What do Bill Gates, Lebron James, and Matt Fraser all have in common–aside from being awesome at what they do and having a huge fan base?
While these individuals, like each of us, differ in background, strengths, weaknesses, shape and size, they all share at least one common characteristic: the ability to maintain self-confidence in the face of adversity or “failure.”
While self-confidence or better yet, any mental skill, is not a specific fitness domain or general physical skill, I full-heartedly believe that the development of what happens in between our ears is an integral part of the foundation for success in our journey in any domain in life and I believe that it should be practiced daily.
So what is confidence? Webster’s Dictionary provides multiple definitions for the word confidence. However, the key definition for our purposes is “a feeling or consciousness of one’s powers, or of reliance on one’s circumstances.” This definition dives into the driving force behind self-confidence: we are in the driver’s seat.
Failure is a term that we’ve talked about a lot in the past. It’s a relative term. What you might see as failure and what I might see as failure can be completely relative to each of us. Unfortunately, we often use the term failure and disappointment interchangeably.
When you hit the bottom of your 6th rep in round 8 of 10 rounds on the open workout 17.5: 10 rounds of 9 thrusters and 35 double unders for time with a 16 minute time cap, on a Friday Morning and find yourself needing to break up your thrusters for the first time, it’s not uncommon for that little voice in your head to start whispering something to the effect of “coach said to try and go unbroken on each round of the thruster’s, you suck”, “you can’t do this”, or “you should just give up”. Likewise, that inner voice whispers similar sweet nothings when your professional work is not up to par or you forget about that special date that you had planned with your significant other.
While disappointment is part of life, and can be quite healthy at times, characterizing disappointment as failure is unnecessary. Just because you might find yourself needing to break up the thruster’s doesn’t mean you’ve failed. There’s a huge difference between being disappointed in yourself for not being able to go unbroken and labeling your performance as a failure because you didn’t go unbroken and I can assure you that each time you label the disappointment as a failure your confidence takes a blow.
While I may lack the experience and wisdom of some of the coaches and people who have been around in this game since what seems like it could be before I was even a twinkle in my fathers eye, I can make one guarantee based on my personal journey: not everything in life can be completed unbroken.
At some point, we all drop the bar. Whether it is in the gym, at work, in our relationships, or at home, it will happen. And when we drop the bar, the opportunity for negative self-talk will surely creep in and you will most likely find yourself at a crossroads.
Do you take the easy road and honor that negative self-talk by peppering it with excuses “I haven’t performed a thruster in months”, “I had a terrible nights sleep”, “I got caught up at work for a couple of weeks and can’t go back to training the way I used to”, “I need another minute or two before I can pick the bar up again.”. “My nutrition hasn’t been on point lately- I had a piece of cake and a beer at the party last night”. Any of those sound familiar?
This path is a one-way ticket to a decrease in confidence and self-worth. Moreover, this path will, with very few exceptions, spill over into other areas of your life and impede your overall happiness, performance, health and well-being.
By no coincidence, one of the examples Webster’s provides of using “confidence” in the proper context is “He lacked the confidence to succeed.” When you lack the confidence to succeed, it shows. Take this workout we’ve been talking about as an example: your body language speaks for you if you’re hunched over with your hands on the knees and looking at the floor as you are breaking up your thrusters you’re body language isn’t that of a person who is standing at the bar with a focused gaze and his chest up and proud.
The other, more challenging path is one ripe with opportunity. Can you acknowledge that you, and you alone, are in the driver’s seat? In Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle Is The Way, Ryan reminds us that “there is no good or bad without us, there is only perception. There is the event itself and the story we tell ourselves about what it means.” Each time we come up short and those voices start to kick in we have the opportunity to silence them and reframe the experience to be one which we can learn from. As Ryan would also say, “the obstacle in the path becomes the path. Never forget, within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition.” So you couldn’t go unbroken, now you have a reason to focus on your thrusters more- seek out how you can optimize your technique, maybe there is something going on with your positioning, maybe you’re breathing needs some work, the obstacle itself presents you with the opportunity to get better.
Each time you “fail” or get kicked to the ground do you get up because you’re hungry to learn from the experience and ultimately grow from it? Are you happy with complacency or do you seek out obstacles that need overcome? The decision to take control and maintain our self-confidence in the wake of any obstacle will play a pivotal role in our ability to succeed in the future and spill over into the other areas of our life. I believe that developing the skill of what goes on between our ears is as equally important as learning the proper mechanics of a deadlift or thruster.
When you drop the bar, in the gym or in life, you have to ask yourself who actually cares. Is breaking up your thrusters or disappointing your boss really a bad thing if you can use it as an opportunity for growth? Learn from the experience and trudge ahead. Within adversity or “failure” lies the opportunity to get stronger.
Success stories of individuals with an uncanny ability to maintain self-confidence in the face of adversity are woven throughout history and are a part of our evolving culture. Think about the adversity that Arnold Schwarzenegger had to overcome not only did he move to a new country, he became Mr. Olympia, a movie star, and a governor of California. Think about the stories we hear about Michael Jordan’s basketball career and how he got cut in the beginning. Walt Disney got fired from his first animation job with a newspaper because he wasn’t creative enough. Steve jobs was fired from his own company, Apple, and then came back as their “triumphant savior”.
Seeing as our case study today have involved Crossfit, I think it’s worth examining Matt Fraser’s performance in the 2015 Crossfit games. I can only assume that Matt Fraser was not mentally stoked with himself after getting second place at the 2015 Games–when he came up short to Ben Smith. Regardless, Matt used the opportunity to grow, he didn’t label it as a failure instead he took the disappointment of coming second and used it to learn from and grow and do what he needed to do to, and he maintained his self-confidence while doing so, which has led him to winning the games for 4 years in a row.
In conclusion, confidence is an unwavering belief in yourself, regardless of external or internal criticism, when you are confronted with a bout of adversity. The question that is essential for you to ask the next time you “drop the bar”: regardless of if it’s in the gym, at work, or in your relationship, is how are you going to let it affect you? Are you going to let it knock you to the ground and keep you there? Or are you going to stand your ground and believe in yourself?
A1) Front Foot Elevated Split Squat (w’ dumbbells): 3 x 7 @ Rpe 8 @ 4,1,X,1
A2) Single Leg RDL (w’ dumbbells): 3×7 @ Rpe 8 @ 4,1,X,1
A3) Side Plank: 3 x 30s/side @ Rpe 8
( * Rest 45s between each exercise)
B) Back Squat: Build to a 5RM in 15minutes @ 3,1,1,1
C) 12 Minute Ascending Ladder (1,2,3,4…) reps of each:
I. Dumbbell Deadlift: @ 22.5kg/15kg
II. Dumbbell Box Step-Up (perform equal number of reps per leg) : @ 22.5kg/15kg
III. Burpee Box Jump
A) Build to a 3 RM Dumbbell Thruster
B) 17.5 Revised
10 Rounds of:
9 Dumbbell Thrusters @ 22.5kg/17.5kg
35 Double Unders
16 Minute Time Cap to complete
A1) Split Squat (Dumbbells)- 4 x 6/side @ 8 Rpe @ 3,2,1,1
A2) Suitcase Deadlift (Dumbbells): 4 x 6/side @ 8 RPE @ 3,1,1,1
A3) Palof Press- 4 x 10/side
(* Rest 45s between each exercise)
B) Sumo Deadlift: 4 x 5 @ 8 Rpe @ 1,1,1,1
C) 10 Min Amrap of:
10 Dumbbell Deadlifts: @ 25kg/15kg
50m Farmers Carry: @ 25kg/15kg
10 Strict Pull Ups
10 Toes to bar