yoda...there is no try

You Just Don’t Know…Until You Do!

I have worked with hundreds of athletes.  I have watched tens of thousands of lifts, successful and unsuccessful.  I have helped people trudge through their personal struggles and fears and have loved every minute of it.

I have watched as people have stared at me with that look in their eyes, telling me that they are going to fail and they are right.  They fail because they have told themselves that they will.  They do not believe that they can accomplish the lift, the task, or conquer the problem.

They look at it and say that it is just too much.

And I ask them, constantly, why are you afraid?

“Because I might fail.”

And there is that word.  That word that I am growing to hate more and more each day…might.  Might is five-letter word that defeats all of us far too often.

I might fail…but I might not.

And so we accept it.  We accept the failing, we accept the missed lift, the lost opportunity and the not so perfect day…all because of what might have happened.

Cue the Yoda memes and the Batman slapping Robin meme backup.  Might is not a result.  For my fellow Yoda fans, try is not a result.

I tried…is a cop out.  If you say you tried, you are probably really saying, I didn’t succeed.  The bigger question is not about success and failure, but did you stop?  Did you learn?  Did you grow?  Are you willing to fail again?  Is failure what is really holding you back?

What if success really has that grip of terror on you?  What if when I asked why are you afraid you answered me honestly…Because I might succeed.  Then the expectations go up.  Then people want to see me do it again.  If I get a PR, then the next time, I better at least match it.  I got a pull-up, a muscle-up, a handstand walk for 30 feet, a best selling book, a platinum record, start and sell a multi-million dollar company…and what happens that next time you try?

Will people expect more of you?  Want to see you fall from grace?  Will you let it get to you?  Will you get out of your own head and give yourself the right to succeed again?

So I ask again, “Why are you afraid?”

You’ll never know until you…do!

It’s Not Always Them…Sometimes It’s Your Fault

Is it the barbell’s fault?  Is it the barbell’s fault that you cannot lift it?  I am being serious, who is to blame for the simple fact that there are some loads that you or I cannot lift.  Is it the barbells fault that it is heavy, annoying, frustrating?

We don’t blame the barbell for being heavy, we don’t blame the barbell for failing to lift it…it is what it is.  It is a bar with some weights on it.  We have a choice when it comes to adjusting those weights, but we cannot change what it is at its core.  It will always be the same.  And for most of us, we will always like it heavy and challenging.

But the people in our lives do not get that same consideration.  The people in our lives are just that, people.  More than likely they will not change over time, but somehow we allow them to cause frustration and chaos in our lives.  Maybe, just maybe the problem is within us.  Maybe we should know ourselves a little bit better.  (***DISCLAIMER – some people are jerks…cut those people out of your life and move on…back to the lesson)

hardest battle

I learned this the hard way this week.  I was sitting in my office working on a project…focused…charging along…breaking through barriers and making progress.  Then it happened.  That magical moment when my phone starting blowing up. Texts, phone calls, emails, messages…everythhing.  And every person that was trying to get a hold of me, I felt myself getting angry with.  I wanted to scream…you know I am at work…can’t you just save this for a time you know I am free and not working.  Don’t you know that I work too…just because you finally have time to ask these questions…you want me to drop everything and respond.  *DANGER* *DANGER* *DANGER*

Then I started driving home…angry, upset, day ruined!  But then I took a couple deep breathes and looked inward for a moment and replayed that moment in my day.  I realized one simple truth.  I am not a multi-tasker and in fact multi-taskers can annoy me (because I am not one and it is not my style).  I am a focus on one task, complete it, then move on and those interruptions pulled me from that.  The person calling, texting, messaging did not intentionally interrupt me (and if they did…well, I will give you the benefit of the doubt).  They were not trying to upset me with the questions and requests.

We all need to take these moments in life and look and answer the question “who am I?” We have to be able to answer about what makes us tick and who are we really.  We all get frustrated when others try and change us, but we expect people to change for us.  If we step back and accept who we are and how we operate then we can make the allowances and changes that we need to in our own lives to be successful and have healthy relationships.

Just like we cannot change the barbell, we cannot change people.  BUT we all control the effort we put into bettering ourselves.  We can train to get stronger, leaner, smarter, better writers, better readers, better artists, have better relationships and someday we will move that barbell.  Why?  Because we changed and became the person that we needed to be in order to succeed…not because the barbell changed!

The Problem With Titles…

Or Why Managers Aren’t Leaders!

I recently spent six weeks going through a program that was devoted to being a leader and developing leadership strategies.  The goal was to teach each of us that were participating that we are, in fact, leaders.  The goal was to help us all see that we have roadblocks in our minds that keep us from accepting the truth that by simply showing up and accepting our nomination to this program we are indeed leaders.  We simply have to get out of our own way and accept it.

It has been a few weeks and I have slowly been processing my way through all the information that was taken in.  I have been weeding through the parts that resonate with me and fighting with those parts that do not.  Today, I want to share with you a small piece that I have learned.  In order to follow me down this particular rabbit hole, you will have to accept the following statement:

Leadership is a quality that can be developed and job titles (aka management) are simply places on an org chart.

For most that is not a hard thing to accept, but many people also have an expectation that managers are leaders.  Until we have to work for them.  Until we are their employees.  Then we discover that they are not leaders, but merely someone holding a title that is above you.  In the best case scenario, you find that your manager is, in fact, a leader.  How does one find this unicorn?  What qualities does this mythical manager possess?

While, I think that there are several small pieces that play into the answer to that question, the biggest piece, in my opinion, is that leaders pay absolutely no attention to their title or the titles of others.  And here is a little exercise to hammer that point home.

As part of my time at this particular leadership training, we spent a day out at a ropes challenge course.  It was our second week of training and so we really did not know a whole lot about the people we were there with, outside of what we could remember from the week before.  No one had distinguished themselves as being a “big cheese” or of higher stature than anyone else.  The president of our company was not walking amongst us and my boss was not in attendance.  We were simply people there to learn about being better leaders.

Throughout the day, we were presented with different challenges to solve.  Some were physical in nature, others were mental.  We solved them one by one and progressed through the day.  All the while never once looking to someone to manage the situation.  We never stopped and said, “Who is going to be the boss on this problem?”  We simply all looked at the problem, presented solution and LISTENED to each other.  Where we sat on an org chart was irrelevant.  What our salary was, mattered nothing.  Our team did not have a hierarchy and so we were able to speak to one another as equals.

So how do you and your team solve problems?  Do you solve them like that?  Or do they look more like what happened once I returned to life in the “real” office?  Something like this.

There is a problem, we hold a meeting with everyone sitting around a table.  The problem is thrown out onto the table and one of the following situations plays out:

  • Option A – The “boss” asks for feedback and most people are too afraid to speak up.  If someone does speak up, the idea is shot down for whatever reason or maybe it is heard out, but there is little support because the “boss” did not give his or her stamp of approval.  The person brave enough to speak feels left out there dangling and contemplates not speaking up again.
  • Option B – The “boss” simply tells everyone how they are going to solve it and what each person is going to do.  No one bothers to think or correct him or her as they know that everything they say will simply be shot down and the “boss” is going to get his or her way.  End of discussion.

Those are the most common situations that seem to come up unless you have that unicorn of a supervisor or manager or team leader.

So what gives?  What makes solving challenges out at the ropes course happen so effortlessly and then the problems back in the office so impossible.

It is the notion or belief that org chart hierarchy is the same as increased knowledge and leadership ability.  There is a notion that as you move up the org chart, you gain and possess all the knowledge of those beneath you and that is a myth.  The title and position give you nothing and that is why, as I digest all the information from my training, it is my hope to not concern myself with titles and concern myself with inputs.

I need the inputs of all those parties involved and all parties affected by the problem we are trying to address.  The best thing that could happen in your job is the removal of this idea that someone is the boss and an acceptance that we are all part of a team.  Then the leader will make sure that the team will stay on task, focused, and working towards a goal, but not be set in their ways on a path to that goal.  They just keep the goal in focus.

What’s Next ?!?!

Group Photo

Now that the turkey hangovers are done and life is getting back to normal for most people or the chaos of the holiday season is starting to roll in, I am already thinking about what is up next for the Barbell Poet.

My initial answer is to simply say…I have no idea!

That is not a bad thing, just an unknown.  I can say that over the next 31 days as we head into a new year, I will continue to get better and develop myself.  I will spend the time focusing on my training, my nutrition, my goals and starting on a path of personal growth in the new year.

A couple weeks ago, I stepped down from my position in order to do the very things listed above.  I stepped down to get better personally and get better as a coach.  And that is where I will start.  I have given myself the month of December as a minimum to start coming up with the goals for the new year…what will those goals look like.

As of right now, they start with the following:

  • Write a Book (It doesn’t have to be published, just written)
  • Take the GRE and consider getting a Masters (have to look at the financials on that one)
  • Update THIS website
  • Develop a solid habit of training consistently
  • Clean up the nutrition
  • Develop my own training philosophy by studying people that I admire
  • Helping my kids with their homework
  • Helping my kids use their imagination
  • Surprising my wife every now and then (fewer hurried and rushed date nights)
  • Learn about and put together a solid business philosophy that I can be proud of and that represents me
  • Enjoy the beauty of small blessings
  • Be better!

That is where I will start.  Does it mean that I will never coach at my old gym again?  Not necessarily.  Does it mean that I will stay in my current situation?  Not necessarily.  It means that for the first time in a long time, I am open to change.

I am excited about the future and what might be coming my way.  I am excited to attack life again and focus on being better everyday…even if it is just a little bit!

Promotions…Who Should You Reward?

I recently saw the following information pop into my social media stream:

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 1.52.28 PM

As someone who has run a business, I hate these kinds of promotions and ads.  I want your opinion on this as well.  I will lay out my thoughts, and then welcome your comments back, if you are so inclined.

First, I understand full well that as a business you always need to be looking to bring in more clients and more business.  I get that, I just don’t think that this is the way that you should do it.  Let me explain my thought process:

  1. The primary reason that I do not like this style is that you alienate your current customer.  You treat them poorly and demonstrate that since you are already a customer, you have no value to us as a business.  These are the people that have already committed to you and your service.  They should be who you are taking care of first and foremost.  By always offering things to people who switch teams, you are sending a clear message of neglecting those that have been with you for a prolonged period of time.  I would rather see a company find a way to constantly reward longevity…not newness.
  2. The second reason, I don’t like this, is a direct result of reason 1.  When you do something like this, your competitor will probably do something similar and now you lose a large portion of those customers that you neglected.  That one is pretty simple.
  3. Reason number 3…I agree with Seth Godin when he talked about people being highly unlikely to switch tribes.  That is to say, if someone likes the way Gym A operates, it will be hard to convince them that Gym B’s way is better.  People do not generally switch tribes.  So don’t go after getting people to switch just because, give your current tribes more reasons to stay.  Let them talk to the people of other tribes and help make your argument.

So there you have my rant for the day in a nutshell.  Instead of spending your time, energy and resources on converting people, help them take notice of how much you reward those people who stick with you.  If you are a telecommunications company offer a 5% discount every year that they remain with you.  If you are a gym owner, give them a free private session for every year they have been with you or a discount on their rate.  Get them talking about how well they are taken care of.  The more they talk, the more others will listen and want to be treated that way…then your tribe might just be a little more appealing.

Own Your Successes!

I recently wrapped up a 6 week program on leadership.  It was an intense time of paradigms being broken and minds being expanded.  As we reached the conclusion of the training there was a graduation and chance to invite a couple people to celebrate.

I did not want to invite anyone.  I shy away from praise, spotlight, and more importantly success.  I feel guilty when I accomplish something.  I constantly feel like I need to hide the fact that I am growing, making progress and being successful.  Somehow, I feel like celebrating my success diminishes or limits someone else’s.

This happens in many areas of life as well as in the gym.  It happens.  It seems like when you make progress or get better, we can pull ourselves into a shell of silence or downplay the growth out of fear that someone else will feel inferior.  We downplay that we have lost 5 pounds because someone else might be struggling in that area.  We downplay a new personal best in our lifts because they are not as good as someone else’s or because we do not want to make someone else feel bad.

It’s time to stop!

We worked hard to be successful and we have a right to own that success and be proud of it.  We made decisions that allowed us to succeed and that might mean sacrifices were made (I’m looking at you cookie cake).  We deserve to be proud of ourselves and we should invite people into that moment.  Not because we are egotistical or gloating, but because we have accomplished something and we deserve to share that with people that want to celebrate us!

We are always told to learn from our failures and our faults.  It’s time to do the same thing from our successes.  Learn something, share what you learned and keep learning.  Share the sacrifices made to be successful and learn that you can continue on the path to success.  Learn how hard growth really is, and share the challenges with others, so they can know they are not alone.  Celebrate your success and share your success to others know that it is possible.

And once you have celebrated, file it away, set a new goal and repeat the process.  In the world, people want to be happy, they want to be asked to enter joyous moments just as much as they want to support you in the challenges and struggles.  Give them the opportunity and allow yourself to be happy with your own success…celebrate those moments…use them to motivate you for bigger and better things!


When It Was Simpler…Fun

There was a time when CrossFit was about the challenge.  It was about pushing yourself to be better each and every day.  It was about you vs. you and conquering new challenges.  There was a time when the workout itself was simpler.

You walked in and there it was 1 workout.  Not a three part algebraic equation of strength cycles, mobility work, a metcon and then the notion to slam your recovery drink of choice (only to later debate about which one is better).  It was simple.  Two or three movements on most days…something brutal like a Filthy 50 every once in a while.

I won’t call those times better, just simpler.  It was a time of just you and a barbell or you and your body.  Cleans. Burpees. Snatch. Pullup. Deadlift. Squat.  That was a foundation and it was raw.  It was lift heavy, move fast and be proud.

I sometimes catch myself missing those days.  Not because I don’t love what CrossFit and functional fitness has evolved into, but because it was easier to measure progress and progress was measured the same way you worked out.  There were minimal debates about Wendler vs. Conjugate vs. Invictus to get you ready.

You just did.

If you were like me, maybe it was the first time you really performed an Olympic Lift, maybe first time you touched a barbell or kettlebell at all.  And you loved it.  You felt the thrill of moving a heavy load a large distance.  You embraced the sound of the bar crashing to the ground after a successful (or failed) attempt.  You felt the adrenaline as you knew today there is only one work out.  There is no B or C…just A.

Crush A.

There is nothing to save yourself for.  Crush A.  There is no metcon after the lift for you to save yourself for.  Crush A.

Today’s programs, progressions and methods are most definitely better, but sometimes you don’t want better.  Sometimes you want to be a little reckless…ride that bike without a helmet, drive with the top down and not a care in the world.  You look back and miss the days where all you had to do was Crush A.

And Just for fun…the most epic clean and jerk you will ever watch!

If You Aren’t Willing to Be First…

I was sitting at my desk today looking through emails, reading some training articles and seeing the same thing over and over again.  8 ways to guarantee six pack abs, 5 ways to lean up, 10 tips to better training, and the lists go on and on and on.  I don’t have a magic list that is the “Barbell Poet Miracle Success Plan”.

Sorry, doesn’t exist.  Why?  Because my training methods put a whole lot of emphasis on one thing and one thing only.  You leading You!  If you are not willing to put yourself first then don’t expect anyone to follow you!

This is one thing that is slowly growing on my pet peeve list.  People want to follow everyone else in this world and then wonder why no one wants to follow them or help them move up in the world.  You have got to be willing to be at the front of the line.  Take some risks, make some mistakes and learn about yourself and life.

If you train with me, you better have some goals.  You better at least know why you are walking in the front door of the gym.  If it is simply a matter of being healthy, then please work on having a definition of what healthy means to you.  If you cannot come in with the mentality that “I am in charge of how far I can go…” then I really cannot help you get anywhere at all.


Because you don’t want it.  You don’t know what you want!

You have to be willing to lead yourself to the goals that you want to achieve.  Then as you reach them others will want to follow you because you have a purpose and a passion for something.  You are not just one of the crowd, or one in a long line of followers.  People seldom say, I want to know what the guy who finished fifth did or even want to know what the guy who finished second did…they want to know what the guy or girl who finished first did.

Are you willing to be first and lead?  Are you willing to step outside of the comfort and conformity that is all those in the line?  Find a goal that you want to achieve and lead yourself there…you might be surprised at who comes along on the journey!

It’s So Easy a Child Can Do It…

This past weekend my oldest was jumping in the backyard in her bounce house.  She was having a blast and laughing and calling constantly, “watch this, daddy!  Watch this!”  I naturally watched as she jumped as high as she could.  Landing on her knees and trying to bounce back into her feet.

Then after about twenty minutes, she was bored.  She asked me what she should do next.  I asked her, how’s your front roll.  So she did a front roll.

I said, “Great, now show me ten perfect front rolls”.

“Sure, but will you count, daddy?”


She started and I would say…one perfect roll, two perfect roll, three perfect roll, four….

“Daddy, was that one perfect?”

“Not quite as good as the other three, but if you want, I will count it.”

“No, no, no…I will do it again.”

And this went on.  She would roll and roll and roll.  And after ten perfect rolls, she asked me for what next.  So we worked on her candlesticks.  Again, she asked me to count but this time she told me to only count them if they are perfect.  As she progressed through the candlesticks, she started to realize what was a “perfect” rep and those that weren’t.  When the rep was not perfect she would come up laughing but say “no, no, no that one doesn’t count” and reset for another one.

It is easy to see where this is leading.  We as athletes learning our craft we must be willing to say “no,no,no with a smile and do the rep over again”.  As a group of people who desire to be better in lifting and in life, we have to be willing to say that was not right and I am going to do it again.

But do we?

Do we acknowledge the faults in our reps and not count them or do we live in a world of close enoughs and almosts?  Do we accept a half squat when we know we can accomplish the full squat?  Do we even challenge ourselves to do the best work we can do each and every day.

Like this time with my daughter, re-doing a rep is not punishment.  It doesn’t have to feel terrible and miserable.  It doesn’t mean that we failed, it means that we have a certain standard that we are trying to meet with the things that we do.  It is imperative that we hold the standard.

It’s something so simple, a child can do it.

Keeping it Real…Real Simple!

A lot of coaches and gyms out there will spend hours upon hours upon hours trying to figure out what workout they want to put you through.  There is a growing need to feed the myth that if you are not smoked wondering what happened and afraid that your left lung might just pop out and land next to you on the floor, you did not get a hard enough workout.  You were not challenged enough and therefore will be missing out on these things known as…gains.

People will tell me, that workout looks fun.  It looks like a laundry list of movements and weights.  It doesn’t look fun, it looks miserable.  And there is a time and a place for miserable, but everyday is not it.  Those workouts are there because you have to test your endurance, your mindset and some days you just want to feel that pain.  But that shouldn’t be the case everyday.

Results come from smart training, pure and simple.  Results come from time under tension, stress on the system and simple systems.  There is nothing magical about Wendler and his 5-3-1 principles, but they get results.  If you want a muscle-up…pull-ups, dips, and working the transition.  Simple movements.  Simple combinations, results will come.

The problem that we all run into is that we are impatient and unwilling to really test ourselves in these simple movements.  We are more afraid to go heavier than we previously have, than we are to do hundreds of reps at a lighter weight.  We are afraid of the struggle and afraid of failure.  Those athletes that are willing to stick to simple programs with increasing challenges in the same movements see better results in my experience.

I am a huge advocate of trying new things and learning new skills.  But that is not a direct part of your training, it is a result of your training.  It is a result of feeling stronger and more comfortable in the basics that allows you to try and conquer new challenges.  Want to walk around the gym on your hands?  How strong is your press?  Do you hold a tight core and correct posture?  How smoothly can you kick up and how is your balance throughout a basic lunge?  What about the ability to bend over and touch your toes?

I hate hearing that people are bored with their training, but I also want to see your development.  Are you tracking the progress because few people are bored with results and bigger numbers (or smaller times).  Train in couplets and triplets of movement that help you get better in your weaknesses and stay solid in your strengths.  Accept that you might lose a little in one area to be better in another and play the balancing game.  Embrace that challenge to put more weight on the bar when it is time to, and take some off, when it is time to.  Trust your coach, trust the process.

Embrace the suck, enjoy the results!