Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Archive for October, 2013


Somewhere, somehow, someone did something that gave you the opportunity to be a success. Chances are you are aware of both the who and the what. Are you thankful? Have/do you express this?

It starts early. Your folks did something, or didn’t do something, and that laid the foundation. If it was good, did you thank them? If you still have them around it’s not too late; they remember, and they will be blown away if you tell them that you remember, too, and that you are thankful.

Was there a Coach or a teacher who had a particular influence on the younger you? Someone whose voice still shows up every now and again, just when you most need to hear them? They may or may not remember either you or what it was they did, but they might. Either way, if they’re still around, chances are your unexpected thanks will make their day. Maybe their week or month.

How about now, as an adult? I’m betting there was someone who paved the way for a greater kind of success for you. If you are lucky you might even still be on good terms with whoever this might be, but even if you are not, and even if you can’t call them, and even if stuff ended badly, are you still thankful for whatever it was they did once upon a time?

I think about this every time I bump into someone on third base and wonder how they got there. In most cases they made it to third because they hit a bloop single and then moved up when someone else got a hit or bunted them over. Some folks really DID hit a triple, but they are the exception. All of them got there because someone saw something special enough in them to put them on the team in the first place.

Remember, even if you did hit a triple, and even if you manage to steal home, someone somewhere at some time did something that got you in the game. Spend a minute thanking them.

Learning the Ropes

The phrase “learning the ropes” takes on new meaning if you are a CrossFitter. After all, we actually do stuff with ropes, necessitating an actual learning process about what to do with ropes themselves! Once we’ve “learned the ropes” we are introduced to another cool phrase: “on the ropes”. After “learning the ropes” we might feel “on the ropes” every time we are actually, you know, on a rope.

The technical part you get; after all, you’re a CrossFitter and you have either climbed a rope or are about to do so. There are a couple or three ways to effectively scale those rungless bastards, and upon mastering one or another it’s time to start the learning process. As is so often the case for us, we end up learning much more about ourselves than we do about the movement.

Turns out that 1.5 or 2″ braided cord is a direct line to the place where we store fear. All kinds of fear. Fear of heights is the no-brainer, but right next to that on the shelf is fear of falling, of injury, and of failure. As a coach you see it every time a non-climber approaches the rope for the very first time. You know the look, somewhere between “deer in headlights” and your first time watching “The Shining”.

It’s a tiny little thing, actually, to be able to climb a rope. The physical act that is. Like so many other things we attempt in the gym, climbing a rope is a much deeper and more involved endeavor than just the technical climb. “Learning the ropes” is another one of those episodes of self-revelation, learning how you respond when you are “on the ropes”, a measure much greater than the length of the particular rope in question. Don’t believe me? All you have to do is see the look on the face of a first-timer when she reaches up and taps the beam or rings the bell. It’s a look of way more than “I just climbed a rope.”

It’s the look of conquest, and she’ll be taking that with her everywhere from that moment on.


The Discipline/Habit Continuum

Have you had those days when you trudge into the gym, the Box, with little to no desire to be there? Beaten down and on the verge of defeat, you simply show up, punch in, go through the motions, punch out. Had some of those? Yah…me, too. It happens elsewhere in your life, too, in other places and at other times when you don’t really ‘have to’ be there, doesn’t it?

Well then, why did you show up?

There’s a continuum, I think, along a line that includes discipline, motivation, and habit. It might be a circle or a feedback loop–I’m not sure yet. The end result is something like consistency. Was it some sort of discipline that prompted you to go to the gym and do that workout when you didn’t really have any too much desire to be there? Some sort of force of will, a conscious imposition of rational to overpower emotion? Or were you simply motivated by some end-goal long before chosen, a milepost toward which you travel no matter what because the destination is so compelling? Subtle, I know, and I confess that the subtle difference between discipline and motivation may escape my vocabulary at this stage.

What I DO understand, though, is the concept of habit, and habit formation, and the consistency that arises from positive habits. You know, just like the Crossfit prescription of Mechanics before Consistency before Intensity. Whether it’s the PULL of motivation to arrive at some wonderful destination, or the PUSH of discipline driving you there, it is the creation of habit, of consistency, that ultimately gets the job done.

Success is about building those habits, the ones that produce good outcomes. You went to the gym that day because going to the Box at that time is the habit you’ve developed; punching that clock on that day provides the consistency that will bring a giant forward leap on the next day when you show up with a spring in your step and fire in your belly. Any kind of habit that consistently moves you forward along a road to success is a habit worth creating. For example, I’m in the habit of assuming that every day in the office is gonna be a good day, unless it’s a great day, and I’ve noticed that this kind of habit is contagious.

Whether pushed by discipline or pulled by motivation, give yourself permission to go about creating habits that move you.


Sunday musings 10/20/13

Sigh. Like clockwork another Groundhog Day around the CrossFit world. Just like the “CrossFit is dangerous” silliness a couple of weeks ago we have the return of “there are too many Boxes” and “there should be more control of Boxes by HQ” and “it’s too easy to become a CF L1 trainer”, etc. Meh. There must be some growth threshold, some number by which the Affiliates have grown that ignites this particular brushfire because it cycles in and out of flame.

When these sentiments come from outside the CrossFit world they are almost always spoken by folks who have little or no real knowledge of anything CrossFit, often by people who stand to lose a great deal of something or other if CF continues to grow. Whatever. We as CrossFitters pick and choose whether and how to respond to the outsiders however we might, and HQ unleashes Legal and “the Russes” on any who are particularly wrong-headed or mean-spirited. I watch that stuff like I watch sit-coms, feet propped up and beer ice cold.

No, what is on my mind at the moment is the cyclic re-emergence of these sentiments from within the CrossFit community itself, most often from the second or third wave of Affiliates who have forgotten what it was like when they were new, but just as often from the newest initiates who find success quickly.  The very first wave of Box owners could almost all trace their lineage directly back to CF Santa Cruz, but even they had diverse backgrounds that were often quite far afield from fitness. Teachers, coaches, cops and retired military. Bakers, electricians and artists. Almost none of them had any letters after their names, and many of them opened a Box within a year of discovering CrossFit.

And now it should be different how? Why?

Here’s what’s different and here’s why: there are lots and lots of CrossFit gyms now, and sometimes potential members have a choice of gyms. You’re a CF trainer, and now you’ve got to prove your chops. Your micro-community will be different from the Box down the road and people will figure that out. Got a bias in your programming, or a particular “flavor” to your WOD’s? Ditto. Once upon a time almost everyone started out with their programming coming directly from CrossFit.com, at least until they figured out their own style. Think you’ve got a better version of CrossFit to offer your members? Good on ya. It had better be rockin’ ¬†though, because that Box down the street is running Main Page programming and they are littering Facebook with tales of PR’s and “firsts”.

As I watch from both very close up (Lil’bingo is still the youngest Affiliate owner in North America I believe) and very far there appear to be two substantial differences between the first 1000 or so Affiliates and the last 2500 or so: newer gyms are often owned by trainers with very little CrossFit “mileage”, and newer gyms are owned and populated by folks who spend very little time on CrossFit.com. There is a more tenuous tie across the CrossFit universe because of this. While we still have CrossFit training in common we no longer have the shared “home” of CrossFit.com, the comments section, the Message Board, and the CrossFit Journal because the majority of Box members (and apparently Owner-Trainers) no longer congregate or even visit CrossFit.com.

This has spawned behavior that saddens me. Sniping between Box owners. Whisper campaigns spreading mostly falsehoods in order to sabotage a neighboring gym. Baseless criticism of another owner or trainer, tearing down another trainer in order to appear to elevate yourself. Innuendo that masquerades as fact. All manner of “Mean Girl” stuff perpetrated by people who should know better.

It’s gotta stop. Like, right now.

With so many people out there looking into your business from the outside, trying to storm the walls of our CrossFit castle, the internal intrigue needs to be done. Seriously. Got a problem with your neighboring Box? Man up and and have it out. Don’t hide behind some mealy-mouthed Facebook insinuation. Grow some stones and put it out there, stand up and stand behind it. Was it really so long ago that Coach Glassman himself stood up with flamethrower in hand and napalmed the people whispering about him and CrossFit that you don’t know what it really means to stand up and speak your piece? No one wondered how Coach felt about his competitors, and for sure no one within the early CrossFit community was unsure of where he stood.

Far be it from me to tell the good folks at CrossFit HQ how to run this enterprise, but if asked I’d add a couple of pretty simple rules to the Affiliate agreement: Don’t injure your members, and don’t be a weasel. Ask for help from anyone–HQ, OG’s, anyone–on the former, and expect to be called out into the searing bright light of day on the latter.

For whatever it’s worth that’s pretty much all we should be hearing out in our community, too.

A Tiny Thought on Emoticons

As we move more and more of our communication to electronic routes I find it more and more common that I misunderstand someone or they misunderstand me. I suppose this is partly due to the shorthands that we have all fallen for. These written shortcuts are sometimes as difficult to parse as a doctor’s handwriting, both of which are lacking because the author is trying very hard to save time (trust me on the doctor thing; that’s all it is).

And so we have the emoticon, the little figures that have been spawned by the ubiquitous smiley face, to help us express the emotional intent of the author. These, too, are lacking for they cannot truly convey the same subtlety as an upturned corner of the mouth, a flaring nostril, or the slight tremor in an angry voice. It’s important to keep this in mind each time we communicate in this manner, here and elsewhere.

There is, for example, no emoticon for a wry chuckle.

When Cultural Norms Collide

It takes very little effort to observe the intersection of cultural norms. Indeed, it takes a substantial effort NOT to notice them when they collide, as they must, in the polyglot that is the United States. Physicians, it’s been noted, are little more than paid observers; I see these collisions daily. What are we to do when cultures collide?

Now, I’m not talking about the “old as eternity” cultural divide between teenagers and their parents; in the end the teens will either hew closely to the cultural norms of their heritage or fall more in line with those of their present address. What I am interested in are those cultural norms that remain an integral part of the fully formed adult one might encounter in a rather typical day, and by extension whether and how one should respond to any cultural dissonance. Or for that matter, WHO should be the one to respond.

It’s the tiny ones that catch my attention. Personal space for example. The typical American personal space extends one arm’s length between individuals. Something shorter than a handshake, more like a handshake distance with bent elbows. The Mediterranean space involves an elbow, too: put your hand on your shoulder and point your elbow to the front and you have measured the personal space of a Sicilian. Asians on the other hand occupy a much larger personal space that can be loosely measured by a fully extended fist-bump. Something which would be anathema in polite Japanese company, but no matter. Gotta leave room for a proper bow, after all.

My favorite little example of the variety of cultural norms that swirl in the soup of the great Melting Pot is the affectionate greeting. You know, what most fully acclimatized Americans would recognize as the “bro hug” shoulder bump and clasp, something that would be appalling to a Parisian or Persian, or indeed even to a Princess of the Antebellum South. Yet even here there are differences. The Princess, joined by legions of Housewives of Wherever and Junior Leaguers everywhere are ninjas in the practice of the single-cheek air kiss. It should be noted that ~90% of men are NOT ninjas in this particular art, and are expected by its practitioners to bungle the act.

Persians and Parisians, on the other hand, find the one-cheek air kiss to accomplish only half the job. They, and others who share centuries old cultures, warmly greet each other with a two-cheek kiss. I am sure that there are nuances involved here that remain unseen and unknown to both most men and certainly most (all?) who don’t share the heritage. (As an aside let me just say that I am a huge fan of this particular cultural norm because it means that one of my very favorite colleagues, Neda, always arrives bearing TWO kisses).

And please, don’t even get me started on kissing hands. I’m pretty much O-fer life on that one. Come to think of it, as a nation of men we are winless on the kissing the hand thing.

So what’s the point here? Two, I think. First, there is a certain boorishness in the failure to observe and recognize the existence of these cultural norms when they are encountered. Some, like those I’ve mentioned, are the relative equivalent of a soft breeze, neither strong enough to fill a sail nor de-leaf a tree. Recognizing them, even in the tiny manner that one tries not to trample on them even if they will be ignored, is a tiny gesture of kindness, respect, and courtesy.

The flip side, number two, is deciding which of these norms is the default setting. Here things get a bit stickier, especially when cultural norms run afoul of SOP on the particular ground they occupy. Think air kiss between a man and a woman in Afghanistan, for example. Bowing in the boardroom of Samsung in San Clemente. There are more, and bigger examples, but you get the idea. Here I think geography holds the trump card: “when in Rome” should be your guide, especially with cultural norms where the collision may be substantially more impactful then whether or when you turn the other cheek, a tornado to the above’s tickling breeze.

Every land has culture; there’s culture here in the land of CrossFit for example. Personal space? Roughly one Pendlay bar apart, at least in the gym! Bro hugs with the guys, one cheek air kiss with every girl! Fist bumps all around, most especially with the CrossFitter who was DFL (if you have to ask…). The only thing that could be better would be if we could all agree on the two-cheek greeting thing.

Maybe if I could get my friend Neda to do CrossFit.


Sunday musings 10/6/13

Sunday musings…

1) Beauty. Marty Ceh. Whoa.

2) HSPU. That awkward moment in a HSPU where your own perspiration drips “up” into your nose. (Laura DeMarco Nielson).

Yah…you know what I mean.

3) Inscrutable. His face was a mask so tightly marshaled, so inscrutable that even his pupils were under control.

4) Chaos. The world seems rather out of control on the front page of the Sunday papers. Our own land of “constantly varied” seems downright buttoned up and predictable in comparison. Not so much the programming of course, but more the notion that there’s something here, something in CrossFitters that is dependable. Stable. Elsewhere? Not so much.

We read of upheavals writ large and small, and we read of the men and women behind them. Pundits left and right ascribe various meanings and variable degrees of provenance to the outcomes of whatever machinations came before, but I wonder. Are the wizards behind the curtains really in control? Have they a firm grip on the leashes that tether the hounds they’ve loosed on us all? Or rather have they fallen prey to hubris, and in their venality simply released the uncontrollable.

Are we witnessing chaos?

Perhaps my own view of this is colored by the chaos in my tiny little part of the planet. You know, a kind of “chaos bias” maybe. When all of the various and sundry little things start to fly around in your own personal space like so many molecules in a vacuum it starts to seem like the whole world has suddenly succumbed and everything is more Brownian motion than buttoned up strategy.

I used to thrive on what other people saw as chaos. The more plates I had spinning, the more balls in the air, the more complete I felt. Moving through tasks by the bushel, handling issues by the peck, I was most alive in the midst of what others described as chaos. Now? Not so much.

Why might that be? Is it simply because I am older? When I was a younger man there never seemed to be a sense that I would run out of time. Are the balls in air qualitatively different, heavier than they once were? It’s still just 2.5# , but the psychological gravity exerted on each additional plate sure seems to be greater. Is it actually the feeling that the world around me is more chaotic and therefore it really IS more difficult to rein in the chaos in my orbit? You know, as if I’ve lost the ability to filter out the chaos of others from that which is mine.

It’s a feeling. Nothing more than a feeling. It will likely pass as one or two things fall off a spinning plate, or a couple of juggled balls are removed from the show. It’s funny, what used to come naturally is now a purposeful act. I now find myself looking at the chaos as if it’s some massive chipper–life’s Filthy Fifty maybe–and I apply the lessons learned each time I head to the gym. One rep at a time. Finish each rep. I have more in me, more to give, than I think I do. Never, NEVER walk away from the bar.

I got this.

I’ll see you next week…

Posted by bingo at October 6, 2013 6:08 AM

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