The last chapter in Ben Bergeron’s book Chasing Excellence is a beautiful summary and example of everything he’s said so far. Last week, we talked heavily about Competitive Excellence and how we are to “Maximize our minutes by thinking, acting, training, and competing with excellence, regardless of circumstances.” Here’s a great example of what “regardless of circumstance” really means. Ben defines Clutch as “the ability to do what you can do normally under immense pressure.” So take what you normally can do in training with little to no pressure, and see if you can do it at the highest level. That’s being Clutch. That is being true to your thinking, acting, training, and competing with excellence, regardless of the circumstance – we are just now talking about when we are under immense pressure.
At the end of the 2016 CrossFit Games, Katrin Davidsdottir entered the final event only by 23 points ahead of Tia-Claire Toomey and the workout announced is a tough one for her. Last year, almost none of the women could do any ascents on the pegboard, so Dave Castro brought it back for the next year in an event called “Redemption.” Even through a year of physically training pegboards, at that point in time, Katrin had only ever completed a TOTAL of ONE pegboard ascent, and now in the final event, she’ll have to 6 in order to finish. Ben’s pep talk before she goes backstage to line up is one we could universally apply and should keep in our back pocket in times of need: “It’s you versus the pegboard, not you versus the other competitors. Be smart. Be mature. No wasted effort. Live in your bubble – don’t be influenced by the other women.” Without going play by play, the general idea is that Katrin completes the 3 pegboard ascents in the first round, does her 21 thrusters, and then is faced with the round of 2 pegboard ascents. At this point, Tia is already done with here 2 pegboard ascents and is moving quickly towards finishing the event. As Ben recalls, “These are the moments when it is extremely difficult to stay focused on your own effort. If Katrin takes a quick peek over at Tia and has the thought process of I have to keep up with her, if she tries to go up a little too quick and doesn’t take the rest she needs, or if she fails just one of those pegboards – she’s done.” That’s the crux of this whole book, right? She’s Committed. She shows Grit in her training, Embraces Adversity, focuses on what she can Control. She Competes with Excellence and Humility, and has the ability to Turn the Page if something went wrong. She is currently Maximizing her Minutes of rest with Confidence in The Process that Ben has laid out for her. And if you know anything about Katrin Davidsdottir, you know she competes with Confidence – the ability to focus on her response to a given situation instead of the outcome. That’s what makes her able to be Clutch in this moment. So instead of jumping up early and causing herself to fail some pegboard ascents, she rests until she is ready to do another ascent. She doesn’t listen to the crowd cheering her on, or look to the lane next to her and see that the person in 2nd place is beating her and eating into her overall points lead or that Sara Sigmundsdottir in 3rd place is doing the same. What she does next and the way she climbs on these 2 ascents in the middle of the workout cannot be explained so I’ve included the YouTube video of that moment.
The event starts at 53:10 and you can see her purposefully resting as early as 58:58 while Tia takes the lead, but pay close attention to the way she just shimmies up the pegboard starting at 1:01:00. She just finds a way to make it happen. That’s called being Clutch. Not much more can be said other than its her physical and mental training that has gotten her here. It’s everything that Ben has showed us in this book. It’s all these character traits. She puts her character first and doesn’t need to do what the person next to her does. She plays her game that she’s practiced and is committed to, nothing else. That’s the mark of a champion. Keep watching until 1:09:48 for the official announcement, but I’m sure you can guess what it is – by a margin of only 11 points.
“Even in victory, the process reigns”
I’ve claimed a lot of favorites in this book, but this section heading is my absolute favorite, maybe tied with the “regardless of circumstance” quote, but if you really think about it, it’s the same thing. Ben recants after the awards ceremony, his team gets a quiet dinner at McCormick’s. “Predictably, Katrin orders fish and veggies, and she sticks with water. Even in victory, the process reigns.” Regardless of her circumstances, she still sticks to the process. She doesn’t eat pizza at the after party with the other athletes or go hit the bars afterwards like others. She celebrates but only mildly and certainly not in the way you or I would. She is already committed to next year and the process in which it brings. That is the truest example and measure of a champion I’ve ever seen displayed. That is putting character first. Committing to the process like a racehorse.
To quote and paraphrase Ben in the Epilogue to the book, “Nothing within these pages constitutes a ground-breaking secret…Reading this book will not make you more competitive…The only way the process works is through action.” “While we all have unique circumstances and problems, many change issues come down to the same thing: the ability – or inability – to translate vision into simple, ordinary, everyday actions.” That’s it. We don’t need big plans and insurmountable goals. Our goal should be to give our full effort in this moment for this one thing. Find one thing to change, make it a habit, then go find another. Maximize your minutes. Remember what Ben said to Katrin right before that last event? “Be smart. Be mature. No wasted effort. Live in your bubble – don’t be influenced by the other competitors.” Live your daily life with that advice in the back of your head. No wasted effort. Live in your bubble. Don’t be influenced by others around you. Trust your process. Commit to being Excellent.
I’ll finish this series with this full excerpt from the Epilogue and one final comment following:
“You don’t become a champion and then start acting like a champion. Whether you’re a professional athlete or a midlevel associate at a law firm, chasing excellence is about living and breathing the behaviors and habits of a champion daily. It’s about doing your best at whatever you do, whether it’s studying for a test, working out at CrossFit, loading the dishwasher, or listening to a friend in need. It’s the manner in which you try to achieve your potential that defines you as a champion, not titles, medals, or accolades. But a curious thing happens when you start acting like a champion – when you commit everything you have to the process, everything else tends to fall into place.”
Your character comes first. Don’t get so lost in your training. Focus on the character that builds you first and naturally you’ll find that as a part of who you are, that new person will be much more dedicated to accomplish your daily tasks. Commit to Excellence in every minute of everyday. And take action.