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How We Conduct Ourselves…

By August 16, 2010December 27th, 2013Ethical Considerations

The first rule about getting popular in the strength training industry is that you need to develop thick skin. You can blend with the crowd and hide in the shadows all you want, but if you believe strongly in “a better way” and you want to push new methodology on people, you’re bound to encounter some resistance. It goes with the territory.

If you can’t handle it, you’ll fizzle out very quickly. I’ve spoken to plenty of coaches and trainers in the past year about the topic of “online hating” and I’ll let you in on a secret. Every single one of us takes it personally when someone writes something bad about us. Why wouldn’t it? Just because we rock doesn’t mean we’re made of stone (Me, Myself, & Irene referrence).

We are all human and we have feelings just like anyone else. When someone bad-mouths you in a public forum and you realize that thousands of people are potentially reading the criticism, it’s very frustrating. This is why it’s important to put things into context. It’s nearly impossible to “rock the boat,” change people’s minds, or get people to try something new without opposition. When you face opposition, you must realize that you are making progress. You must also be humble and consider the fact that you could be wrong (or just not entirely correct).

However, this blog isn’t about facing and handling opposition; it’s about how we conduct ourselves as professionals in the industry. Now, I’ve never been the type to swim with the current. I don’t “swim upstream” for the sake of creating controversy; I like to think that I think of shit that other people don’t. Furthermore, I’ve never been very “professional” in some regards. I have an eyebrow piercing, sometimes I rock a fohawk, I tatooed my initials on my arm, I’m certainly not the best-dressed trainer in town, I swear quite often and post pictures of scantily-clad women in my blogs, and I train out of my garage for Pete’s sake. Come to think of it…by some standards I’m one of the most “unprofessional” trainers in the industry.

However, I still have some strong ethical standards. There are simply some lines that I don’t cross. There are two movie quotes that come to mind.

First one is from From Dusk til Dawn, George Clooney’s character: “I may be a bastard, but I’m not a fucking bastard.”

Second one is from 310 to Yuma, Russel Crowe’s character: “Even bad men love their mamas.”

Many now are wondering what in the hell I’m talking about. The members of our strength training industry rely on many forms of education to acquire new knowledge. Social media has been a great way for many trainers and coaches including myself to increase their popularity. We’ve formed a great network through our blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube. I have around 2,000 Facebook friends right now and I think that I probably only know around 600 of them. The remaining 1,400 are members of the strength & conditioning crowd, most of whom are fans of my work.

It’s Okay to Disagree

When you read someone else’s work, it’s okay to disagree with them. Questioning things leads to investigation and more understanding. One of the reasons I enjoy blogging is because I can “spread my influence” by highlighting my methods. I disagree with every single trainer or coach I’ve ever met on at least one topic. There are so many variables in strength training that it is highly improbable that you’ll agree with any single “expert” in every area. I’m pretty sure that most trainers or coaches disagree with me on certain topics too, which is fine.

Viable Options

The way I see it, if you disagree with people, you have several viable options. You can go on a forum and post a politely-worded thread to open up some discussion. You can blog about your views. You can comment on the individual’s blog, which gives the blogger the right to accept your comment or trash it. You can email the individual through regular email, Facebook, Twitter, or Youtube. Or, you call the individual and try to arrange a phone-conversation.

Just don’t disagree with them on Facebook. It’s just not good practice. People on Facebook are posting things for their fans and supporters. Many (including me) are friends with family members, “real friends,” and co-workers, in addition to having “networking friends.” Facebook is not a good arena to hash out a discussion. I disagree with many articles and blogs I find on Facebook but I’ve never, nor will I ever, post a comment on the poster’s wall that “calls them out.” Posting negative Facebook comments makes all parties look bad.

Internal Customer Service

In a past-life I was a hell-raising member of the Executive Board of the Scottsdale Unified School District’s teacher union. One of my colleagues liked to say, “You don’t fuck with another man’s livelihood! You don’t fuck with another man’s ability to feed his family!” I’m still friends with this guy to this day. He’s from Chicago and has strong opinions on the subject.

In a past-life, I was also a devout member of the same school district’s Exceptional Customer Service Committee. In one meeting I explained the fire service’s views on customer service and was praised by the Director.

You have external customer service (how you treat the actual customers) and you have internal customer service (how you treat co-workers). A company or service-provider can’t work efficiently without paying attention to both facets of customer service. The way I see it, we’re all a part of the same strength & conditioning circle and we mustn’t forget the value of treating each other with respect. There are good ways to disagree and bad ways to disagree.

In my book, trying to incite a debate or degrade another’s reputation on Facebook makes you an asshole! (unless of course the poster asked for feedback or thoughts) There are instances where it might be warranted, for example if someone was being overly absurd or recommending highly-dangerous practices, but I hope this blog “hits home” with certain individuals and positively influences the way we conduct ourselves as a profession. I’ll now step down off my soap box (of course with good eccentric control, good glute activation, and avoidance of valgus collapse).


  • Matt P says:

    Even I don’t troll on Facebook

    (about work-related issues, anyway :D)

  • Smitty says:

    A quote that I’ve always remembered was (paraphrasing)

    “I quit caring what other people thought of me when I realized how little everyone thinks about anyone but themselves”

    It is pointless to argue online. You won’t change anyone’s opinion. It is ok to be confident with your opinion (sometimes backed up by science or experience) but you must be able convey this information in an intelligent, non-arrogant way.


    Humility comes with age and being considerate of others. Two things I didn’t learn until I had a family.

  • Mark Young says:

    I completely agree with Smitty.

    I’ve recently decided to treat each disagreement with others in the industry as though I know them personally. I figure that will affect the way I treat others and hopefully the way they treat me.

  • Cliff Keutel says:

    It’s amazing how much more tolerant people are of dissenting views when presented in a respectful manner by someone who always comports himself in a classy manner.

    I think the best rule of thumb is that if you’d be too embarrassed to say something to the person if fave-to-face, then it has no business being said online.

    Striking up genuine debate in the interest of making everyone better is a wonderful thing (the most wonderful, perhaps), but looking to level cheap shots at others just for the sake of being an ornery contrarian is a waste of eveyone’s time, including your own for having taken the time to waste that effort.

  • I would agree.

    I may disagree with a method or practice and I will say so on my own blog since, well, I own it.

    It is another thing entirely to seek out people and pester them just for the sake of ONLY being a pest.

    Good questions are fine and encouraged. Everyone gets better.

    I can disagree with a method, but that does NOT mean I dislike the person promoting it. BIG difference.

    If people disagree with me, that is fine and I am open to discuss it with them. They know where to find me.

    Many times (myself included) take someone who disagrees with their methods personal and this is normally NOT the case.

    My buddy Frankie has a great line “Cooperate whenever possible, compete when necessary”

    My goal is to help as many people as possible. Virtually everyone in the industry is doing the best they can. What is common? If something is different, why? How can we test it? What action do I need to take?

    Also, how I work with clients in person is different from what I write on my blog. The blog is 1 person going out to many, so it is hard to customize it for them (one way communication). It can be more 2 way via comments, which is why I love comments!

    When working 1:1 or small group, the teacher must meet the students where THEY are at.

    Rock on
    Mike T Nelson PhD(c)

  • Nick Horton says:

    I can tell y’all right now that Bret practices what he preaches.

    When I first joined, and entered a discussion on the forums, I got a bit of a lickin’ from some of the PT guys on the board. (Of which there are many.) It was nothing that was a big deal, and it was not at all hostile. They were just pointing out that they totally disagreed with me on something.

    Bret, who didn’t know who I was at the time, sent me a personal message to let me know that he had gotten a similar reaction when he’d joined about something similar to what I was saying.

    He told me that the board is quite full of Physical therapists who come at things differently than we do – especially given that Bret and I lean much farther toward the strength-sport side of the line (we like to lift heavy … really heavy!). They have a lot to teach us, but will always take a hard line on things we don’t.

    It was no big deal, but it was the kind of gesture that makes an impression, and made me feel like I wasn’t alone in a world of PT’s! … and for that, Bret, I thank you.

    Actually, it’s what spurned me toward buying your book (If y’all haven’t yet, do it. Plug!)

  • Kevin Carr says:

    Awesome. I wrote a blog post about the convo I had with you on this topic down in Providence.

  • PolyisTCOandbanned says:

    How about going onto someone else’s site and calling them a faggot and challenging them to fight? Because they cancelled an interview with you.

    Or pointing out someone is biased (accurately) and giving non-proved improbably advice. But then hammering said person in every thread they come into, even things that are completely on different topics.

    And since you are the moderator getting away with it!

    If you are better at science literature, then this behavior is justified, right? I mean you get so angry when others just don’t GET IT! You have to let it out. 🙂

    P.s. I can tease the behavior since I have many of the same faults.

  • Brock says:

    Great post, Bret. I have yet to publicly “call somebody out,” the biggest reason being that, even if I don’t agree with what someone has to say, if they can at least say it without being an ass, I have no problem with it. The thing is, everyone’s views on training should be based to some extent on experience. And if their experience tells them something different than what mine has, who’s to say they’re right or wrong? I think the bigger problem is when it becomes a pissing match rather than an intelligent discourse. Hell, disagreement is where we truly get better and learn from one another. I’ve taken bits and pieces from all kinds of different coaches to form my training philosophy, but I also know that it will continue to morph, whether slowly or dramatically, based on evidence from my own training as well as the experiences of others.
    Anyway, great post Bret. And I hear you about not being the most professional trainer around, I love having my own place, dressing and speaking however the hell I feel!

  • Deep says:

    Great post, and as a young, cocky trainer who’s had some early success, I needed this.

    Cheers from India,

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