In the 80’s Van Halen was the biggest rock band in the world.
Their live performances were legendary, as was their artist rider, a part of the performance contract that specifies everything the artist requires to perform that day.
Van Halen’s long rider had “a large bowl of M&Ms, all brown ones removed.”
This was dismissed as typical rock star diva behaviour. But it turns out it was actually a shrewd and efficient business move.
The M&M line was inserted after many pages of important technical and safety specs.
So the band used it as an easy indicator of whether the promoter did their due diligence and carefully read every page.
All the band had to do was look for the M&M bowl. If they saw any brown ones they knew their road crew had to do a thorough safety check of the entire stage setup, as something subtle but very important could be out of place.
I use “easy indicators” when troubleshooting progress plateaus. I ask questions or request data, but it’s mainly to find out where to start troubleshooting.
How many calories do you eat a day? If the answer is “I don’t know” then it’s probably too many or not enough, which paves the way for the “keep a food log” lecture. Perfectly round numbers every day of the week is another red flag.
Same with how much protein they eat in a day. “I don’t know” suggest it’s probably not enough and time to check the food log.
Whats your favorite exercise? If the answer is bench press they probably need a lot more rowing and to start dating a squat rack.
The key is the WHY behind every answer, not the answer itself.
Why is getting in enough protein a problem? Is it a palate preference or just poor planning?
Why is sleep so lousy? Is it job stress, kids, or too much exercise?
This sets you on the path towards solving problems, not just identifying them.
So rather than telling someone with a stressful job to “chill out more” you can help pinpoint what IS stressing them and perhaps offer solutions, if possible, or at least work around them as best you can.
It all starts with trying to collect a little data. What that process reveals or teaches you is far more important than the data itself.