CrossFit is scary. Good – it should be.

I received another “CrossFit makes me nervous…” message on our website the other day.

Like, for the 10,000th time. I try to put on my empathy hat each time I receive that message over and over and over and… well you get the idea. I’ve addressed the “CrossFit is scary and expensive” comment so many times that I’ve built out a whole slew of canned automated responses on various apps. You know, the typical points:

  • CrossFit is actually 3x safer than jogging
  • We have an extensive on-boarding program
  • CrossFit can be scaled and modified
  • Hey, check out this video of a grandma over there doing CrossFit
  • CrossFit’s not expensive – your gym is cheap because no one goes there
  • You’d spend $2,000 on a month on a personal trainer to get the same level of service you get in a small group CrossFit class
  • Blah, blah, blah, blah

I’m not trying to be old man grumpy Scanny here. It’s just… I don’t know how many times I have to try and talk people off the ledge of something that millions of people have been doing everyday for almost two decades now.

But, then I was smacked in the head with a different perspective.

In an interview I recently did I was asked about some of the most influential experiences in my life and what they had in common. A lot of it related to travel and putting myself in pretty uncomfortable situations; even scary situations. I’ll share with you a few of these:

I was 17.

I went to an event with a friend at an indoor skate park. At the end of the event a speaker gave a 20 minute talk about community involvement and whatnot; a “what do you want to do after you graduate high school” talk.

The guy worked with Habitat For Humanity in the Dominican Republic. He spoke about the living conditions in some of the poorest parts of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. This was the first time I had considered a world drastically different than my own.

I knew I had to go see what’s up. I got the guy’s card and called him the next Monday saying I want to go there over my winter break of my senior year of high school. I wasn’t taking no for an answer.

My first step was to get my folks to sign off on it. Reluctantly, they gave consent since I wasn’t yet 18 (sorry, Mom). They hated the idea I’m sure. I made travel plans, found a Cuban family to host me, and started working to pay for the whole adventure.

I was scared out of my mind and spent every dime I earned on the trip. And the experience fundamentally changed my life forever.

I was 18.

Growing up in Kansas, I longed for the mountains. I wanted to live, camp, hike, and snowboard in the Rockies. So, I applied for a job at a remote conference grounds in southern Colorado. The only position that was available was that of a wrangler… yup, a horse wrangler. This would’ve been the perfect job for me had I ever been on a horse in my life. 

You see, the majority of the staff were on a transition from college to career. I was still in high school when I applied for the job. That winter, the person that had my job tore her ACL in a snowboarding accident. A week after my application was denied I got another call asking if I’m still interested and if I had any equine experience. I lied.

So I got the job and, the day after I graduated high school, I shipped off to Colorado.

Showing up to my first day of work in basketball shorts and skate shoes, I was scared out of my mind; of horses, of being found out, and letting down the team. I was really scared. This fear drove me. I would wake up an hour early (on a ranch this is a 3:30am alarm clock) and stay two hours late until I learned all the knots, how to wrangle a horse, and how to put on a saddle. I finally figured it out. I had to figure it out. Had this been a super-comfortable, familiar experience, I likely wouldn’t have put in that extra work.

I’ll Open a Gym.

I just had the pleasure of spending the weekend with my brother-in-law who lives in China. He also owns his own business and relies on it as his sole source of income for his family. I enjoy our time together because there’s a bond that only entrepreneurs share – sleepless nights, unending decisions, stress, paranoia, fear, and an absolute the-buck-stops-here attitude. It’s one of those experiences that is so nerve wracking that it creates an instant bond amongst those stupid risk-tolerant enough to do it.

This was – bar none – the scariest thing I’ve done; jumping off a cliff with a few kettle bells and some debt. I didn’t sleep much those first few years. The fear really drove me. I had to figure it out.

But, through this experience I’ve learned more about productivity, people, and myself than most people do in a lifetime. I’ve made a lifetime of mistakes in a 5-year period and learned a lifetime of lessons as a result. It’s been truly transformative. But, without the fear, there is no transformation. If the success rate for new businesses were flip-flopped – 80% failure rate in the first five years – would the light at the end of the tunnel be so sweet? Hell no.

This is CrossFit.

You should be a little nervous about CrossFit. Because, at the edge of transformation should be a little fear. Every part of your brain wants you to remain super-comfortable, not break a sweat, not meet new people, and opt for fast food over vegetables.

There was a time in human history when this came in handy. For our ancestors, newness – especially physical newness – meant a threat. It typically meant that food was scarce or a threat was imminent. This nervousness is a defense mechanism. But in an age where a full inbox is the most stressful part of our days, this has become a disadvantage.

No matter what you’re scared of, embrace that nervousness. It probably means that a lasting change is right around the corner.

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