An opinion piece in the NYT had a subtitle that caught my eye, “Getting in shape shouldn’t be this complicated.”

It caught my eye because that’s the kind of phrase – with it’s normative bent – that me think of how the word “deserve” is mostly meaningless and when not meaningless, stupid. As in, “You deserve to be happy.” What the hell does that even mean? Did you do something to earn happiness? If so, what? Because I want to do that same thing and receive my fair share of happiness as well. Or, does the universe owe you happiness? Bullshit. The universe doesn’t care about you nor what you did to “deserve” anything.

So…I was very pleasantly surprised when the article turned out to be really good. It’s basically all summed up in this paragraph about the charlatan-like nature of personal/physical trainers:

As for personal trainers, I’ve known great ones. But the business model is akin to babysitting: There’s no percentage in teaching clients independence by showing them basic barbell lifts and telling them to add weight each time. Better to invent super-fun, high-intensity routines that entertain and bewilder clients, so they’ll never leave you. The science of muscle confusion, in other words, looks a lot like the marketing tradecraft of client confusion.


Note that this is true of everybody in any industry (knowledge industries mostly) who prescribes a course of action for you or something you own. I’m talking about doctors, auto mechanics, global warming scientists, politicians, etc. There is always a risk when dealing with these types that they are at least somewhat interested not in your well-being but in their own. Surprise surprise. Yet, people seem to have a hard time realizing this. Incentives, I guess, are sometimes hard to grasp and understand. Nobility is thought to be, well, noble (which, by the way, is another word that I’m pretty sure has no real, useful definition); and certain people/professions are thought to, well, exemplify it. Not so. At least, not at the individual level. Maybe at the aggregate level integrity to do the job that people think you are doing happens, but we NEVER deal with the aggregate, we only ever deal with individuals. And individuals are just that: not the aggregate.

-JD Cross