Creativity. Context. Balance.

I had the opportunity to speak to an Intro to Kinesiology class at the University of Alabama on the relationship concerning the two main sides of my career — business (gym ownership) and kinesiology (the body and its movement). We had issues with audio visual so an hour long speaking opportunity got chopped down to 25 minutes; you can imagine my disappointment. 

In any case, we got down brass tacks quickly and I was able to leave them with what I believe to be three very important nuggets to serve them well as they decide how they want to put their degree to use. 

You will be 100% limited (or propelled) by the limits of your own creativity. I think they misunderstood me initially, but I told them it boiled down to the age old mantra  “You can do anything you want if you point your mind to it.” I wasn’t trying to give them a pep talk I was simply describing the scenario of knowing what you want, but there being no clear or already traveled path by others to get there.

Example: if you want to become a dentist look up the requirements to do so. You’ll eventually have to decide in what capacity you want to pursue dentistry, but overall you check the boxes and do what you have to do to become a dentist i.e education (do I simply need to find an accredited bachelors of dentistry program or seek something higher), state board certifications or requirements, practice specifics (private or not), etc. 

In my world the path is far less traveled. There are not millions of people to look at who’ve done it before. Essentially you have to carry the machete and bushwhack your way through the brush to create your own trail. Adversity will be high. Things won’t go as planned had you hopped on the nicely paved highway in your comfortable air-conditioned, GPS navigated car to get where you need to go. Favorability is arguable. 

If you’re creative in your pursuit, though, you may encounter new territory that would have been impossible to locate otherwise. The road less traveled could be a dangerous one, but it could also be the most rewarding. It all depends on your creativity and resourcefulness. 

The next piece I gave them was context. Again, there were a few confused and concerned faces. I gave the example that on their first day of class somebody could have been in the wrong room and not realized until the class had ended. They’d have wasted an hour or more of their time and may have felt a bit embarrassed. The repercussion for that was minimal because it was only an hour and a simple mistake at that. Another example could prove more perilous. 

A new athlete walks into my gym curious about the program and excited to get into a new fitness habit. We click and get so wrapped up in the program, their questions about it, and what to expect we forget to ask some pivotal questions that set the stage for context in our training. We go on never realizing our mistake and have a fun, productive 6 months of training. They achieve all sorts of skill acquisition, set weightlifting, gymnastic, and conditioning PRs, and revamp their nutritional habits extremely. The decide to take a week to decompress before coming back for the next half of our program. I get a voicemail and an email venting much frustration and a request to cancel their membership in lieu of the disappointment they expressed in the program’s results. 

I later find out the athlete had goals and aspirations to become a top tier MMA specialist. That information never camp up in our evaluation and I was left under the impression they were in search of top tier fitness. We achieved that, but they went on a sparring spree in their week off and got bludgeoned in their ventures. They did not have an ounce of fighting acumen and their weaknesses barred their big, snarly, sharp teeth in the absence of what should’ve been sound fighting technique. Had I asked the right questions and had they described their goals in detail I could have referred them to highly qualified specialist while we took care of the strength and conditioning side necessary for them to succeed. 

Context is everything. We can draw a similar example to a fight between a couple. They have a long, drawn out fight over something that was never explicitly discussed. The male is aggravated because he can’t find his gym bag because the female puts it away in the closet in the simple act of trying to keep the house clean. Meanwhile the female had no idea she was causing such pain in her act of simply putting something out of sight, but has to suffer the wrath of being accused of misplacing something important. Small fight I know, but you get the point. Context is king. 

The last nugget was balance. I had to be implicit in how important this is. I’ve heard this example before so I’ll reuse it. Kobe Bryant wanted to be the best basketball player of all time, or at the most basic layer, his era. I think we can agree on some level he accomplished that. Jordan before him and now we see Lebron take the stage, but the greatness is obvious. Kobe is, again, implicit on his mission to accomplish the task. He did things people thought were crazy like staying after a practice all night long for a “session” before the next morning practice. He didn’t claim to be a good family member or friend, but damn’t he was going to sit on top of the basketball world. He did just that. He may have skewed his balance greatly, but he knew that was necessary to achieve his goal. 

My take home for them, was to assess their goals and aspirations, set the context for the current situation, and decide what sort of sacrifices and life balance they were comfortable with. Only when all those things align will they truly have an opportunity to find success and happiness. 

“For what prevents us from saying that the happy life is to have a mind that is free, lofty, fearless and steadfast – a mind that is placed beyond the reach of fear, beyond the reach of desire, that counts virtue the only good, baseness the only evil, and all else but a worthless mass of things, which come and go without increasing or diminishing the highest good, and neither subtract any part from the happy life nor add any part to it? A man thus grounded must, whether he wills or not, necessarily be attended by constant cheerfulness and a joy that is deep and issues from deep within, since he finds delight in his own resources, and desires no joys greater than his inner joys.”
― Seneca

Productivity – buy your time back?

Tim Ferriss spoke in a interview about creating more productivity. He was alluding to specific pieces of one’s life, but it could be taken elsewhere just as well. Zero in, but think outside the box on this one. 

His main comparison was between renewable and non-renewable resources that we value or do not value and that creates low or high productivity. The easy example was between time and money. We often stress about money and try to scrounge, save, and hoard it because of scarcity. Whether scarcity is a mindset or a reality of your life it’s a backwards thinking to hide your money from certain investments. On the other hand we see time as expendable. We give away our time frivolously to unworthy causes because after all “it’s just time”. Some of us have a mindset that our time is expendable because it doesn’t cost us anything. We couldn’t be more wrong. 

Tim’s point, or my interpretation of his point, was that we very much so have these commodities backwards. Very very backwards. He blatantly points out, calmly as he does so well, that time is non-renewable, money is renewable. We are gravely misaligning our resources in a way that drains us of our most precious ones and keeps the very ones we can almost literally materialize ourselves all over again. 

We can make the money we spend back. You can’t do so with time. 

Tim values his time greatly and goes out of his way to drain his renewable resources with the intent of making more use of the non-renewable ones. He wants to know how to spend money to make more time. It may not be right this moment or even relatively soon, but it will prove useful at a time when time would be scarce. 

Reassess how you view your resources and make moves to use them more wisely. Whether that’s being smarter with your time and money to get more out of them or even being more frivolous with your money to take a leap towards what Tim was describing is up to you. Not everyone is in a position to make their money work for them. Some folks are in a grind stage and need to use some of their time, but that does not mean you have to do so carelessly. Find places where your time can be better spent or more deeply spent. Quality over quantity my friends. 

You could be saving yourself into a hole and wasting your precious time away. How can you be more productive? Are you giving away your time when you should be finding ways to save it and put it to better use?

What are your rules?

“Beware of any enterprise requiring new clothes. “
— Henry Thoreau

You don’t need more shit. You don’t need better shit. You don’t need new shit. What you need is to do whatever you’re doing better. What you need is to put to work what you already have. 

Give Gretzky a beat up, fragile hockey stick and a weathered puck and he’ll make magic on the ice. Give Jordan a gravel street, torn and tattered sneakers, any ol’ ball and a rim that’s falling apart and he’ll still shoot like butter. Give Shakespeare a stick and clean patch of sand and his words will still shine like you’re inches from the sun. 

These folks don’t need the best equipment, conditions, or the latest Macbook Pro to be some of the best we’ve known at their craft. They’re simply great because of how hard they work and how they execute with what they’ve got at their disposal . . . which isn’t always much. Yes, there’s some talent involved, but I would say that talent was grown and earned through self discipline and true hardship. 

Often we focus on the things we do not have that are keeping us from unlocking our true potential. I’m here to tell you that’s far from reality. Take the time to really decide what you want to pursue and then figure out what you already have that completes the puzzle or at least gets you started. If you want to be a great a basketball player you may eventually need a ball and a basket, but there’s much more on the table to attack than glamorous dribbling and shooting skills with the perfect conditions. 

This sort of boils down to rules and perception of what has to be. We can be swayed to use someones else’s set of rules because we like the goals they’ve set or accomplished. We fail to realize we don’t want what they have. You want something unique to you. Why would you play by the same rules if you’re expecting a different outcome. Playing by somebody else’s rules is a dangerous game that rarely ends in success. Figure out what you want and what you have to work with. Start there and if you’re any good at it, with a little grit, you’ll find out soon enough.

Make your own conditions. Play by your own rules. 

Don’t be bigger than the moment.

Whatever craziness is going on in your life right now, no matter how big and scary, never let it take over. If you find yourself unable to take that deep breath and look up into the nothing that is surely bigger than you and your craziness . . . well then, you’ve lost right there. 

Do your best to always be able to step outside of your own head and see the moment you’re inside of. We’re never bigger than the moment. If we can grasp the bigger ‘what’ around us and be able to be ‘out of body’, not to mention realize the gravity of that (talk for another day), we’ll live in a greater space and have ultimate peace in the moment. 

Too many are failing to find peace. Failing to find happiness. What they’re missing is that the peace they’re after is in the moment they’re in. They’re leaving the moment far outside of themselves rather than being inside of it. 

Do yourself a favor and recognize the moment. It’s much bigger than you.

“What’s your favorite flavor of shit sandwich?”

In his piece, 7 Strange Questions That Help You Find Your Life Purpose, Mark Manson writes about a handful of subjects that either, like the title insinuates, help you define your life purpose or really help you understand what is meant by that phrase in the first place and how to navigate that conundrum altogether. 

My favorite chunk is actually the first “What’s your favorite flavor of shit sandwich and does it come with an olive?” I’d some up that section of his writing with these abbreviated excerpts (don’t take my word for it, click the above link and give it a read). 

“Everything sucks, some of the time.”

“What shit sandwich do you want to eat? Because we all get served one eventually. Might as well pick one with an olive.”

He points out his own pessimism and alludes “Yeah, I get it”, but goes on to divulge his meaning. It boils down to the truth that nothing is awesome, fun, and enjoyable 100% of the time. I don’t care where your passion lays, forced to do that thing every minute of every day . . . you’ll find something about it that “sucks”. His point is that if forced to pick a shit sandwich to choke down it better at least come with a sliver, hopefully more, of enjoyment. 

In all things you decide to take on in life there has to be some weighing of cost. No mater how minuscule no one ever goes into anything without weighing the cost. It may be ultra-mega-super brief, but it’s there. In those moments we’re deciding if it’s worth what we’ll pay for it, what we’ll lose from it, or what the sacrifice will be down the line, long or short. 

I’ve done this for myself time and again sometimes without realizing. The tricky part is weighing all the costs not simply the ones that are readily available to your current state of awareness and are convenient to your cause. In short, don’t forget about the hidden costs or the costs of the costs to get really confusing. Look farther down the line at those that are hidden. 

You’ll also find that weighing costs begins to hinder your decision making on occasion. It may be one of those paralyzation by analyzation moments. Often we want to be thorough, or really just delay what we’re scared of (another talk for another day), and find ourselves stuck and complacent lacking execution. A new wrinkle is thrown in and we’re back to where we started “man, weighing my costs sure does slow me down”, but it’s all part of the process. 

In all aspects of life I have to weigh my costs and weigh how much of my cost I actually want to involve in my decision making. Self-discretion and self-awareness will be key to streamlining the process into one that just happens without needing a notepad and pen or board of trustees to bounce ideas off of. 

Discover it for yourself, but simplify. What’s your favorite flavor of shit sandwich?

Be honest with yourself. Be aware. Harmonize and find happiness.

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
— Gandhi

Such a simple idea, but so many find it difficult to execute. 

It is all too common for us to misalign something in our being that fails to satisfy our happiness. One of a handful of categories is not fulfilled or at least not fulfilled in harmony with the others. 

Imagine if someone has decided they want to pursue a family. They value partnership and passing on their lineage. They have realized they find ultimate enjoyment in life when they are surrounded by the people they love and can pass on teachings and wisdom for ages to come. They are truly happy with their family and have chosen to let that drive the rest of their life forward. 

Imagine if that same person chose they also wanted to stay out late with their friends constantly or they prioritized recreational drug use or a career field that does not allow them freedom with their family or a series of harmless hobbies that take up a large portion of their free time. Imagine if that person chose a life of family but spoke in opposite fashion. They constantly spoke about their private endeavors and how happy they are in the things they are after as a solo entity. Even further their actions part them from their family in a way that does not harmonize with the original life purpose. It can be just one of those things and can even be in a small, unsuspecting way. The point is if something takes you out of harmony there’s a good chance you will not find the happiness you originally imagined. If your awareness fails to pinpoint this misalignment you will continue to drift in that wake and wonder why your happiness always seems amiss. 

Consider the following. Let us say I have discovered what it truly takes for me to be happy. I know what direction I want my life to take because I have thought about my core values and I have a deep self understanding of what I want out of my life. I have paired that with some actionable moves like the next step in my career that I see taking me further down the path I want. I let that bleed into my speech habits by talking the talk constantly. My core values have shaped my mind which has therefore shown me my passion, I have decided on a direction to follow, and now finally I am letting it come out of mouth and materialize itself in everyone and everything I interact with. The cherry on top is that each of my actions, everything I do, in each of these steps is also in sync with my core values, vision, the path I have laid out, and the things I say. There is not a chink in the armor. My thoughts, words, and actions, the things I truly value and that make me happy, are aligned and I execute them constantly with no remorse, displeasure, regret, disdain, or resentment of any kind. 

I am happy. I have found happiness. What makes you happy?

Basics are formidable. Virtuosity trumps all.

“Significantly improve your 400 meter run, two thousand meter row, squat, dead, bench, pull-up, and dip. Now you are a more formidable being.”
– Greg Glassman

I am constantly, still, marveled at Greg Glassman’s brilliance. Obviously I’m a little biased, but far too many others agree for that to be in error. Whether his brilliance is in raw knowledge or just articulating that knowledge, regardless of its’ depth, I find myself time and time again thinking, “Of course it’s that simple. That makes perfect sense.”

As we enter the CrossFit Open and dive into five weeks of arduous tests let us not forget what we strive for. The things that make up a truly formidable being are far simpler than we let ourselves believe. Because of the nature of the most modern image of CrossFit and it’s competitive season we are enthralled with the shiny objects, fancy methods, and breadth of knowledge available and tend to complicate things. In reality, the pieces that matter most always seem to rear their ugly heads at the most inopportune times putting us back in our place . . . hard. A few examples come to mind that make it quite comical to poke fun at ourselves and bring us back down to earth. 

A few years back there was a row event at the Games and as most recall there were two scoring opportunities: 1) the first 2000 meters and 2) the 21,097 meters as a whole. Obviously many athletes wanted to game plan a bit, and rightly so, for a smart pacing strategy. On the other hand, points are points at this stage. Jason Khalipa saw an opportunity to take out the 2k row hard, win it, and just plain suffer the rest of the way hoping for the best. Where as most thought there’d be two distinct winners, the one that chose to go out hard and fast and the one that chose to pace a bit more and take the longer event points, no one predicted one individual would be able to snag both. Khalipa did just that. He was an example that just as in other types of training the more powerful athlete may have a better chance to perform on both ends of the spectrum. We could imagine that a decent sprinter could force him or herself to suffer through an endurance event for a decent score, but an endurance athlete would have a noticeably difficult time mustering up the power to post a decent result in a significantly faster domain. Now, repeated efforts bring up a whole new discussion, but we’re talking about the CrossFit Games and a single event. The folks with a great ability to perform in an endurance only category were no match for a guy that could post a 1:35 split for 2000 meters and just plain suffer after that. It was pretty incredible. I’m going to go ahead and guess that Khalipa’s personal record 2k row time is pretty solid. 

A second example is the truth serum movement some hate and some love in the Pull-up. It’s funny how basic it is, but also levels the playing field so much in so many different situations. It seems logical that the folks with the greatest ability to perform sound, hollow, strict pull-ups could perform the same range of motion using a sound kip to do the same work faster or scale a wall if necessary. Those folks will probably fair well when asked to pull their bodies up to an object or surface. We can’t say the same for someone that is simply phenomenal at using momentum in a kip of some kind and takes full advantage of that technique when available, no matter how smooth the technique appears. Enter the Peg Board at the CrossFit Games. This tool showed many athletes’ glaring weaknesses and got the peg board on everyone’s training map in the following year. What they seem to forget is the importance and beauty in being able to perform a basic strict, hollow pull-up well. Imagine how different that event could have gone if those athletes simply had a better ability to show mastery in a basic function of bodyweight prowess. 

If you scan back to the top quote in which Glassman hits several elegant ideas to begin seeking the road to mastery you’ll notice each of the two examples included. It truly is amazing how if we rewired our thinking a bit to not get so distracted by things out of our control how much more formidable we could become. 

The point is this. There will be a workout with muscle-ups at some point in this year’s Open. If you are one of the folks that presents a problem for you will have two ways to approach it after the workout. During the workout you’ll either struggle and fail or maybe even get your first muscle-up ever . . . YAY! After the workout you’ll either be pissed that you sucked it up and will commit, however aimlessly it may be, to getting better at the muscle-up. The second option is to extrapolate that back to a Pull-up and begin seeking mastery in being able to control your upper body, overall develop strength, and get your bodyweight to strength ratio moving in the right direction through hard work in diet and exercise. 

Be wise in choosing which athlete you’ll be and become. It could have large scale implications in other areas as well. Master the basics. Then take a step back and do it again. 

Your character will make or break you.

Have character . . . You will be judged by it. Be it soon or be it late. Your character will make or break you.

It’s never that simple is it? In this case it is, but the ramification for the alternative is earth-shattering, though sometimes in small doses. For instance, it doesn’t quite shake your foundation to toss a crumpled napkin out of your car window driving down the street to maintain your vessel’s cleanliness standards. But it certainly could get scooped up by a bird on a fly by, eaten and failed to make it through digestion causing a small tragedy in the kingdom of the sky. On the other hand consider the carelessness of a bar-keep prejudging patrons by their appearance. He/she doesn’t give them the time of day as they seem to be a frugal type, tourists at that, that won’t be around long enough to develop a relationship and benefit from its fruits. Say a clerk gives you a false amount of change for your bill and you are sitting plus $10 because they saw a $20 dollar bill instead of the $10 bill you actually paid with. Keep it and leave or hand it back and correct the clerk?

These scenarios have an underlying secret: do you have character because you have character or because you have an end game?

This is a grave question and one that could shine serious light on the mystery of the universe and our material world of skin and bones. 

Some folks have character as in hanging a curtain over the window separating their front room of a personality with the inner and outer workings of their front yard from the world around them. Simply put, my front yard is tidy, kept, colorful, and welcoming, but my front room and corresponding house is a dark shadow of a soul that boasts quietly of dirty baseboards, dog-hair infested carpets, and an overall aura of apathy. These types may have character in their front lawn so as to garner something from those around them i.e. smiles, graces, conversations, or appearances. 

Other folks have character because they have character. They don’t want a filthy vehicle interior, but they even more don’t want a filthy world where a bird dies because of loose garbage. They greet patrons with a genuine smile because they’re new faces with tales to share that will enrich the lives of themselves and those around them. The greater good their character lives for is overwhelming valuable to them and won’t be thwarted. 

Ask yourself the hard questions. One of which: do you have character? When and why do you have it? If so, phenomenal. Now, go and make it unbreakable. If not, get some. 

Happiness trumps all.

All I want is for you to be happy. I don’t want you to get fitter. I don’t want you to get stronger. I don’t want you to PR. I don’t want you to achieve your goals. I simply want you to live a lifetime of happiness and enjoyment. Anything beyond that is secondary and is merely a byproduct. 

Of course I live and breathe all the things I just said I don’t want for you. Those things won’t mean anything if you never live another happy day in your life. Find the thing(s) that make you forget everything else around you; the thing that makes time fly by without you realizing. The thing(s) you can’t wait to do when you get off work or when your free time comes up. That’s where your happiness is. It could be an action, it could be a place, it could be time spent with a person. Regardless of what it is that’s where you should be. Don’t do the thing someone convinced you to do because it would achieve a result, especially if it makes you unhappy. Don’t put up with bullshit. 

Happiness in this world shouldn’t be hard to come by. No one should have to earn happiness. We each deserve happiness. Finding it may prove tricky, but not impossible. 

Take an honest look at the things you’re doing, places you’re in, the people you’re with and ask the honest question if they bring happiness into your life. 

“At the end of the day what do we want? We just want to be fuckin’ happy.” — Tony Blauer

I’m going to let you in on a secret . . .

As many do at year close and year open, I’ve done some simple inner reflection. The following is why I am able to sleep at night, and sleep heavy at that. 

There are much easier ways to get filthy rich than my way. This is not a money tree. I am not rich. Nor will I ever be. I do this because it’s noble work that no one else will do. Someone has to do it. It provides me a great sense of worth, accomplishment, and reward. It is a phenomenal arena for me to be proud to raise my children in and around. There is not one piece of this thing that I am ashamed of and wouldn’t want my kids or any other portion of my family to see. 

If you cannot say that about your work, hobbies, passions, and life you may want to take a second look at those things. 

Cheers y’all . . . and a happy New Year.