One of the longest words in the English language is “Antidisestablishmentarianism.” It was coined to create a name for 17th-century members of the Anglican Church who wanted to remain the official church of England.
Their motto could have been, “Don’t change just for the sake of change.”
CrossFit rose to prominence as a protest against the fitness industry. Greg’s “Fitness in 100 Words” could have been nailed to the doors of Gold’s Gym like Martin Luther nailed his “Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences,” to the door of a church. Early gyms put their spotlight firmly on counterculture: brick walls, skulls and crossbones, ripped palms on Instagram, “we don’t need to make money at this.”
But as CrossFit grew, it started to become The Establishment.
In 2011–early days for many of us–SealFit published, “Is CrossFit Just Not Cutting It For You Anymore?” This signaled the exit of the Early Adopters, who were moving to even more extreme training plans. The banner image to the article was a group of soldiers–presumably SEALs–doing overhead squats, an exercise they’d never have considered before CrossFit.
The article quoted Mark Twight’s semi-famous line, “There’s a fine line between salvation and drinking poison in the jungle.”
Twight had just left CrossFit after a dispute over the intellectual property contained in the L1 handbook. He was separating himself from the CrossFit brand. But that didn’t mean he stopped doing burpees and cleans. And the “semi-famous line” was famous because CrossFitters made it so.
In 2018, there’s a trend, amid CrossFitters, to be “un-CrossFit” or “CrossFit, combined with X” or “The next evolution of CrossFit.” Several companies seek to profit from the CrossFit name–and our hard work, affiliates–by advertising themselves as “better than CrossFit.” If you want to know who’s profiting from our brand without adding anything in return, simply ask them to define their service in one sentence without using the word “CrossFit”.
This is also true in business practices. I’m absolutely overjoyed when I hear “roles and tasks” on a call with a gym owner, because no one said the words in 2011. And while I hate being copied–it’s my own Monkey Trap–I am happy that most gym owners now accept 4/9 of gross as the rate to pay their coaches instead of the 80% touted in 2013. Some of the stuff I wrote about in 2008 was ridiculed then, but is accepted as “fact” now. And that sometimes makes TwoBrain seem like “the Establishment”.
As the largest mentoring practice in the world, we get copied a lot. We talk and write about the 4/9 Model for paying coaches; others write about “the 45% model”. Almost every affiliate does the Intramural Open now. These things have been proven true and are now accepted as common knowledge.
CrossFitters and innovators hate “common knowledge”, don’t we?
And that means we want to reinvent the wheel too often. We confuse heuristics (rules for life, learned the hard way over generations) with myths. We throw out the baby with the bathwater. Instead of listening to our grandmothers, we look different for the sake of different. This is why, at age 13, I stood at the end of a long driveway in the winter wearing my 3/4 sleeve AC/DC shirt instead of the sweater my grandmother knitted. I get it. I’m guilty.
Nassim Taleb’s “Incerto” series praises the wisdom of grandmothers and condemns our very human error of trying to reinvent working wheels. In the words of Taleb, “Grandmothers are repositories of inherited wisdom.”
One of my own grandmother’s favorite heuristics was “Dance with the one that brung ya.” She meant, “Don’t forget who got you here, boy.” It’s why I’ll always be a CrossFit affiliate, and why–despite temptation to the contrary–I try to take my own advice on the gym business. It’s why I listen to my mentor even when I think I have a better idea: because the appeal of newness can often distract me from what works.
Question authority. Always. But don’t ignore the old-timers. The most expensive thing in the gym business is the mistakes you’ll make. And often, these mistakes are avoidable, because I’ve already made them for you. That was the point of Two-Brain Business, my first book. And it’s the true value of CrossFit: you don’t need to get kicked out of four dojos before you open your own spot. You don’t need to learn that groups pay more, per hour, than personal training. And you don’t need to learn that you can’t ignore personal training completely, either.
You can fight about which affiliate has the best programming, or which is strictest in their judgment of hip crease. Or we can agree that air squats are a good tool in the fight against diabetes, and focus our attention outward instead of splitting hairs among ourselves.
There’s a fine line between salvation and drinking poison in the jungle. I have that printed on a t-shirt. But there’s also no wisdom in cutting off your nose to spite your face.
Here’s some great wisdom from Jeremy Kinnick on the podcast this week.