The Problem With "Balance"

“Part of this balanced breakfast!”
What memory does that stir up?
For me, it’s something from 35 years ago: little Chris in his Transformer pajamas, eating his Frosted Flakes and watching The Smurfs.
In those days, as now, sugary cereals marketed to kids when they were at their most vulnerable. And they got their ads past the censors by using confusing language. They couldn’t say “healthy” or even “good” breakfast, so they used another term: balanced. And, over time, we all started to believe that “balanced” meant “good”.
Balance doesn’t mean equality; it doesn’t mean tolerance. It sometimes means “as much evil as good” or “just enough of X to justify all that harmful Y.” It’s worth noting that healthy food producers don’t have to talk about “balance”, because they can legitimately say “good”.
Our duty as coaches is to help our clients reach health and fitness–not to help them reach “balance”.
My role as mentor to fitness business owners is to help them achieve wealth. That means, instead of presenting all possible opinions, I serve as a filter. I fight infobesity (thanks Brendon). I don’t want to overwhelm or paralyze; I want to activate.
There are a lot of fake gurus and consultants out there who would love to sell you something. But a sales platform requires some authority, and authority requires a platform. Credible platforms take a long time to build (it’s taken me over ten years.) So they get themselves booked on podcasts or published on websites as a shortcut. Listeners tune in to hear a balanced perspective. And their misinformation blunts our collective progress.
Let me give you a more specific example: the best way to sell supplements is to show them beside steroids.
You might not have fallen for this, but I have: as a new trainer in the late 90s, I saw ads for spray-on Testosterone boosters. The ads always trumpeted them as “The Next Best Thing To Steroids!” And there was always a picture of the supplement bottle beside a bottle of mystery pills. The label said “andro-” something, and the article mentioned Mark McGwire, and the PayPal link was just so easy to click…
So you assumed: this stuff is SO CLOSE to steroids that the bottles are practically touching! Because that’s how your brain works.
In reality, the “next best thing” to steroids doesn’t exist. The “next best thing” is not really effective at all.
But I bought the spray-T, followed the instructions, got heckled by my roommate, and smelled like ammonia for a few weeks. I fell for it.
Because when a publisher puts two things on the same stage, they appear to be almost the same. Our consumer brains can’t differentiate. And that’s a huge problem.
Most of the media around gym ownership tries to portray a “balanced perspective”. So they’ll ask one gym owner: “How much revenue did you collect last year?” And he’ll say, “One. MILLION. Dollars!” And the interviewer will say, “Wow!”
Then they’ll ask another, “How much revenue did you collect last year?” And he’ll say, “ONE million dollars.” And the interviewer will say, “Wow! Two experts! Their opinions are equally valid.”
But they’re not.
If the first gym owner had three locations, twenty-seven part-time coaches, 30% monthly turnover, two ex-wives and a 5% profit margin, is that really the same as the gym owner who nets $300,000 on ONE location and two hundred clients? Not even close. This will sound funny, but the million isn’t the hard part: the profit margin is the hard part. But if you aren’t told the difference, then the spray-on andro looks a lot like the steroid bottle.
Now, we all accept that everyone’s equal on Facebook. We all put our best foot forward, and when we look at the long line of shoes, it’s hard to tell who the experts actually are.
But in larger media – like the CrossFit Journal, podcasts and various magazines – we trust there’s some kind of filtering process going on. And there’s not: the spotlight shines equally on anyone who will step onstage. There’s no fact-checking or proof. And even worse, opposing points of view are sometimes promoted in the name of a “balanced perspective”.
Publishers need to fill up their platforms. If they stop producing, listeners and viewers will go elsewhere. Trust me on this: it’s hard to publish a podcast every week. Many podcasts PAY recruiters to find them guests. And when you’ve paid $350 to get someone on your show…how critically will you assess her claims?
I don’t blame podcast hosts for wanting to have interesting shows. But we, as listeners, must learn to critically evaluate their messages.
We don’t need all possible opinions. We don’t need to hear every perspective. What we NEED is facts.
Facts require filters and proof.
When we launched the TwoBrain podcast, I invited guests who had relevant messages for gym owners. I didn’t invite guests just for the sake of having guests. And it’s still our rule: “Is this person’s opinion borne out in practice, or are they just machine-gunning guesses?” Because I think it’s my duty as publisher to give you ONLY what works.
This means we turn down popular guests all the time. It means we’re invited to appear on fewer podcasts, because we won’t agree to a reciprocal hosting agreement. It’s not the fast way to build a platform of trust. But it’s our responsibility, as leaders in the movement, to actually ask: “Does that really work?” Because our mission isn’t to make the most money or get the most “likes”. It’s to make gym owners wealthy.
Magazines have to fill pages between ads. Blogs have to sell supplements. Podcasts need a good lineup of entertaining guests. That means selling “balance”.
Now, what’s CrossFit HQ’s responsibility here? As the licensing brand for our businesses, should they be sharing advice? Should they be sharing more, or less? Should they be filtering, or providing a balanced perspective? Whose responsibility is it?
I have my own opinion, but I also have an obvious bias. I’d love to hear your opinion!


One more thing!

Did you know gym owners can earn $100,000 a year with no more than 150 clients? We wrote a guide showing you exactly how.