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A Lesson on Leadership, Social Media, and "Teachable Moments" - StrongFirst


By Brett Jones (
Chief SFG
Posted on November 3, 2016. 8 Comments. (


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We dont have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it.Erik Qualman

As someone old enough to remember when there wasnt an internet and there wasnt a thing called social media (when we wanted to be
social, we went to the mall), I am constantly learning about how to best use and interact on social mediaand I dont always do it well.

The Stumble That Became a Teachable Moment

Case in point is a recent Facebook interaction between myself and Master SFG Fabio Zonin
comment_id=10210534908038784&notif_t=like&notif_id=1473166296892990). Fabio is a friend and someone I respect greatly in the
StrongFirst community. He recently underwent shoulder surgery and was posting about returning to some training. This raised an
eyebrow for me out of concern for Fabio.

My concern was twofold. The first concern was that Fabio might be doing too much too soon. And second, that others reading his post
and giving him encouragement might not use his example in the best way. I am cautious on social media and always try to think of the
worst scenario and adjust my advice to try to prevent that. I have been involved in too many discussions where details emerged during
the thread that made any preceding advice a very bad idea. It could be that the person seeking exercise advice is actually experiencing
pain. Or it could be that the perception of the advice given does not match the reality or experience of the individual and is applied
incorrectly. Needless to say, I am cautious on social media because it is blind.



A Lesson on Leadership, Social Media, and "Teachable Moments" - StrongFirst

incorrectly. Needless to say, I am cautious on social media because it is blind.

So I chose to post on Fabios thread and this lead to two things. First, Fabio clarified his post-surgical rehabilitation plan. Second, I was
reminded by my good friend Geoff Neupert that I could have contacted Fabio directly instead of questioning him publicly.
In hindsight, I know I should have contacted Fabio directly. This would have shown respect and friendship and I failed at that. But we did
turn the scenario into a positive. After speaking to Fabio on FaceTime, we realized this was a teachable moment. Not only for me. but
also for the StrongFirst community.

While my question to Fabio may have been better delivered in private, it provided him the chance to clarify and go into detail about
his doctor-approved rehabilitation program. Fabio is one of the smartest people in the business with many years of experience. He
knows his body and is working with his doctor. He is not doing his own thing and while a doctor may recommend a completely
different program for you or me, Fabio is following the advice his doctor has recommended for him.
I want to believe the culture of our community is such that respectful questioning is accepted and encouraged. I know for myself the
only time being asked why is a problem is when I dont have a why. Fabio has a why and didnt mind my question.
As professionals in an internet age, our message can spread far and as noted in the quotation that started this article we need to spread
our message well and properly.

A Few Words From Fabio

And to paraphrase Paul Harvey, And heres the rest of the story from Fabio Zonin (,
Master SFG, SFB, and SFL:



A Lesson on Leadership, Social Media, and "Teachable Moments" - StrongFirst

( feel humbled and honored

to be part of the leadership of StrongFirst. I have been lucky enough to travel the world and do what I love most: meet amazing
people, make new friends, share my knowledge, improve myself by learning from the best in the industry, help people achieve
their goals, and give my contribution to our community. And I could add much more.
But being part of the leadership of a world-class school also means accepting great responsibilities. When I accepted my
position, I also accepted that the shield of the School of Strength was printed indelibly on me. When people see me, they see
StrongFirst. The two entities, Fabio Zonin and StrongFirst, are inseparable. And the same applies for all of the members of our
leadership. Whatever we do, say, or post, its not only us acting, speaking, or postingbut also StrongFirst. Our private lives are
confined within the four walls of our homes, but in public venues and on social media, we constantly represent StrongFirst.
We inspire people with our words and actions, and many see us as role models. We have the power to help people and motivate
them by providing a good example and always being the first to do what we preach. But this is also a double-edged sword. If we
make a mistake, we can deliver an incorrect message, give a bad example to those who are inspired by us, and misrepresent
our school. Therefore, it is crucial we are always cautious in our actions and think twice before we act, talk, or post. It is not
about us, but about all those who follow us and the integrity of our school.
Because of all that, I have learned to weigh carefully my actionsor at least I thought so. In fact, I made a mistake.
I allowed my enthusiasm to overcome my prudence, and I posted something that wasnt a good example. I was so happy
about my first training session after surgery, that I posted some videos without thinking that my training could have been
viewed as too much. My intentions were good; I thought I could be an inspiration for those who suspend their training
sessions for two months just because they have a broken nail. I also thought it was a good idea to deliver the message, It
doesnt matter how many times you fall, but how many times you get up again.
What I didnt consider is that my training session was that of someone who has good control of his body, fairly high levels of
strength, and, above all, clearance from his doctor. While for me pressing a 28kg bell for 5 reps is below 50%1RM and way below
30% of max effort, that weight can be very challenging for others, and would definitely be inappropriate a week after surgery.
In the hours that followed my post, a voice inside of me started telling me that maybe it wasnt a good idea, and that voice was
reinforced by the wisdom of my good friend Geoff Neupert, who was spending a few days with me here in Italy. Before I could
take any action, I read Bretts comment.
I confess that my first thought was, Why doesnt he write this in a private message? But it was only my pride speaking those
words, so I didnt listen. Brett is not only a friend and someone who owns my highest admiration and respect, but he is also the
Chief SFG. Not only does he have the right to make sure all the members of the leadership behave according to our code of
conduct, but this is also his duty.
And Brett had at least three very good reasons to comment publicly on my post:
1. He was concerned about my health, and this is something I very much appreciate. He could have sent me a private
message, but if you see a child crossing a busy road and you save him from getting run over, who cares how you did it? In
emergency situations, we act by impulse, and the final result is what counts.
2. He was concerned about our community and the impact my post could have had on it.
3. He gave me the opportunity to publicly explain my why and to turn a bad example into a good example.
In the end, our exchange itself delivered a good example on how to conduct a thread among gentlemen on social media. All this
has made this experience a teachable moment, for the two of us and for the StrongFirst community.

Culture and Community Expanded

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a community ( as a body of
persons of common and especially professional interests scattered through a larger society. Or simply a group of people who have the
same interests.
And the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines culture ( as the set of shared
attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization and as the set of values, conventions, or social
practices associated with a particular field, activity, or societal characteristic Or simply a way of thinking, behaving, or working that
exists in a place or organization.

The community of StrongFirst is a group of people who have the same interest or passion for strength and our School of Strength.
While we are certainly scattered through a larger society, and whether we began with the kettlebell, barbell, or our own bodyweight, the
StrongFirst principles have drawn us together to form a community.
The culture of StrongFirst is perhaps harder to define. Since we are scattered and may even be on our own where we live and work, it
can be harder to develop a way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in our community. This puts a lot of pressure on how the
leadership acts at events and on social media. They are watching is something I have said to our instructors so often. They means
everyone we interact with and these interactions are something I take seriously.



A Lesson on Leadership, Social Media, and "Teachable Moments" - StrongFirst

everyone we interact with and these interactions are something I take seriously.
People feel our culture at our events. StrongFirst representatives operate with respect within a structured experience. Attendees are
pushed to perform and learn, and walk away transformed in many cases. Instructors guide and teach and act as examples of not only the
techniques but also the culture. As Fabio put it, The shield of the School of Strength was printed indelibly on me. It is a responsibility.

Within a social media format, the ability to connect is greater than everbut also harder than ever. A smile or an encouraging word
within a live experience can connect someone to our culture faster and with more impact than a tweet or Instagram pic. But a rude,
offensive, or argumentative post within a social media context can drive more people away than we may ever know. It is an additional
responsibility for those in our community and it can be a hard line to walk.
My hope for the culture of StrongFirst is one of respect, support, and encouraging the idea that strength has a greater purpose. As
Michael P. Watson said, Strong people do not put others down. They lift them up.
Fabio and I stumbled a bit, but moved forward through respectful and supportive interaction. We are not above questioning and we
should never be concerned about being questioned. Fabio wanted to inspire and I wanted to protect. In the middle, we accomplished
that and provided a teachable moment. Not only regarding recovery from challenges, but also positive social media interaction.
Special thanks to Fabio for his portion of this article. Fabio is a Master SFG, SFB, and SFL. He is a former powerlifter, natural bodybuilder, and
owner of fitness centers. He was the first Italian to accomplish the Beast Tamer Challenge and has been a Master Teacher for FIF (Italian
Federation of Fitness) for almost two decades (1994-2012). He is also the Ground Force Method National Director for Italy.


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Brett Jones (

( Brett Jones is StrongFirsts Chief SFG Instructor. He is also a Certified Athletic
Trainer and Strength and Conditioning Specialist based in Pittsburgh, PA. Mr.
Jones holds a Bachelor of Science in Sports Medicine from High Point University, a Master of Science in Rehabilitative Sciences from
Clarion University of Pennsylvania, and is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) from the National Strength and
Conditioning Association (NSCA).
With over twenty years of experience, Brett has been sought out to consult with professional teams and athletes, as well as present
throughout the United States and internationally.
As an athletic trainer who has transitioned into the fitness industry, Brett has taught kettlebell techniques and principles since 2003.
He has taught for Functional Movement Systems (FMS) since 2006, and has created multiple DVDs and manuals with worldrenowned physical therapist Gray Cook, including the widely-praised Secrets of series.
Brett continues to evolve his approach to training and teaching, and is passionate about improving the quality of education for the
fitness industry. He is available for consultations and distance coaching by e-mailing him at
Follow him on Twitter at @BrettEJones (
( (







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8 thoughts on A Lesson on Leadership, Social Media, and Teachable

Dave Hart ( says:
November 9, 2016 at 12:45 pm (
A very mature approach. I feel that in most other instances on the web if someone is called out or questioned about their posts/actions etc they are



A Lesson on Leadership, Social Media, and "Teachable Moments" - StrongFirst

very quick to jump into defensive mode. The above is a terrific example of how one can act as an adult, which unfortunately is very rare these days,
especially online.
Reply (

Gary H. says:
November 9, 2016 at 6:43 am (
Great job setting an example. We all make mistakes with each other. How we handle them is what matters.
Reply (
offwidth says:
November 7, 2016 at 6:54 pm (
What a great lesson. Thank you!
Reply (

Evan Marcantonio ( says:

November 4, 2016 at 5:46 am (
This is one of my favorite StrongFirst articles of all time. Integrity to the core, and I love the comment of ones intent to inspire and the others to
protect. That was the end result, excellent!
Reply (

Nikki Shlosser ( says:

November 4, 2016 at 6:45 am (
Reply (

Brett Jones ( says:

November 4, 2016 at 5:01 am (
Thank you gentlemen
Reply (

Matt Kingstone says:

November 3, 2016 at 2:00 pm (
I totally agree with Steve Freides,
This situation happens all the time and is either just water under the bridge (until the next time it happens) or drives a wedge between the two
involved. The fact the Leadership of this great community took the time to respectfully clear the air with each other and then share the experience
with the rest of us is inspiring.
Thank you Brett and Fabio for Leading from the Front
Reply (

Steve Freides ( says:

November 3, 2016 at 10:00 am (
This article is yet another reminder of why I am so proud to be a part of StrongFirst because Strength has a higher purpose means Strong
Character, too.
Thank you, Brett and Fabio.
-SReply (

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