Chasing Excellence - Ch. 5 Confidence

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Boom. Now we know how to expect, seek, and plan for adversity. We’ve done all the practice and rehearsals and we are ready for whatever game-day will throw at us. But what if we don’t win? What if we do well but that’s good enough for first? What if everything goes according to plan, or adversity happens and we overcome it, and we fall short? How do we reconcile failure? How can we re-frame not winning to still qualify as “being the best me” and doing our absolute best? In chapter 5, Ben outlines his definition of Confidence and how to deal with events that are beyond our control. There are two foundational premises of Confidence in the chapter and I want to talk specifically about each. The first is how you respond to an event beyond your control and how you define success for a particular outcome.

E + R = O

Event + Response = Outcome. Urban Meyer, Ohio State Buckeyes coach, uses this Success Equation when teaching his players about mindset. Insert a scenario that happens, something that is beyond our control. This is the event. The opponent lines up in the shotgun formation. The Dave Castro announces heavy snatches in a CrossFit Open workout. Coach Mike programs running (still hitting on this point!) in today’s WOD. My back is hurting during deadlifts. My dog gets stung by a bee. Anything. The equation dictates that our only influence over the outcome is our response. The event is already established and has happened, but the only way for us to change the outcome is how we respond to the situation (or event). If Coach Mike programs running (the event) and I react negatively and don’t come to class (response), the outcome is that I did not get better at running and I did not exercise today. Or, I could respond in a positive way, come to class even though I don’t like running, and then my outcome would be that I improved my running, technique, stamina, cardiovascular endurance, and just my fitness in general. Dave Castro announce Bar Muscle-ups in the Team Series and I’ve never done a muscle-up before. Those are facts and beyond my control. What I can control is how I respond. Do I stomp around mad that the programming isn’t fair and thus create a negative outcome? Or do I buckle down and work on my skills and drills for the next few days and give myself a fighting chance of hitting my first muscle-up some time this weekend? “People think confidence is the belief that you have the ability to win, or at least to compete with the best. But that’s not what confidence is, or where it come from. Confidence has nothing to do with outcome…Confidence doesn’t come from knowing that you control the outcome of a given event or moment. It comes from knowing that you control your response to a given event…Can you maintain the characteristics of a champion, regardless of what life throws at you? If you can–that’s confidence.”

Ben Bergeron so eloquently states that our definition of confidence isn’t in our ability to win, or dictate an outcome, but in our ability to respond to the situation placed in front of us. If confidence was only about the outcome, we would all fall short. There would only be one person every year that wasn’t let down and that’s the person who wins the CrossFit Games, or the Olympics, or whatever the situation may be. Does that mean the rest of mankind are failures in comparison? Next time Dave Castro, or Coach Mike, announces a workout that seems challenging, think back to all your physical and mental training. We practice these movements all the time to prepare for adversity. We have a strong mind that is willing and able to reframe this adverse situation into a positive for how I can get better. My “goal” is to be the best me and do the best that I can do. My only intention during this workout, job interview, poopy diaper, or when someone pulls out in front of me on Highway 114, is to maximize my response. I am confident that I will respond in the best way to positively influence the outcome. It doesn’t matter what the leaderboard says, if you are able to control your response, then you can deliver the absolute best performance you are capable of.

Defining Success

Stick with me for a moment. Read the last line of the previous section again. “It doesn’t matter what the leaderboard says, if you are able to control your response, then you can deliver the absolute best performance you are capable of.” That’s supreme confidence. So how can we do this on a regular basis? How do we define what the performance we are capable of is? Ben provides this wonderful example of how we should think like a racehorse. “Racehorses can’t think for themselves.” They slave away in training with heart monitors and dieticians and coaches, all training them for their best performance. They don’t think on their own. They can’t second guess if their coach is training them the right way or if they’re following the correct workout program. As humans, we have the disadvantage of being able to think for ourselves (in this situation). We question what the coach tells us to do. We question if we’re doing enough training or too much. We sandbag a workout because we aren’t feeling well that day and convince ourselves that it’s all right in the grand scheme of things. It’s just one workout. We look at the leaderboard and get excited when we have the best time in a running workout when we didn’t used to be good at running, or maybe we just beat our friend in a workout. Then we’re on cloud 9 and feel like we don’t need to train running as much anymore because we’re the best in the class at it. Not a racehorse. “Racehorses just perform. They can’t second-guess anything, and they have no biological choice but to have laser focus on the task at hand…When they win, they don’t change anything about their routine, and they aren’t fundamentally changed. The next day is just another training day.” They don’t reward themselves with a cupcake after meeting their weight loss goal of 15 pounds. They don’t therapy eat a cupcake to make them feel better when they lose. They only perform. Racehorses are hooked on the process. They don’t compare the size of their legs to the horse in the stall next to them and get discouraged that they can’t beat the other guy that’s “huge.” They go out and run as fast as they can at the direction of their jockey.

This is why comparison is so dangerous, especially in the social media age of CrossFit. We all follow the top athletes on Instagram snatching 300+ or see the CrossFit HQ articles about someone losing 100 pounds. We see the Fittest on Earth compete every year at the Games. We read magazines about celebrities that seem to have it all. We compare ourselves to someone else and get discouraged as if we’ve failed. We focus on the event and create a negative outcome of failure through our poor response. “If an athlete’s goal is to beat their competitor, then by definition, they’re not reaching their full potential – they’re simply clearing the bar of the next guy’s potential.” So even if we do “win” and beat our competitor, we still didn’t even reach our full potential. Our definition of success cannot be tied to a result. There’s no way anyone can win every single time. If everyone defined their success or set their goals to be “win the CrossFit Games,” then our world would be full of failures. Not everyone can “win” the contest. Am I, Coach Mike, a failure because I haven’t won the CrossFit Games? By comparison, we only beat ourselves down. We have to remember we can only control our response to an event which in turn affects the outcome.

I have some homework for you this week which will help emphasize my points a little more as well as make them more relevant to your life. Bergeron has his athletes write out their definition of success that is not tied to an outcome. In the book, he shows us Katrin’s definition and I’ll paraphrase: Success to me is giving full effort knowing that was the best I was capable of…giving everything I have into each and every day; training, recovery, family, friends, etc. Never once does she mention winning the CrossFit Games. This is why we got rid of the Goals board at the gym about a month ago. Did anyone notice? A goals board generally gets filled up with outcomes. Deadlift 405 pounds. Do a pull-up. Do a muscle-up. Lose 30 pounds. These are all outcomes and until we actually reach the goals, we are failures by that definition of success. We are winners and losers based off of who did the most double-unders during the workout, we are successful based off of the effort we put in, how we responded to a particular workout or other adversity. We replaced the Goals board with a Monthly PR board that celebrates our accomplishments including our members’ commitment to class attendance. By showing up to class regularly, you are committing yourself to excellence and success. If you define your success by effort rather than outcome, you will be able to live a much more confident life. Confidence is the belief in your ability to respond to a situation, not dictate an outcome.

Your homework is to define what success is to you without tying it to an outcome. Write it down and put it somewhere you can see it often. Memorize it and recite it often. Come back to the blog next week ready to discuss. By defining our success by effort rather than outcome, then the only way to fail is by not putting in that effort. The power is in your hands and no one else’s. Don’t let your success be defined by circumstances that are out of your control. Effort is a choice.