I heard this quote at my local box, and it really moved me.
“I’m not a CrossFitter, I just go to a CrossFit gym.”

Let me tell you why it moved me, and why I think it applies beyond the CrossFit gym.

Here is some context, to help: I’m a very competitive person by nature, and so when I first got into CrossFit I really had this competitive urge to find competitions I could participate in, get my body right for it, etc. But thanks to some pre-existing and some new (unrelated) injuries, some interpersonal chaos, and, um, a full time job and a part time job, I ended up not really becoming as competitive as I wanted. So I had a slump and regularly thought to myself, “Well if I’m not training for something in particular what’s the point in training at all.”

Anyway, fast forward 6-8 months and I had just been getting back into CF again. I just left one CF box because I hated the environment. It was too big to reasonably socialize with anyone, and it was super clique-y. All the CF beasts sit at tables smaller than their trap muscles and chat about their meal planning, how they can *only* do 10 muscle-ups at a time, what comps they wanted to attend, etc… while pausing these energetic convos to stare at the non-beast who is trying to start a new convo with them. It sucked. I felt like a total outsider. I didn’t feel motivated to show up to classes because I knew no one gave a shit about me being there at all. The coaches sort of did but I’m sure they get paid to do that with everyone.

I ended up leaving and joining this new box. The people are a lot better. They’re open to meeting new people, the athletes are at many stages of their CrossFit journey, and the staff ask questions about you! They remember if they hadn’t seen you for a while and give you a hug because they are excited to see you back (rather than being like, “um where have you been?”) So anyway, I was stoked about this because this was a massive improvement. But I still felt like I had to answer this question about myself. I felt like I needed to justify what I was doing there at all. Not even to anyone in particular. Just to myself.

That conversation opened my eyes. I used to think that, to really do CrossFit, I had to be some type of way. Obviously that is so far from the truth, and I knew this, deep down, and could easily apply this to everyone else I spoke with. I’d be the first to say “Grandmas do CrossFit! Amputees do CrossFit! Children do CrossFit!” but I wasn’t in a position to really understand how it applied to me personally. I’m very much an all-or-nothing person (lol typical Taurus… JK… sort of…) and I felt like I needed some answers.

Then I heard that quote. It all clicked. I mean, I still think I’m a CrossFitter, in that all you need to do to be a CrossFitter is do CrossFit. But it made me think.

If we were to translate this quote into something more widely applicable, here’s how I would phrase it:

“Who are you when you fail?”

This sounds more negative than you think it is. But humor me for a second.

All our lives we are told about the importance of visualizing our success, and not letting failure ever be an option. This is great to hear and all, but it’s problematic. It’s motivational, sure, but it’s not realistic at all. This sets you up for a mindless, dedicated march forward, toward progress, but does not allow you to reflect on whether that march is worth your time in the first place.

What we don’t hear enough of is why it’s so important to visualize our failure as well. And not in a sense of dwelling of the chance of failure, but really understanding what failure means – being okay with staring failure in the face, and knowing, in entirety, what it means to fail. As humans, we are conditioned to fear failure, to run from the potential of loss. But when we look failure in the eyes, we also have to face the inevitable next question: who are you when you fail?

What happens when things don’t pan out? Do you change as a person? Does your life change? What do you lose, truly? Then step back. What happens when you succeed? It’s not all gains, because life is an ebb and flow – where life giveth, life taketh. What do you risk if you succeed? Is it worth that mindless, dedicated march?

I realized that, if I were to fail at being a competitive CrossFit athlete, my life does not change. I’m not one to begin with! In fact, by failing at this, I have more time to dedicate to my life! The opportunities are literally endless. By putting myself in this narrow, minuscule bucket of “competitive CrossFitter,” I removed all the other things that were important from my life. So yes! Bring on the failure! I will fail so hard. And as a result, I will succeed at the life I’ve always wanted to lead in the first place.

Nope. I’m not a competitive CrossFitter. I am just a researcher with a masters degree, an officer in the military, a dancer, and a kickass friend named Therese who goes to a CrossFit gym.

One thought on “Lessons in Failure

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