Saturday, November 23, 2013

I am the Common Denominator

In every problem in our lives, one thing is constant. Every time someone screws us over or does something to us, every time some stupid system or rule gets changed and it affects us, one thing is the same. When our job (or jobs) prevents us from making a workout or eating right - when outside forces cause us to not have time to spend with our family and do what we want to in our lives, one piece is always the same. 

I am the common denominator.

And so are you. 

I don't typically like angry rants or blogs. As a coach, I think it is better to build people up then break them down but I think this concept is so elemental, so critical to our growth that there is no easy or nice way to put it. 

Suck it up. 

I am the common thread in all my problems. So are you in yours. 

And when I talk to people about this they nod and agree.

"Oh that is so true," they tell me. "No one wants to admit it."

But … 

Then the "but," as though it is true for everyone else except them. I know. I use the "but" sometimes too. Everyone does.

Right, it applies to everyone else in the world "but," you are the exception. Wrong. You are still the common denominator. 

We all know people that are always angry at someone else for what they are or aren't doing. 

"Everything would be better if so-and-so did this … " 

"Everyone around me is the same …"

See, I think as egos, as humans who have a certain image of ourselves, we hate accepting when we are the problem. While our logical mind, our brains, understand that there are things we are doing to screw things up, our egos, the side that deals with our beliefs about ourselves, gets in the way. It is easier to blame it on someone else than to really solve it. 

Now, engage the logical side again. 

If it is time to make a change, will it be easier to change yourself, the only thing you completely control, or someone else, something you have absolutely no control over? 

A friend of mine, a Marine, put it to me this way, "If things are fucked up, un-fuck yourself first."

Translated: "You are the common denominator."

The issue is simply one of perception 

You are the you you choose to be. But you are not the you you think you are. That is why this concept is so difficult to accept sometimes. Accepting that you are responsible for what happens, or at a minimum how you respond to it, means that you are not the you you think you are. Most of us see ourselves as capable. If we were capable, we wouldn't have these problems. It must be someone else's fault. We don't like to question our perception of ourselves, our identities. Admitting it is our fault not someone else's means we may not be who we thought we were. 

But it doesn't matter if we don't like it or it makes us uncomfortable or we don't believe it. It still is. And you can read this and tell me it's wrong. It won't matter. But it won't change it either. 

I am the common denominator. 

So are you.

Your life is the one you picked. 

Years ago I read book called Execution: The Art of Getting Things Done. My favorite quote (actually the only thing I really took from the book) was this: "We don't think ourselves into a new way of acting, we act ourselves into a new way of thinking."

Daydreaming and planning are not action. Neither is complaining and bitching.  

In your life, you are a participant, not a victim. Stop believing stuff happens to you and start making things happen for you. It is not someone else's fault.

Even when it is. 

They don't care and they won't fix it. You are the thread that runs common -- the common denominator. Take credit for the failures at least as quickly as you take credit for the successes.

Stop complaining to everyone about everyone else. No one wants to hear it. I don't and neither do you. It doesn't mean I don't care it just means I know it won't get you anywhere better than where you are. All we are doing when we bitch to others is trying to build allies, get them on our side and strengthen our case that we are not the problem. 

But I am the problem.

So are you.

Look at it this way: If it is a problem for you then it is your problem. 

Mahatma Gandhi said it clearest, "Be the change that you wish to see in the world."

Grandiose? Maybe, but what if Gandhi wasn't talking about the whole world? What if he just meant yours?

Even if you don't think you can change the whole world, you better recognize that you can change yours. Besides there is no one in that world better positioned to do it.

NOTE: I felt very Hemingway-esque today writing and editing this from a European coffee shop.  I am in Copenhagen to teach a course for guards in the Danish Federal Prison System for Blauer Tactical Systems . I spent most of the day wandering through the city, checking things out. There must be a million bikes in the bike racks, almost none are locked. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

FEAR: Mongering or management?

Finding the "Personal" in Personal Defense Readiness

A couple weeks ago, just days before I was going to a local high school to teach Personal Defense Readiness to a sophomore physical education class, I got a text from my wife about a school shooting in nearby Sparks, Nevada. She didn’t have the school name or the grade level. She just heard it happened. 
CrossFit Defense at CrossFit Love, Philadelphia (Top)
SPEAR Instructor Certification, York, PA (Bottom)

My sister is a teacher in Sparks. My nephew goes to school there. Despite the tragedy that occurred, there was a huge feeling of relief when I learned no one I knew was involved.

That same week several police officers I know, some friends, were injured when an parolee at large allegedly shot at them, trying to get away. One of the police officers was shot in the face and taken to the hospital.

A week later, I was across the country working in my role for Blauer Tactical Systems. I was in Pennsylvania teaching CrossFit Defense and SPEAR System for Law Enforcement Courses. I got several texts and emails from students and friends about a woman that was abducted from the local Wal-Mart, raped and dropped back off at the store. The folks who sent me the information, former students, believed I should remind people how important it was to take a self-defense course. I hated that I was across the country and was grateful that no one I knew was hurt.

See, one of the worst parts about being a self-defense or Personal Defense Readiness Instructor is that you always feel like you are using tragedies to promote your business.

When I refer to these stories I feel like I am standing on a pedestal with a megaphone shouting, “Look at the news, the world is scary. Learn how to defends yourself for $29.99!!!!”

It makes me feel kinda’ dirty. How do you inspire people to face their fears and train for something they don’t even want to consider without fear-mongering?

My self-defense coach Tony Blauer told me  that his system, the SPEAR System, is just like a fire extinguisher -- No one buys one, excited for their house to catch on fire, hoping to get a chance to use it. Self-defense is similar. No one learns self-protection skills and then goes out looking to get mugged. Most, I believe, will never want to have to put their new skills to the test. Like the fire extinguisher, we want them there, under the sink, in case the unthinkable happens.

I heard him say once that statistics are irrelevant, unless you are the one percent. Then, he points out, they mean everything. See, we get in this mindset that these tragedies ... this violence won't affect us. And statistically, that is a good bet -- until it is not. Then, the statistics are not only relevant, but  becoming one can be life changing. 

In the high school class we talked about the shooting in Sparks. I told them about the fear I felt when I heard about it and we discussed the heroic actions of the teacher, Mike Landsbury, who moved toward the danger giving the students time to flee. Investigators believe Landsbury’s actions, sacrificing himself, saved students lives. We talked about the numerous school shootings and lives that were saved when students and teachers who managed their fears moved toward the threat with “indignation” and purpose. We did drills, replicating an active shooter situation. One of the kids who participated confided to one of our coaches that his brother was in a school during an active shooter tragedy many years ago in Colorado. He has always harbored fears because of that. He said the training helped him face some of those fears and made him feel more empowered.

In the CrossFit Defense Course, we discussed the emails and texts I was receiving about the local assault. Some of the students admitted they had fears of just such an incident. I told them so did I, if not for me then my loved ones. We talked about addressing fears, in light of these types of things happening. We still have lives to live, and none of us, we agreed, were going to live in fear and hide.

Nonetheless, I was relieved to hear an arrest was made. (See the story here)

During the cop course, I was able to tell the students, cops themselves, the good news that the last of the wounded police officers I work with had been released from the hospital and his prognosis looked great. Many of them told me they had seen the story on CNN.

Here is the reality: We are all the one percent at some point. The statistics ARE relevant when the fear of becoming one of them negatively changes the quality of our lives. Even if we are never actually a victim, we suffer if we allow our fears to victimize us and change the way we live our lives.

And really, that kind of empowerment is what I want to market, not the fear.

In fact, the opposite is true. That BTS family of courses (SPEAR, CrossFit Defense and PDR) is the only one I know that provides a forum and a formula for particulars to identify, discuss and manage fear. 

Coach Blauer was recently featured in a CrossFit video. In the clip, he tells the story of the origins and evolutions of the CrossFit Defense program designed around his SPEAR System, the same system we teach at NorCal Self-Defense

"Everyday we're faced with some sort of conflict, some sort of confrontation,” Coach Blauer explained. ”How you manage that determines the quality of your day, and therefore the quality of your week, and therefore the quality of your life. Fear management is everything."

It is not paranoid to prepare. It’s your life, Live Ready!  

Check out the entire NorCal Self-Defense calendar here.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Irresponsibility vs. the ability to respond

I had a conversation with a guy the other day. I was telling him about the self-defense courses I teach. He asked who the clients were and I told him it was a mixture of folks - athletes, teens, housewives, kids …  you name it.
He chuckled.
I asked why.
“It is just not realistic that some small woman could fight off a guy like you. It could never happen,” he said.  “I don’t think it is right to teach them that they can. It’s irresponsible.”
See, the problem is that guy is envisioning a different fight than most self-defense situations really are. He is envisioning a fight where the two go toe-to-toe like some kind of sporting event. He is not envisioning a fight, where the bad guy doesn’t want to get caught or go to jail; a fight with witnesses that may jump in and help the victim or at the least whip out iPhones and film it for evidence; he is not imagining an attacker that may have a family at home, or a job, and he doesn’t want to have to explain how he got the claw marks on his face.  Screaming, flailing and fighting people grab other’s attention. Bad guys don’t want attention.
Besides, I am not exactly sure what the alternative is.
He is, however, not unique in his perspective. Lots of people think that if you fight back, you are at greater risk of getting hurt worse, maybe killed.
My coach, Tony Blauer of Blauer Tactical Systems explains it this way: “If you cooperate with a rapist, you get raped. If you cooperate with a murderer, you get murdered.”
The logic, as I understand it, is that if you just let the bad guy have what he wants, be it your body or your stuff, he will let you leave with your life. But even if you are OK with that, it doesn’t take into account what kind of bad guy he is …
“If you cooperate with a murderer, you get murdered …”
And even if you are willing to accept a lesser form of victimization in trade for the hopes that the bad guy won’t opt for a higher form, bad guys don’t wear shirts stating, “I only rape,” or “I’m a killer.”
Coach Blauer teaches that there are things a bad guy wants and things he doesn’t want. They don’t want to get hurt, they don’t want to get caught and they don’t want it to take too long. He teaches the good guys responsibility is the ability to respond -- giving themselves permission to fight back.
While it may be unrealistic to think we can teach any 110 pound person to knock out a 220 pound attacker … or use pressure points or joint locks, that is not what self-defense is. See “fights” in a self-defense sense aren’t won with techniques, they are won with what Coach calls indignation.  
Bad guys aren’t looking for a fight. They are looking for a victim. Give them a fight, even an unskilled one, and often times they will go look for a “better” victim
But don’t take my word for it. Google “Woman fights off attacker.” This is just a short list of what I found. There were many more from the last two months (more than 2 million results). Check some of the links
And none of them were ninjas either. Lets face it: it wasn’t their physical skills that saved them. None of the stories tell of fancy techniques. Simply that they chose to fight. And that is the reality of self-defense. It is less about how you fight but more simply about the fact that you fight.  

Make the decision you will fight now. You don't want to wait until you have to.
Self-defense classes shouldn’t be so much about teaching people how to fight, and more about empowering them to fight and fight with everything they have.
Watch the video of the 64-year-old woman in the link above. Listen to her.
“I am 64-years-old but I still have a lot of fight in me,” she said. “Had it been some other person … that wouldn’t put up resistance, he would have been able to continue to victimize people.”
So the question is still there. Is it irresponsible to tell a 110 pound woman she can fight off a stronger attacker?
I am glad no one told her.
Don’t let anyone tell you.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Another brick in the wall ...

I went in to my first high school wrestling practice with a little bit of a swagger. I had already wrestled for three years, gone to camps and placed well in the equivalent of a junior high state meet.

Wrestling for the mighty Tigers of Roseville
in 1992 or 1993.
My friend Jeremiah had never wrestled before his freshman year. He showed up to the first day of practice in jeans.

I went on and had pretty successful first year. As a freshman I wrestled varsity. Not bad for a middleweight. I won some and lost some, finished just above .500 – the expected growing pains. Jeremiah was 0-1 as a freshman and never made the JV team.

At the end of our freshman seasons, both of us said we were going to be state champions.

My senior year, I placed 7th in California. I was disappointed. Jeremiah pinned his opponent in the finals of the state meet, won a championship and was named the top wrestler in the state.

We have talked often about the disparity of where we both started and where we both finished. He is not naturally a much better athlete. He worked hard but I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone who outdid me. I would venture to say that if you put us both side by side, there would not have been many measurable differences between us in skill, strength or work ethic.

Few differences except our expectations.

My combatives/self-defense coach, Tony Blauer, created a fear management process called the Cycle of Behavior ™.  He initially created the process based on a quote he heard from social scientist Howard Gardner. Gardner explained that 80 percent of our motivation comes from our expectations. Blauer realized that without proper motivation, we will struggle to accomplish our goals. His study and analysis of great athletes, leaders, warriors helped him create a “motivational performance mind-map” for how we all can make decisions under duress. The Cycle of Behavior identifies a simple path towards our goals that shows how motivation is affected by our expectations, our visualizations, our beliefs and certain neuro-associations (symbols) we see in our path. Every time we visualize failure or a negative outcome it affects our expectations of the outcome and, in turn, our motivation. Blauer calls this the “fear loop.”

It is this fear that we use to build walls around ourselves. Walls that prevent us from accomplishing what we want. I have done a lot of things – had lots of experiences. While some of those experiences have smashed parts of the wall, others have added bricks to it. With experience comes accomplishment and failures. Accomplishments can tear down that wall. Failures too, can tear it down, but they also can add bricks to it. It depends how you view that failure. Each failure gives us another brick to build up the wall – a little taller, a little stronger, and a little more insurmountable.

Subconsciously, we think those walls protect us from the pain of future failure. The reality is that they actually prevent us from seeing what we are capable of.   

See, while I told people I wanted to be the state champion -- and this is tough to admit even now – I am not sure I ever really expected I would. Jeremiah, as a 0-1 freshman practicing in blue jeans, never thought he wouldn’t. I had placed bricks in my wall from past losses, past experiences. He hadn’t even visualized a wall, let alone built a foundation of expectations.

I had heard Coach Blauer talk through the Cycle of Behavior several times and thought I understood it. One morning, I was headed to a local CrossFit competition. The first workout was grueling and I was trying to work out a strategy in my head.  As I thought about it I kept mulling over that concept, “80 percent of our motivation, comes from our expectations.”

For some reason, it clicked. If I didn’t expect that I could do something – truly believe it, I couldn't possibly be motivated to do it, especially when it gets tough. When it gets hard and we meet resistance, it will be too easy to give in if we don’t really deep down expect to be successful. Where is the motivation to push through when it is hard if we don’t really, in our hearts and minds expect to be successful? And when I say really expect too, I mean deep down, in those places we don’t talk about publicly.

I read somewhere once (I don’t recall the source, but I wish I could cite it), that there is really “three selves.” There is the self we see, the self that others see and the true self – the one not tainted by ours or other’s perceptions. The expectations of the true self are the ones I am talking about, not what others want or the ones we want others to believe.  

I looked at all the things I had done. As an athlete there had been great accomplishments and failures, yet I had a tendency to focus more on the failures. I added bricks. Even the victories, I added bricks. When I won an MMA fight, I figured my opponent must not be very good. When I won wrestling tournaments, I figured it was because the competition was weak, not because of my abilities. Brick by brick the wall got bigger. People around me thought I was fearless and confident because of all the things I had done. Others assumed the experiences were liberating. I saw them as constricting. More experiences just equaled more evidence of what I could or couldn’t do. Bricks stacked on top of bricks.

The bottom line is, in order to do anything, we have to truly believe we can. We are only going to perform at as high of a level as we really believe we will. This is the tough part. I can say whatever I want to anyone who will listen: I am going to be a world champion, I am going to be a better husband/father, I am going to start eating healthy.  But in order to really do it, I have to expect myself to ... not just want, wish or hope to. Even hard work, without expectation won’t do it.

And if each failure adds a brick to our wall, provides new evidence of what we can’t do, we become less apt to expect we can. It is easy to recognize that we learn more from failures than successes, it is how our true self applies that lesson that will make the change.

It is easy to say we are going to do something. Our public voice and face has an ego to maintain. It says what we want it to say and more importantly, what we want others to hear. But it is our personal voice, the one that talks to us when no one else can hear, that is the voice we have to convince. That is the voice we are going to hear in the hardest parts of a workout, the middle of an attack or mugging or when we are feeling the least confident or sure of our decisions or abilities. When we are alone, if truly, deep down we expect to fail, it is difficult to be motivated to do anything else.

Instead of allowing successes or failures to add bricks to our walls, I am trying to visualize each win or loss as an emotional sledgehammer, smashing those walls to smithereens. Jeremiah is a leadership coach these days. His company, Forging Leaders, has a quote he uses to remind us: “The walls you've built to protect yourself are keeping out the things you need the most..” He was able to say in 16 words what I have taken hundreds to explain. Damn him, he got me again.

But through training (mental, emotional and physical), meditation, contemplation and exploration we can raise our understanding and confidence and elevate our expectations of ourselves.  The bottom line is simple: you will get what you expect to get.

Expect greatness.

Besides, all those walls block the view.

Monday, March 4, 2013

A box of Needs

I keep my life pretty busy. Between work, CrossFit training and coaching, self-defense classes, combatives classes etc. - my time gets pretty thin. I try to plan time specifically with the family and kids, but I know I am not always successful.

A few days ago, I came in and my seven-year-old daughter had a present for me. She asked me to sit at the table while she ran to her room and got it. I was in a hurry but I sat, she seemed pretty excited.

She returned with a small glossy black cardboard box. She had cut small strips of white paper, decorated them with crayons and attached them to the box like ribbons.

“Open it,” she said and she squeezed onto my lap.

I started peeling it apart. She giggled as I fought with all the tape she used -- she knows that drives me nuts. I finally got it open.

Inside was a cork, a hair barrette, a penny, five washers, a bolt, a Q-Tip, a Lincoln Log, a red cloth bag and several bottle caps. I looked at her to see if she was laughing, as though it was a joke. Instead she smiled earnestly.

“I just thought you might need these things,” she explained, “you know, when you have ‘stuff’ to do.”

She pulled out the plastic hair barrette. “Like this, you could make a ring for mom.” She put it on her finger. “She might like that.”

The way she said need stuck out to me.

See, I spend a lot of time justifying why I do all the things I do. I need to keep myself in top shape; my job and my safety may depend on it. And I like to coach CrossFit, I need the fulfillment in watching others do things they thought they couldn’t. I need to teach self-defense and combatives for the same reason. There is a purpose in making others safer. A few weeks ago during a busy time, my wife even posted on Facebook, that while she didn’t like me being gone all the time, she understood. She was proud of the fact that others needed my help and training.

In the past, she understood my need to fight. It was something that brought me peace. We joke about the fact that I am on my fourth career since college; they live with my need to change, to re-invent myself. I am, I guess, needy.

Admittedly, I am also selfish. I am afraid I am somehow going to miss out on something I need to make my life complete. My logical brain recognizes that my family makes a ton of sacrifices for all the things I “need.” My ego, however, gives in to my needs.

A friend wrote a blog about our fears. In it, he asked us to ask ourselves what scared us. I sat down and tried to make a list. What I found was that I was actually mostly afraid of two things (three if we count snakes):

1)    I don’t want to miss out on anything. I am afraid of the regret of not doing something or missing an opportunity. I don’t want to look back on my life at the end and think I missed out.

2)    I don’t want to look back and think I was a shitty dad or husband. I want my kids and wife to always know that they are the most important thing to me. I can think of no greater failure than failing here.

I am also afraid that the first fear creates and feeds the second.

I like to think of myself as a writer and someone who likes words. Interesting, though, how I sometimes create convenient definitions for them. Officially, a need is a requirement, a necessary duty or obligation. I recognize I have converted the definition some to fit my wants.

I explain that it is a very noisy place inside my head. The dreams and the plans, the schedules, the appointments, the ideas … The new things I learn and want teach others, the thoughts I want to expand on. Sometimes the racket is unbearable. And I used to believe one day I could make it quiet.

A few months ago I had been working on a project and was about to present it and try to implement it. A friend asked me, “If you get what you want here, will you be happy?”

“I’ll be happy either way,” I realized. “But I don’t know that I’ll be content either way.” That discontent is just the noise and at this point, I understand how it works.

But that noise stopped for a few minutes when my daughter crawled into my lap and giggled with that little box of things that she had collected that I might need. All of the sudden the noise and the needs were irrelevant.

That box and its contents are on my nightstand. It is there to remind me of the things I “need” in my life.

I need that box and I need more moments like that with my daughter. It is amazing the uses a seven-year-old can find for an old cork and some washers.

And this doesn’t mean I am giving it all up either. I still don’t want to miss a thing. I am still going to live in the middle ring of this circus of my life.  I find happiness there too. While the craziness doesn’t silence the noise it does feed the noisemakers, and really, I like them too.

But it is in the moments that my children are sitting on my lap with gifts for me that the noise stops and I find contentment. And if there is anything I need, it is more of that.

And it’s like she reads my mind. A few days later, we were riding our bikes on the bike trail with her brother. She was ahead of me pedaling away. I was watching and smiling as she navigated the trail. We got to the park and practiced bumping and setting and spiking a volleyball. I noticed the silence as we played. We sat down on the bench and chatted. In the middle of it all, she stopped and asked if I had found a use for any of the things she gave me yet.

“I’ve used them all,” I said.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Pursuit of Victory

I signed up for the 2013 CrossFit Open today. For the unindoctrinated, the CrossFit Open is the first qualifying competition that eventually leads to the CrossFit Games. CrossFit HQ announces a new workout each week and competitors can either participate at a local affiliate or by submitting a video of their effort. Last year more than 69,000 people signed up. The field is finally whittled down to the fittest man and woman on earth at the CrossFit Games in southern California. I am sure there will be more competitors this year than last.

I told my son I was signing up and he asked, “You think you can win?”


A few weeks ago a friend and I were discussing the the Ancient Greeks concept of Agon. Agon (plural is Agones) is taken from the word agein meaning to bring along or lead. Agones were contests and games like the Olympics that competitors offered up their hearts and souls to be a part of. The word became synonymous with “contest” or “struggle” and eventually became thought of the struggle of souls or of wills. It was growth and leadership.

I am not going to lie and say that I don’t like winning. I gloat when I can put an “X” on a triple letter box in Words with Friends. And trust me, if I beat you at a workout, I will let you know that I know. But I am convinced that the benefits of just competing are not found in the spoils of victory but as is said, “in pursuit of victory.” It is in the road trip, not the destination, that we find joy. Culturally,we admire victory. But personally, we learn from the struggle, win or lose.

"What would the world be without the agon -- the agonistics of one man against another -- to show everyone the order of precedence among men, just as no two other things on earth are alike? How could any of us alive know quality if competition and personal combat did not let all the world know who embodies excellence and who merely manages mediocrity?"


Psychologically, we draw such a strong connection between competing and winning and losing. We think winning is the positive outcome of competing and losing is the negative. Moreover, we think not coming in first place equals losing and I guess this is true when we look at placings as the outcome of competition.

But when we look at positive growth as the outcome the units of measurement are changed. Maybe it is time for a reframe of winning and losing. Winning may just be growth. It has 
nothing to do with placement. Even Odysseus had to recognize that monumental effort “embodies excellence.”

I don’t know if this is specific to us culturally as a nation or a species. I think it is relevant, however, as someone pointed out to me, MMA organizations in the US are called things like the Ultimate Fighting Championships, while major organizations in Japan were called “PRIDE” and “Dream.” One focus on victory. One on personal growth.

I knew when I fought, I wasn’t in line for a UFC Championship. I just wanted to see where I was, what I could do. When I run in races, I never expect to win the whole thing. Instead for me, competition is more about catching the person right in front of you, getting a little better with each step. Pass one runner and another challenge lies ahead. Get passed and you have to catch back up.

Several years ago, I was preparing for a fight and at the gym for my strength and conditioning session. I had a tough week of training and was worn out. My CrossFit coach at the time had programmed at team workout. In teams of two we had to complete a series of seven different things, alternating movements each time. I don’t remember all the movements but it started with a 500m row. One partner got to rest while the other worked. We had to complete five rounds. There was an odd number.

So my coach decided that all the other teams would race against me. I didn’t argue but I wasn’t really excited about doing twice the prescribed work. We got started and I remember I was ahead going into the second round. I worked back to the rower again and started pulling on it. I realized I was tired. I remember being angry as in “why do I have to do all the extra work?” I told myself I was overtraining, this was too much. I put down the handle and stopped rowing.

I don’t know how long I sat there sulking but it was long enough for me to get a good look at myself. I remember saying out loud, “You just quit. You better grab that handle and start pulling.” I remember hammering through the rest of that workout terrified. I was scared that somehow I had become a “quitter.” I have always worried that when it was really tough, a fight for my life on the street, a hard spot in my marriage, what if I quit. If it was a death match in the street, even quitting for a short moment could be catastrophic. I realized I had to train harder -- I wanted to train that out of me.

I don’t even remember if I won or lost or what. I remember the race was awesome. I remember being behind and catching up. I remember getting passed again and having to ask myself, “Is this as hard as you can go,” finding a little more and moving ahead. I remember spending the next several days contemplating my “quit” and vowing to find a way to make sure I don’t do it again. I have used the story as a coach with wrestlers numerous times and used the memory to motivate myself to push forward.

So I guess I do remember. I won.

The problem is we have spent so much time and energy focusing on scores and placings. I have a good friend that tells me she hates always coming in last on workouts and it is frustrating. She tells me I can’t understand as I never come in last all the time. And I can’t argue that (although I come in last more than she thinks), I don’t know how it feels. But I do know this, in chasing the person ahead of her, she may not get stronger than them, but she will be stronger than she ever thought she could be. Growth. Competition spurs that.

We have this idea that we should only compete if we can win, or even place high, and it is just not accurate.  The reality is that we should compete because we can. We should compete because we should.

CrossFit founder Greg Glassman wrote, “It is our observation, that men will die for points.” And so will women. But I like to think that it is not the points we are willing to die for but the lessons learned while chasing them.

It is not a novel concept that sport is a metaphor for life. The highs and lows, victories and defeats. I am not sure, though, that it is accurate. Really, competition and sport are life. At a minimum it makes good practice. Nothing can beat you down like life, but a nasty workout comes close, and a little competition may be the motivation that pushes you through.  

My son tells people all the time that I am the strongest person in the world. I hear him and his sister discussing who could or couldn’t complete a certain task. The conversation is usually ended with,”Dad could.” The first time he saw me injured he was confused. He thinks dad is invincible.

So when he asked about the open and the games, I knew I had to be honest.

“You think you can win?”


Sign-up. Compete. You might win too.