your license suspended..." Not quite the same as the follow the leader, "which way is the wind blowing? are we supposed to roll with it?", world of S&C, could he have people doing mental gymnastics left and right to co-sign such malpractice. Oh, and nice post, Tony. Like the humility.

      October 12, 2014 at 10:54 am | Reply to this comment

  • Guzzy

    Tony what I've learned is that your opinion is only as good as the respect you command. And we have lots of respect for yours so don't be too silent!

    October 7, 2014 at 7:50 am | Reply to this comment

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