Ben Nadel
On User Experience (UX) Design, JavaScript, ColdFusion, Node.js, Life, and Love.
I am the chief technical officer at InVision App, Inc - a prototyping and collaboration platform for designers, built by designers. I also rock out in JavaScript and ColdFusion 24x7.
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Ben Nadel at BFusion / BFLEX 2010 (Bloomington, Indiana) with: Ben Dalton

If You Think You Know Nothing, You're Off To A Good Start

By Ben Nadel on
Tags: Life, Work

Many years ago, when I was a personal trainer at Equinox Fitness, my fitness manager was teaching me how to develop training programs for clients. We talked about planes of movement and balance around the joints and varying intensity and all things related. He was a great teacher and was very patient with me. And yet, despite his teachings, I felt like I knew nothing. I had great anxiety about building the right routines for people. Was I giving them routines with balance? Was I properly addressing their current weaknesses? Was I creating a program with intensity that would vary practically over time? Was I really tweaking the workout for THEIR needs and not just spitting out some cookie-cutter plan?

I had all this anxiety about making the perfect program that it used to take me over an hour to design a simple, two week program for any one of my clients. And, all the while, other trainers around me were developing programs five minutes before their client got there. What did they know that I didn't?

After a few weeks of this, I finally confessed to my training manager that I had no idea what the heck I was doing! I was extremely frustrated and couldn't understand why this all was so natural to everyone else and not to me. After Carl heard me out, he said something that changed my life:

Ben, if you think that you have no idea what you're doing, then you already know way more than most of the people here.

The importance of this concept didn't hit me at first; in fact, it seemed down-right contradictory - how could one know nothing and, at the same time, know a lot? I asked him what he meant by this and he went on to explain that many trainers think they know exactly what they are doing. And because of this fact, they never stop and question their decisions or update their core understand of what proper training really is. This unquestioning faith in themselves prevents them from really ever aligning their goals with the goals of their clients. And, that kind of mentality, he said, would prevent them from ever being really good at what they do.

He told me that program design would definitely get a lot easier with just a little experience; however, the only way to really be great at what you do is to understand that you probably don't know a whole lot and to always ask yourself the question, "Is this program really designed with my client in mind?"

While Carl was talking specifically about personal training, what he said has echoed though all aspects of my life. Since then, I have come to embrace the fact that if I feel like I have no idea what I'm doing on something, then I'm probably headed in the direction of genuine understanding.




Reader Comments

Great post, Ben! I think that this is what has made your blog so great, is that you are always trying to figure out ways to make it better. No complacency here.

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@Ben,

"I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance."
Socrates, Greek philosopher in Athens (469 BC - 399 BC)
from Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers

This, from arguably one of Western thought's greatest thinkers.

[grin]

Reply to this Comment

@Jason,

He is definitely a bright guy.

Unfortunately, when I think of him, I also think of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure... So-Crates. ... we are nothing but dust in the wind :)

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