Step 1: Don’t Be an A**hole
I know a guy who is extremely successful at what he does. He is a very intelligent and talented surgeon at one of the most respected hospitals in the country. He saves lives, makes a positive impact on his patients, exhibits poise in some very challenging situations and on top of it all is in pretty good physical condition.
But MAN……..what an asshole.
Now you can be sure that this individual is quite satisfied with his station in life; his accomplishments, those he has helped, etc……Great. But is he the best person he can possibly be? Absolutely not; he doesn’t pass the Jerk Test, and for that he gets a Fail. Call it a human fail.
Contrast this person with Mark Divine. Mark is the founder of Sealfit, a fitness and lifestyle company out of Encinitas, CA that combines many of the principles of CrossFit with the rigors of Navy Seal training. Divine himself is an ex-Navy Seal. He is also an entrepreneur/CPA/MBA/yoga instructor with a black belt in Seido Karate who can probably dismantle you with a popsicle stick in about 30 seconds. AND…he is one of the most humble, genuine and thoughtful people you could ever come across.
Two extremely successful, accomplished individuals. But one of them is deficient enough in the area of emotional intelligence that he is falling short on his potential as an integral, well-rounded person. We’ll get back to the good doctor in a minute…
Divine, on the other hand, has dedicated his post-Seal career to helping people become more dynamic, formidable human beings. He applies his analytical, CPA mindset to the knowledge that he has gleaned from Seal training to come up with multiple models on how to improve performance, life balance and mental toughness.
One such model looks at four basic, critical components of personhood. Four areas that every single one of us can reflect upon, analyze and improve. They all have seeds in what we do at CrossFit, and are themes that we will repeatedly weave into the fabric of our training at CrossFit Kells. They are four simple capacities:
· Heart Spirit (a.k.a. GRIT)
Let’s take a very quick look at what these mean, extreme examples of each (where we don’t want to be), as well as where these apply to CrossFit.
1) Physical Capacity
Defined: This is very simply our physical ability. How fit are you? How well can you move in different domains and in different situations? How developed is your general physical health and conditioning?
Extreme Example: Someone that is overdeveloped here could be the stereotypical steakhead. The classic dumb jock who spends all of their time in the gym and never picks up a book. This person has way too much focus on physical capacity and not enough on the other areas.
CrossFit Application: This is an easy one! One of the primary benefits of CrossFit is the improvement of general physical preparedness. We work on strength, bodyweight movements and metabolic conditioning to improve our physical well-being………and of course, to be prepared for the inevitable upcoming Zombie Apocalypse.
2) Mental Capacity
Defined: What is your mental acuity? How do you apply yourself? Call it book smarts, street smarts….doesn’t matter. How do you navigate your environment by using your cognitive abilities?
Extreme Example: Consider the brilliant college professor with the ten-ton brain. He can recite the periodic table of elements in Mandarin Chinese -backwards- but can barely bench press a tooth brush or run more than twenty feet. He also has the conversational abilities of a ham sandwich. Way too down-in-the-weeds from a mental standpoint.
CrossFit Application: One of the best quotes from CrossFit founder Greg Glassman is this: “The greatest adaptation to CrossFit takes place between the ears”. Meaning, the mental aspect of CrossFit is unbelievably important. How do you plan for a workout? And I don’t mean just planning your rep scheme. I mean, do you prepare for failure? Do you plan in advance what you will do when the pain comes? Do you meditate? Do you use visualization? There are powerful mental approaches that we can apply to CrossFit that will absolutely make us better.
3) Emotional Capacity
Defined: How is your emotional control? When it comes to stress, fear, joy, anger, kindness, anxiety and empathy…how do you handle yourself? How do you treat other people? How do you treat yourself?? What degree of emotional intelligence do you exhibit?
Extreme Example: This brings us back to Dr. Sphincter. Here is a person who seemingly has everything in the world going for him, yet can’t figure out how to treat other people with kindness and respect. It’s simple: don’t be that guy.
CrossFit Application: Building upon the aforementioned mental piece, we also can work on the emotional components of CrossFit, can’t we? Anger and frustration can repeatedly rear their ugly heads at the gym. Are double-unders easy? Are snatches a walk in the park? Fuck no. Can they be maddening? Yup. The question is, how do we handle those frustrations when they are presented to us? Is your approach to these challenges a positive one (I WILL get these), or a negative one (I suck at these). When we practice emotional control, we’re in a better position to grow.
4) Heart Spirit…a.k.a Grit
Defined: Here, Divine applies the Japanese word for “fighting, non-quitting spirit”: Kokoro. If you get knocked down 35 times…will you get up for #36? How do you react when things get bad….what about when they get really really bad? Kokoro means grit. Perseverance. Not only overcoming obstacles, but actually using them to your advantage.
Extreme Example: Since you can’t really have too much heart, we can consider examples of a deficiency in this area. I always think of certain pro athletes in this example. You know, the people with all of the gifts, all of the talent in the world? But they’re soft. No heart. They fold when it matters. They don’t try…or they give up at the first hint of hardship. Jeff George? Vince Carter? A-Rod (yeah I said it)? Sidney Crosby?
CrossFit Application: Again, here we build on the mental and emotional foundation. How do you react when things get tough? Perhaps when you are halfway through a dark/grueling/pain-cave of a workout, and every part of your being is telling you to stop. Do you quit? Is your self-talk positive or negative? What is your internal dialogue?
So where do you fall on the spectrum of these capacities? Are there one or two things you can get to work on right now to shore any of them up?
The great news here is that not a single one among us has achieved the desired end-state of perfection in all of these areas. In fact, that perfect end-state does not exist; it is an impossible task. BUT, by taking stock of where we fall in each of these, we can strive to become better in all of them collectively. The result of which will make us better than we ever imagined…