When Do You Need To Do An Ironman? Never! But It’s Not An End In Itself.

Equation for a line

“When will you need the equation for a line? Never!” Cited from ‘Made to Stick’ by Chip and Dan Heath.

I do love to read, and now I’m reading another interesting book, ‘Made To Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive And Others Die,’ by Chip and Dan Heath.

FitOldDog's weight room

Winter training begins, so I’m back in the weight room to build strength, flexibility, and my relaxation skills. Photo by FitOldDog.

I started reading this book for my studies of marketing and sales. It’s real strength is not so much in the information presented, as in the humor that makes the information stick. The book is sticky. This reminds me of a classic lesson I used to give to students, graduate or post-doc, or whomsoever: “Lecturing, to be effective, is 90% show business.”

I will quote from Chip and Dan Heath’s book, the story of, “Why do I need to learn algebra?” Can you imagine how hard it is to answer this question for a bunch of high-school kids, effectively? The goal was to a message that would stick. First they found plenty of approaches that would definitely not stick, mainly from algebra experts, who suffered from the curse of knowledge. Then they came across this answer to the question, from a high school algebra teacher on an Internet discussion board – brilliant:

The question, concerning the Standard Form of the equation of a line, from 9th graders:

“When are we ever going to need this?”

FitOldDog's dog, Willbe, waits in the car.

Willbe waits patiently in the car, outside the weight room. Yes! It’s a cool day, he’s quite safe. He loves sitting in the car – it seems to calm him down, so he can focus on his canine algebra. Photo, with permission, by FitOldDog.

The teacher said:

“This question used to really bother me, and I would look, as a result, for justification for everything I taught. Now I say, “Never. You will never need this.” I then go on to remind them that people don’t lift weights so that they will be prepared should one day, [someone] knock them over on the street and lay a barbell across their chests. You lift weights so that you can knock over a defensive lineman, or carry your groceries or lift your grandchildren without being sore the next day. You do math exercises so that you can improve your ability to think logically, so that you can be a better lawyer, doctor, architect, prison warden or parent. MATH IS MENTAL WEIGHT TRAINING. It is a means to an end (for most people), not an end in itself.”

This is also true of my Ironman training.

Saved my life, for starters.

Happy Trails

PS Here’s an idea I would love to make stick, but I’ve failed so far: the widespread need for body awareness training, especially as you age, but while you’re young preferably.


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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.