With the CrossFit Open underway (that's the start of the CrossFit season for you non-CrossFitters, which if we based numbers off Instagram postings would be about .3 percent of the population), I figured I'd put two of the most buzzworthy words together in one beautifully written article: entrepreneur and CrossFit.
The sport of CrossFit was developed by coach Greg Glassman in 2000. It has since taken on a cult-like following and evolved into a world-wide movement. Yes, there are some people that post way too many of their meals, workouts and overall CrossFit activities on Facebook and Instagram (that's so 2011-12 anyway), but overall this fitness movement has helped make people more active, more health conscious and more athletic. Which, in my mind, is a net positive for the greater good of humanity.
Exercise is a major part of my life, and CrossFit is the vehicle that enables my fitness. Being a startup entrepreneur can be extremely stressful, and CrossFit is an outlet that helps me stay in top mental, emotional and physical condition. The benefits have not only elevated my personal life, but have made me a better entrepreneur in many different ways.
Here are some ways CrossFit will make you a better entrepreneur:
1. Data driven
I love this quote:
If we have data, let's look at data. If all we have are opinions, let's go with mine. -- Jim Barksdale, former CEO of Netscape.
You always want to know the data and stats behind a business. If you know the numbers, you can make tweaks, improvements, analysis and projections. It allows an overall better understanding of what's going on. Crossfit works the same way.
As a team, we track our workouts, log our times and monitor our weight loads. This is beneficial from a macro and micro level, helping individuals track progress, but also gives our coaching staff the ability to track our box's (aka gym) collective performance.
Monitoring and analyzing numbers in CrossFit has translated to an even stronger analytical capacity in my startup life. I've found that the more I'm around numbers and data, the better I get at making projections, predictions and analysis as an entrepreneur.
2. Healthy competition
Every entrepreneur I know is fueled by competition. It may not be as recognizable in some as it is in others, but if you spend enough time with someone you'll be able to see that competitive nature come out.
For example, I have a very geeky developer friend. He and I spend a lot of time together, and he's very quiet. The other day I told him I found a framework on Github similar to something he's working on and that I thought that the foundation they created was better. I have never seen him so fired up as he defended his code, and in that instant, I saw a competitive side I had never seen before.
CrossFit helps keep that competitive nature alive due to that fact that you compete with everyone at your gym. I train with amazing and talented athletes at CrossFit Costa Mesa, so it's rare that I see my name at the top of the leader board, but there's a sweet sense of accomplishment and victory when I do (however short lived it is, seeing as how the next day brings a new fitness challenge).
3. Healthy competition with yourself
Like I said, every entrepreneur I know is fueled by competition. Although friendly competition amongst ourselves is fun, what's more important is to always be competing with yourself. Rather than comparing yourself to others (which is a recipe for failure in life and business because someone will always have something you want), CrossFit has taught me how to focus on personal accomplishments.
Tracking my personal progress, challenging myself and staying accountable to my goals is an area I thoroughly enjoy, and CrossFit has reaffirmed the importance of this process.
4. Increased work ethic
All of my life, I have been a quick learner (and very modest). However, in CrossFit, when attempting to compete at a higher level, you cannot get by on raw talent. CrossFit is about technique, learning the technique and continually refining that technique over and over again.
For example, the coveted Olympic lift called the "snatch," where one draws the barbell up their shins and into their hip crease while hurling the weight overhead and catching the whole mess while in an overhead squat position. Try to do that without having the proper technique and you'll most likely end up on one of those CrossFit fail videos.
For the past year, I've been working on my form and technique, with no real sign of progress until recently. Even though I didn't "feel" like I was improving (the data showed differently), I consistently put in the work every day, and I'm finally starting to see the payoff.
That's the hardest part with a startup. You can work, and work, but may not see any immediate results. I've been working on two startup projects for almost two years, and am finally starting to see progress. CrossFit has taught me to be patient with the process, and how to consistently keep working away.
Side thought: The counter to this point would be to fail faster, which I believe in as well. However, that's the basis for a different article.
5. It will help you disconnect
Being a startup founder is all about solving problems, being resilient and figuring out the impossible. If you're a startup entrepreneur it's easy to just lock yourself in a room and just work, figuring things out. I don't know about you, but the times when I've allowed myself to disconnect and focus my brain on other activities have actually allowed me get more clarity on some of the different problems I was trying to solve.
Figuring out the activities that allow you to disconnect, to give you peace and enjoyment in other areas of your life, is critical for startup entrepreneurs. It's the difference between "burnt out" and "sustainability." For me, CrossFit has been a great exercise in disconnecting (no pun intended).
6. Mental strength
Building a company from the ground up is serious work (it can be fun, hard, enjoyable work, but anyone that tells you four hours per week is enough to accomplish your dreams is probably selling you something). Pair that work with serious stress, instability and uncertainty, and you can probably understand the high failure rate for startups.
The same goes for CrossFit -- it's challenging and constantly changing (every day has a different workout), and it takes hard work, time and patience to get better. It has been the only fitness regiment that has pushed me to serious physical and mental limits. There are moments when you just want to throw the weight down and walk away, but you don't (plus, it's a group setting and everyone is watching you). You figure it out, you keep pushing through it, and you get mentally stronger. This mental strength will help you overcome tough obstacles you'll face as an entrepreneur.
As my coach Max Mormont always tells us: "This is the place where it never gets easy."
That stands for the startup game as much as it does for CrossFit. In both scenarios, there's always room for progress and improvement. Even when you hit a goal, you can establish a new foundation, set a new goal and work to accomplish it.
I'm a firm believer in perpetual development and growth and pushing myself in all areas of my life. In fact, the moment it starts to get easy is the moment I realize I need to push myself more.
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