Acknowledge the Unacknowledgable by Coach Charlie
If you know Coach Charlie, you know that he’s more than a tall, red-headed (he would say strawberry blonde), pretty face. He enjoys reading, experimenting with different training methodologies and diets, and absolutely loves exploring the mental aspect of fitness. Below is a blog post that he wrote a month or so ago that is pretty deep, but well thought out and an incredibly fascinating read. I hope you all enjoy it! – Coach Dave
“I want to get better.” Yawn. Few phrases annoy me as much as “I want to get better”. Don’t trust anyone who says that. There is no other phrase we use that reassures ourselves more than those five words. As long as we are telling ourselves that we want to get better or improve then whatever task we associate that to must be getting better. Yaaaaawn. It begins and ends with the fact that the phrase in itself is a statement. It should be a question. How do I get better? How do I grow? Three hundred million people wake up in the morning and in some way say “I want to get better”. Very few ask “how?”
The word “want” is intrinsically linked to just that—the things you want. I want _________. The more meaningful counter to “I want _________ “is always, or should be, “do I need _________?” Ever been to Lululemon? Exactly. Need, in the realm of growth, is the set of weaknesses that must be confronted and overcome for growth to take place. Therefore, need and “how?”, ultimately go hand in hand. By truthfully asking yourself “how do I grow?” you’re igniting the process of uncovering and admitting the things you are not good at; for most, not fun, not entertaining, not a good way to spend thirty minutes. Why? Because having a sit down with your weaknesses is emotional. For many, we don’t have the capacity to be emotional. God forbid, right? We’ve been conditioned to overlook the tremendous value and opportunity that an emotional attachment to a weakness presents to us.
People subconsciously tuck away weakness because our culture, for whatever reason, teaches us to avoid them like the plague. Just focus on what you’re good at. If you fail, then you don’t get to checkpoint A, and if you can’t get to A then you definitely can’t get to checkpoint B. I look back at a lot of my experiences and it’s abundantly clear. I had to make this team so I could go there, then I had to make that team so I could there; a vicious cycle of promoting my strengths at every turn. By the time I was sixteen I was a raging bull of arrogance because all I really knew was what I was good at it.
I was a complete foreigner to the process of “how?”
On the whiteboard at Croga, Dave wrote “EFFORT IS A CHOICE”. We choose to go the gym every day. More importantly we get to go to the gym every day. But, what is your effort for? What are you putting your time and energy towards? There are a multitude of easy answers to this: to get fitter, to lose more weight, to get stronger. That’s where the “I want to get better” crowd lives. Not enough. If you are not matching the outrageously high physical demands created for you with an equal amount of emotional investment, initiated by admitting you aren’t very good at something, then you are wasting your time and energy. You are wasting two of your most pressing resources. Sound intense? Good.
There is no safer environment for you to be vulnerable than that of Croga. Why? Nobody is “better” than anyone else here. I’ve been a part of and still am a part of cultures where “being the best” can determine whether or not I have a job. However, I can tell you right now that if you continually take that approach you’ll find yourself in a lonely place faster than you’ve ever imagined. Be vulnerable. Get to the “how?”
Don’t confuse this with a lack of confidence. Rather, understand that as you chip away at weakness the confidence you start to build is so much more powerful than the fake confidence you project to force yourself away from the things that make you feel uncomfortable. If you’re comfortable you’re losing.
This ability to confront the “big, scary how monster in the closet” creates a scenario where we can add an emotional effort to the physical effort at an incredibly high level. The key, I would argue, is having enough vulnerability, or humility, to allow the emotional in. When you’re at Croga, give the most meaning possible to this workout; completely drain your emotional well. Cry when it’s over. Where else in your day are you going to be able to find this depth of emotional investment in yourself? A directed investment in yourself fueled by a deep emotional fire will make you far, far richer than any other type of investment. Once you start to feel comfortable at this sort of approach, think of what that does to you as a human being. Think of the type of husband/wife/father/mother/employee it can make you. Deep shit here.
If it were an equation it would look like this:
HIGH EMOTIONAL INVESTMENT + HIGH PHYSICAL DEMANDS = GROWTH
I define “growth” in this situation as finding a new margin (emotionally and physically) or extending past the last limitation you had conceived for a given scenario. We like to think that if our dead lift increases by one hundred pounds in three months then we’ve grown. We have. We got stronger; our ability to lift something off the ground increased by a load capacity of one hundred total pounds. Measurable, trackable, it all checks out. My question to you would be, “Is getting one hundred pounds stronger in your deadlift a good thing?” Is it enough? Is that worth your time and energy? My answer is a hard, hard no. If it were a weakness, great, but what emotional response did that weakness bring out in you? That’s where we begin.
In reality, what true to life application is that strength gain going to improve? Is it making you a better husband/wife/mother/father/son/boyfriend/girlfriend? For a healthy relationship, I really hope not. But, what if along the way, someone told you weren’t good enough or you weren’t worthy enough for someone or something? Some insecurity would certainly have built inside of you. Something you tucked away as the unacknowledged. Acknowledge that unacknowledged. Invite that shit to the party. Attach that to getting stronger in the deadlift. Create the environment where an emotional effort is clashing with a physical effort like two battering rams. If you are getting stronger in the deadlift to look better naked (you’ve all heard it) or to make you “better” than someone else when your write “365 lbs.” on the whiteboard, please make a fist and punch yourself in the face.
So, to bring it back to the ever important “why?”, why do this? Why tap into your emotional infrastructure so much? I mentioned it earlier but to reiterate, time is not a renewable resource. You get x amount; a fact of life. Stop wasting it. You went to the gym today. Fantastic. So did three hundred million other people. How many actually connected with themselves. How many had the courage to look in themselves, admit there are blemishes underneath and were fortunate enough to have all these incredible tools to help bring it out, step over it, and find the next? The more we do this, the better equipped we are to help others, to help the people in your life when they need you, emotionally or physically.
That’s why we do it anyway, right?