The 300 Million Yen Heist

I’ve got a confession to make.

I’ve been tricking you.

I’ve been doing it for years.

But before I get to my admission of deception I want to tell you about one of the greatest feats of trickery ever executed.

On the morning of December 10, 1968, four branch employees of the Nippon Trust Bank in Tokyo transported 294,307,500 yen (about US$817,520 at 1968 exchange rates) in the trunk of a company car. They were bringing the money to the Toshiba Corporation – makers of electronics like TVs and radios – to be distributed as holiday employee bonuses.

A mere 200 meters from their destination, they were stopped in the street next to Tokyo Fuchū Prison by a young uniformed officer on a police motorcycle.

The police officer informed them that their branch manager’s house had been blown up, and they had received a warning that dynamite had been planted in the transport car. The four employees exited the vehicle while the officer crawled under the car to locate the bomb. Moments later, the employees noticed smoke and flames under the car as the officer rolled out, shouting that he had made a fatal error and that the car was about to explode.

When the employees retreated and made it all the way to the prison retaining walls before they realized that they didn’t hear any explosion. When they finally looked back they saw that the car, the officer and the money were gone. All that remained was the motorcycle.

Turns out there was no explosion at the branch manager’s house and no dynamite under the car. The young police officer wasn’t a police officer at all.

It was just an elaborate and well executed plot to steal about 3 million yen.

My own personal deception is much less dubious, much less risky and much less clever. But it remains all the same.

For years I’ve been disguising standard, straight-forward, effective training protocols in a shiny, sparkly, shimmery wrapping paper that I call “psychological engagement”.

Psychological engagement in this context is a bit hard to explain without getting particularly nerdy with exercise science jargon but, essentially, by changing rep ranges, adding time constraints, forcing you to strategize by giving you specific targets and a host of other common and not-so-common methods, I am distracting you away from the cold, hard realization that you have now back squatted every week for the past, I don’t know, million years.

Nearly every facility uses psychological engagement of some sort to their advantage. This typically comes in one of two forms.

The first is by non-training distractions. Things like lights, loud music, DJ booths, shirtless trainers and fog machines (I shit you not!) are employed to give you something external to focus on and provide some relief from the muscle burn and breathlessness.

The second is to utilize exercise creativity. The program will call for unique or non-conventional exercises that require a lot of mental focus which will keep your brain busy and, ideally, keep you from realizing that the training you are participating in is nonsensical and ineffective.

But both of these tactics are like the uniformed police officer standing in front of the logoed motorcycle. They seem convincing and trustworthy but when you take a closer look you see that they are imposters draped in store rented costumes and sloppy paint jobs. There is no dynamite.

At this point you might be asking yourself one of two questions.

The first is “why”?

“Why would any facility use these false tactics of psychological engagement if they aren’t ultimately effective?

And secondly, “why don’t you use them?”

The answers are two sides of the same coin. Training hard is challenging. The majority of people need something to latch onto that is outside the pain of training to get the most out of their hour long sessions.

And cheap tactics such as distractions and novelty are used because they are easy. Developing psychologically engaging programs that actually deliver the effective nuts and bolts necessary in a good training program takes a fair amount of diligence, creativity and knowledge. Some facilities and trainers are willing to put in that work. Many are not.

The reason we are willing to do it is simple. It’s important to us that you get the most out of training. That we provide training that is effective and that we utilize tools that make it as easy as possible for you to engage with it. So we dress up our back squats and deadlifts and sled pushes in smart and sensible ways that allow you to keep engaging with them. To be able to come back every week excited to keep hammering away at the basics.

To sum it up further, it’s an act of integrity.

You’ve put your training – something we see as sacred, valuable and important – in our hands.

You’ve trusted us. We have to deliver. To us, it’s worth more than 300 million yen.

We owe you at least that much.