Craig: Welcome to the Movers Mindset podcast. These are the public episodes, but do you want to hear more? Become an insider for access to extended guest conversations. Follow up episodes with your questions and other deep dives. Visit moversmindset.com/insiders. Thanks for listening.
Craig: Hello, I’m Craig Constantine.
John: I have performance anxiety.
Craig: John Hall, more commonly known as Hedge, is the managing director of Access Parkour. And I had the chance to sit down with him and Edinburgh, Scotland to talk. Welcome.
Craig: Earlier today we were talking about, and you have to remind me of his last name, Alex-
John: I really hope I’m getting that right.
Craig: And first of all we’ll link it in the show notes. So go there and look it up. Can you just quickly give me the overview of what this research was that we were talking about?
John: So Alex for his PhD traveled the world and met a lot of different people in different parkour communities, and he studied them and I kind of … he originally is quite well known in the parkour community because he made these parkour panels, so these silly little comics, which were jokes about parkour and people’s perceptions of parkour. They have the parkour coach and the free runner and PK numpty who wanted to sell out to Red Bull as fast as humanly possible, all these sort of classic ideas that we all identify with immediately as being within our community.
John: But Alex from his background, which is anthropology, wanted to actually study this growing community, this brand new thing. And so he traveled the world, and one of his big takeaways was that we’re not all doing the same thing, which is a really odd thing because we’re all, “I do parkour. You do parkour. “
Craig: Yeah, “We’re brothers in arms.”
John: And actually no. parkour, wherever you go you can jump with people. But the motivations behind it, what’s going on, the culture behind it seems to be a much better reflection of the communities and the places …
Craig: And the society and the cultures that are there.
John: … than is with some intrinsic idea. Like what the French created isn’t what is being done everywhere. But one could argue that the parkour that you’re seeing everywhere that’s popping up is a response to something that societies everywhere needed in one manner or the other. What’s really comic about all this is I’m trying to gesticulate and it’s a podcast.
Craig: Yeah, believe it or not, people can actually tell when you gesticulate. So the question that comes out of that is so I could maybe summarize his takeaway to be parkour is shaped like the hole that people feel is missing in their society. So it draws a certain age group into it because they’re attracted to the activity and then the exact shape of it is going to be defined by the culture that it is in.
John: I don’t think he’d put it like that. But that is definitely not wrong.
Craig: Okay. So now why did I bring this up? So the reason I brought this up is because you have some particular ideas about the way that the parkour community is–structured is not quite the right word–but the way that the parkour community is envisioned here in Scotland.
John: Yeah, I think it’s very interesting when you immediately separate the idea of parkour being so one special thing. You end up in a position where you ask, “Well, what’s going on?”
Craig: “What is this?”
John: One of the things I feel that we generally as a community have a problem with is this parkour exceptionalism, “Oh, we are special and new and wonderful and you can’t take that away from us.” And I sometimes like to take away that layer and just say, “Okay. So what is going on here? What fundamental undertones, what lessons from other places can we use to explain what’s happening?”
John: And one of the things that I find very interesting about Alex’s work is it makes me understand what’s going on a whole lot better, which is why I like it as a tool. I like that idea because I can look at different cultures and therefore better understand why the parkour communities are behaving and acting and assembling the way they are. So the French tradition of Art du Déplacement is this amazing culture of effort, and it’s mind blowing and it looks nothing really like what you see on YouTube.
John: But the YouTube variant is much more in line with consumer culture, which fits much more in line with the American viewpoint of things.
John: And so we spent a lot of time today talking about competition being reflective of a free market society and how America, which values success and values working hard, values money …
John: … values competition, it’s rather unsurprising that competition has grown from parkour within those circumstances, even though parkour started as a noncompetitive thing when it came to the States. Parkour didn’t stay the same. Parkour was molded into that culture, and that culture values competition. So the idea that you would be noncompetitivet doesn’t make sense.
Craig: Yeah. I think you actually originally brought up the idea of the shape of the missing pieces is the mold that it expands into it. That’s why I mentioned that, and I think you’re right about that. It would be almost strange to try and imagine Americans organizing anything and not having there be at least a branch of it that, “Oh, this is the competitive side and then this is the for fun side.” We do that with football leagues, commercial, professional versus amateur versus flag football.
John: Whereas if you were to go and spend time in say, Finland, where that isn’t the way they think …
Craig: Yeah, the cultural norm, right?
John: The idea of there being parkour competition in Finland they just go “No, that’s not how we behave. We’re not against it. It’s just none of us want that.” And again, that sort of reflection of that culture. That’s not to say … And one of the issues people often kind of come across when I have this discussion with them is that they think that I’m saying one is better than the other. No, I’m saying that this is how this culture deals with that thing, and some cultures have pros and cons. Each variant of this will have a pro and con.
John: For us here in Scotland, to bring it all back, as a country we’ve sort of decided that we’re not interested in the competitive route, and the reason we’re not interested in the competitive route and what we … I should actually rephrase this. In Scotland what I have been doing and what my company and my guys what we’ve really been interested in is normalizing parkour to an almost absurd degree.
John: So we want parkour to be in every school. We want it to be taught in PE classes. We want it to be so normal to do parkour to learn how to move that it almost loses its name. So we want parkour to kind of regress to the point where it’s just a complicated version of play, a sort of formalized version of play, and then parkour in itself just expands beyond that and you learn parkour in school, and then you might go off and learn all sorts of things that are kind of like parkour but are all variants and people just have this thing in their life. And to ingrain it so fundamentally in the culture here is what we’re trying to do. And the first step in that is to really develop some theoretical underpinnings of what was going on here and attach it really solidly to education theory.
John: So my focus over the course of the past few years has very much been understanding education theory, understanding inclusive practice concepts, understanding pedagogy, understanding how all of these bits and pieces and ideas can come together to form how you teach a child and how you teach anyone really, and then kind of looking at parkour and going which of these bits of this giant tool that we’ve developed as a society over the last 15 years fits this.
Craig: I’m not a parkour coach, but it strikes me that teaching is not new. So there should be some way to build upon the foundation of teaching knowledge that’s out there and to go forward from there.
John: Yeah, and it seems to have … It’s unfair to say that a lot of parkour coaches reject it. But it seems like trying to reinvent the wheel. We already know how to teach really well. Society has kind of figured that one out. And when you apply education theory to parkour coaching it doesn’t change that much. And the ways it changes tends to be quite clever, little tricks and ideas. You go into school to see how teachers are teaching and how they’re making the children value them, and then you take in something the children want to learn.
John: So a really cool statistic that came out recently, they did a survey of primary school children in the UK. 13% of those children said they wanted to learn parkour in PE, which made it the fifth most popular sport in the country. Children want to learn this. If you tell them you’re going to get parkour in PE they don’t go, “Oh, God, no. Not again.”
Craig: This is on their, “I hope I can,” list.
John: And so you have every advantage going for you. So as long as you have a basic understanding of how to teach, so long as you keep those children safe the children will engage with it and they’ll love it. And that’s obviously just the first step. There’s a whole lot more going on there and there’s good ways of teaching and I’m spending a lot of time trying to figure out what good teaching looks like. But that first stage, it’s already set. It’s a very movement positive thing because it translates to play very quickly. It’s not a codified sport. It’s natural movements. And when the children engage with it, it feels natural and it feels fun and it feels a lot like they’re clambering play, which is a very important developmental step that he have.
John: So when children are developing play becomes one of their ways of building up their coordination and their ability to interact with the world. Play is very much a developmental stage that they’re going through. And it’s one that lasts really, really far into their development. In fact, it stays with us into adulthood. It’s something that people often think of as being fun and for no purpose. And one of play’s definitions is something that is of no apparent purpose. And they put the word apparent …
Craig: Key word being apparent. Exactly.
John: And this is a really interesting concept. So when you talk about play and you talk about it as having no apparent purpose the next thing they’ll tell you is that it certainly has evolutionary benefit, right? Because creatures …
Craig: Still has current value.
John: Because creatures that play survive, and creature who don’t play don’t survive. And that’s because they’re practicing. Using the word play is to a certain extent synonymous with practice. So we tend to forget that when we’re teaching. And so we sort of forget that play should be a step in the education process.
John: And so when you look at why children play, which is a very valid question and one asked by education theorists a lot, you begin to see it in terms of children have desires and play is their way of achieving those desires. And so they will see their parents cooking and cleaning, and they want to be like their parents. And so they want to cook and clean. So you’ll see them pretend cooking and cleaning. If they see people riding horses and they want to ride a horse they’ll get a broom and they’ll ride a horse. So it’s them trying to achieve the things they want because fundamentally it’s what humans do. They try and achieve what they want. I want something. That’s my driver. Children are the same except that you can have a level of imagination within that, and they can achieve those things without actually doing them.
John: And that’s the easiest way to understand play. And so when it comes into the classroom and when it comes into what we teach them what we see is if we teach the children at game, if the children have enjoyed themselves that game will end up in their free play. Now that’s a really useful thing because if I teach children how to jump and land properly and I make sure they’re doing it in a manner which is safe that jumping and landing will end up in their free play.
Craig: And you snuck the physical safety and the physical longevity into it without them noticing, right?
John: Yeah. Or rather I don’t even need to trick them. If they want to do something and I give it to them and I give it to them in a codified way with simple cues that they’ll understand and then I give them freedom to practice it ends up in their play, and if it ends up on their play they’re learning it. So it’s actually much easier for physical educators than it is for anyone trying to teach literacy or numeracy to tell whether or not the children are getting the lesson because I just have to watch them play.
John: And if I watch some of our more experienced children playing in completely free play without any rules in a playground they do parkour. And they don’t think about it as parkour. They think about it as free play. And that’s an important distinction because they are, first of all, taking all these physical lessons we’re teaching them, which we think are important, we think it’s really important for them to have strong legs. We think it’s really important for them to have strong upper bodies. We think …
Craig: Hand-eye coordination.
John: Yeah. And they’re actually doing those things of their own free will, which means that we don’t have to force them to work hard exercises they don’t want to do. They’re happier.
Craig: Right. And that’s just the first piece of low hanging fruit. Then that leads to a lifestyle of activity.
John: Yeah. So this actually then comes right into the concepts of identity. One of the really interesting things about this is that the children are doing parkour and they’re enjoying parkour and they’re learning from you. Then you have this unique ability as a result of that, that you’re teaching them these movements, which is a very high level idea, movements, concepts, values, identity.
John: So if you teach them these movements to describe these concepts, so flow is a concept and we teach it through movement. They learn the movements. They learn this concept of flow. They can therefore apply this concept of flow. This is an inflexible concept, this idea of how to move. This is more flexible concept of how to flow. Why do I want to flow? Well, my values say that I have controlled my body. I want to be in control. That’s a value and my identity is a parkour practitioner. So as you’re teaching them this movement and giving them this concept you’re instilling a value and giving them an identity, and that identity lasts a lifetime. And those values are what you teach the child.
Craig: So you mentioned flexible versus inflexible skills in the context of teaching. Let’s, if we can, circle around to talking about inclusivity. So my first thought is can you unpack a little bit how you would introduce super beginner level children? And what I’m fishing for is we all know some children seem to just … click when you take them to their first parkour class. They immediately begin to assimilate the knowledge. And other children struggle with that. And your discussion earlier that we had about the flexible and inflexible skills and how you build that up strikes me as very interesting.
John: If I’m teaching a group of children how to throw and catch a ball what I want to do is I want to set up the environment so it’s best for the worst children in the class. Because what I’m looking to do is I’m looking to teach all of these children how to throw and catch. So I’m not overly interested in the children who can already throw and catch. I’m interested in the children who cannot throw and catch.
Craig: The good ones who are already good we love to keep them engaged, but they’re not the people who really need to learn this skill.
John: And as it turns out education theory agrees. And so the way education theory describes these two groups are novices and experts. And even if they’re brand new five year olds we still described them as being novices or experts. Novices have no scaffolding or ideas or concepts. They’ve never been exposed to these ideas before. And as a result, they have no way of mapping these skills onto their brain. So if they’ve never thrown and caught anything in their lives they won’t be able to throw and catch a ball.
John: Experts have either a set of skills which directly map to this thing or enough skills that are similar to this one that when they learn it …
Craig: It’s quick.
John: They pick it up really quickly. So that’s the child that picks up the game straight away, the child who can jump and land straight away, the child who can hit a ball on the first try, those children they’re not naturally talented. The experience they’ve had up until this moment has led them to be more suited to the skill.
John: When you’re teaching experts, which are these children who are good at it, they respond best to … my apologies. When you’re teaching experts, which are these children who are quite good at what they’re doing, they respond best to flexible concepts, so understanding more complicated things that can be applied in numerous different environments. The one I tend to use to describe this is the parkour concept of flow. So something which is intangible, a bit more difficult to understand, a concept, whereas the novice’s respond much better to inflexible concepts. This is you’re going to know do a step through. For a step through to get over this object you put one hand here, one foot here, you bring your hip up, and you step through this box. Everything is explained in simple words. You demonstrate it to them. You make it as simple as possible. You make it as simple as reasonably possible. So you expect everyone to manage it.
Craig: And it’s mapped onto that particular instance. So it’s not, “You put your hand this way because it’s a railing and if this was a fall box you’d put your hand this way.” It’s you give them the specific, and that’s why it’s called inflexible. You’re giving them specific instructions that you just simply are going to do.
John: Yeah. The other one I like to use here is a Rubik’s cube. You are told that in a Rubik’s cube if you have this Rubik’s cube set up in this manner you do this algorithm and you’ll solve it. And if you’re given that iteration in that manner you’ll solve it for this one. Inflexible concepts are exactly that. They’re inflexible and you just keep teaching the novices inflexible concepts.
John: So for this vault box it’s a little higher. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to jump the first bit. For this vault box this one’s on a rail. So we’re going to step through with our hand open rather than closed because it’s a comfier position. For this vault box it’s at a slight angle. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to turn towards it, and for each vault box as you go around you show them how you change it. That would be teaching inflexible concepts. Teaching flexible concept would be saying, “Here’s a step through. Now get into a step through over every single one of these objects.”
Craig: And let them expand the instruction set so that it fits the particular implementation that’s in front of them.
John: Now, an expert would come to the parkour class and they’d look at all these objects. They’d be shown a step through and then they’d begin doing step throughs on every object. A novice would do the step through on the object you showed it to them and they wouldn’t be able to map that to anything. So when we build environments and physical education environments for novices it requires us to just step change the way we’re approaching them to what feels very boring to a lot of parkour coaches.
John: Now, the reason it feels boring is because as parkour coaches we want flexible concepts. We want to be able to learn those really cool concepts and then apply them on everything. And because we’re empathic we think that our students want what we want. And so we kind of put our own desires on the students when we go, “You want to learn the flexible stuff because that’s the stuff that makes more sense to me.”
Craig: That’s the cool stuff.
John: That’s the stuff that helped me. How to do a step through on each one of these objects individually would bore the living crap out of me. Therefore, it will bore you.
Craig: Exactly. Therefore I’m going to go with the flexible things.
John: Yeah. And that is actually really hard for beginners with no experience to understand or appreciate. Whereas if someone comes in with a background in climbing or background in tricking or in some other discipline where you can sort of map onto parkour and they just click and they’re getting everything really fast and loving it, and it feels really good. And so when you say to yourself, “Well, how do I help those students who really just aren’t getting it?” Well, It’s because you’re teaching them the wrong thing, which is difficult to stomach at first because it means actually the general outcome is that you will feel that your parkour classes might not be quite so interesting anymore. And that’s where you’re wrong.
Craig: It doesn’t really matter what I think if I was coaching. It doesn’t matter what I think about my perception of the class. What matters is what did the students actually perceive? What are the actual objective changes in the students? That’s what really matters.
John: Yeah. And the thing is … so when you’re doing great inclusive work, when you’re doing good inclusive practice you’re not only meeting the needs of the novices but you’re also meeting the needs of the experts. So this is the bit where I kind of come full circle. So the first thing to do is to meet the needs of the novices and to learn how to meet the needs of the novices and to build your classes so that people who come they’re so discombobulated. They have no idea what they’re doing.
Craig: Two left feet.
John: So just make sure you can give them something to work on because the moment they have something to work on they can sit there and they can work on it. You can then turn to that 16 year old you’ve been teaching for three years who’s really getting the hang of things and then you can give them something. And I kind of like to justify it in my own head saying that if they don’t have the patience to wait for you to teach the beginner then they’re not really worth it anyway.
Craig: That strikes me. There’s also the point that if I have only say–30 seconds–to touch each student if I give 30 seconds to that novice you’re going to get a lot more bang for your buck. They’re going to learn more from that 30 second interaction than will the expert student through your 30 seconds of flexible instruction because they’ve already got a whole bunch of flexible instruction they’ve already had from you. They’re already gaining from that. So it actually makes more sense to spend the time on what feels like the more boring part.
John: Yeah. And actually gives you a really simple and effective method of building your classes. So we tend to build our classes and we start with these really explicit inflexible concepts. I’ve got a little thing that I give to all my coaches about how to build a class. And in general whenever you go to a class if it’s taught well the first thing that’ll happen is they will go over a movement or some movements and they will make sure that you can do those movements. And that’s normally … maybe it’s bail practice in some places. Maybe it’s just the warm up games. There’s a drill at the start. And that drill is just kind of making sure that everyone in the room can do enough that they can engage with the class.
Craig: Like a movement screen combined with a sanity check.
John: Yeah. And then once you’ve sort of gone through that explicit phase where you’ve sort of made sure that everyone in the room has learned something and knows how to do the movement then you can build into your games and your great concepts and you can play something where the whole class has to challenge themselves different places, and the experts can begin throwing their diving 360 laché underbar pre doubled back layout trip whatevers, and the novice can sit there and they can work on their step through, and then they’ve learned their step through and then they can maybe learn …
Craig: Yeah, come back next week with a little bit more of a spark and interest in, “I can actually do parkour.”
John: Yeah. And they’ve got one inflexible concept down and then the next time we’ve got another inflexible concept down. Once they’ve got their fifth or their sixth and flexible concept down then everything starts to feel a bit more flexible. And suddenly they-
Craig: They make that leap of synergy. All of a sudden they can jump over the gap.
John: And that is effectively how to coach in a manner which is more suited towards those children back in the classroom who aren’t getting the basketball game. So we teach them how to throw and catch the basketball. We make sure it’s really explicit, we make sure it starts small, and we make sure it’s done properly. And then we build up and build up and build up and build up. And that is how I feel we should be doing physical education. I think is a great model for physical education, which is why I think parkour is a tool we can use to deliver really high quality physical education to children, which is why I’m spending so much of my time figuring out how to deliver parkour really, really well to children.
Craig: I’ve said many times if you’ve been listening that the stories are one of my favorite things to collect, part of the story time project. So is there a story you’d like to share?
John: So as a kid I told stories. Not tall tales. I liked to write and tell stories. Everything was built around a narrative for me. And as I began studying play one of the things I discovered is there’s archetypes of play, the things that people get out of play, the reasons they play. And it turned out that mine was storytelling. I am a story teller. I like to create narratives that makes sense.
John: And when we’re explaining really difficult ideas like we’re discussing today with inflexible and flexible and novices versus expert and how to build your classroom, there’s no point in me telling you in a dry manner. We’d sort of told the story about these children and what they needed and the ones that were succeeding so we could understand the plight of the ones who weren’t succeeding, and then we were attached to these children who weren’t succeeding and we wanted them to succeed. So how do we find those tools? All of those are narrative concepts.
John: And so when we find in these really difficult concepts that are told really dryly in the papers and the places that we read them what I like to try and do is then figure out a way to tell these stories. And I think that’s how we end up understanding really complicated material. And I think that’s how we end up imparting good values and good lessons into children. They tell you about, well, what’s the point of children’s story time or teaching the children values. The boy who cried wolf is the one that we always go to explain that.
John: And that feels really important to me. And I think it’s one of the places where I need to always keep my brain is in storytelling and in figuring out ways to make sure that story resonates with people. And when I’m telling these stories when I’ve got these ideas in my head, and I want people to understand things I’m always looking to tell a story. And I think that maybe we don’t appreciate how important enough that is sometimes.
Craig: So it’s clear to me that you are passionate about teaching. There are many people who are passionate about teaching, but you take it up a notch from there to a point where you’r–I almost want to say constantly teaching and not like preaching while you’re walking. But I can always see the wheels are turning about how do I continue to improve my craft. And that strikes me as like a whole level higher than some of the parkour coaches that I’ve met. And I’m just wondering where did you get that seed or that drive from?
John: One of the things that I believe really strongly in is practicing what you preach and really trying to live the life you talk about. And it’s actually very, very difficult. And I think the thing-
Craig: I would absolutely agree with that. That’s very difficult.
John: One of the things that we generally fail at is we talk a good talk and then when the chips come down you fail to succeed. So you make all sorts of resolutions and you don’t follow them through. And building good habits is in itself a fascinating topic worthy of discussion. But for me, I want to get this right, and if I don’t get it right someone else is going to have to get it right and they might not get it right for 20, 30, 40, 50 years. And so I’m trying to do as good a job of it as I can.
John: And to do that I have to read about it constantly. I have to practice it constantly, which means I have to be in classrooms as much as possible. I have to be as honest with myself as possible. It’d be really easy, the company is quite successful, for me to sort of phone it in, just teach the same thing over and over again. It’s a decent product. It’s good enough that we could give it to lots of people and they’d be like, “Oh, this is a really cool product. We’ll just do what you do.” That’s not good enough. I want …
Craig: Good enough isn’t good enough for you.
John: But the thing is as a result of that perfectionism is impossible to achieve. But you have to learn to enjoy the journey. So what I’m doing here is I’m learning how to enjoy the journey, which in itself fascinatingly difficult-
Craig: I agree.
John: And also just constantly striving for improvement. So I kind of have some really good roles with Access. One of which is I never ask your coaches to do something you want to do and haven’t already done. So when I give the coaches a really rubbish job that I know was repetitive or make them go to a school that I know is difficult I’ve already been to that school. I’ve already done a term in that school. I know how hard they are. I’ve already taught this. I’ve already done that big long day. I’ve already worked all day and then go teach another class at night and then got up at eight o’clock the next morning for the next class.
John: I’ve done these things. I know they’re hard, but that’s what we do. And I’m asking it of you because I’ve done it, and I would never go and ask something of someone else that I haven’t got some appreciation for what it really means to do that. And therefore I have to actually go and do all of those horrible, hard things. The classic parkour–but I’d never ask someone to crawl two kilometers unless I’d crawled two kilometers, and I’ve crawled two kilometers. I know what it feels like. And therefore I can stand up and say, “Now you.” I suppose that’s very Yamakasi in some ways. But I think …
Craig: Well, but, the idea is that you’ve proven to yourself that you understand the value of whatever it is we’re talking about before you feel comfortable then assigning or suggesting or handing off that same task to somebody else. You know, yes, I understand the value of this. I know that the value is going to be valuable to them. Therefore, go crawl two kilometers or do the dishes or go teach this difficult term or learn to get up so you can make your 8:00 AM class.
John: Yeah. But the thing about that is it’s really difficult because living that life is not easy, and it’s much easier as a human being to just be lazy and go, “Well, I don’t have to do that. I don’t have to live this really difficult lifestyle. There’s nothing pushing me.” But I believe it’s a value for me to practice what you preach. And then the other thing that has made me begin doing as a company director and as a parkour practitioner is believing firmly that whatever we’re doing we need to figure out a way to step up the quality. So this is just one step up. We don’t need to become world leaders tomorrow. We just need to identify what we’re doing right now. Identify areas where, to be honest with you, we’re not cutting it.
Craig: It’s only good enough.
John: And step it up.
Craig: Needs to be better.
John: So we had no idea how to build the parkour vault box. So we figured out a box and would put something together, tried hard. It lasted a couple of years. It was great, but it wasn’t good enough. So this time we sat down and we figured out what we were doing and we understood that we wanted to have a vault box, which looked like it was high quality so that people walked into our gym and knew that we could build a decent vault box.
John: We wanted to create a website that people got to and they went, “These guys know what they’re doing.” Not because you know flashy websites mean people are blown away. It’s because we want them to know that we take a level of perfectionism in our work. We care about the quality of what we’re doing.
Craig: So the seriousness comes through.
John: So everything we do, we’re taking it seriously. We’re trying to be professional, not because we’re trying to fill them, but more we want to be that good.
John: So this actually all spins round in a really funny manner. So you earlier said you feel like I’m always teaching. And as a teacher you always have to kind of … you could give these big high minded lessons about really flexible concepts, about using parkour. But actually what the novice who has no idea how to do these things needs is some significantly more inflexible things that they could be doing. And the big changes I made were–first one was just learning to be slightly more honest with my behavior. And the way I did that, it’ll be something that you’re very familiar with, is that I created a booklet full of small boxes and I wrote down habits.
Craig: I highly recommended this. I highly recommend this process.
John: And it’s an absolutely horrible experience to go through if you’re not used to it. And then you get really into it and then you get too into it and they need to stop for awhile.
Craig: And then you’re back out, right.
John: But it’s really important because it keeps you honest, and be honest with it and discover who you really are by just list what you want to achieve in the day.
Craig: Yeah, let’s unpack it a little bit, right?
John: So mine was really simple at first. Mine was did you get up at the right time, did you eat breakfast, did you meditate, did you stretch for 10 minutes, did you spend 30 minutes reading, and did you clean up the house before you went to bed. That was my first one.
Craig: You’re self-identified. I stole this. This comes from Benjamin Franklin is where I first saw it, and the idea is make a choice about what you want to change and then just simply track it. So for me the first one that I was tracking was effectively when did I go to sleep? Because when I had to get up was based on when I had to go to work. So I was tracking how many hours of sleep I got, and I would find that the evening would roll around and I’d be looking at the clock and it’d be eating potato chips and watching TV. And I’d think if I put the bag down right now and went to sleep I can mark the time that is my personal target for sleep.
Craig: And not every time but more and more I would put the food down and turn the TV off and I was going to bed. So you don’t have to start with 15 things. You start with one thing and then when you start to see a little success, big ships small rudder, you see a little bit of success you add a second or third or fourth. And next thing you know you wind up with 30, and that’s what we’re talking about. And then you’re back out.
John: So, I had a slightly different experience with it. And then that’s I think really good if you want to make habit change, and is what you use this for. But what I actually first of all I used it for just a sort of an honest, critical reflection of where my life was. And one of the things I discovered was that I was not training or looking after myself anywhere near as much as I thought it was.
John: I wasn’t eating properly. I didn’t know that I wasn’t eating properly until I started tracking my dietary habits and realized that I was probably about 1000 calories down most days considering what I should be eating. And now I know why I couldn’t put on weight very easily. And so I got really into cooking for two months to make sure that I’d made loads of food so that I could eat properly.
Craig: Control the exact.
John: And the way I knew that is I started tracking it, and the honest reflection taught me something. And so first of all, honest reflection, figure out a way to learn how honest you are with your life, and the thing about honest reflections is it’s really important for habit building because the way most people deal with habits is very, very see through. It can be explained. I don’t want … So the best habit change I’ve made in the last year is I started meditating, and I entered meditation with the intent to create a new habit. I’d been monitoring my behavior for about three months at this point. And I went, “Okay, well, let’s try and generate a new habit.” I’ve always wanted to develop a good meditation habit. Every time it’s been the same. I’ve been really into it for about two weeks. I’ve missed a day and then it’s gone.
John: So I’ll track how often I meditate for a month, and in the first month I miss two days. So in theory I’ve got 28 days out of 31, 28 days out 30. That’s great. That’s a really good habit. Even these days, six months, in I meditate for six days a week, which is still a really healthy habit. But if I wasn’t in the habit every single day I missed would be a chance for me to exit this habit entirely. But because I said I’m going to track this for a month when my first blip happened Day 16, because I was too busy, Day 17 I definitely meditated.
Craig: They call it, “Never miss two,” or something the weightlifters call it.
John: Yeah. And so that process of tracking the habit and being honest with yourself helped me make a new habit. And that habit’s really paid dividends because I have been angry …
Craig: Day 16 when you skipped it, right?
John: Once. A year ago I exited a really bad relationship where I was constantly fighting with my ex and I was angry every week and I was furious at something or the other. And I haven’t been angry in six months. I’ve had people very angry at me shout. They’ve been upset by this. I still have emotions, but I have not felt the desire to hurt someone either with words or with actions in six months.
Craig: Yeah, where you feel like you’ve lost control of your response kind of thing.
John: Which is a bit weird because I’ve always known that I have a real temper issue, but I don’t seem to have a temper issue anymore. And I don’t know where it went. Building habits, positive changes, learn to meditate-
Craig: Self reflection.
John: Self reflection, be better than you used to be. All these things built up trying to be better.
Craig: So that leads me right into is there a takeaway that you would like to share with everybody out there? There’s one thing you could ask them to do or to think about or to go learn, what would that be?
John: I think the thing that really changed me was learning to be a bit more honest with myself, and that really came from recording my behavior for a period of time. After a month of recording my behavior I was much more certain of where my weaknesses were and what my strengths were. People record their behaviors differently, but people often struggle to get into the habit of recording their behaviors. So the first thing to do is to just record a behavior for a while. And so the first booklet I ever did was recording behavior. There was a tick box which was, did you do your booklet today?
John: And that’s where the habit forming starts and that’s where the honesty starts, and that’s where it all begins. Because if you record it for a week and you missed three then you know the first thing you need to get the habit of is ticking the box.
Craig: I love that, the boxes. Did you tick this box every day for a month. And then the next task and then the next task.
John: And if you build that habit of recording your behavior that’s a habit that allows you to build other habits. And I took it and I took it towards meditation and I learned to be more honest with myself about becoming much more interested in how my mind actually worked and what was going on inside it, and I’ve really enjoyed that experience. But I don’t think that’s for everyone, and I’d never recommend it to everyone. That being said, if you want to learn more about meditation, the Headspace app was great. And if you want to learn more about parkour and its values and its concepts then do it. Think about it in terms of its physical practice because that is the inflexible concept. Parkour’s physical practice is the inflexible concept. And once you’ve got the hang of the physical practice, let it bleed into the more flexible concept of how to live your life.
Craig: And of course the final question, three words to describe your practice.
John: A culture of effort.
Craig: Thank you very much, Hedge. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.
John: Thanks, Craig.
Craig: This was Episode 22. For more information on this episode go to movers mindset.com/22. While you’re there, please consider supporting this project by becoming an insider. Thank you for listening.