Influences

As both a sole proprietor and a parent of 3 outstanding kids, one of the ideologies that I use as both a professional and a parent is the following quote: “we are the average of the five people we hang out with most.”  As parents, my wife and I are always concerned with the friends that our kids have as they will definitely influence their development.  The same thought process can be applied to business contacts, partners, and clients.

I firmly believe this also applies to what we read as that can have a big influence that either helps shape new thought processes or reinforces established ones.  I find that to be very true for my professional career.  The following 5 books are my Mt. Rushmore of Books + 1 that have heavily influenced my professional and personal life.  There are many others that have come and gone from this list, but these are my pillars that I constantly refer back to.

Jim Collins book Good to Great is the most influential book.  I refer back to this book at least once a month.  The book is in principle a management book that describes how companies transition from being average companies to great companies and how many companies can fail to make that transition.  To me the book represents the principles needed to make any organization great – a Fortune 500 company, an entrepreneurial startup, or a professional sports team.  I have been fortunate to work for and with some great professional influences that follow many of the principles described in this book.  But unfortunately, I have also worked for and with some companies that fail to adhere to many of these principles and seem destined to follow the “doom loop” pattern described in the book.  These professional experiences have helped to guide my continued professional development and I try to adhere and refer to the Good to Great principles as much as possible.  Good to Great ideologies have also found their way into the professional sports arena.  One of the best examples is the Bill Belichick coaching tree.  The New England Patriots are probably the poster child for implementation of Good to Great philosophies in professional sports.  Belichick disciples also exhibit these same ideologies, most notably Nick Saban at Alabama, where he constantly refers to The Process.  Being a proud alum of the University of Iowa, I am a big fan of football coach Kirk Ferentz.  Ferentz is also a Belichick disciple and has said on a number of occasions how the coaching staff uses Good to Great principles within the program.

Dr. Gary Yamaguchi’s book Dynamic Modeling of Musculoskeletal Motion is my go to book for biomechanical modeling and simulation.  I have over 20 biomechanics books to which I refer to frequently, but Dr. Yamaguchi’s book is the one that I recommend and refer to the most.  Dr. Yamaguchi presents the use of vector kinematics in a systematic method which significantly reduces the complexity of working with multiple, moving limb segments in three dimensions. Operations which usually require the application of differential calculus are replaced by simple algebraic formulas. To derive dynamical equations of motion, a practical introduction to Kane’s Method is given. Kane’s Method builds upon the foundation of vector kinematics and represents one of the most exciting theoretical developments of the modern era. Together, vector based kinematics and Kane’s Method allow me to model living systems with much greater realism, efficiency and accuracy than ever before possible.

Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail – But Some Don’t is a book that examines the world of prediction and investigates how we can distinguish a true signal from a universe of noisy data. He shows that most predictions fail, often at great cost to society, because most of us have a poor understanding of probability and uncertainty. Both experts and laypeople mistake more confident predictions for more accurate ones. But overconfidence is often the reason for failure. If our appreciation of uncertainty improves, our predictions can get better too. That is the “prediction paradox”: The more humility we have about our ability to make predictions, the more successful we can be in planning for the future.  Silver looks at the most successful forecasters in a range of areas, from hurricanes to baseball, from the poker table to the stock market, from Capitol Hill to the NBA.  Silver observes that the most accurate forecasters distinguish the predictable from the unpredictable, and they notice a thousand little details that lead them closer to the truth. Because of their appreciation of probability, they can distinguish the signal from the noise.  Silver also shows that these forecasters tend to have a superior command of probability, and they tend to be both humble and hardworking.  As a side note, this last statement is also a characteristic of a Level 5 Leader in the book Good to Great.  The forward dynamic models that I create for VPD programs are biodynamic models used to predict performance changes using physics-based engineering simulations.

Mark Verstegen’s book Core Performance is another book to which I constantly refer back to.  I had the pleasure of meeting Mark at the Future of Golf Conference in March 2001 in Tempe, AZ.  Mark gave a talk on the importance of the core in golf performance.  I could tell then that I needed to follow Mark as he was going to be at the forefront of athletic training.  I have not been disappointed.  Mark’s company Athletes Performance is one of the premiere athletic training facilities in the world.  His brand has continued to explode, as he continues to open training facilities throughout the US.  His work with NFL combine players is highlighted every year on ESPN SportsCenter, and he recently announced a partnership with SKLZ to further expand innovative training methods and aids to the general public.  In his book, Mark talks about the importance of the hips, pelvis, and core in everyday life and the loss of mobility in these regions has contributed to epidemic levels of injuries and dysfunction in the world today.  This has a direct effect on the orthopedic device market as bracing and implants are reaching record levels due to the continued loss of functionality in the general population.  I have lent this book out and referred over 50 people to buy it as it is a must have for aspiring young athletes as well as their aging parents.  More importantly, Mark’s techniques are aimed at improving athletic performance.  The word performance is critical to Mark and his brand, as it is to BEST Performance.

Brian Kilmeade’s The Games Do Count is a book that reflects the importance of sports in both my personal and professional life. In the book Kilmeade writes about his interviews with celebrities, politicians, and top business people  and shows how they have all reached the top of their respective professions, and they all credit sports for teaching them the lessons that were fundamental to their success.  All 70+ personalities in the book share a love of sports and has a story about how a game, a coach, or a single moment of competition changed his or her life.  I grew up around sports having played soccer, basketball, baseball, football, golf, and track at some point during my teenage years.  I consider myself fortunate to have grown up in an era where I was able to compete in 4 high school sports – football in the fall, basketball in the winter, track in the spring, and baseball in the summer.  Participation in those sports helped me immensely in growing into an adult.  The reason I enjoy sports so much is that participation is not about the outcome, but rather about the journey.  Participation in sports provides athletes with goal setting skills, establishes a hard work ethic, teaches one to work well with teammates and coaches, requires development of performance measurement skills, and most importantly teaches the athlete how to handle adversity and failure.  Participation in sports during my youth directly influenced my professional career.  I was always a good student and particularly strong in math and science.  So when it came to selecting a career, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career that would allow me to stay involved with sports.  My strong math and science background combined with my love of sports led me directly to Biomedical Engineering, and specifically, Biomechanics.  I attended the University of Iowa in the Biomedical Engineering program, which was 1 of only 2 public universities at the time that offered Bachelor of Science (BS) degrees in Biomedical Engineering.

The combination of these 5 books provides great insight into my philosophies and ideologies.  More importantly, they have been very influential in the development of my professional career dedicated to studying the biomechanics of human movement.  I have been able to develop some of the most advanced and realistic 3D musculoskeletal models for prediction, analysis, and validation of the kinetics of human movement.  My models have been used to better understand biodynamics in applications such as sports performance, athlete interaction with sports equipment, and the design and evaluation of orthopedic devices including hip and knee implants and spinal fusion devices.

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