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On General Ignorance

We open today’s post with an adendum to Will’s post on Mixed Conditioning and the reaction and comments on that on the boards.ie fitness forum. To avoid this post from descending into some strange form of internet intertextuality to get the full story, you really should read this and this and also this. For those of you with little or no patience and/or reading skills, I’ll summarise briefly the background to today’s post. One of the most common questions I’m asked (and I suppose probably every coach is asked) is how do I physically prepare fighters for competition. Now between Taekwondo, boxing, kickboxing, grappling and MMA I suppose I’ve prepared a good few people to fight. You can argue the toss as to how prepared they were skills wise but I think I’ve done quite well regarding their conditioning over the years based on the knowledge or skillset I had at the time. That’s what passes for modesty on this blog.

So in answer to the questions I recieve (on the boards.ie forums anyway, mostly by pm as I think asking someone outright is frowned upon for some reason) I posted up a link to some of Paddy’s mixed conditioning he’s done with Will in the last month or so. The reaction was quite positive but it did bring out some laughs in the gym when some people blatantly misunderstood the purpose of the session and put up their suggestions on how to “improve” it. Let me set something straight. If you don’t understand something in Informed Performance, you ask and you will get a good answer. Usually it will be long winded and after ten minutes at the whiteboard you’ll be sorry you asked, but you’ll get what you ask for. If you don’t understand something, and claim to because either your ego or your idiocy gets in the way, then you can expect to be ridiculed. There is simply nothing worse than someone with a little knowledge thinking they know more than they do. It really is a dangerous thing as the saying goes.

Anyway, reading the whole story, thread and blog together, I was reminded of a psychology article I read recently. No, seriously I was and I did. The article was Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self Assesments’ by J. Kruger and D. Dunning. I should point out at this stage that I don’t lie in bed at night reading psychology papers every night; just occasionally. I studied Psychology for 3 years before switching to my double major of Literature and History (Barryfact alert! I have a BA, and I think that proves I’m not a total idiot) and I do still sometimes find myself looking at articles if one is suggested to me. In this case I was reading the excellent Bad Science by Ben Goldacre in which he references Kruger and Dunning. I know you probably won’t go on a hunt to find and read that article now, so I’ll summarise it briefly and explain why I was reminded of it.

What Kruger and Dunning found was that people who are incompetent are hit with a terrible double whammy of an affliction; they are incompetent, and as a proper kick when they’re down, they are also unable to address their incompetencies due to the fact that they can’t recognise them, because, wait for it, they’re incompetent. If it wasn’t for the fact that you’ve probably met or worked with people you recognise this trait in, you’d find it hilarious. But it’s not hilarious, it’s frustrating, because we live in a world where anyone can be an authority on anything as long as they speak loudly enough, have a better internet marketing campaign than the next guy, and are just about literate enough to get their point across. It gets worse though. If you cannot recognise your incompetencies, you’re more likely to asess yourself as having greater skills than you do. Oh no.

Now at the risk of repeating myself, there’s nothing wrong with not knowing something. No one knows everything and even the most expert in any field probably has to go and refer to a book from time to time. The problem arises when people assume they know what they’re talking about when they don’t. Now I’m sure some people will read this and think “he can’t be talking about me since I’ve read every book on fitness in the universe”, but reading books does not lead to understanding. If it did, then I would be able to explain Newton and Darwin adequately to you now. I read their most famous tomes and I was absolutely clueless after each one. (LIES! I read approximately 15% of Principia before picking up a comic, I did finish Origin of the Species though, but remained more or less clueless) To paraphrase Will, if you give me a recipe you’re not getting a suflé. It takes time in trade, asking more knowledgable people questions, and more often than not, getting it wrong a whole load of times before you really understand what you’re doing.

So what, in a nutshell, am I trying to say? That people should sod off and not ask us questions? No, of course not that would be ridiculous. But in this age of too much information, at Informed Performance we’re trying to put together something that is free of bullshit, simple to understand and has no secret formula. You can accuse us of many things but hopefully bullshit isn’t one of them. We’ll take the taste test with anyone and if they know more than us, then we want them to show us what that is, not piss on them. I don’t want to sound arrogant (too late) but maybe some people would benefit by asking us questions rather than suggesting how we should improve.

Now after all that, I’ll tell you what my Nana would have said if she were writing this post.

“Don’t tell your granny how to suck eggs”

And that would have been it.

See you on the mat.

P.S. I got a Diploma in the post the other day from a course I did, and it said it was a Special Purpose Award. I laughed until I cried. Cos you see, I HAVE A SPECIAL PURPOSE!


3 thoughts on “On General Ignorance

  1. I couldn’t get the forum link to work 😦

    Having a B.A. proves you’re not an idiot? I hope you have stronger evidence than that 🙂

    Posted by Kira Clarke | November 14, 2009, 1:59 am
  2. I should have put “provides at least some evidence I’m not an idiot”. The link works fine for me but here’s the url. http://www.boards.ie/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=2055724506

    Posted by Barry Oglesby | November 14, 2009, 9:15 am
  3. I have a BA (Hons), an MBA and am professionaly quaified (ACCA). I think that makes me more of an idiot, not less.

    Good post although i was expecting to read something about the mats when i saw (seen?)the title.

    Posted by Tom D | November 16, 2009, 12:57 pm

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