Updated: Aug 23
GOAT. The unfortunate (unless you're an actual goat) acronym for Greatest of All Time. A platitude that has no existential follow up, unless someone disagrees, then watch out, internet! Rarely, however, does the GOAT discussion offer a tribal component. The label often dismisses cultural relevance beyond the specificity of a particular achievement. No matter how impressed I, or anyone else, was about that person who did the thing better than everyone else, there was a question that always lingered in my tiny mind. That's great... but now what?
How will that person best that achievement? That's the obvious first question. In dizzying leaps which made my brain hurt, even at a young age I'd quickly wonder WHY that person would best that achievement? This was the gateway curiosity to wondering what effect that feat of amazement had on the ecosystem of society. Superficially, we're being entertained, but is there empowerment to the subcutaneous zeitgeist? What are the big lessons? Are we better because of said GOAT, or simply pleasantly distracted? Even as a child I'd witness some fantastic sporting or record-breaking achievement, and still wonder: But now what? Did Mohammad Ali save the helpless with his amazing boxing prowess? Did Evil Knievel build houses for the homeless with all his bravery? Did Billie Jean King garner peace deals between rival gangs with her amazing finesse? I wanted there to be a bigger point! I wanted heroes to be more than just specific physical skill. Even then, I believed there was, or could be, a correlation between physical ability and the spirit. I wanted to see how the metaphysical factor of that equation manifested.
Hold on. There's a point here. There is no automatic correlation between success and importance. Immediate examples of this exist in political ideology. Sometimes the argument between sides is the importance between money versus human rights, and we (the people) often have diametrically opposing view points as to how valuable successes in either are. Since a success in one is often at the cost of the other, many of the schisms in the politic of a nation are about which "success" is considered important. Seriously, there is a point here. I recently heard the story of a YouTube creator who chose to forge an original path in the sport he loved, so he could continue to find joy in it, and share his joy on his terms, all while supporting his family. He planned beyond the common template, which was a well-defined path which could've made him a star in the traditional framework of the sport. But he had a goal on the other end. He had an outcome that might not have been supported by the big sport-star dream. Instead, his dream was a correlation between success and importance, and he created a path to achieve it. He is now a success at his sport as he has defined it, and his success is important to him and his tribe. Still not sure where this is going? In my book, Are You Useful, at one point the discussion delves into goal setting. One of the biggest lessons a trainer has to learn is how to encourage more profound goals, because most clients and gym members have no idea how to set them. We can only create goals as deep as our experiences with that journey. If our journey is completely conceived for us by an industry, in this case the fitness industry, then the deepest our goals can grow is what we've learned from that industry. And that industry loves to keep things in the shallow end of the pool, where all their products and programs are floating around to assist you on your very basic path.
Think of the ways strength and ability can manifest without the prejudices and definitions of the Fitness Industrial Complex. From what we witnessed when the Great Gym Shutdown Panic of '20 hit, this is a challenging and scary line of thought. The reaction for gym members during Covid times was far beyond inconvenience. Sometimes there was actual fear. The industry's control of the goal became blatantly clear. Most fitness goals couldn't seem to exist without the industry! 'No gym' suddenly meant no success! The profound lack of movement independence was overwhelming. Strength was completely on the industry's terms. Social media was lit up with fear and anxiety about not 'getting to the gym.' Equipment sold out on every website, not because people were taking training into their own hands as much as folks needed their specific gear to repeat the same specific ideas that they've been told to do forever. They weren't free. People who embraced fitness goals were suddenly trapped, because those goals were conceived and controlled by an industry selling them the product of movement and strength. Not as a freedom to live more, but as a dependence to live within limitations.
The common fitness goal is set in the Now. We might call it 6 weeks, or even a year, but it is still the Now. Our goals are for a transformation to be effective as immediately as possible, within a section of our chronology we are still very connected with. This is groovy, as long as it isn't the end game. We need a step 1 and step 2 to have a step 5000. The big trick, however is to start setting goals at step 5000 and work backwards. Start at the other end of Now. For instance, losing 30 pounds is not the other end. Getting jacked is not the other end. Having a bigger squat is not the other end. These are steps to something more important. Even being the GOAT is not the other end. Any of these could be considered a success. What would make them important? You've succeeded in the gym. That's great... but now what? (Ahhhh, see? I told you this would all tie together.)
In the first chapter of my new book, More Inclined Towards Adventure, I posit the idea of training to sustain and perpetuate your value system. If we use the recent Covid freak-out as a yard stick, then a lot of workout folks seem to value dependence, obedience, and vanity. Oh, but the sneaky part is how easy this is, since the fitness industry sells these values to us packaged as freedom, strength, and empowerment. Many years ago, I wrote that the fitness industry's message was: "You're ugly. We can help." There has been some rebranding. To play on our insecurities in the 2020's, there is a new message, one that makes tribal sense in a different context: You need us to be You. Oh, how times have (not) changed. ________________ In the next blog, let's discuss the ideas of how better to correlate our goals with our value system, answering the question of "but now what?" Meanwhile, don't forget our YouTube and Instagram pages, filled with lots of me doing non-industry movement wackiness.