A reader recently wrote in and said, “I understand why you start each participant out at a level where they’re guaranteed to succeed. I also understand why you use very small increments of progress/change, and restrict the amount of progress each participant is allowed to make in any one workout. And I understand why you want the leg assisted pull ups to be done in front of the kid’s peers and teachers.”
“By doing these things you guarantee that all participants will experience a little success every time they workout for many workouts, and many weeks before things get very challenging. You’re building in positive expectations, patterns of success experienced in public, storerooms of confidence producing psychological capital, and then you allow the resulting high fives from peers to motivate, inspire, and to help kids learn to look forward to their next opportunity to get on the bar and to get stronger.”
“What I fail to understand is what happens when the easy phase wears off and the whole thing becomes challenging. I mean immunizing themselves against obesity by learning to do pull ups is tough for most kids these days. So I want to know what happens when the going gets tough?”
First let me thank to the reader for a great question. Then let me confess, the reader’s correct when he says that the easy phase eventually wears off and the whole thing inevitably becomes challenging for most kids. I also understand that as a society, we’ve become too used to seeing kids giving up when the going gets tough, and refusing to try for fear of humiliating themselves in public. Humiliation after all is un-cool, and all kids want to be cool and accepted by their peers. For most it’s their highest priority.
But in years of working with OPYOW I don’t ever recall seeing even one child become discouraged and/or refusing to try. And the reasons for that certainly begin with the fact that we intentionally build public success into the experience. More specifically if the stage is set correctly each child will experience success (grow a little bit stronger) for many consecutive workouts, many consecutive weeks, and often for several months before things get real challenging.
Psychological Capital in the Experiential Bank
But eventually the going gets tough. It’s inevitable. And when that happens each child should have weeks and weeks of public success under their belt. By this time the child should have a real good feel for what they’re doing, and with an abundance of positive psychological capital stored up in their experiential banks (1) they can grab hold of the bar expecting to succeed just like they’ve done workout after workout, for weeks and weeks now.
Not only that, but the entire peanut gallery is expecting them to succeed because that’s precisely what has happened every time they’ve touched the bar for a dozen weeks or more. Why should this time be any different?
The Peanut Gallery is Cheering Everyone On
The peanut gallery has also grown used to congratulating each participant when they’re done, and they expect to do it again this time. That means they cheer and urge their peers to keep on keeping on, especially when the going gets tough. And when your friends are cheering you on it’s really hard to give up, or to quit until you get your chin up to the bar just like everyone expects you to do.
The Psychological Chemistry is Suddenly Reversed
As a matter of fact, under these conditions, with everybody cheering you on, and expecting you to succeed, it’s humiliating and it’s un-cool to quit without giving it at least 1000%. So you don’t quit. You give it 1000%. And when you do the odds of success are increased by approximately the same percentage.
Let me repeat this one more time so you don’t miss it. Under these circumstances the psychological chemistry of pull ups is suddenly reversed. It’s gone from REFUSING TO TRY for fear of being humiliated in front of your friends, to REFUSING TO GIVE UP for fear of being humiliated in front of your friends. Now how cool is that?
An Increased Challenge Hardens the Resolve
As a matter of fact, in my experiences with OPYOW, when the stage is set right, an increased challenge produces an increase in the child’s resolve to succeed. In other words when you’re used to succeeding in public, and all your friends are expecting you to succeed in public, odds are that you’re going dig down deep enough to find a way to continue succeeding in public.
It’s cool to get stronger week after week, month after month. It’s cool to be able to tackle a difficult task in front of your friends and succeed. And as the going gets tougher, the success becomes more fulfilling. Not only that but it’s fun and you don’t want to lose that fun, that cool, or that feeling of being a winner. And when you know the only thing standing between you and the goal line is a little more effort, it’s not all that tough for most kids to dig down a little deeper and to come up with a little more.
It’s All About Relentless Persistence
And in OPYOW, that’s what happens when the going gets tough. We all come together. We all root for one another. And we all carry the ball across the goal line and celebrate each other’s win because it’s cool to be strong, it’s cool to succeed, and it’s really fun when we can all be cool, strong, and succeed together. When pull ups finally evolve into a team sport, everyone wins. Oh yes we do.
1. With enough psychological capital stored up in their experiential banks, children can afford to risk hitting a bump in the road without fearing humiliation or embarrassment. As a kid once told me, “If I don’t get it this time Coach, I’ll get it next time. I promise.”