Five Myths About Fitness

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Ken Blanchard and Tim Kearin's latest book is about fitness that is sustainable and permanent, not a fad diet or rapid-loss system that takes its toll on the body and inevitably stops working.

Most people don't stick to their fitness goals due in some small part to the various myths floating around (like old wive's tales) that endorse incorrect (and often damaging) prescriptions. Here are just five of them:

1. No Pain, No Gain.
This phrase was popularized by an exercise machine manufacturing company but it has been adopted as a mantra by countless people. The point is to differentiate between muscle soreness and actual pain. Soreness is common and is a sign of exertion through exercise, but it wears off. Pain, on the other hand, means you've done damage somewhere and if you continue, you're most likely going to do permanent damage -- so stop!

2. Stretch Before Exercising.
Long the standard ritual before embarking on any sort of exercise, numerous researchers have found no scientific evidence to back up the notion that stretching before a workout reduces injuries or lessens muscle soreness. Psychologically speaking, it seems to work only because we are under the impression when we are stretching that we are "easing in" to the workout. That said, there's no harm in stretching either.

3. You Continue Burning Calories Even After You Stop Exercising.
This statement is for the most part just not true. "Afterburn" calories can top out at just 20-30 within a day extra. If you exercise intensely enough to reach the top of your VO2 maximum (the maximum amount of oxygen you can take in during exercise) and continue at that incredibly high level for 45 minutes or longer, you'll burn up to an extra 190 calories even after you stop exercising. Keep in mind, however, that's 45 minutes of sheer exhaustion for basically the calorie count of a tuna sandwich.

4. Running on a Treadmill Is Better for Your Knees.
For years people have believed that running on hard surfaces impacts your knees significantly more than, say, running on the beach -- so a treadmill seems like a solid alternative. But it's not. The real damage on the knees is from the act of running itself much more than the surface you're running on. Any time you lift your leg off the ground and pound it down again puts strain on the knees. This is why cycles and elliptical machines are recommended for people with bad knees.

5. Swimming Is a Total Body Workout Like Running, But Safer.
It is to some extent, but not as much as many would think. Part of the exertion (and calorie-burning benefits) from many types of exercise stem from carrying your own body weight as you move. While swimming does increase your heart rate and tone muscles, the water is helping to support your body weight, so you're not getting as rigorous a workout as you may think.


Five Lessons on Peer-to-Peer leadership from Peer-to-Peer Computer Networks

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In her latest book, Mila Baker explains how the best leadership networks function like peer networks in technological circles where there is no central power structure but rather an equipotent number of nodes that function together as a team of leaders.

But there are plenty of other lessons to be learned from peer networks; here are just five:

1. P2P networks are not restrained by geographical proximity or boundaries.
P2P networks can function in various environments including ones so small that the only people in it are the individuals in one particular building, all the way to global networks in several continents -- as a result of which, such networks are always "on" and "live."

Lesson for Business: As even small companies go global, the inefficacy of having a central command in one place that others have to follow regardless of where they are located grows more impractical. A global leadership network is not a failing but rather a strength because it ensures accountability at all times in all places rather than only during business hours at HQ.

2. P2P networks are self-sustaining.
On the Internet, peer to peer networks handle a very high volume of file sharing traffic by distributing the load across many computers. Because they do not rely exclusively on central servers, P2P networks both scale better and are more resilient than client-server networks in case of failures or traffic bottlenecks.

Lesson for Business: Traditional leadership networks generate bottlenecks where everything has to go through a select conduit. With more more people reporting to less, a logjam is inevitable. Such logjams are circumvented when there are more conduits in a more expansive network.

3. P2P networks rarely crash.
Because the work and transfer of data is handled through so many nodes, nothing happens if one or more of those nodes crash or break as there are still others who can shoulder the work and keep the network running.

Lesson for Business: This is an obvious one. When all work is orchestrated or approved by a select number or hierarchy, any disruption of that hierarchy means that the whole organization falters or breaks down. Having a network of leaders means that if one or more are unable to perform for any reason, others can still step in and keep things running.

 4. P2P networks can be configured in different ways to suit particular purposes.
Not all P2P networks are the same. Technically, many P2P networks (including the original Napster) are not pure peer networks but rather hybrid designs as they utilize some nodes for some functions such as search. Depending on the network's needs, certain nodes can serve particular purposes at one time and serve more general connection purposes at another.

Lesson for Business: The whole idea of a single person having a single role is not just inefficient but outdated. One of the great strengths of a peer network is an aligned group that can do a variety of things -- and, most importantly, have the collective brainpower to be able to advise one another on different matters and therefore have more skills across more disciplines.

5. P2P networks do not restrict the free-flow of information.
There are some networks that have tiers of access, but the most popular peer networks have open access where each person decides what information or material they wish to share but that information, once posted, is accessible to everyone on the network.

Lesson for Business: The sharing of information is one of the most crucial aspects of business communications but that can often be negatively impacted by selective sharing where not everyone has access to the same information resulting in misunderstandings and false assumptions. A transparent approach that makes all information available to everyone ensures a more informed, coordinated, and empowered group.

Five Ethical Quandaries (and How to Think Through Them)

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In his latest book, author Mark Pastin guides us through the process of ethical decision-making and how to do the "right" thing in our personal and professional lives. Mark argues that we each have an innate ethics sense to help resolve the thorniest ethical issues. Of course, resolution is not always about making the choice that feels best, but does best for all.

Here are five trickier ethical situations along with Mark's advice as to how to think through them:

Ethical Quandary #1: An Offer You Can't Refuse
Just after your current employer has promoted you and given you a substantial raise, you receive an attractive job offer from a direct competitor. When you got your promotion, you told your boss that you were “in it for the long haul,” but now you're not so sure and feel tempted. You wonder if you should tell your boss about the offer.

How to Think This Through
You have to decide if you owe loyalty to your employer and your boss. Even though your current company promoted you, that promotion was based on earned merit, not projected future loyalty. To make an ethically sound decision, look at the situation in the eyes of the other affected parties. If you were in their shoes, what would you expect? And, more importantly, is this expectation reasonable?

Ethical Quandary #2: My Back Yard
A developer wants to build a casino immediately adjacent to your neighborhood. You recognize that the casino will benefit most of the community -- except for those who live adjacent to it. You wonder if it is right to oppose the casino based on your interests and the interests of a few others in the neighborhood.

How to Think This Through
While you are correct to consider the benefits to all concerned, there is more to the story. You also need to consider the benefits and entitlements of having a system of property use that protects property holders. So it comes down to whether the benefits to the community outweigh the benefits of protecting the rights of property holders. Be sure to factor in your own bias as someone directly affected by the casino.

Ethical Quandary #3: No Pain
You are a doctor and one of your patients who opposes euthanasia on religious grounds, asks you to do "whatever is necessary" to stop his pain. The level of drugs needed to stop the pain will almost certainly kill the patient in short order. The patient recognizes this but still wants the pain stopped.

How to Think This Through
The patient's religious beliefs prohibit euthanasia and yet you are being asked to participate in actions having the same outcome as euthanasia. Consider your own ethical rules on how to practice medicine. You are being asked to challenge your own conscience in order to relieve the patient's conscience. This is not just between you and the patient, but between you and your conscience.

Ethical Quandary #4: Bell Curve Blues
A scientific experiment you conducted on genetic inheritance seems to inadvertently show that people of certain races are less intelligent than people of other races. You personally did not hold such opinions prior to the research and you are not entirely happy with these findings as they challenge your personal beliefs. You wonder whether you should publish this research. You know that many will distort your conclusions to support their own racist beliefs.

How to Think This Through
While a scientist is required to respect the scientific method, this does not mean that you are obliged to publish everything the data supports. While you have to face the facts, you do not have to publicize them especially if they are open to misinterpretation. You have to decide whether the benefits of sharing this research publicly outweigh the likely fall out from it.

Ethical Quandary #5: Speed Kills
The company you work for is deciding whether to build a super fast car for street use. With some tricky maneuvering, the company has managed to find a loophole to make what is essentially a professional race car street legal. There is a demand for the car and your company desperately needs the boost this signature product would give it. But you wonder if it is right to produce a car whose purpose appears to be little more than for racing on public streets and highways.

How to Think This Through
Consider the interests of the parties to this situation. While the interests of your company are clear enough, you have to consider the interests of those who might be affected if the car is built and sold. It is not only the drivers of super-fast cars that are injured by them, and by creating a car that encourages unsafe speeds, you're almost guaranteeing future accidents. On the other hand, if your company does not build the car, won't some other company make an equally fast car?  Does this make a difference?


Five Things You Didn't Know About Leonardo da Vinci

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In his latest book, Fritjof Capra discusses how the legendary thinker and artist Leonardo da Vinci recognized patterns and systems in art and science, and how that recognition taught him to anticipate and create things the likes of what had never been seen before.

But da Vinci himself was a unique character, and the facts about his life and practices are every bit as fascinating as his creations. Here are five things you probably didn't know about this true Renaissance man:

1. His name is not Leonardo da Vinci. Leonardo was born to parents who were not legally married and so did not have an “official” surname (in keeping with the laws of the time). "Vinci" was the name of the town where he was born in Italy. Leonardo da Vinci simply means “Leonardo of Vinci.”

2. There's a reason his sketchbooks are as full as they are. 
Many people have commented on how richly and fully illustrated Leonardo’s notebooks are, with each page seemingly crammed with numerous studies and sketches. The reason for this may have been financial more than anything else, however. Paper was very expensive in Leonardo's time and so it would have been in his best financial interests to thoroughly use every spare portion of a page whenever possible.

3. His diet was radical for its time. Leonardo was a vegetarian and also drank no milk, which was very rare for his time since meat was considered a staple part of the diet of even peasants and the poor. Even more surprising, Leonardo practiced vegetarianism purely for humanitarian reasons. He also had a wonderful habit of buying caged birds just so that he could set them free.

4. No one can find a single sculpture by him. Despite being such a master of many mediums and capable of all sorts of design, there remains to this day no piece of sculpture that can definitely be attributed to Leonardo.  Historians have also been able to determine that he learned sculpture as an apprentice in Verrocchio’s studio, but no “signed” pieces have every been located.

5. He learned anatomy in a very questionable way. While his respect for the living was quite evident, he didn’t mind so much desecrating the dead -- at least in the name of science. Leonardo would often steal into graveyards at night to dig up corpses so that he could study human anatomy.