2018 is upon us and I wanted to share some wisdom I recently came in contact with. As many of you know, I took a trip to Austin, Texas in early December to attend the Power Athlete Symposium. The symposium speakers consisted of an Olympic gold-medalist, Navy Seal, Marine Recon operative/supermodel, Canadian national track athlete, the owner of Sorinex and many other accomplished individuals. My mind was absolutely blown away by each speech and I’m going to attempt to impart some of the knowledge and words of wisdom I gained this weekend on whoever decides to read this stream of consciousness.
One of my favorite speakers at this event was Derek Woodske. Derek grew up in a small logging town in Alberta, CA with no exposure to anything close to an elite athlete, no one to show him the ropes of lifting weights or throwing a discus, and no one to tell him how to become a successful coach. But guess what, he excels at all 3 of those things. The first time Derek squatted was at 15 years old. He got under the bar with 420 pounds on it and squatted it, at the same age he also threw a softball 315 feet over a left field fence, and at the peak of his career had a standing vertical of 42 inches weighing 240+ pounds. He was a natural born athlete, but he had no one to guide him through the path to success that he envisioned for himself.
One of Derek’s main talking points, highlights of this talk are found here, was about creating a fantasy in your head if you want to be successful. To quote Derek, “Let your fantasy override your fear”. Deep down, everyone has an idea of what they want to do in life, but everyone also has a million excuses as to why they can’t get there. Guess what, no one really cares about your excuses. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is what you’ve accomplished and how you accomplished it. If we can’t find a mentor or contact someone who has achieved our dream we must create our own fantasy or we will have no vision. Derek didn’t have a coach who worked with him since his youth to make him an excellent thrower or an old Olympic field athlete who showed him the ropes. All he had was a talent and a burning passion to win. If you cannot come in contact with your goals in life you must create the fantasy in your own head and do everything in your power to get there. If we cannot be shown the path to success we have no choice except to forge our own path or face failure. I don’t know about you, but the choice between success and failure is an easy one to make.
With all of this being said, it is important to define what “success” is. The amount of money you make or how much you lift in the gym is not what measures success. The process that got you there does. If you get to the top, but cannot look back and be proud of how you got there, then what was the point? Be proud and enjoy the process that gets you to the top or you will get lost on your path to success. One of my favorite quotes of Derek’s is, “You don’t have to inspire 100% of people, but those that you do inspire must be 100% inspired.” This applies to those we work with as well as the goals we work towards. You don’t have to inspire everyone or be motivated to do everything, but the people you do inspire and the things you do better be at 100% or you’re wasting your time. Internalize these words and remind yourself of them when you are lacking motivation. If you want to make progress in the gym or life you must find that goal that seems impossible and then work towards it every single day. If you want to clean and jerk 300 pounds, do it. Don’t commit to it for a week and then decide it’s just too hard. Be 100% inspired, enjoy the process, chase that fantasy down and make it a reality.
Andy Stumpf was another speaker who ignited a fire in me with his words and woke me up to the bitter reality that I was drifting through life letting myself put less than maximal effort into what I was doing. Andy is a Navy Seal as well as an all-around badass. The first thing he talked about was resilience. The dictionary defines resilience as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. This is a good definition, but it’s missing something. If all we do is return to the way we were before a stimulus, did we get better? No. We must come back stronger than before. Our definition is now the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties STRONGER THAN BEFORE. If we aren’t getting stronger and progressing we are wasting our time. If you busted your ass every day in the gym and put every ounce of energy you had into the weights and after 6 months you didn’t make any progress would you keep doing that same routine? The answer should be no, if you answered yes, you’re a masochist and need counseling. We apply this principle in the gym, so why not apply them to our personal lives and character development? We must be constantly evolving and innovating if we wish to be the best versions of ourselves. If you lay your head down at night and can’t think of a way that you challenged yourself that day and made progress, you need to reevaluate your routine and begin to challenge the margins of your experience.
Andy also talked about his BUDS training. BUDS is the 180-day Navy Seal training/nightmare that every Navy Seal has gone through to earn that title. There is a week of that time called Hell Week where for 7 days the drill instructors do everything they can to make you quit. During this time Andy said he knew that they had to feed him every 4 hours, so he figured that if he could just make it to the next meal then he would be fine. 4-hour increments got him through that experience. He didn’t plan out 180 days and make sure that he got to bed early and took his multivitamin every day. He just kept his head down and knew that if he kept his end goal in mind, and made it to the next meal, he would succeed. This is a principle that I know a lot of us can benefit from. We so often try to plan out every aspect of our lives and if something in that plan doesn’t go right then we just give up and say, “we tried”. Bullshit. In the words of a small, green Jedi master, “Do or do not, there is no try.” We need to have goals in mind and create a game plan for them, but sometimes things don’t go according to plan and we have to be resilient enough to accept it and adapt our plan to a new course. The world is constantly changing around us and if we are unable and unwilling to change with it then we will be left behind because the rest of the world isn’t going to wait for you to catch up. If you have an off day or make a mistake, that’s OK. Accept failure, re-strategize, keep your head down and work, and just get to that next meal.
I’m sure many of you have heard me talk about this metaphor because I love it so much. Every time I explain it to someone I get goosebumps and can feel the adrenaline start to pump through my veins. Did you know that dominoes can knock over something 1.5x their size and weight? Starting with a standard-sized domino and continuing that exponential rate of growth, the 24th domino will be the height of the Empire State Building and the 27th will be the height of Mt. Everest. Nothing more than a simple flick of the first domino will knock all of those down, BUT they must fall sequentially. We must apply this mindset when we set goals for ourselves. If we are trying to lose weight or get stronger we have to be mindful of this process. You aren’t going to lose 30 pounds or PR by 50 pounds on your back squat in one night. You must make a plan, stick to it, and over time you will knock down those dominoes. Find your first domino and find your last domino and then knock the first one over, move to the next one, knock it over, and repeat the process until Mt. Everest is flat on its ass. Here’s a video that demonstrates this process for those of you who need some visual reinforcement.
Now, with all of that being said it is important to remember that the middle dominoes play an integral role in goal setting/achieving. With the not so recent rise in social media use, there is a disconnect in how hard work WORKS. We so often see the pictures of someone’s before and after fitness/weight loss challenge, which are awesome and inspiring, but we don’t see the countless hours they spent working out, cooking their food, weighing their food, and the hundreds of times they had to deny themselves that Cinnabon or giant pretzel from the mall. Those countless moments and experiences are what got them to their goal, what made them who they are, and what made them RESILIENT. Imagine two hills with a valley in-between them. At the top of one hill is where you are at now and the other is where you want to be. The valley in-between those hills are where you grow as a person and make real change to your character. To quote Andy, “You find yourself in the valley of setting your goal and achieving it”. Don’t shy away from that valley, but sprint down that hill and embrace the change that you so desperately need in your life.
If you’ve managed to read this far I want to say both thank you and congratulations. I majored in Kinesiology, not creative writing, so this was a little outside my comfort zone, but I if I can inspire just one of you with these words then I have succeeded. I hope that everyone was able to pull something out of my ramblings and can use this information to kick 2018’s ass. If you wake up every day and put work into your personal growth, you will succeed. Set up your dominoes and knock that first one over for me.
New Member Manager, CrossFit and Launch Coach
CF L1, CSCS, Power