The antithesis to flow is thinking too much.  

Consider the centipede’s plight:

A centipede was happy – quite!
Until a toad in fun
Said, “Pray, which leg comes after which?”
Which threw her mind in such a pitch,
She laid bewildered in the ditch
Considering how to run.

Early in my coaching career I wondered why it was that those most skilled in a particular endeavor were rarely those who could effectively teach the same skill.

Ask Tom Brady how he “see the entire field” or Jose Altuve how he hits a wickedly-pitched slider and you’ll just get a shrug in response.

At a certain point, they figured out the mechanics on their own.  They were well coached, yes. But given the goal of a completed pass or a base hit, they simply made it happen.

I’m not saying they didn’t work hard, or put in their nebulous “10k hours”.  I’m just saying their ability to perform the act is beyond even their own explanation of how they do it.

Now Consider Bruce Lee’s “a punch is just a punch” quote:

Before I learned the art, a punch was just a punch, and a kick, just a kick.
After I learned the art, a punch was no longer a punch, a kick, no longer a kick.
Now that I understand the art, a punch is just a punch and a kick is just a kick.

This will also offer insight into why Tiger Woods has a golfing coach.  Because even the best realize they don’t really know, at a conscious level, how it is they do what they do.  

They can’t.  Otherwise, they end up like the befuddled centipede.  They need someone skilled in the biomechanics and tactics of the game to identify the smallest of performance “flaws”.  

Consider violinist Adolf Busch who, when asked by fellow-violinist Bronisław Huberman how he played a certain passage of Beethoven’s violin concerto,  told Huberman that it was quite simple — and then found that he could no longer play the passage.

So identification of the smallest of flaws is the first part.

The second is feeding that information to the performer in such a way that does not disrupt the performer’s flow.  And that is a highly unappreciated skill. To those other than the performer, that is.

It has to be so skillful in fact that the performer himself has to ask, “how did he get me to do that?”

The same is true of general population health coaching.  And in establishing/breaking habits. Problem is, health coaches have yet to figure this out.  

Regurgitating facts, figures and science or motivating a client to “just do it” only works for a small fraction of the population.  A population, by the way, who would do this on their own if they only had access to the right information.

So the vast majority of health coaches go out of business because:

  1. They produce no results, or
  2. They produce results in the small fraction of people who, like themselves, say “is that all there is to it (access to the right information)?  Why should I be a client? I’ll be a coach, too!”

And so it goes.

Effective coaching requires a deep understanding of human psychology and an understanding of the motivational triggers of those unlike yourself.  That is to say, those not intrinsically driven to be healthy for the sake of being healthy.

Those motivators could be such things as money or prestige.

Or they could be deep psychological tripwires such as being made to feel important (identifying with) sickness.  Building a barrier (fat) against a cruel, judgemental world. Martyr syndrome: I’ll sacrifice my health for (fill in the blank).

The list is endless.  

And, as of yet, this aspect is totally in the blindspot of the health coaching profession.

Until that changes, until coaches become adept at human psychology, they will continue to simply preach to the choir.

Heal thyself, harden thyself, change the world –


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