My First Fifty CrossFit Days…

… I’m never going back.

Friends had been telling me for years to do CrossFit. I’ve been a “GloboGym” guy since high school. I’ve always enjoyed weightlifting and hated cardio. I figured I knew what I was doing after more than a decade in the gym – why did I need to do CrossFit? Weightlifting defined a big part of who I was. I spent an hour or two five to six days a week every morning before dawn. I didn’t need someone to tell me how to work out. To be clear, I did more than crunches, curls, and bench press and even competed in an amateur bodybuilding competition in college. I also looked at the guys who were at the elite CrossFit level and thought to myself “There’s no way they do a five minute workout and achieve that level of fitness.” After staring, admittedly curiously, from the outside in, my friend and business partner Web Smith finally got me to give it a go.

There was no question I was going to CrossFit Dallas Central to give it a shot. Widely viewed as the best CrossFit box in Dallas (“box” = gym), I’d even heard it’s one of the best in the US.  One of my first reactions was a bit of sticker shock at the price. Gold’s Gym was $50 a month. I was looking at $200 a month to join CrossFit. I had enough people at this point in my life telling me I had to try it that it was more than worth a one month trial. Having started a clothing company last year, something else I’ve learned first hand is that quality is never cheap. It it’s a great product or service, it’s going to be worth the cost. Our “chasing cheap” culture has distorted reality to an unhealthy level with everyone expecting things to cost less than it takes to actually deliver that product or service. There exists an almost automatic assumption that there should always be a discount, and if it costs more than something in the same product category, it’s too expensive (even if they aren’t really comparable). Past the signup, I got my world rocked.

I can’t remember my first week of workouts in terms of specific movements/time, but I can remember being humbled as never before. There will always be someone faster or stronger (unless you are Rich Froning), so it wasn’t that someone finished something faster or with more weight… It was that I felt like the workout had obliterated me. No exaggeration. I remember collapsing on the floor thinking “But wait! I’m FIT!”. The important distinction with CrossFit is that you may be able to run a marathon, but you can’t lift much weight at all. You may be incredibly strong, but if you have to row a 1000 meters, you may actually pass out. CrossFit is all about exactly what their slogan says “Forging Real Fitness”.

Perhaps even more amazing than this realization that I was nowhere near as “fit” as I thought I was, was the bonding experience that took place almost instantly. From the coaches to those getting obliterated with me, the sense of community is phenomenal. Perhaps shared suffering (and of course triumph at the completion of each WOD) is a stronger bonding tool than I had ever realized.

This false sense from those who have not ever even tried CrossFit that it’s a bunch of workout lunatics/muscle heads couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve seen the fittest people right next to those who are one hundred pounds overweight, all doing their best to improve their own fitness level while encouraging each other. From teenagers looking to get ready for soccer tryouts to men and women old enough to be grandparents, there is absolutely something for everyone. You do not need to get fit in order to show up on your first day. The coaches will tailor workouts to your level and push you, in a healthy way, for consistent improvement.

So about my “fitness” level… I rarely combined aerobic activity into workouts. I’d never done an overhead squat. I’d play with my phone or have long conversations with friends at the gym. I’d gotten really good at specific movements and while I was “strong”, I now understand I’ve just scratched the surface of true fitness.

Can’t wait for what’s next. Thanks Web and Lindsey Smith for opening my eyes. Thanks to the CrossFit community for welcoming me and making me want so much more for myself.

The Cost of Cheap

Some may have heard the news that a recent building collapse in Bangladesh killed over 1,100 people. Most have not. Disasters happen all over the world, all the time. What makes this different? It was a garment factory for some of the worlds biggest (cheap) brands with deplorable conditions. Ann Zimmerman and Neil Shah wrote a great piece in the Wall Street Journal this weekend entitled American Taste for Cheap Clothes Fed Bangladesh Boom. It is a must read.

Building Collapse

Photo Credit: Andrew Biraj, Reuters

My wife and I walked through the mall this weekend past an H&M store where they advertised a bikini for $4.95 (modeled by Beyonce). $4.95. Let that sink in. If you’ve ever dug into the economics of products like clothing, it means the cost of goods on that bikini is somewhere between $0.50 and $1.50, depending on a number of factors, that include the fabric and the labor itself. That does not include paying Beyonce. People have quickly become familiar with China making just about everything (and typically of rather poor quality), but what people are less familiar with is that even China is becoming “too expensive” in terms of labor. Companies are shifting their manufacturing from China to even lower cost manufacturing countries like Bangladesh, with devastating consequences. There aren’t even basic safeguards for people working in these countries. Over 1,100 people died in this building collapse. In buildings like this and others that have experienced deadly accidents in Bangladesh, clothes are made for H&M, Zara, J.C. Penney, United Colors of Benetton, Wal-Mart, and other major companies. H&M and Zara have made a name for themselves with “fast fashion”, taking inspiration from couture fashion, cutting down the production to shelf time, using dirt cheap labor, and bargain basement pricing. The consequences of these business practices are great profits for these companies along with significant human suffering.  It is absolutely true that offshore production can give people in developing countries a chance at a brighter future with jobs, if done responsibly. This is anything but responsible.

The only way things will change is if people in America and Europe (primarily) start to vote with their dollars and demand change. United Colors of Benetton champions itself as a company of social responsibility. It denied having any connection to the factory that collapsed, until pictures emerged of its clothing amidst the rubble.

Things have to change. I believe we’re doing our part at Mizzen+Main with our commitment to American manufacturing. While people don’t typically make the choice between item A and item B based on where it is made, seeing American made products, or responsibly made products from overseas, helps encourage people to keep in mind the consequences of their purchases.

John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods, is probably the best example of what he champions: conscious capitalism. At Inc’s 2013 GrowCo conference, he said America is in “disintegration mode,” and unless businesses, government, and the media behave more ethically and more cooperatively, high unemployment levels and economic decline will continue. Perhaps most importantly, he said “the virtues that made us a great nation are beginning to disappear. Capitalism needs to renew itself, and we need new ethcial foundation for business.”

There is a cost to cheap. A very, very high cost. I encourage you to vote with your dollars and effect positive change. Pay attention to who you buy from and do business with. You’ll be surprised.

The Entitled Generation… and Those That Will Work For It

While I’d prefer not to give this young woman any more attention, Suzy Lee Weiss wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal this past weekend entitled To (All) The Colleges That Rejected Me with the byline “If only I had a Tiger Mom or started a fake charity”. I’m sure (and I hope) most of you are already disgusted with some saying “well, maybe it’s a bad title, and she has valid points” It is, and she doesn’t. It is a shocking confession of the most entitled generation in existence, demonstrating perfectly the “Participation Trophy” culture and should be a dramatic wake up call to parents, educators, politicians, and business leaders that years of failed policies, bad parenting, and excuses are coming home to roost. Some chastise the Wall Street Journal for posting such a ridiculous piece or childish whining, but I say kudos. I’m sure they said “People need to see this.” They most certainly do.

Some of Ms. Weiss’ embarrassing rant includes:

  • Colleges apparently told her to “just be herself” – which she feels is a lie. Newsflash: just being yourself is not a skill that will earn you admission to college and no admissions officers leave their advice at that. Don’t be fake, but impress them and show them why they want you.
  • She would have gotten in to her dream school(s) if she had just faked diversity by wearing a headdress or claiming 1/32nd something like Sen. Elizabeth Warren
  • Taking stock photos of “scooping up” a starving African child would surely have wooed admissions officers
  • If only she had a coffee pouring fake internship, she would have been deemed a top candidate
  • Her parents didn’t push her hard enough and make her do activities she hated, so now she’s an undesirable undergrad (Jeez Mom and Dad, you ruin EVERYTHING!)

Anyone with any sense sees right through this pathetic diatribe – except those that live this life. It’s clear Ms. Weiss has zero drive, no ambition to succeed, no will to challenge herself, and a humiliating lack of perspective made all the worse by a bit of investigation Caity Weaver at Gawker that shows her parents have a luxury home featured by the Wall Street Journal. Life has clearly been a struggle for this privileged middle to upper class suburban child. The rude awakening she feels she’s just experienced will pale in comparison to life outside the comfortable nest her family has provided.

This generation, spanning Generation Y to the Millennials, is in for a rude awakening across the board due to what they’ve been told by their families, teachers, politicians, and corporations promising them everything without ever really having to work for it. From participation trophies to classes without “F’s” because of how it makes students “feel”, many kids and young adults feel so dangerously entitled, it’s terrifying.

Which brings me to one of the best quotes I’ve read in a long time:

Hard Work

Nothing is guaranteed. No one owes you anything. There is no “safe” path. Life isn’t fair. The only way to give yourself the best shot at success – whatever that means for you – is to work harder than everyone else. Make your own luck. You’ll be surprised at opportunities that suddenly “appear” because of how hard you are working, how people treat you differently and want to help you on your way, and how success begets success. One thing I can promise anyone who feels how Ms. Weiss feels is that there are countless others around you willing to work so much harder, day in and day out. Those that will work for success will earn it. Those that feel entitled, never will.

I don’t need to add much commentary around the college admissions process, because that’s not really what this young woman was even talking about. This rant was a young person waking up to a reality she had been shielded from and her violent reaction to it. I guess it isn’t even a violent reaction though – it’s just about as much effort as she could muster, a 250 word gripe fest passively complaining about everything and everyone except her own lack of ambition and motivation. Note that 250 words is just about a quarter of a standard English class essay… You can almost hear her sigh with exhaustion at the end of it. Of course the colleges admissions process is flawed at some levels, but by and large, students demonstrating drive, ambition, and an interest in the world around them outside social media and reality television will stand out.

I hope her parents are as embarrassed as they should be. If they aren’t, the only hope Ms. Weiss has a reality check outside her parent’s Wall Street Journal Luxury Homes featured nest.

The implications for our society are real. An entitled generation unwilling to work hard and frustrated by other’s success around them does not bode well for anyone.

I do see some hope, though. Organizations like the Young Entrepreneur Council are growing quickly with young adults looking to make their mark on the world in business, philanthropy, education, and the arts. Organizations like KIPP are teaching teenagers about hard work and the need to educate yourself. More needs to be done though, particularly from parents.

Let’s hope parents, teachers, politicians, and corporations are leading young adults in the direction of the YEC rather than the line of thinking that leads to this the spiteful rant of an entitled teenager.