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Lessons Learned from the Firestorm of Controversy

Two days ago I wrote the Genius and Tragedy post. It was extremely controversial - very popular on one hand, but got some very strong visceral negative reactions. I'd like to share with you what I've learned about writing, so I can step my game up and improve. Also, I got some downright hateful comments made about me, some really bad and terrible stuff. If this has never happened to you, maybe you don't know what it feels like, and I've got some advice on how to deal with it. I also did some detailed reading and analysis of the kinds of comments I got, and there was some fascinating results that I'll share.

So, first and foremost, I made a mistake - If you're writing to help someone, it can be pretty presumptuous to do it without touching base and clearing it with them first. I made that error for a few reasons - first, two of my best posts have come from the same format, and both achieved their desired objective. ("How do I write so much, you ask?" and "I think greatness is something you do, not something you are" both publicly called people I like out - and both times it worked) - so that's the first thing, I'd had a good track record with this, however those were people I'd been touching base with already.

Second, as a general principal I believe in working really quickly. I analogize it to "fighting out of formation" - quick, lightly edited writing is always worse than well-edited best practices. But, the more you do of it, the better you get at it. And by producing anything really quickly, you get better faster. If someone produces 10 times as much content, how long until their lightly edited work is superior to the other person's highly polished work? This isn't a rhetorical question - check out "Quantity Always Trumps Quality" on codinghorror.com sometime. If you produce quickly and of lower quality at first, you can iterate and improve, and eventually your quick production work is better than the obsessively refined person's work who isn't getting as much done (and thus not learning the lessons). Pablo Picasso talked about this quite a bit, if you're particularly interested on the topic.

The downside, of course, is that you make mistakes. And I did - I should've touched base before writing that post, or had it vetted, or at least, spent more time editing it to be clear, concise, and unambiguous, and even more polite. Mea culpa - my mistake! It's okay for me to work quickly and bring errors upon myself because of it, but I need to be more careful when involving others.

Then, why is that post still up? This is what I wrote as the episode was winding down, it was well-received by the community -

My Fitness Goals and Training Regimen

On Healthier Living, Cheap

I don’t consider myself strong. I am fit, but I am not strong. Hopefully this is evident by my picture that I have included. I cannot bench press more than 200 pounds. I can only do maybe 10 consecutive pull-ups without stopping. Of course my numbers will keep improving the longer I train, but eventually they will plateau. I don’t have a problem with this. This is because of my goals. As a college athlete, I want to be fast, agile, flexible, and strong enough. I don’t need big muscles like a bodybuilder. Let me say that again in case it was not clear: I am not trying to get big. I’m six feet tall and I weigh about 180 lbs, and I don’t think I would ever want to go much higher than 195. In fact, if I got too big, it would be a detriment. With huge muscles you lose things like flexibility.

With these goals in mind, I follow a regimen designed by the trainer at my college. I go to the gym 4 times a week: 2 days mostly focused on upper body exercises, and 2 days mostly focused on lower body exercises. On top of this, I do conditioning 3 times a week(I usually combine a conditioning day with an upper body day). All of my conditioning is based on HIIT, or High Intensity Interval Training. You can read up on HIIT to learn more about the science behind it, but most trainers agree that it is one of the best forms of cardiovascular exercise. Starting HIIT when I got to college was a huge change. I ran cross-country in high school so my idea of conditioning was long, slower paced runs(pretty much the opposite of HIIT). Now, I usually run repeats of shuttle runs or sprints at shorter distances(nothing more than 800 meters).

So that’s it for my goals and how I train. It’s what works for me. One of the biggest things to realize is that everyone has individual fitness goals and needs, and that what works for me or you will not necessarily work for somebody else. I will leave you now with a little story about from when I went to the gym about to weeks ago.

It was a leg day for me, specifically front squats. My gym only has one squat rack, so you either have to wait for somebody to finish or work in with somebody else. This day there was an absolutely huge guy doing back squats. This guy was probably 5 foot 8, and he looked like he weighed at least 230(I later found out he was a former bodybuilder). He was squatting 405, sets of 5. I asked him if he was almost done, and he said that he had 5 or 6 more sets, but that I could work in I wanted. I asked him if he was sure, giving him a chance to reconsider, because working in would have had us repeatedly racking and re-racking several plates(I was doing a progression from 135 up to 255). He insisted I work in, saying he needed the break between his sets. So I did. This guy kept watching my form when I was working, and then after I finished my set at 225, he struck up conversation. He said something along the lines of, “You know, what you’re doing is very impressive. I wouldn’t be able to do all the sets you’re doing right now.” Needless to say, I was pretty surprised, but he explained that he didn’t have enough flexibility to front squat as much as I was doing. This really gave me a feeling of validation about my fitness goals.

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