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Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Sunday musings 7/29/12

Sunday musings…

I think this is a good day for me to give you my “book report” on Allison Belger’s book “The Power of Community” in which she looks to the field of psychology to explain why it is that this thing we call the “CrossFit Community” was born and has grown.

It turns out that we humans are “pre-wired” for community. There is a stimulus, or a set of possible stimuli, that have a greater effect on this “pre-wiring”, that make for a more powerful urge to form and join together as a community. In our case as CrossFitters it is the combination of shared suffering, actually shared suffering that we have willingly subjected ourselves to, and the near universal support that we offer one another during our travails. We are vulnerable when we suffer; we seek the company of others who not only understand our suffering, but who see us in that vulnerable state and offer support. Rather than take advantage of us at our most vulnerable they seek to support us.

Allison points out that this occurs in the small space of the CrossFit Affiliate, in the slightly expanded space occupied by groups of Affiliates in a particular area, and by CrossFitters spread out around the world and connected by that same shared suffering and freely given support. “The Power of Community” shares many, many stories to illustrate both aspects of this stimulus. We come together, become a community, and by and large remain so. I think Allison nails the what and the why from a psychologists point of view. I enjoyed the read immensely.

Ah, but there’s more to this community thing, though, isn’t there? Why is it that the community aspect of CrossFit has continued to grow even as the community has grown to include so many people encompassing so many differences? Why is Affiliate number 4000 just as “bought in” to the whole community feel as Affiliate number 40? Why does that continue to happen?

That’s the $20MM question, isn’t it? You see, every aspect of the CrossFit community is voluntary. CrossFit the fitness program is free. Heck, I did it for 5 or 6 years by coming right here, 3 on/1 off. Didn’t pay a dime, and yet because I was a CrossFitter I was a part of the community. You can do CrossFit any way you’d like, you just have to raise your hand. The water’s cold and the current’s rough so you’ll have to work hard, but if you jump in we’re all here to help you swim.

Even the whole Affiliate system is really voluntary if you think about it. How many of us haven’t gone to a gym where trainers are teaching classes that look just like “Fran”? When you decide to Affiliate you are simply deciding to join a different part of the community, and frankly there’s really not a whole lot you are required to do in oder to do that. A little money. A few rules about the trademark. That’s it. Heck, this is about as free of rules and regs as any business I’ve ever come across. Pick a color…any color! Territorial restrictions? Nah…may the best gym win.

Joining a CrossFit Affiliate is simply choosing who you wish to have lead your tiny little micro-community. Open a CrossFit gym and what you have done is nothing more or less than chosen who you want to lead your larger community. It’s all there, all laid out in front of you. Want the freedom to create YOUR version of a community built around shared suffering and supporting one another during times of vulnerability? Your business with your rules and your version of entrepreneurial spirit? It’s harder to do it this way, I think, than to have strict rules on programming, branding, product placement and sales, but that’s CrossFit, eh? It’s harder.

But just like CrossFit when you succeed in this setting it’s you who reaps the benefit. Once you’ve anted up, placed your table-stake, it’s you who will reap the rewards of hard work, innovation, inspiration. It’s really a whole lot like every other part of the CrossFit community–you’ve chosen to call your gym a CrossFit gym, chosen to become part of that particular part of the CrossFit community.

That’s the “Secret Sauce” of CrossFit. We have all chosen to do this. We’ve chosen this very hard fitness and health prescription and from that we’ve become a community. Some of us have chosen to open places where people can do CrossFit, and more than that they have chosen to pay the very small price to call those gyms “CrossFit”. The “Secret Sauce” is that we are all volunteers, here of our own accord, and everything about the way CrossFit, Inc is run makes it easy for us to volunteer. If you don’t understand this, if you don’t realize that the “Secret Sauce that binds the community is there because each one of us puts it there, you don’t really get us at all.

There are 20 Million reasons for each one of us to realize that, too. 20 Million reasons to think about how easy it has been for us to choose to be a part of this community whether we are Affiliate owners, Affiliate members, or members of the cyber-gym here on CrossFit.com. 20 Million reasons for us to share our thoughts on how well the folks we’ve chosen to follow have done in leading us, to think about how this particular way of doing business has led us to our personal successes.

We are a community. We have 20 Million reasons to proclaim what that means to us.

I’ll see you next week…


Posted by bingo at July 29, 2012 11:50 AM


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