Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Economy Of Experience

Time to think beyond the state of my abs for a moment.

2008 was certainly a transformational year.  I discovered that my weight and waistline could go down- permanently, and the nation discovered that stocks, home values, but apparently not banks could go down. I googled around for some numbers on the size of the bank bailout.  Remember when congress approved $700 Billion?  Well, some estimates say that the total bailout package could go as high as 4 Trillion dollars.  Right now, I'm hearing Mike Myers as Dr. Evil saying "Four Trillion Dollars" in my head.  Pardon the understatement but gosh that's a lot of cash.  And the banks?  They survived, most of them, by just holding on to the money.  The economy?  It hasn't recovered because our economy is driven by consumption, and people without jobs, cash, or credit find it very difficult to consume.

So now what do we do?

Dear readers, we cannot consume our way out of our dilemma, we have to create our way out of it.  "Create you say?  How can we create our way out of this mess if there's no one to buy what we make?"  Simple, we shift from an economy of ever growing consumption to an Economy of Experience.

What is The Economy of Experience?

Years ago my world history teacher made a statement that went something like this:

"The grandfather is a soldier
so that the son can be a merchant
so that the grandson can be an artist."

We were taught that the whole purpose of technology was to give us the freedom and leisure time to develop our culture.

Now culture is the central world in my argument for an economy of experience.  The reason  our economy is moving back into recession is that nothing congress or the Fed does has been able to support and sustain its growth.  Culture is more than art and architecture, music and dress, language and entertainment.

Culture is Another Word for Growth 

I believe that the consumer economy has been driven by discontent ever since the advent of advertising, and especially since the arrival of television in our homes.  We were taught to compare ourselves to others, to their level of wealth, beauty, power, and happiness.  The images presented to us are always meant to look better than what we already possess, in order to urge us to want to have more.  Our economy found it's growth in our relentlesss pursuit of more goods and services that would make us happy, worthy, complete.  Now we've hit the wall.  There's no more room to consume like this.  The resources dwindle, there's no place left to store our excesses, whether in our homes, or in the landfills.

So what do we do?  Simply retreat from consumerism and live with less?  Won't that damage the economy even more?  Yes, that would be like driving another nail in the coffin, but there is another way.  There will always be an economy that is based on our need for food, clothing, and shelter, but I'm writing about a major expansion in our cultural economy.  How do we expand our cultural economy?

The Return of the Amateur

Recently I read an article in our local paper about how people used to flock to our little community to dance at the pavilion at Phoenix Lake.  Sometimes 3,000 people would drive in from San Francisco and even farther away to dance under the stars on a warm night.  Today, no one dances but the stars, or the pros, and everyone else seems to leave dance, behind even the little girls who started ballet class at age six,  by the time high school is over.  It's the same with singing, acting, painting.  When was the last time you made a clay pot?  High school I'll bet, if you even had the chance to take pottery then.

It's time for us all to think in terms of what we want to do with our lives, insead of what we want to have in them.  I envision an entire new economy of people who teach and lead and provide the experiences of culture to people who directly participate instead of simply looking on.  Of course we will always pay to see people who are great innovators in culture do their thing, and we will buy their creations.  But at the same time we will create experiences ourselves.

I have to close because it's time to go teach Zumba.  Maybe the move toward the economy of experience has already started.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Pardon Me While I Contradict Myself

They say that pride goeth before a fall, but now I see that pride also goeth before a jump... on my bathroom scale.

How did I fool myself?  Let me count the ways.  Here are some past statements made by... oh yeah, that was me.

"I'm never working out again."
"Fitness should be recreational!"
"I can eat unlimited amounts of the right foods."
"I lost five pounds without breaking a sweat."
"This is Atkins, I don't have to track calories."
"Hey, why is everybody working so hard?"

And finally,

"Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm."

Wait, that wasn't me.  That was Ralph Waldo Emerson.

All this time, ever since I figured out that by putting right thinking, eating, and moving together I could change my body for the better, I thought that the fuel for my transformation would always be enthusiasm.  It didn't occur to me, or maybe I refused to believe that it would take so much... effort.

I should have known.  How many times have I choreographed or directed a young performer and thought, "How good she could be if she would just work a little bit instead of coasting on the talent she was born with."  Or, "If he was willing to take a risk and dig a little deeper we might get some subtext here."  I guess figure transformation is just like talent for anything else, you may have a gift, but without work you'll never get it open.

How many times have I said that acceptance was the key to transformation?  For too long I have been unwilling to accept  this bit of wisdom:

Fat loss is easy once you accept how hard it is.

I love going to the gym.  I really do.  I love the iron and the bars and the sweat, and yes the music and the mirror too.  There is a strong element of vanity in the way I feel about the gym, and that is a fault, but intend to mine my faults for gold and use them to show me how to change, as much as I can.  What I don't love so much is curtailing how much I eat.

Back when I was using the Venus Index workout, I got pretty judgmental at the end.  I told myself that the winners had cut calories too hard and worked too long.  What I didn't want to look at was the fact that I had turned away from what I wanted to achieve because I didn't want to work as hard as they had.

Maybe my expectations of myself are unreasonable now.  Perhaps I do want to be leaner only so that I can reflect the current ideal,  and grab whatever perks come along with that particular brand of triumph over biology.  I have to know if I can do it, what it feels like once I do, and I must answer this burning question:

When I get to my goal, will it all have been worth it?

Only then will I feel really free to call myself a coach.  Last year I wrote, "Leave the pain to the professionals."  That was before I became a professional trainer myself.  I still don't believe that pain is required, but effort, discipline, perseverance, and good old garden variety planning and organization are.

Its just like Jaquelyn Rodgers wrote in her book,  "You can quit smoking":

"You're going to have to grow up that last little bit."

Later, I'll write about what this commitment means from a practical point of view.  The eating, the exercise, the mentality that's needed.  Right now, I just know that I won't be eating any more almonds today.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Vision Thing

"I train so that I can wear Inappropriate Clothing"

(See the previous post, as I'm picking up kinda sorta where I left off.)

  Last week, when I picked up my pen to start writing down my vision, I didn't come up with a ten year business plan.  What I heard in my mind was the phrase:

"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players."

I'm an actor at heart, so I guess that when I need a plan it's not surprising that I get Shakespeare.  What if life really is a kind of play, and we, as the players, get to decide just what kind of show were going to put on?  It occurs to me that the majority of us are wasting the opportunity to create the kind of lives we really want.  In the developed world we have the freedom to learn, think, speak, dress, and act pretty much as we wish, as long as our behavior doesn't hurt anyone else or impact their liberty negatively, but do we use this freedom?  I think not.

Nearly every morning, I reach into my closet for another tank top from Target and a pair of gym shorts.  For rehearsal, it's usually the same thing except with long dance pants or a skirt I can move in.  Out to dinner?  Add jeans and a necklace or some earrings.  Predictable.  Boring.  Relatively safe dressing.  I was so grateful that Kristina wore Marliene's dress to the reception at the Turbulence Training Trainer's Summit, because otherwise I would have been the only one in a dress.  We've got all of this so called freedom to express ourselves, why aren't we using it?

I think I know why, and I'll tell you.  In World History in High School I was taught that technical advances like agriculture, architecture, and sanitation serve to give societies more leisure time in which to develop their unique culture.  At least that's the way it's supposed to go, but has anyone noticed what has happened since the mass media took over the function of telling us what our culture is to be?  Think about this:  I find the tabloids, fashion magazines, and celebrity worship guides to be nearly irresistible these days.  Why is that?  Why in the world am I so fascinated by what Kim K. wore on her honeymoon?

The world is our stage.  This is our play, our party, yes, even our drama, but we have given it up to the media, and guess what?  In the developed world if you are female and you are not slender (and young for that matter) the arbiters of style and beauty that make up the rules from Hollywood and Madison Avenue eliminate you from public view.

How terrible.

We don't sing.
We watch American Idol.
We Don't Dance.
We watch Dancing With The Stars.
We don't pursue fitness.
We watch The Biggest Loser.

Enough. Is. Enough.

From now on, my fitness will be recreational, my food will be delicious and nutritious, and my style will be sensational.  At least to me.  Life is too short and often too stressful to pursue fitness without pleasure anymore.  I know that you are busy, thank you so much for taking the time to read this, so I want to invite you to join this subversive little revolution.  You can start by asking yourself these three little questions when you have some precious free time.  Say to yourself,

"I know that moving is good for me,
So what would be fun?
What would be a little challenging?
What would make me feel good?"

It's your play, your scene, your party, and your life for heaven's sake.  The reason we watch celebrities so much is because we've forgotten how to celebrate ourselves.

As a trainer I would suggest just one thing today.  Play Healthy.  Do Turbulence Training