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.

Simple, but Significant

When I started this blog it was intended to be a forum for updates on business and life – and business and life have most certainly be going on at full speed. I also didn’t want to be another blog that compulsively updated without something meaningful to say. I see many people/blogs that feel compelled to push content, without necessity or quality. I think this poster below sums it up best, when it comes to this blog and what I am trying to build:

Make it simple, but significant.

In that vein, here is a simple, but significant update:

  • Mizzen+Main has made tremendous progress. After going back to the drawing board to make our moisture wicking, wrinkle free dress shirts that much better, we’ve done just that. We have substantially improved the cuffs and collars and made a number of design improvements to the shirts themselves.
  • We’ve taken our redesigned and improved shirts and released them in a beautiful Cornflower Blue and are releasing this weekend an Atlantic Blue Pinstripe and Pink Houndstooth. It’s an amazing feeling to see months of hard work result in such a tangible result.
  • Our first video will be debuted this weekend. The team at Slice Media did an unbelievable job of capturing what we are building – the next great American clothing company.
  • I received a thank you note from President George W. Bush. That was an incredibly significant moment in this journey.

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  • I come to understand more and more every day the blessing that it is to work with my two co-founders in building Mizzen+Main, Web Smith and Steven DeWitt. Their talents are overwhelming, and they are two fantastic gentlemen.
  • I have learned more in the last year, particularly the last six months, than I have in 4 years of college and 4 years of working.
  • I heard a quote when I started out on this journey – “Entrepreneurs are the only people who trade a steady paycheck and a 40 hour week for no money and an 80+hour week.” No sugarcoating, add to that investing your spouse, your savings, your emotions, your family, asking for stress 24/7, and asking others to participate on a roller coaster that could have seriously negative consequences for them, and you are beginning to see the picture. So am I.
  • The most significant lesson I have learned in terms of a daily impact on my actions and decisions (and something to keep in mind if you take this plunge yourself) – it’s nearly impossible to get things done on the timeframe, quality level, and price bracket you agree to with a vendor. There are exceptions (cherish those), but this is the rule. Should be done in 2 weeks? Allot 4. Sign off on a sample? Expect something to go wrong. Enter in thinking amount $ABC? Add $DE and perhaps $F into your budget for last minute changes, expedited shipping, and all the extras that will be necessary to complete your effort. A key element of this – people will take advantage of you, lie to you, or just steal from you. It’s reality.
  • Getting to spend the holidays with my family nearly six months into this journey was the most wonderful gift I could have asked for. I won the parent lottery, the sibling lottery, and my sibling’s choice of partner lottery.

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  • Of all the lotteries I won though, I know ultimately I won the wife lottery. To have someone as graceful, strong, understanding, and let’s be honest, beautiful, as Jen… I am one very, very lucky man.

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Don’t Take No For An Answer

I had the privilege of speaking at TEDxSMU Hilltop last week.  The title of my talk was “No = Go”, and I shared some of the “no’s” I’ve heard so far in starting my own company, Mizzen+Main.  The only reason I have been able to bring to life my dream of starting a company is because I refused to take no for an answer.  I hope to share that message as much as possible – our community, country, and world need people to stop taking no for an answer.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the differences between the no we tell ourselves and the no we hear from others.  I’m not sure which is more powerful – to be specific, detrimental – in one’s life.  No matter what, we have a choice in how to respond to either “no”, which is to say the negative power “no” can have in our lives actually means little, because we always have the power within ourselves to effect a different result.

While telling oneself no is likely a product of being told no, whether directly or indirectly, both have can have similar effects: inaction and a deteriorating sense of confidence; however, the buck stops with you when you tell yourself no.  You alone are responsible for telling yourself no, which also means you have all the power in the world to achieve the exact opposite result – telling yourself yes.  When others tell you no, you are not powerless though. Push back and get the answer you want, find a different way at the moment, or reorganize and get the answer you want when the time is right.

I’ve seen many people not get what they want out of life because “no” is the paradigm they live with – from others and themselves. This isn’t meant to be a “go get ’em” motivational post.  It’s a comment on the power of no in people’s lives and hopefully sparks a thought on the opportunities that are possible if more people didn’t take no for an answer.