Why I do the CrossFit Open

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I’m a little sore right now after doing the 17.1 workout for the CrossFit Open today.  It combined dumbbell snatches and burpee box jump-overs and right now I can definitely feel it in the muscles of my lower back.  I was even careful with my form, but I suppose that many reps was bound to do it.  Honestly, though, it’s really not bad.  I’m just bitchin’ and moaning here.

While I was warming up, though, I had a moment to make a choice. Do I do the workout as prescribed (with a 50lb dumbbell/24″ box) or scaled (35lb dumbbell/20″ box)?  The 50lb dumbbell would probably feel really heavy to me and the guy in front of me picking one up uttered an “Oh Jesus” on his way back to his wood box. I’m not the strongest guy in the box by a long shot so I said to myself there’s no shame in going scaled–which is 100% true.

However, afterward I thought about the workout and then wished I had gone with the prescribed weight.  I don’t participate in the Open to take the easy way out.  And the workout would not have been impossible.  Other workouts are beyond my skill level or way beyond the weight I can handle so it makes good sense to scale them.  But that wasn’t 17.1.

I may sound like I’m being unreasonably hard on myself, but I promise there’s more to this than a simple dumbbell choice.

It’s about the challenge

The reason I do CrossFit at all is because I want to deeply challenge myself.  Until a few years ago I didn’t realize how little grit I had.  It was easy to give up when things got tough.  It was easy not to start because I knew the road would be long. I didn’t do the hard things in life because it was way easier to avoid them.  The problem with all that, though, is that those choices make life boring, hollow and very lonely.

There’s a longer story here (which I need to write about soon) but it boils down to the fact that pushing myself to do hard things makes me a better person. Tackling a big project means more if it’s a project that might fail in the end. If it is a more sure thing then it has less value. And most of these things aren’t related to fitness, but our fitness ties together with all that we do in life. Our health is connected to all we do.

So I do the CrossFit Open because it’s a big challenge that ultimately makes me a better person.  Next time I’m looking at 17.1, I’m going to go with the 50lb dumbbell.

Maybe it’s time for a reinvention

One question changing my life
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When I stare at a blank screen…

When I struggle to define what I want for my future…

When I can’t really even tell you what I do for fun…

When I don’t have anything specific to look forward to…

When I wonder if I’ll be remembered for anything…

When I wonder if “this is it?”…

…Then I believe it is time to reinvent myself. Or, better yet, remember who I am and reinvent what I’m doing with my life. I’m convinced it’s never too late to start over.  We get one life and we need to make it count.

A bittersweet reminder to live large

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In my day-to-day life it’s really easy for me to forget just how fragile it is. I’m not surrounded by death very much but when it rears it dark head it always brings the same fact into sharp focus.  Life is short and you don’t get a do-over.

It was two people that I had known years ago that had passed. Even though it had been more than 10–maybe 15–years since I had seen them, I still had to stop and reflect on the fact that they were gone.  My girls were there playing in the same room and I couldn’t help but think about the kind of life I was modeling to them.

Introspection is kind of my jam, though.  I do it a lot.

The catch in all of this, however, is not to forget that life is short; to remember each day, whether adventurous or mundane, is a gift.

So that’s what I’m thinking about today.  How do you make the most of life? How do you avoid deathbed regrets? How can you leave behind an important and impactful legacy?

If you have ideas: please share in the comments!

Teaching kids through kindness

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Yesterday I picked up my daughter from her after-school program and soon found out that she made a mistake. When we got to my in law’s house to pick up her sister she came and said, “Daddy…I forgot my glasses at school.” Sure enough, she told me exactly where they were: on the bench in the playground. The school closed at 6pm and it was 6:05.

My daughter looked me in the eye while she said this and I could tell she was really, really nervous. As we drove home she started to cry a little and I am pretty sure I heard her say that she was stupid for forgetting her glasses. And she got even more anxious when she wanted to tell her mom what happened. I decided to take a different approach.

A crucial moment

I could easily be angry about this. Who knows what will happen to those glasses? It’s a hassle that they were left at school and, if they’re gone, it’ll cost me something like $900 to replace them. That’s aggravating and, in the past, I didn’t really try too hard to hide my frustration. And now she takes a simple mistake very, very personally. That’s my fault.

I pulled my wife aside before she talked to our girl and told her that she made a mistake. I quickly explained that L wants to tell her but that it’s super important she doesn’t show how mad it makes her feel. That conversation happened and my wife did an amazing job of being gracious even though that could be a very expensive mistake.

I talked to L that night and tried to share an important perspective. The worst thing that can happen here is that the glasses are gone. If they are, in fact, gone then we’ll figure it out. “What do we do when we have problems? We figure it out.” She was still really sad but I am trying to help her develop a healthy perspective on making mistakes and facing problems.

Practice what you preach

Kids really absorb a lot more than we might think at first. We got to this point because I am my own worst critic and I am not kind to myself when I make mistakes. No one is harder on me than me. I am never good enough for myself and I have paid a price for that mindset. My girls have seen that in me all their life and so it doesn’t really surprise me when I heard L being so hard on herself.

It’s been a big lesson that L and I are going to learn together. A mistake is just a mistake. We’ll work to figure it out.

And, today, there were a pair of glasses waiting for L on her teacher’s desk. It worked out well in the end.

How to know if you’re on the right track in life

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Have you ever wondered if you were doing the right things in life? I definitely have and it’s kept me up at night on more than one occasion (and maybe even led to an argument or two with my wife).

Lots of people wonder about what to do in life and I have found that there is no single answer for this. It totally depends on you. The strengths you have; the interests you have; the emotional baggage you’re carrying around; your season in life; among many other things all impact what you need to do in life.

Are you focused on the right things?

I have come across some ideas though that have been really helpful. The first is the idea of essentialsim.  It’s an idea in Greg McKeown’s book “Essentialism – The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.”  The basic idea is that you need to focus on doing less–but better!–things.  We all end up being pulled in a thousand directions and ultimately get nowhere in any of them.  He says, pick out only the essential things in life and ignore all the others.  Then pursue those essential things with all your might.  Here’s a video from Greg.

How do you know your goals are what you want?

My CrossFit coach has a podcast called Feed Me Fuel Me and it’s great.  In particular you get a great idea from the episode below: you need to test drive your life to see if you’re on the right track.  He goes into more detail in the episode below–check it out!

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What tips do you have for keeping yourself on the right track?  Comment below!

The time I gave up on my dreams, and why that was really good.

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It was an odd thing to do. I sat at on a bench that was near my work and I finally admitted to myself that my dreams, the very things I had wanted for nearly half my life, had to go. I had to give up on them. It was a rather hot day but I remained on the bench in that heat for some time. My life literally just changed its trajectory.

From the time I was 16 until that day at 34 years old I had wanted one thing: to work in ministry. It took on different forms over the years. I had wanted to be a pastor, a missionary, a Christian educator, or on staff at a parachurch organization. I automatically rejected other possibilities that came up along the way. Become a teacher? NOPE. Look at jobs in banking, government, technology, etc? NOPE, NOPE, and…NOPE. I was singular in my focus.

All of that fell apart, of course.

Pursuing your dreams is all the rage these days. It’s been that way for a while. In fact, it’s one of the default things we’re told to do when we’re in college or have otherwise found life to be uninteresting. I took that advice to heart and ran with it as far as I could. Now, you might think that this is a heart-wrenching story with a sad ending, but it isn’t. Giving up on my dreams was probably one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Now I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t hard. I essentially took something that I viewed as my purpose in life and dropped it. I felt that I had thrown away my identity. I quite literally didn’t know who I was or what purpose my life even had. It was initially very depressing and I’d say I felt fairly numb for a while. Along the way I started growing my hair out, took an extended break from church and tried to figure out what the hell happened.

So why was this good? Well, I learned a lot about myself and also about my dreams and how to properly pursue dreams.

Dreams need to be tested

The first thing I noticed as I looked back on my past is that my dream of a career in ministry wasn’t really tested to see if I would be good fit. My dream preceded any real experience. It might sound funny but I didn’t really know myself. I hadn’t given myself room to learn about what resonates with me.

Listening to the stories of successful people has taught me that many of them find their success after they realize what they excel in. One recurring theme is that other people recognized this skill in them and sought them out for help. Those successful people then took the hint and started going that direction with their lives. I didn’t have that moment that said I was really a good fit for what I wanted to do.

I learned that a key principle is that you need to be doing things that interest you and to pay attention to whatever really resonates with you. Pay attention to what others say you do really well. There are clues there to what you should do.

Dreams require lots of hard work

The second thing I saw in myself is that I was full of ‘want’ and very little ‘do.’ I spent countless hours thinking about working in ministry. I read books; I read blogs; and I listened to podcasts about pursuing that career. I wrote pages upon pages in my journal about this yearning to get out of my job and shift to that work. I also wrote endlessly about all the obstacles that were in the way. But I did very little about any of it. I wanted the results, but wasn’t willing to do the work.

I learned that people who achieve their goals in life almost always have to work really, really hard. The work tends to be harder than they ever expected and lasts longer than they thought it would. In the end, though, that’s how you achieve big things in life. If you want the results then you’ll need to patiently put in the work.

Why this was good

If I hadn’t reached the point of giving up on my dreams, then I would still be stuck chasing the wrong goal. I’ve learned more about what I actually want in life. I’m happier. And I am confident the direction I’m going now will actually result in what I had originally set out to do: help people. It’ll be different than I imagined years ago, but it will be much better than it would have been.

Have you had a similar experience? How did you know you needed to change?