Motivation

  • “Adversity causes some men to break; other to break records.”  – William Arthur Ward 
  • “No fear. No distractions. The ability to let that which does not matter truly slide.” – Fight Club
  • “What are you waiting for? You’re faster than this. Don’t think you are, know you are. Come on. Stop trying to hit me and hit me.” – Morpheus

Sometimes all you want to know is that someone’s got your back. This may be why adulthood is so jarring for some people.
I remember when I was a child. Not all of it. But one thing was, yes, my parents would get mad at me (and rightfully so, I am sure), but at the end of the day I knew they had my back. I knew if I didn’t come home one day or if I got hurt or if someone bullied me or something bad happened, they would be there for me.
It’s like when you’re sick and some friend brings you chicken soup, or when a co-worker does something pro-actively without you having to even think to ask them to do it.
Sometimes support comes in another form. There is all sorts of support, from the tough love of a parent to the honesty of a partner or manager, because you never get better without constructive criticism. Criticism to tear down is another matter, and one of the interesting parts of people and psychology is to know what works the best for a given person: is it the ‘criticism sandwich’ or to be blunt? Is it to bully or encourage or shame? I know what works best for me!
Motivation is like culture. You sure as hell can’t impose motivation on someone else. My motivation, that of those around me, and the intrinsic motivation of people in general is a perennial area of interest for me, as is how we intentionally and unintentionally affect the motivation and behaviours of others with our own actions.
I said in my last post how easy it was to go ‘cold turkey’ from CrossFit and just start eating and drinking whatever I wanted. Especially when you’re stressed, as most of us white collar workers get, and you tend to stress eat on the one side, or, my own personal favourite, use caffeine as an upper during the day and alcohol as a downer in the evening. This is one of the reasons that I do train, so that I don’t need something like wine to relax me of an evening, and so that if I do take it, I feel the effects in the gym and that keeps me away.
So I go back to the gym for the first time in, oh, about two weeks, and those two weeks of eating and drinking whatever and not always sleeping very much. The end result? Rack jerked 70kgs like it was 50 … and then absolutely hit the wall after two rounds of my metcon. I wanted to DIE. I wanted to quit. I actually lay down between rounds 3 and 4 and considered doing just that. Actually, worse … I did quit thinking I was done, it was my first day back, I couldn’t bring the intensity that I knew was required ….. then I got my head in gear at least enough to go out there for the final round.
My coach after asked me how I felt; I said terrible, and he said well I looked terrible. I watched the videos after and the only round that resembled how I should look was the first round. It’s …. Not fun to see yourself like that.
I was realising recently that this 2012 Regionals dumbbell snatch was actually more of a defining moment for me as a person than I probably realised at the time. When I signed up to be on the team, I didn’t know it was going to result in the entire team relying on me to do something I wasn’t sure I could do.
To look back on it now, it was a strange position to be in: about to enter a competition floor, having never completed a 32kg snatch with the left arm, but be utterly confident that I would succeed. I can still remember that moment in my car when the realisation suddenly came crashing down on me that this wasn’t anything to do with me at all, and I would nearly rather die than let my team down.
It was actually more visceral than that, even. It was: I am NOT going to let them down. It is NOT going to happen.
Confident? Yes. Over-confident? Probably.
I’ve said this before but it bears repeating: when it comes to max lifts or things you think you won’t be able to do, once your brain has decided it’s impossible, once you lose faith in yourself, you miss every time. Same in most things in life. The most dangerous Cape Town drivers are the ones who fail to commit.
I went back to re-read my blog post, hence the first quote above. I was not actually supported in this endeavour. My teammates wanted me to succeed but there was this undercurrent of lack of faith. But … I actually didn’t notice at the time. All I could think about was that stupid dumbbell and how I wasn’t going to let everyone down. What the others thought didn’t matter. Rather like in competition – you’re doing what you’re doing, and you don’t know or care who is shouting for you in the audience.
So as I am returning now to training and to my sport and thinking through support, and lack thereof. I now compete as an individual. What does this mean for me in terms of motivation? What does this mean in terms of support? One thing I can say, not for good or bad but it was what it was: I competed at Regionals, complete with food poisoning, without a lot of emotional support. I had friends, sure, but they had their own stuff going on. I didn’t have that one single person who was specifically there to have my back. As I’m now trying to hook Carla (who won Regionals) up with some support in the LA area, it makes me wonder: is that why you have a coach? To give you that support when you compete? Or is the anonymity better/easier?
I’ve heard the saying that people’s futures or realities are shaped by their thoughts. That’s where ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ comes in. It is possible that my thoughts and will single-handedly snatched that dumbbell for me, in a way that I couldn’t get that muscle up this year even though I knew I could do it and was shocked and baffled that I did not.
The other day, I was WhatsApping with a friend who was giving me some advice for a meeting the next day and actually at one point I became a little bit overwhelmed with the feeling of: how lucky am I? What on earth did I ever do to deserve this sort of moral support at 9pm on a school night? Well, four hours later still chatting and then I couldn’t train the next day because I hadn’t slept enough … I have only my own decisions to blame for my lack of sleep, but that’s another matter.
I guess what I’ve been thinking is this: I do, and don’t, care about the peanut gallery. I do care that my coach basically just told me I suck. But I’m not going to fix it for him; I’m going to fix it for me.
Other people are different. Some people are highly emotional. I’m not the sort to scream & shout or knock things about. It’s not in my personality and I don’t really think that’s how you get the most out of your relationships.
It is so interesting to me, comparing my thoughts and condition and experience with others, especially those who have been in my seat before. To know you’re not in it alone and that there are people you can ask for help and advice; but it must be the right advice. Every CrossFit athlete who’s been doing it a while, and every athlete has an opinion. And you can’t waste your time talking to everyone. You must find the ones who actually have the experience or education to give valuable feedback.
Where to draw the line between ‘measure twice, cut once’ and ‘shoot first, ask permission later’ is a difficult one, and there are no right answers. To sort out my shoulder and to get to that next level I am now making a dramatic change to my training, at least for a while.
Following a programme is like anything else. It must at least appear to be a good programme for the individual. What I don’t need right now is Smolov squat programme. And it must be followed for long enough to know if it’s making a difference, and tracked and measured, and then evaluated at the end.
The funny thing is: now a year later, it doesn’t matter at all if I snatched that dumbbell or not. I was talking with both Chris and John about this in London: how strange it is that we have so much care in us about whatever it is that we are working on at work, then a few years later we’ve moved on and could literally care less? What does this tell us about our own selves and lives? Everything is sooooooo transient. At the end of the day I remember more what I learned and the fun we had, together, than the specific details that seemed so important at the time.
There’s a lesson in that too, I suppose.
I have also a type of professional coach, and I asked him why he does it, because in part I am baffled, as I told him: I’m an athlete. I’m a doer. I cannot sit from the sidelines. I remember when I first moved from my on-the-front-lines job at Jeeves into a higher level role, feeling separation anxiety from the low-level details.
Knowledge is power, and you cannot debate on a level playing field with someone who has more knowledge than you do. You’ll get caught out and even if they are wrong, they’ll call you as ignorant and it’s game over. This is one of the reasons I’ve had to learn Wi-Fi so fast. It’s actually not so funny when you don’t understand a router from a switch or ADSL contention, what is point-to-point vs point-to-multipoint, or what it means for fibre to be ‘lit up’ or what is layer 7 or interference.
Thank goodness all that is behind me: there’s plenty I still don’t know, but I’ve got enough of the basics down that the plan is in place, plan has been and is being validated by my WBA friends, and all that matters now is the execution of said plan.
I am just realising also that I have turned into my first mentor. Wow. The more things change the more they stay the same, huh?
But one thing I am eternally grateful for is my amazing friends and acquaintances who provide moral support, advice, and even just that confidence to prop me up. It did more for my confidence going into Regionals to have one of the guys in the gym make an offhand comment about how he thought I ‘belonged’ up there at the top of the leaderboard than my own internal thoughts could do.
One of my other dear friends asked me a question the other day and when I was too slow to respond and it was clear I was hiding something, she didn’t just let it go. That sort of friendship and support is what you need.
Not sure why, but sometimes that support makes all the difference in the world. We may be individuals but we’re not alone.
  • “Your shoulder is injured because of tension in your spine.” – Byron
  • “My life is going to be easier now that Ellie’s back.” – Rudolph
  • “Can’t fix stupid.” – Jade
  • “Wait …. This from the guy who wore a Meraki shirt to a Ruckus training?” – Ellie (judgment!)
  • “Oh yes. You need help.” – Willem
  • “There is nothing on this planet that handles interference like Ruckus.” – Rudolph
  • “The road is littered with people who thought they were indispensable.” – Rudolph
  • “And when they understand it’s better.” – Cedric
  • “You look like a girl!” – Bennii
  • “You looked terrible.” – Chris
  • “We’re all such singularities.” – Mark
  • “Wait. Are you saying your dad’s horse is named after your mom?” – Ellie  
  • “Of course they did. That’s how they roll.” – Rob 

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