Hard work

Part I of the blog series with Caleb


So, here you are. The open has been over for about 2 months. If I were a betting man, my money would be on most of you wrapping up the open with aspirations of exponential progress over the next year. You tested your fitness. Some parts were found to be adequate. Some wanting. You came out guns blazing.


How is that working out for you? No, seriously, how is that working out for you, right now? Still burning?


I have seen this happen time and time again. Heck, I’ve done it.


This can only lead me to consider the fur trade in America. In the days of the early American frontier exploration, grit and determination was a predominant characteristic of the common man seeking a new life in a new land. Hunting and trapping was paramount to survival. So much so, that homes would use of their finest pelts or skins as a garnish for the barn or cabin. It was a badge of honor. The most common marker was a big freaking bear skin. If you’ve ever hunted bear, you understand the work involved, and this is with many modern conveniences. Hunting and trapping required mastery, a painstaking endeavor. Ya know, hard work.


Unfortunately, the very thing which led to the rise of subsistence culture, marked by hard work and determination, eventually led to its own demise. As the value and demand of pelts and furs grew - largely due to frivolous pursuits such as fashion and status - the pursuit and harvesting of said pelts quickly reached a tipping point. Hard work led to overwork. The well went dry.


While stories of hunters and trappers, ya know real grizzled dudes, isn’t necessarily an origin story of hard work, it does serve as an example. Not a singular one, though. In myriad ways, the forgotten story of the fur game parallels that of fitness.


The beginning of the fitness movement in America started on some shaky ground, and with some pretty cooky personalities. Folks like Tony Little and Richard Simmons. As previously alluded to, when a culture is full of consumers, most anything offering results will sell.


Fortunately, functional fitness hit the scene. Trainers like Dan John and Pavel Tsatouline were telling folks to carry this or swing that. Mark Rippetoe and Charles Poliquin popularized the back squat deadlift and a number of other lifts classically reserved for serious athletes. Regimens like CrossFit were birthed from the new discovery of classical strength and conditioning principles. It was awesome, and still is. Hard, intentional work once again became foundational to improvements in physical prowess.


The catch, we take good things and make them ultimate things. Just like the fur trade, we’ve been given an opportunity to do hard work. Work that can develop strong discipline. Work that can lead to better health, strength, and longevity. Work that can even gratify a longing to exude high levels of physical prowess. Yet, we’ve managed to bastardize it. We’ve conflated hard work with pageantry. We’ve slipped into an obsession with capacity, as an adornment around our neck. We have become whores, and our only form of acceptable currency is dopamine. We’ve “worked” ourselves into absurdity, and it runs the risk of being that which defines us.


This is my charge to us all at CFEN. Let’s return the roots of “hard work”.


“The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long” - Lao Tzu, ancient Chinese proverb


Your flame, my flame, needs only to burn bright enough to mark a gradual advance in the right direction. Yes, there will be times to turn it up a notch or two, but there will also be the times that we need to turn it down. It’s about balance toward consistent progression. Hard work is the intentional pursuit of being a little better tomorrow than we were today. That takes shape in so many ways:


1. Stop killing your self every day. Listen to your body. Push where you can, and pull back where you need to. Training is a process, not the events of a day. A painstaking endeavor steeped in the cauldron of time.


2. Get your mind right. This includes owning a poor performance or a missed lift. This includes not whining about something that might be hard. Do the very best you can, that day, that moment. This includes encouraging others and receiving encouragement. If you need more examples, just ask.


3. Get off Instagram. Who gives a good gosh darn about what you did for your workout anyway. Sure, share a highlight on occasion. That’s fine. But seriously, the incessant need or compulsion to let everyone know how well you are doing or what awesome things you are doing all the time should cause you to seriously consider your motivation.


4. Give yourself some grace. Be patient with your progress. Becoming a physically formidable human takes hard work, patience, and consistency.


5. Training makes you weak. Recovery makes you strong. Literally! More, more, more is ignorant. And if you’ve read this far, you can no longer claim ignorance. I just told you so.


6. Your performance does not define you. You are so much more than that.


Hard work isn’t a dangly we wear. Hard work isn’t a post we share. Hard work isn’t a tool we use to leverage our value to others. Hard work is a character trait developed in the calculated approach to becoming the most capable version of you that you can be. More to come on this pursuit.