Chasing Excellence - Ch. 6 Maximizing Minutes


Today’s chapter is titled “Maximizing Minutes” and it’s a concept I have already covered in the first blog in the series so this blog may be shorter in length and explanation, but it is one of the most potent and practical concepts we need to grasp. We talk about all the characteristic traits of a champion and our drive to be excellent, but without a tactile action, the traits never blossom into results. There’s the old saying, “You can wish in one hand, and **** in the other, and tell me which one fills up first.” It’s true. No amount of wishing, commitment, definitions of success (did you do your homework from last week?), having the grit to keep going, the confidence to stand tall, a positive mindset, and the ability to redefine our adversities as opportunities to grow in other areas, adds up to anything of substance. Without action, what is it?

 “The 10,000 Hour Rule”

In this chapter of Chasing Excellence, Bergeron cites a study and book by psychologist Malcolm Gladwell. Mr. Gladwell performed a study of musicians and other elite performers in their respective fields and concluded that those that were, to use Bergeron’s terms of excellence, competent in their field, either studied or practiced for 4,000 hours in their lifetime. To all of us, that seems impressive, but that goes back to us being impressed or content with only being competent in a subject area. Most of us are fine with just knowing about something but not diving into the nitty gritty details and becoming a master of our craft. The next category Gladwell classified was those who were really, really good at what they did. Way higher than average. Those we would be amazed by. In terms of musical success, these violinists would be the ones to go on and be professionals and recognizable. They put in hours excess of 8,000 before the age of 20. But the highest level, those that were truly excellent in their craft, the legends, the champions, put in at least 10,000 hours of practice before the age of 20. I don’t think there’s anything magical about the age of 20 here, only a breaking point in a professional’s career and a metric for comparison. Ten thousand hours. While valid to an extent and of course practice in large amounts is necessary, I think you all can guess what I’m going to say next. In Bergeron’s words, “Extensive experience is necessary to reach very high levels of performance; however, extensive experience does not invariably lead to expert levels of achievement.” In other words, practice time does not equal excellence, quality practice, though, has a much better chance at producing big results. We’ve all heard the saying, “Practice makes perfect!” and we all knows that’s not true. I drive my car every day. I’ve been driving for 10 years now, some of us even more, but does that mean we are expert drivers? And by expert, I mean excellent drivers, like a NASCAR driver. Does that qualify me for the Indianapolis 500 just because I’ve been behind the wheel for 10 years? Of course not. While my aim is to drive well, I never practice driving at that level of excellence; I remain merely competent. To master your craft, you must put in “deliberate practice.” We can’t just go through a routine. When coach calls out the warm up and tells us to do 10m of Inchworm + Push-up, do we focus on our shoulder positioning, squeezing our quads, glutes, and abs, contracting at the pec? Or do we become complacent and content with just making it to the 10m mark at the same time with the rest of the class so coach doesn’t tell us to hurry up? We should be actively involved during every minute of our class time in order to improve by just 1% percent during that hour. Why would we drive out to CrossFit Eta, work out in an outdoor atmosphere, sweat, cry, bleed, scream, but waste our time in the warm up or during the “practice” portion of class? How come we all wait until the board says “Establish 1RM ____” or the clock says 3-2-1-GO before we start trying our hardest? What if we didn’t keep score and no one knew how well you did, would you still try as hard? Why waste the first 40 minutes of class where we practice and hone in our physical skills and then turn on your attention when it’s time for the metcon? What a waste! Don’t waste your time just going through the motions in class. Use the warm up as practice. Get better during the warm up. When we do Inchworm + Push-up, focus on a long stretch in your hamstrings to improve your mobility AND make sure your thighs don’t touch the ground on the push-up. Can’t do a push-ups yet? Practice doing a negative (slow eccentric) push-up, then do a knee push-up on your way up. Get stronger during the warm ups. Don’t wait for 1RM day to pay attention during the warm up. Don’t wait for the Open to take your sleep and recovery the week of seriously. Do it throughout the whole year! “When most people practice, they focus on the things they already know how to do…it is only by working on what you can’t do that you turn into the expert you want to become.” Also, since it fits appropriately, don’t “WOD-dodge” either! Obviously we all have schedules and obligations, but don’t be the guy/gal that happens to miss class every time the prescribed weight in the workout looks heavy, or there’s running (look, I’m just going to keep on saying it), or snatches, or that other movement you don’t like, YAY BURPEES!!! To push past competence into the excellence side of the spectrum, we need to log hours of quality training and practice, not quantity.

Call to Action

So here it is. Short, sweet, and to the point. If we want to log hours of quality practice, how can we do that? By maximizing every minute within that hour. What’s that? Well, it’s simple. Right now, in the next 60 seconds (after you finish reading the blog), what is one thing you can do to improve your training? Should you be eating some real food right now instead of fast food? Should you be resting and recovering? Should you be going to the gym for today? Last week we defined what success meant to us and after reading the blog, I’d imagine most of you came up with a definition that sounded something like, “Success to me is putting forth my best effort when I do ____.” So let’s take that momentum, and put our best effort towards the next 60 seconds. Right now, I’m currently rolling my foot on top of a lacrosse ball while I’m typing. And I’m eating fruit. Your answer doesn’t have to be “Deadlift 5x5 at 70%” or “go for a 10 mile jog” or “buy everything they sell at Whole Foods,” though it could be. It can be simple. After you click out of this blog, don’t go surf Instagram for the next minute, put your phone down, grab a healthy snack, cook a good meal for later, spend time with your kids, text your spouse or mom that you love them, pack your bag for the gym today, throw away an item of food in your pantry that you shouldn’t be eating. Do something. Anything. In the next full minute, do something to improve your training, relationships, or your life as a whole. Then in the next minute, do it again, or do something else beneficial. Then again, and again, and again. Any time you can possibly think of it, quiz yourself and ask, “What am I doing in this minute to maximize my capabilities and results?”

Then go do it.