Remember Foam Parties?....Learning from your mistakes

"Remember Foam Parties?!”
Buying Into Your Own BullSh$t – Part 2

Okay, so do any of you remember foam parties? I’m certainly dating myself here, and there are a lot of reveals in these blogs about stuff most people don’t know about me. For one –I used to have a pair of shiny pants…yeah. I’m not proud of it, but I gotta tell ya, at the time…nah, it was still douchey at the time. Back to foam parties. So, essentially, imagine a club full of your closest friends (or 300-400 people you don’t know more likely..), copious amounts of alcohol, and at a specific time, the foam blowers came on and the entire place just filled up with foam – like the kind that forms on the top of a bubble bath – and the party continues. In most cases, it cranked up a few notches…maybe 10. The reason I’m prefacing this entry with this illustration is that I’ve done some things I’m not proud of – everyone has, and life is ultimately about learning from our mistakes, if we are given the chance, and putting that knowledge to good use. So, lets rewind to where we left off at our last installment….

So yeah…That dude got up. When I say he ‘got up’, he didn’t just slither to his feet, wobble around and get a standing 8 count. No. That dude hopped up like he had been catapulted off a trampoline. He looked surprised and a little disoriented, but when the referee went over to check him out he was ready to rumble. Anyone who has ever had a big, clumsy dog who loves to run out the door because they just love being outside and has watched them run into something – a wall, a piece of furniture, or a sliding glass door that they thought was open – will understand what was facing me across the ring here. A look like – well damn, that sucked, followed by an immediate reboot to right before the incident. I don’t know why I should have expected anything different, honestly. I’ve known a lot of Marines through the years, and one thing that damn sure ain’t in the mantra is ‘take one shot and then stay down’. This guy was no exception. Unfortunately for me, I had wasted a lot of energy getting all amped up, emotional, and then overly celebratory in the aftermath of my ‘quasi victory’. It was getting ready to cost me.

The fight restarted, and I acted on what I thought was a tactically sound assumption – he had just gotten his bell rung pretty hard and was still disoriented. I launched into a FRENZIED offensive. Flurry after flurry…I mean, I have never thrown so many punches in a minute. Some folks are gonna see the danger in this strategy, given my current physical state, and they are right – I punched myself out. Oh yeah. Big time. His offense wasn’t all that much to speak of, mainly because he was still in survival mode, and I wasn’t taking much damage. The main problem was my lack of confidence in my ability to convert the victory without capitalizing on the near knockout. Somewhere from the start of this fight to halfway thru the first round I began to doubt myself, and rightly so. Why doubt yourself? I’ll tell you…

My results thus far – though impressive – were subjective and based upon a small comparative pool of data, all of which was engineered to deliver that result. I had fought guys with limited records, limited skills, and limited experience. In comparison, my preparation, skills and experience were worlds apart. My preparation was good, in my own opinion (which would turn out to be skewed), but in the grand scheme of things it was an insulated, immature view of the grander scale of preparation. In terms of CrossFit, I was making the leap from a beginners highly encouraging view of how much fitter, faster and stronger I had become in a relatively short period of time – to an advanced athlete’s broader view of continuous, diligent preparation and training. I had very little idea of how unprepared I was mentally, emotionally and even physically when compared to an experienced and more rigorously tested athlete. Returning to the entire impetus for this story – I had bought a HUGE case of bullshit, from myself, fire-sale cheap. In less than 60 seconds, I had proven how bad of a deal I had still gotten. My insulation from objective analysis of my performance, lack of high level input from training partners and competition, my new coach’s optimistic view of what he thought I could achieve – as well as a lack of a feedback loop all contributed to this.

This happens to athletes, and Coaches – oh yeah, all the time. The better you get, the more experienced you are, and the less you put yourself in coachable, teachable situations – the more apt this is to happen. No one is telling you what you NEED to hear – only what you want to hear. This develops into the arrogant presumption that if no one is telling you that you are doing things wrong, half-ass, or aren’t measuring up to the standard you portray that you want to achieve – that you are in fact doing everything right. This can be very well summarized as my grandmother used to put it -getting a little too big for your britches. You end up taking less advice than you need, rationalizing your behavior more, making excuses that no one wants to hear, etc.. Unsurprisingly, it snowballs into a sad, self-perpetuating saga of finger pointing, excuse making, and underperformance. It’s happened to us all at some point, on a small or a large scale and sometimes multiple times – its sneaky as hell, and if you don’t think it has – you’re still there and you’re probably thinking up an excuse right now, lol…Good luck with that.

In general, it ends up being a cycle of taking credit for everything that goes right and shifting blame for everything that goes wrong. The further along I’ve gotten the more I realize that the truth is most often exactly the reverse – the most successful endeavors are collaborative and synergistic, using every available resource to bolster the effort, whereas failures are most often a result of the individual not putting in the work, failing to utilize resources and knowledge at hand, and using excuses to mask a lack or mental fortitude.

So, to make a long story short, I had just run up against an opponent just as skilled and prepared as myself, and I spent the rest of that fight struggling to hold on. I was exhausted, physically and mentally drained, from not only the exertions but mostly the realization that I was not nearly as prepared as I should have been. Luckily for me, amateur fights only went for 3 rounds, and at the end of the day, there wasn’t a very real chance of a catastrophic outcome. I did spend the rest of that fight, in my own mind at least, running for my life. I felt like I was getting my ass beat six ways from Sunday. It must not have looked that way from the judges point of view, because at the end of that fight I prevailed by way of a Split Decision. I was shocked, but it didn’t seem like anyone else was. My opponent, his coach, the crowd even – no one seemed shocked that I had won, even though it was a close run thing. I was in disbelief, mainly because I had spent the majority of the fight inadvertently kicking my own ass inside my head. My training had kicked in at some point and I maintained a basic level of technique and tactics, but had that fight gone another 2 rounds I am certain I would have lost a unanimous decision. I got lucky. One inspiring flash of brilliance had allowed me to hold onto a win that I understood should never have been mine. I did have enough presence of mind to cross the ring and shake hands with the opposite corner. I couldn’t even say anything. I had the normal exhilaration that comes with a win, but it was definitely attached to a feeling that I had gotten away with something.

I did get away with something that day, but it taught me a lesson that stuck with me. When I thought I won that fight in the first 10 seconds, I started taking credit for something that was pure luck -the proverbial ‘Biker Right’. It didn’t mean I wasn’t capable of winning, it just meant that I thought how I ‘won’ was a direct product of my skill and preparation when that was a seriously pompous assumption. I must have looked like a complete a$$hole. Rightly so. I’m not proud of it, but I value those 15 minutes more than most of my competitive life because sometimes it takes a real douchebag moment to show us how much better we should strive to be.

What’s the whole point you may ask? Preparation for anything – competition, work, life – is a moving target. It is all relative to what you are measuring yourself against. The better you get, the more perishable your skills and preparation become and the more practice and diligence they take to maintain. Becoming insulated and buying into your own bullshit is the best way to guarantee a failure to perform. Always push the limits of what you think is possible or where you are comfortable. Don’t get complacent, and always continue to learn from other coaches, teachers, mentors, and contemporaries. Be humble. Constantly challenge yourself and don’t let your fear or any kind of mindf$ckery get in the way of your progression; odds are, if you are thinking about skipping a training day, cherry picking a workout, or bailing on a specific component of your training routinely – you need to take a hard look at why. Surround yourself with people who challenge your willingness to give up, call you on any whiny, negative self-talk, and support your efforts to succeed while trying their best to beat your ass at what you do. Otherwise, you’re gonna find yourself standing in the middle of a foam party, in a pair of shiny pants, holding a glow stick, wondering why in the hell your still up at 0430 in the morning contemplating just going straight thru til breakfast...

Tune in next time for the ‘Neck Kick Heard ‘Round the Club’ – when a lesson comes full circle.

Until then – see you all at the gym!



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