Power Athlete Nation Book Club: Outsmart Your Instincts

“Your feelings will lie to you...” A common phrase in the Power Athlete coaching community. Often referring to movement faults an athlete believes to be correct with the latest edition to the Power Athlete Nation Book Club, we learn why you really should not trust your feelings.

This article will dive into our Power Athlete Radio Episode 254 guest, Adam Hansen’s latest book: Outsmart Your Instincts.

Concepts: Cognitive Bias

In episode 254, we meet Adam Hansen and his journey from Idaho to Indiana to Innovation. A driving force behind the podcast conversation and the focal point of Outsmart was the idea that we are wired for the needs of our ancestor’s ancestors. The problems from past millennia that initiated our survival instincts to avoid threats and instantly make survival decisions are now almost non-existent; despite this absence, we still rely upon those same instincts to make decisions. These innate thought patterns are known as Cognitive Biases, which are a collection of mental shortcuts that have evolved in our brains and shape our judgement of the world.

Outsmart selects eight Cognitive Biases to prepare you to either disarm your instincts or recognize when these take your thinking for a ride:

  1. Negativity Bias: “Bad is stronger than good”
  2. Availability Bias: “What you see is all there is”
  3. Curse of Knowledge: “Well, it’s just obvious that...”
  4. Status Quo Bias: “The bird in the hand”
  5. Confabulation: “Of course that’s why I did that!” (The @Luke Summer’s Bias)
  6. Conformity Bias: “Play along to get along”
  7. Confirmation Bias: “Just as I thought!”
  8. Framing: “Like a fish in water”

The beauty of Outsmart is that Hansen doesn’t simply introduce you to the above big eight biases, but provides actionable steps to creatively work through them. Each chapter sets the stage with an innovative opportunity and helps you flesh out your ideas through these actionable steps. Like in episode 254, the concept of taking action and “being the change” continuously appeared as well. You will no doubt face all of the big eight in your coaching or athletic career...best practice how to break them down now before they get in the way of your real world opportunity!

Connections: The Curse of Knowledge

There were many connections made through the book, but none jumped out to me like the Curse of Knowledge. There are levels to this coaching game. Think of the amazing athletes like Gretzky, Jordan and Ted Williams that transition into coaching following their careers. The game came so easy to these greats that they took their abilities for granted when expecting the same of others, or were not aware of what they knew that their athletes did not. Now take a couple of DIII all-stars like Bill Belichick and myself and you’ve got the recipe for a good coach. Why? Because we’re obsessed with the fundamentals! (What bias is that? Clearly, Genetic Trash Can Bias.)

By acknowledging the Curse of Knowledge, a coach can empathize with the current level of an athlete and establish a plan to take them where they cannot take themselves! This is something we unknowingly put into place with the Power Athlete Methodology - Level One online course. Many strength and conditioning educational pieces think you’re stupid or sell you a story of the one way to train athletes. Our course goes to battle with that bullshit and lays out principles of training and athleticism, and provides you a base level of knowledge you’ll be able to walk into any training environment with, and be prepared to empower their performance.

There was another piece about the Curse of Knowledge I appreciated in which Hansen reminds the expert to appreciate the effort they put in to reach their level of expertise, especially when it comes to the importance of remembering the first steps in your journey! There is often a different or abbreviated origin story told to others at the beginning of their coach’s journey. Much of the suffering or luck could be left out as it is possibly discouraging the to young coach.

@Luke and I fell into this trap in Power Athlete Radio Episode 209 where we dove into how each of us got our start with Power Athlete. There were a lot of stories of hustle and struggle left out during the show, especially ones we worked through together once we got to Power Athlete! Cherish the pressure, peaks, valleys, and the especially the process!

Challenges: Confirmation Research

For each of the big eight Cognitive Biases introduced in Outsmart, I thought of person whose violated them in our past interchanges. (Luke is the king of Confabulation, “Of course that’s why I did that!”.) Reading through the chapter on Confirmation Bias though, I had to plead guilty. I spend a lot time diving into studies, strength & condo books, and connecting with coaches, all with a filter of how that information would support what we teach through the Power Athlete Academy. The reading selection and coach connections were explored with a limited perspective, and I was looking for sign off for movements or ideas. This approach was way off.

Outsmart has challenged me to begin expand the scope in which we research Athleticism. The analogy provided in the book is from the sport of fishing. A fisherman, not exactly the definition of athleticism, increases their odds of success by covering more territory and not assuming the fish will be where you’re anchoring your boat. Expect to see a wider range of guests for Power Athlete Radio as we begin to expand our cast, and reel in performance experts from many different fields.

Changes: Communication

I’ll be making many changes after reading Outsmart; one of which will be how I communicate with young coaches. The adage, “we fail at the margins of our experiences” has been thrown around our office for a long time. This represents Availability Bias, aka “what you see is all there is”. Outsmart dives into minutia of this concept,arming you with the tools to breakdown this mindset. Availability Bias is shaped from past experiences, when an individual sees end results from an action and decides, “this worked” or “this failed”. These results turn into rules and begin to mold a fixed mindset.

I see this play out when meeting young coaches on the road. Under the impression of their experience with a smaller sample of athletes, they assume this represents what all coaches are going through. I know this because I was this young coach! The book does a fantastic job on how to identify Availability Bias, and how to use experiences, information, and memories to look at problems or projects in a more creative way. These tools will certainly be brought into my conversations as we approach strength conference season.

Finally, Outsmart drops a line in this chapter I’m going to steal (sorry Adam!) when advising those just getting started in the iron industry: “Go where you increase the likelihood of being truly remarkable - or even better, indispensable.

Dive into Outsmart and start to change the way you think, create, and connect with people! Get caught up with the PA Nation Book Club by reading Quirky and prepare as we kick off our summer reading!

Tex McQuilkin
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Tex McQuilkin

Director of Training at Power Athlete
MS, CSCS, SCCC, CHES
Book a consult with me regarding coaching, training, life, education... anything your heart desires. Click below:
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Former collegiate lacrosse defensive midfielder, 4-year letter winner and 3-year team captain. Coached strength and conditioning collegiately with Georgetown University football, Men's and Women's lacrosse and Women's Crew, as well with the University of Texas at Austin's football program. Apprenticed under Raphael Ruiz of 1-FortyFour-1 studying proper implementation of science based, performance driven training systems. Head coached CrossFit Dupont's program for two years in Washington D.C. Received a Master's in Health Promotion Management from Marymount University in 2010, and has been a coach for Power Athlete since October, 2012.
Tex McQuilkin
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