Sean: 00:02 – Hi everybody and welcome to another edition of Two-Brain Radio with Sean Woodland. On today’s episode, I talk with a good friend of mine and one of the original members of the CrossFit Games media team, Rory Mckernan. First: “Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief” by Chris Cooper is the blueprint you need to start or grow your business, but don’t take my word for it. Reader Mary Boimila says, “If you’re thinking about being an entrepreneur, are an entrepreneur or know an entrepreneur, wait no longer and dive right in.” Get your copy of “Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief” on Amazon today. Rory Mckernan is probably the most recognizable face when it comes to the media side of the sport of fitness. He played a key role in building the CrossFit Games media team over the years and he is still covering the season and the athletes today. We talk about how he got started with CrossFit, some of his favorite memories from the early days of the media department and his latest collaboration with Katrin Davidsdottir on her book, “Dottir.” Thanks for listening everyone,
Sean: 01:10 – Ro, my friend. How the hell are you, man?
Rory: 01:13 – Oh man, you know what, I am great. We are, you know, time wise, got a little bit of air to breathe after the CrossFit Games and I’m doing good man. Yeah. You know—it was an interesting year as you well know, so had some time to decompress and now I’m sitting back in Cookeville, Tennessee, it’s a sunny and beautiful day, and I got no job to be at. I got nowhere to go. Just kind of enjoying my morning coffee a little bit longer than I should. And getting back into fitness and , it’s been great.
Sean: 01:42 – Awesome. I think that for some people, you have kind of always been present in CrossFit media, whether they got involved kind of early or late, you’ve always been there. How did you get involved with CrossFit media in the first place?
Rory: 01:54 – Oh man. I’ll do like the old Ace Ventura and take a deep breath and just start talking. Break me up wherever I need to. But yeah, I’d like to remind people who don’t really know me that well that I’m fully homegrown. And what I mean by that is I started by coaching in an affiliate. I started by going to an affiliate, just like a lot of people, I found CrossFit online and fell in love and was like literally shocked to find out when I moved to San Diego that there were actual physical gyms. Like I thought it was just an online thing and you know, I ended up in my buddy’s dad’s house and he was like, “Oh yeah, there’s one of those CrossFit gyms right down the street.” And sure enough I was like two skateboard kicks away from US CrossFit, which do you know Mark Divine? Do you know of Mark Divine?
Sean: 02:43 – I know of the name, yes.
Rory: 02:44 – OK. Yeah, you should—gosh, man, he’s a really interesting person as well, but at the time he owned US CrossFit and also navyseals.com and he and a guy named Rob Ord who is another kind of hugely inspirational guy for me as I was just kind of coming up, they were running navyseals.com and what they called kokoro camp, which CrossFit did a couple of video exposes on them where they would kind of get people— it started off as if a kid wanted to go into the Navy SEALs, they would go to Rob and Mark and get kind of an inoculation against hell week. They would get a taste of what it was like, and sometimes they’d go like on a weekly basis and just basically get drug through the dirt and get ready to go to BUDs. But anyway, so I started training there and my plan all along was to make it to Hawaii where I was going to meet up with my best buddy and become a helicopter pilot.
Sean: 03:38 – And drive a Ferrari and solve crimes.
Rory: 03:41 – No, I think I knew the trade-off. I think I knew I wasn’t gonna be that kind of helicopter pilot. I think if you’re a pilot, then your boss has a Ferrari, but you’re always sort of on call. And to my buddy’s credit, he’s the same guy that paid for my Level 1 seminar, and you know, I went to high school and he’s my best friend for ages. He has finally now completed all his credentials and he saw it through, so he is now a helicopter pilot, so it wasn’t just a pipe dream for both of us. But, we started training there and got my Level 1 certification. Like I said, my buddy paid for it. I was totally broke and he was like, well, we should do this. We both love CrossFit. It’s super cool. Went and took my Level 1, and these are the days when like Castro was my flowmaster and Adrian Bozman taught me how to do a muscle-up and, you know, Nicole Carroll was there. It was just kind of a cool, like old-school crew. And in those days, Level 2 was not the coaches’ prep course like it is now. It was literally a course where you would go and they would have you teach the breakouts in the exact same way that you see them taught the Level 1. So they say, OK, take this group of people, give you some PVC pipes, you’re going to teach the push jerk. And they would on Saturday it was an instructional like, hey, here’s a great way to control your small group and remember these progressions, et cetera, et cetera. And then on Sunday they would tell you what to do and they would just stand to the side quietly with a clipboard and they would grade you as a coach. So it wasn’t your knowledge of how many carb blocks make up a block of carbohydrates. It was like we’re going to watch you coach and see how well you actually communicate, control groups, see and correct errors and things like that. So I got to do that iteration of the Level 2 about seven or eight months after my Level 1. But I had been coaching at US CrossFit for a while at that point. And it was basically, again, in those days that was like a job interview. You did well on your Level 2, they would invite you to come and do a couple of internships at Level 1 seminars. And I went through that process and started traveling the world as a seminar instructor in CrossFit. And boom, fast forward about probably one year, I had gone to the 2008 Games just as a coach and an enthusiast, and been like, hey everybody at my gym, there’s this real cool thing in northern California. We should go check it out. And loved the CrossFit Games, and by the next year I was in a very serious relationship with the young lady who you now know is my wife and her brother-in-law, Jordan Gravatt, who is also kind of like a, you know, pretty well-known name in the space now. But at that point he was just a self-made videographer who had been contacted and asked to make quick turnaround videos for that year. And he was like, hey dude, this is going to be tough as it is. Like, I think it would help if you would give me a little bit of like transitional material. So in other words, you set me up for event number one. You do a little like a quick interview and all that kind of stuff, and I was all about it. As you know, I have a huge aversity to cameras and hate being on camera.
Sean: 06:52 – I’m glad you overcame that.
Rory: 06:53 – Yeah, he offered the opportunity and I walked through the door and we had a lot of fun. I’m sure that at some point I’ve showed those to you, but God, I should find those because they’re in the .com archives somewhere and they’re pretty hilarious. My early work for lack of a better description. But yeah, that was my introduction to the media stuff. And so I was already a seminar trainer probably for two years before I did that year and then met Tony Budding, who at the time was the media director and he was like, you know, we’re growing really fast. I’ve got one employee and that was Pat Barber, and he’s like, but he fell in love with somebody at the 2009 Games. And now that woman’s his wife. But he was going to chase his soon-to-be wife down to New Zealand where she’s from. And so when Pat Barber left, Tony was like, hey man, things are moving really fast. Like I need an employee. I was like OK, this sounds great. And in those days, it was. It was like wow, you need a second employee? This is getting really big. I went to visit, Pat Barber taught me how to edit video in the most basic sense and you know, I started basically by doing CrossFit Journal abstracts and editing very simple videos from the 2009 Games. I’ll actually, I’ll never forget my first video that I edited and I’m air quoting “editing,” because I took 2-3 cameras, I had like the Jumbotron footage and I had an on the ground camera at the finish line and it was Annie Thorisdottir on the sandbag sprint and I just had to basically cut between the two cameras in a way that made sense. But it was like, I can’t tell you what a point of pride it was when I made my first movie. But that was it, man, it was from very humble beginnings. I did both. Like I kind of continued on with the seminars and dual purpose for all the while was kind of working for Tony. I mean we were putting in 10, 12 hour days as we kind of expanded and started getting more and more ambitious with, you know, we started with just like a video, like maybe like a Journal video and a picture a day. We started expanding that to multiple people doing demonstrations of the Workout of the Day on the day that it was released, and you know, everything for people who have been following for a long time along with dot.com, they’ve seen all the iterations of it.
Sean: 09:11 – What was the sort of, what was the impetus behind the Update Show?
Rory: 09:17 – That’s a great question. The impetus behind the Update Show was, it was along with the growth of the sport. So remember in 2009, it was sign up and show up. 2010, it was like the Sanctionals were introduced—well, there’s a little slip. The Sectionals, they’re so similar, were introduced and that was like a qualifier for the qualifiers. And there was just a ginormous amount of information coming in from the field cause we had, it was all private contractors. You’d be like, you know, I remember Heber submitted a bunch of videos he had, we had probably 10 videographers that were consistently supplying us with video and then another who knows, 10 or 20, who just on one-offs would be like, Hey, I was at this event and I sent you some video. And so when the concept of the Open was introduced, we recognized that there was going to be, well first of all, there was going to be a higher level of distribution of information just by the fact that we were going to release an online video and people were going to need to be on the same page across the entire globe. And matched with Tony Budding’s basically like bottomless ambition, Tony was great at always wanting to supply people with more information. I’ll actually never forget him quoting ESPN’s mantra or mission statement. I’m not sure which one it is, but they basically just say, we want to serve the fans. And Tony was like, we want to serve the CrossFit fans and why don’t we give this a go because it’s quote unquote “low stakes.” And what you and I now know that means is that yeah, you guys are already on salary.
Sean: 11:05 – You want to work another eight hours today?
Rory: 11:07 – I got you for 12 hours anyway. But of course we were all really excited about as well. So that was, it was about the time Heber had come in house. So we had the assets, we had the wherewithal in terms of like being able to talk about CrossFit, but we didn’t know a damn thing about it. If you see the early Update Shows, I like to post a throwback every once in a while to like an hour-and-45-minute YouTube show. It was before podcasting was a thing, we were podcasting. Getting way into the weeds on scoring systems and things of that nature. So the impetus I guess was just to better serve the fans. I think we got to a point in our evolution where we had enough people in house, by that time, Tyson had two years under his belt, Leif was there taking some responsibilities off of Tony’s plate in terms of publishing main side, Russ Greene, Megan Mitchell, we had enough people in house to where like the everyday functioning of main site was humming pretty well and we reiterated it on the Games site because of the Open. Yeah, it was just a concept where everybody sort of, it just felt right. Everybody was into it.
Sean: 12:25 – What was it like, you kind of got into this a little bit, but what was it like putting those shows together on a regular basis?
Rory: 12:33 – Man, it went from, we went from year to year and you were around for a lot of them. But in the early days it was, well for people who’ve never been to CrossFit HQ, in 2012 during Regionals, we moved to a new building, new to us anyways, and that’s where HQ still operates out of today. One of the things that they did was put up, I don’t want to misquote it, but it was in a tens of thousands of square feet worth of whiteboard space. So like in other words, every single wall in this building is basically painted with idea paint and there’s just ideas slapped on every single wall, which was awesome of this hugely collaborative effort. But I think it was one of our greatest assets and also one of our greatest weaknesses was the fact that like we wanted to do so much. You know you think about we all came from the Level 1, like from the seminar world, and in the seminar world it’s like hugely reductionist environment because you and I could sit here and talk about what is fitness and the ins and the outs of it and what it is and what it’s not and pool examples for five, six, seven, 10 hours. You can do a two-day seminar on like the nature of what is fitness. Well, if you go to your Level 1 seminar, you get a very succinct description with some fantastic foundations for it in an hour and a half, one lecture. So we came from that world where we had like so much and we wanted to get it all out there. And we had really, we had very little access to professional broadcasters, especially professional sportscasters. And so it was funny early on putting those shows together, we were like, well, we have to cover this. Well and of course we have to cover this and if we cover that we have to cover this. And we’d be like, you’d have a whiteboard or like, you know, an outline for lack of a better description, literally covering three walls of a room. And, you know, so that was kind of where we started. We learned to be more succinct in our language. But there was one year, there was one year, and this is early on because, again, I think none of us had done it before, we wanted to do it right, CrossFit was very, very, very specific about the way they wanted to tell the story. And Tony Budding in particular was, and so there was a year, maybe even two, I don’t know if you remember, where we would actually teleprompt every single line of every single show.
Sean: 14:57 – I do remember that.
Rory: 14:59 – So we would outline the show and then largely it was me and Tony and whoever else Tony kind of trusted with it at the time to literally write everything down and read it off of the teleprompter. And it was crazy, that’s not how you do TV, but like when I look back at all this stuff, I’m like, as crazy as all that was, I think for me it helped me hugely with the ability to write, with recall with shortening things up, with keeping things tight. But yeah, there’s so many points of evolution. I guess the other one worthy of note, just while we’re telling the story is the first iteration ever was a few of us standing at a desk. I think the desk was the highest dollar item we had purchased because for some reason we were like, OK if we have a desk, like we totally made it, right? But everything else looked almost like a high-school production. It was like it was just a gray wall behind us and drab carpet in this building that we like—if you went anywhere else in the building, it’d look like, what’s that movie—Boiler Room. You remember Boiler Room? When like the shadow organization has to clear out and you walk into the building, it’s just like phone jacks pulled out of the wall, that’s what this thing looked like. And then you had one room with like a desk that we paid $12,000 for. Anyway, and there was a wire going into the wall and literally there was a hole cut in the wall and the next room over was Heber’s office where everything was being ingested. And so when Eva was ready for another take he would just like bang on the wall, and that was your cue to go. It was like oh, you can get microphones and put it in you ear, that makes sense. And I just remember doing like endless retakes. We wouldn’t like the way that we said one thing. We thought, oh. we’ve got to redo the whole thing. And so we would redo a five-minute segment of a show because somebody had misspoke or stumbled on their words or whatever the case may be. I don’t think that we got the tolerance of people for the fact that it’s supposed to be a real reaction and an actual conversation. We tried to knock it out of the park, we tried to make it perfect. Again, I don’t know man. All those reps were hugely valuable for me because nowadays, or not nowadays, but when you and I got to be on major network television, like I didn’t have any experience with that crap. It was just like, that I had done a bunch of reps without the stress of actually having to be good.
Sean: 17:36 – There’s so many good stories from those early days. What are some of your favorite memories from the beginnings of the CrossFit Games media department?
Rory: 17:45 – I think that it’s a badge of honor. I mean like so it’s all those things, just to tag onto the back of the one that we were just saying, like when I say that we would redo takes over and over, that room that we had the show on, we had the show in, sat on top of an actual church. The building has multiple uses, there’s a church underneath. And I’ll never forget like I think it was me, Sherwood and Miranda, I would, you know, whatever. I’m sleep deprived to say the least. So we go through the night trying to get this show up for the following day because we would do like a daily recap for each Regional day. And so I’ll never forget at one point hearing like music and being like, what the hell you guys, this is going to ruin our take, Heber turn off your music. And he’s like no, dude. That is the church coming up through the ground beneath us. And so we had been there for long enough, we probably started at 6:00 PM and so whatever it is, a nine o’clock service was like starting their church hymn and we’re still sitting on our butts in the seat. Those badges of honor and like you remember people having mattresses and being in the hallways. Like literally we would bring mattresses to the office because you knew you were going to be there around the clock. While I don’t think it’s the right way to do things, I’m proud of the fact that we did that because I know for a fact like things wouldn’t be where they were if we hadn’t had that insane work ethic that was pervasive amongst like all the people that were there in those early years.
Sean: 19:17 – The first real taste I got of the CrossFit media department wasn’t necessarily Regionals in 2012 but it was the Games in 2012 and Camp Pendleton, and I will never forget that event. What was it like trying to cover that whole thing?
Rory: 19:31 – Oh man. You mean the Pendleton event? Yeah. Well that was also when we were—it was so last second, first of all, we’re like—and again, like any normal organization might’ve been like, you know what, we didn’t set anything up for this offsite event and we recognize that Castro didn’t give us advance notice that they were going to go off-site and be on Camp Pendleton. Let’s let this one go and like, we’ll publish them pictures tomorrow.
Sean: 19:57 – Nope.
Rory: 20:00 – Instead, you know what? Let’s make a radio show. And by radio, we mean we’ll put people out on the course and we’ll give them a cell phone and hope that they can like adequately describe what’s happening and we’ll basically create this very highly functioning, interaction in what, what is it, 12, eight hours notice maybe? So what was that like for me? I’m like a naturally high-stress person when it comes to this stuff, I want it to be great. And I was like, that was one of the worst days of my life. We have all these people phones and we were like oh, just make it great. And again, like if I zoom out and in retrospect, over the years I’ve had to like really check myself on this and be like, ultimately there’s probably not even that many people listening. And if they are listening—.
Sean: 20:48 – We had a good amount, didn’t we? I think it was like, I remember being pretty impressed with the amount of people who tuned in.
Rory: 20:55 – Yeah. I guess what I mean by that is like, I feel like the sky is falling if it’s not going perfectly, whereas now I’ve got enough skin in the game to know like nothing goes perfectly. But yeah, at that point I was just like, you know, like we’re all going to die because Josh’s phone is not on mute.
Sean: 21:13 – Cause he didn’t know what that was.
Rory: 21:13 – The phone probably didn’t have the function.
Sean: 21:13 – Didn’t he have to use Tommy Marquez’s phone cause he didn’t know what that was?
Rory: 21:26 – The phone probably didn’t have the function. So while that’s happening, I wish I still had the email thread because that I just feverishly like typing, just terrible, terribly worded texts. Threatening people’s lives and being a complete bad person.
Sean: 21:35 – I never knew you could spell virtuosity with the F word in the middle of it.
Rory: 21:50 – Oh my gosh. It’s so true. That’s be a great feature. And then we came back and I also remember, you came in and it was like the first time you called play by play, we were all like, oh my God. I didn’t know it could go that way, for some reason. Like we got back and they had the video footage, Marston and Heber had to chop it up and they wanted us to turn it around for the athlete dinner that night.
Sean: 22:23 – I remember that.
Rory: 22:25 – And it got pushed back and pushed back and pushed back as video editing stuff does. And again, like now I know, but back then I’m like, what’s happening? Why are you guys trying to ruin my life? And they were like all right, we don’t have time. You gotta voice it over in one shot. And I’m like, with who? And they’re like, no, just you. And I was like, what? It’s still on the Internet. It’s still on YouTube. But if you go and I basically in stream of consciousness just tried to talk over the video. Those were the days, man, you know what I mean? Things don’t stress me out as much anymore. And when I’m in a situation, like when we finally got to the point where we’re doing, shows on network or, you know, we’ve had these crew that are like well-polished or anytime that I got to plug into the Update Show during the years, these last three years, I was like, this is just great. Once you’ve done it that way, you’re like OK, this way I can do it, you know, then the smallest problems are like your sound was a little bit off, you know. OK. I can deal with that.
Sean: 23:33 – When you look back on your time in the media department, everything you did there, what do you think you’re most proud of?
Rory: 23:40 – I’m most proud of what it became and I think my difficulty was always, not because—I want to say not because I need the reward. Like I am a positive feedback guy. Like I love to have some sort of inkling that what I’m doing is making a difference. And when you’re a coach, like, especially if it’s at the gym level, when I’m a coach, I know that I’m making a difference because I’m working with these clients every single day. I’m in charge of their care. I’m talking to them on a daily basis about nutrition. That’s a super tangible relationship. The further I got away from that, it became more and more difficult for me to be like, am I doing this for myself? Like is it, you know, it’s cool that a lot of people give me likes on Instagram, but it never drove me. And so the most proud, what makes me the most proud is when I can find those stories or when I can find a tangible link between, hey, we did this piece of media and it didn’t just affect one person. It affected thousands of people. And it’s a little bit more theory, it’s a little bit more out there. But through the years I’ve found more and more links of like, I stopped telling myself that and I found undeniable proof that we were making a huge impact on the world. And so really just being a part of that, but also knowing like, I mean I can give you a handful of stories where people actually sent me emails and they were like, hey, I saw this, that, the other, but even nothing that I was directly in or presenting in or even maybe helped produce, but things that were created by that department that I was a part of that they went and it touched them in a way that they were like, I am getting off my ass and I’m going to make a difference. Like whether it’s—whatever it was. A better decision when they’re eating food or they actually went and joined a gym or it started in their garage, whatever the case may be, like that gives me a tremendous amount of pride that I think that we did things—I know that we did things that made a huge impact on people’s lives and it changed them for the better.
Sean: 25:46 – We’ll be back with more from Rory Mckernan after this.
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Sean: 27:21 – You’ve now delved into the book world and you were able to co-write a book with Katrin Davidsdottir called “Dottir,” which is for sale now available on Amazon, correct?
Rory: 27:32 – Ah, yeah. Available pretty much anywhere books are sold.
Sean: 27:34 – How did that opportunity arise?
Rory: 27:38 – It’s funny, this is the one answer that I can’t really give straight except that there was conversations going on all the time and me and Katrin have a fantastic relationship built over the course of the years. I mean, I was there for some of the most critical elements of her career. We’re drawn to one another and had a fantastic preexisting relationship. So the book, I mean, the publisher came to her. That’s the short answer to that. The publisher said, hey, we think you have a fantastic story. We’d love for you to tell it. I always put it on her when I’m like, why me? Why did you choose me? But to her credit and to, you know, something that makes me feel incredibly warm and fuzzy is that she is very particular about who she works with. And this is something I respect about her. I think a lot of people are opportunistic. They’re like, alright, who’s going to provide me with the biggest contract for shoes? OK. Which supplement company is offering the best deal. Kat is really well thought out and intentional about who she does and does not work with. And so, yeah, I was talking to her agent Matt O’Keefe, and he was like, hey man, we got something going on. Kat’s gonna write a book. Would you be interested in doing that? I think probably most people who have been in a journalistic field would be like, jump at that opportunity, so I was like, oh my God, that’d be amazing. That was my initial reaction, just not knowing how serious it actually was. And the next day I was on the phone with Kat, sorry, with Kat and with Matt and she was like, you want to do this? Let’s do this. And it was an opportunity that would be impossible for me to deny just based on my history with the sport and where I was in my career and you know, everything kind of aligned in such a way that I was like, man, this is an absolute no-brainer. So yeah, I jumped at it.
Sean: 29:37 – What was the story that she specifically wanted to tell?
Rory: 29:43 – I think it was more that she wanted to add layers to the—because one important detail is that what she really didn’t want to tell was I’m done with my career and here’s the story of my career. What she wanted to do was add layers to the messages that she sends on a consistent basis. So, the one that resonates most with people surrounding Kat is being the best version of myself, which sounds like a T-shirt or a throwaway phrase, if you don’t build it out more. So she wanted the—she wanted the story of her career to this point. And you know, the reason that I think it’s really poignant is because of the way that failure plays into it. Not only the one that we all know of the 2014 rope climbs at Regionals, but also some stuff that she kind of pours her heart out in the book on things you wouldn’t otherwise know because she’s so—this is from her nutrition coach , at face value, she’s like this Disney princess, right? She’s perfect. Nothing’s wrong with Kat. She’s always strong in the head. And that’s what you see on shorter pieces of media because that’s all there’s time to tell. But when I got to dig in and talk to her about some of the deeper things, things that would resonate with everybody, like, you know, a big part of her story is the loss of a loved one. She lost her grandmother in between her two championship years. And some other things that you would never associate with Kat, some losses of that headspace and times of weakness and things like that. So I think she really just wanted to tell her story and then add the details that nobody gets when you just get to see a 10-minute YouTube clip.
Sean: 31:27 – When people say write a book, they just assume you probably just sit down and you start banging away at a keyboard. But I’m assuming it’s not that easy. I’ve never done it. But how did you get the process started?
Rory: 31:39 – Oh man, it is not that easy. I’ve probably never been more proud of anything professionally than I am of the book. And because of the difficulty of doing it. And a lot of that was because it was the first time through the gate. But the process for me was, I started with an outline and basically submit to Kat and say, here’s the biggest anchors of the story as I see it. And I’m super analytical when it comes to the sport. So that was, a lot of that was here was your journey professionally through the years that you competed. Here’s obviously if we’re talking about like a story arc, like here’s your dark night of the soul of your 2014 when you failed the rope climb and then it was a bunch of, what else are we passionate about telling? Like how much biography of your life and how much of your family and how much of your sporting career prior to CrossFit do we want to fit? And then it was, from there it was like, OK, this is a lot, how do we prioritize and shrink down? Because, you know, one thing I always came back to was Ben Bergeron’s book, which I really enjoyed, that isn’t just one year of competition. Like you could write a book about any year of the CrossFit Games, much less the season of the CrossFit Games because you think about 12 events, if I walked you through all 12 events that I did, how I was thinking, how I was feeling, where leaderboard shifted, what it did, like, that’s a lot of detail and you can get pretty mired down in it. So it was interesting. That was an interesting conundrum of like this is the woman who’s had a six-year career in the CrossFit Games. How do you prioritize? What do you tell? What do you not tell? How do you give credence to Open, Regionals and Games? Because those all played a big part. And all the while kind of telling the story of childhood, what made her a person, what makes her tick and all the things that make her unique and the takeaways which are in my opinion, the way that she trains herself to stay in a positive headspace.
Sean: 33:38 – You obviously cannot include everything. You have to make edits here and there and take things out. What was the decision-making process like to decide what stayed and what went?
Rory: 33:48 – That’s a great question. It was fluid. It was, well, and I should say I would be totally remiss to say that I learned the meaning of there’s no such thing as a good author, there’s only fantastic editors. So what I learned by that was leaning on friends. Kristen Totes, she came on fairly late in the game but helped me immensely in times when it was like getting super lonely. But an anchor for me was Andréa Cecil, who was a colleague of ours at CrossFit and wrote the book with Chris Spealler, and she was just indispensable as both a sounding board and a professional editor who was like, not just, hey dude, this is a capital T and it should be a lowercase, but literally like, hey, have you thought about doing it this way? Have you thought about taking this and moving it to here? And then me basically prioritizing those and taking them back to Katrin and being like, hey, what do you think about this? What if we reordered it this way? And it’s funny when we’re telling the story, like I did a book signing with Kat recently and she says that’ it’s true. I’m like, this is basically the third book that we put together. There were two full iterations of an entire book before where we’re like, nope, that’s not gonna happen. And the end result of that was the timeline shifted massively, which was a blessing in disguise because the first iteration of the book would have been then I won, then I won, I was really happy. The inclusion, especially for me of like 2017, she went through some really heavy emotional challenges after taking fifth, after not backing up her championship the third time, it was hard. And I think that that’s really cool for people to hear because most of the time it’s just like you don’t get to see that side in a raw and honest way. So that was a big one for me was like the book became a hundred times better by virtue of us including that year. And I’m glad that we did. But, yeah, the prioritization process; I’ll send you some pictures because I just recently, because we moved, I took out a couple of boxes. Literally just notebooks and three-ring binders of like drafts and red-noted stuff. And I’ve got a screenshot of like and example of what Andréa would do and it looks like a kindergartener’s paper, there’s just so much red ink on it that I’m like, did I even write any of that right?
Sean: 36:26 – Give me one thing I did well.
Rory: 36:28 – Yeah, exactly, where’s the green? Where’s the green ink?
Sean: 36:29 – You already had a really good relationship with Katrin going into this process. What did you learn about her going through the process?
Rory: 36:41 – What did I learn about her going through the process. It gave me a really authentic dose because, you know, and it doesn’t—not mental mindset training, kind of like Tony Robbins-ish type stuff, not everybody takes to that, right? And I think that what I got from Kat during the process was we ran into some really difficult times where it’s like we had to have some really real conversations, not just about her childhood, but about the work process and like, hey, what the hell is going on here? Like, why isn’t this working? She got upset with me, and communication sometimes was tough. And what I really took away from it was when times were the hardest, she would literally be able to turn my head around completely. In other words, she would basically like the meat and potatoes of the book is her ability to reframe things, to stay positive in difficult times. And I’m not joking, she literally helped me do that. So there were times when I was ready to throw in the towel and be like, look, this is just too hard. Why don’t we, whatever it was, bring somebody else on board. Why don’t we, you know, reassess, like are we really sure we want to do this. And she would have ways of putting me back into a really solid mental space. Which then motivated me to be like, God, this girl is the real deal. And not just her, but her camp. You know, I know you followed comp train for a long time, but Ben and the amount of studying that he does and the amount of effort, the people that go into to creating like a holistic human, which I think is so much more important than just creating a fantastic athlete, it’s really compelling, and the stuff works. It may not work for everybody. It certainly works for me. And so, you know, it was cool for me to do that, to not just stay on the surface level but to get really deep and feel close to her and also get, you know, take away from the relationship that there was something to be learned there. It gave me a lot of confidence that there was something more for the book.
Sean: 38:45 – Yeah. When people read it, what do you want them to come away with from the whole experience?
Rory: 38:53 – You know it’s just that, I think that there’s really tangible—I think there’s the easy ability, even if you’re a CrossFitter or a practitioner of hard exercise, to look at the athletes at the CrossFit Games and make excuses for yourself of like, yeah, we’re doing the same workout, but. And you can pick them off, right? Like genetically, they’re superior to us. They’re genetically gifted. You know, they’ve got something that I don’t have. Like they came hard wired with X, Y or Z , which makes it easier for them. I think that this a really humanizing thing. And you remember the— remember the piece that Marty Cej made with—oh, I’m a jerk for—who did he put it together with? It was about the redefinition of beauty.
Sean: 39:46 – Yeah, I remember that. I think it was—it might have been John Glancey and John Gilbert might have worked on that and I hope I’m not—
Rory: 39:53 – Gilbert. It was Gilbert. Thank you, yes. And it was—anyways, I’ll think of the name of it cause it’s still on YouTube and it’s still as powerful today as it was back then. But do you remember, I have a favorite line from that. Do you remember any of the lines from it?
Sean: 40:07 – Not necessarily. I just remember this kind of the spirit of it. I thought it was—
Rory: 40:13 S- o my favorite line from that one was it’s not the superhuman that draws us to these athletes, but the very human. And so in the book I hope that one of the big takeaways is that like these people are human and they do go through the same stuff as you. And I think again this is like, this is why our community is closer to our athletes than football, hockey, whatever the case may be because we are practicing much of the same stuff. And it was cool for me to see like, naw, man, Katrin bleeds, like she goes through the same struggles that you and I go through. She’s just created kind of a set of tools that she can utilize to better absorb the shock of not just CrossFit Games workouts, but everyday life. And so I hope people can take away a little bit of like, OK, I’m making excuses for myself. I can pick myself up and here’s some actual things I can employ into my life to make myself a better version of myself.
Sean: 41:09 – Yeah. You recently made a move pretty much across the country. You left us here in California and you’re now in Cookeville, Tennessee. How have things been going for you there?
Rory: 41:19 – Dude, I’m sitting in my bonus room for the kids right now, looking out at almost an acre of— no, you know, it’s been fantastic is the macro answer and the micro answer is that of course there’s difficulties of moving. I miss California. I’m not going to lie to anybody about that. In terms of like, God, the weather’s perfect. The coastline in Santa Cruz, people travel the world rightfully so to come and see. And we had friendships that were built over the course of a decade and a half. And so all that stuff made it, you know, a real thing to deal with. However, what we were able to come and plug in—it wasn’t like we just threw a dart at a map or we said, oh, Mayhem’s famous, let’s go to Cookeville, Tennessee. We really did some thinking about where we wanted to make our future, where we wanted our kids to grow up and all the financial benefits or the cost of land aside, it’s a really good vibe here. It’s really, really nice people, beautiful part of the country where like if you look a Google map of Cookeville, it’s like surrounded by waterfalls, national parks. It’s in close proximity to a lot of stuff. Borders eight different states, there’s a little trivia fact for you. And the community here has just welcomed us with open arms, and not just the CrossFitters. It’s been really cool. You know, it’s the kind of place where we unfortunately in some situations, like we didn’t know a lot of our neighbors, and here we’ve already had like, you know, people bring over fruit bowls and cookies and you know, it’s a bit more of a hospitable feel as well. None of it to knock on California, our plugging in here has been pretty tremendous. And then the icing on the cake is the fact that there’s a really well-established community in CrossFit here where it’s hard to get lonely because you know, every other week or so you show up to the barn at Rich’s house or CrossFit Mayhem and you’re like, oh hey person that I’ve known for the last 20 years or whatever. And you know, maybe I only crossed paths with you when we’re at big events or whatever, but I feel like I’ve done really well-established relationships with a lot of people like that. So you get a lot of people coming through town, which I hope you do soon. And yeah, it is a really cool place.
Sean: 43:44 – What are you doing now to stay involved in the CrossFit Games and the media landscape surrounding the season?
Rory: 43:51 – Oh man, I’m taking a deep breath and trying to figure out exactly what I want that to be. I think this year I speak for myself, but I think a lot of people were in the same boat where it was like, it was kind of catch as catch can. It was like, well, OK, what opportunities exist? Great. I’ll take those. Oh, you can’t really pay me? Fine. But what I’m trying to do is align myself with efforts and people that I really want to be involved with and not—I’m trying to maybe create a platform where I can keep examining the beauties of this community. You know, the things that I really, really love, which is the people, the success stories, the personalities and not get so mired down in the details of like the competition or what people get hung up on in terms of like what they don’t like about it. I know that vague and not intentionally. So when I got back from the Games, I put do not disturb on my phone and I shut it down for an entire four days. And I thought that that would be enough. Still not enough. It’s still not enough. And then like, you know, you can appreciate that. What are we, we’re gonna do the Open in like six weeks or something, depending on when it falls. Depending on it falls in October. So yeah, I’m gonna have to spin this up pretty quick. But, a couple of things that I can’t do as much this year, like, my kids are nine and eight years old. I can’t travel internationally quite as much. It’s a bit of a killer for kids who want to be around you or I’ll try and take them with me. So, but I do want to stay involved in the conversations and probably one of the bright spots that came out of the CrossFit Games was, you know, I started a YouTube series this year and it was a blast to do, but it didn’t really gain very much traction. Then on Saturday when the cuts started happening, just on a whim, we were like, well, why don’t I sit down with Brent Fikowski. The interviews that I did at the Games got really, really good feedback. I think that I also want to make sure that I find my lane and kind of stay in it. And again, that’s fairly vague, but it’s in my mind like they’re all starting to kind of interweave together, like what worked this year, what didn’t, and then also finding the places where some of the stories that used to get told aren’t getting told. I want to make sure that those don’t just die on the vine because there’s so much cool stuff happening in our little world, even though it’s super niche that I think those stories have to continue to be told. So, I dunno man, I haven’t figured it out.
Sean: 46:16 – Join the club.
Rory: 46:21 – Hopefully we can sit down and talk about it for like five hours over perhaps an adult beverage, but I’m not going anywhere. I guess that’s the short answer.
Sean: 46:29 – Final question and having listened to you now speak for the last 30 or 40 minutes, I’m thinking, OK, you started a media department not knowing anything about media and you made that into a successful venture. You wrote a book without knowing anything about writing a book. What have you learned about yourself over the last 10 years?
Rory: 46:46 – Huh, man, great question. What I found out about myself, one thing that I can answer right off my head, that I realized at this Games, too, where it was a much different scenario is that I’m naturally a grinder. Like I may not be—I wished this translated into the gym, right. Cause here’s the story of like Katrin Davidsdottir the sled dog, but when it comes to working, like I can grind it out, man, and I can put in some hours and I can like put my head down and suffer through quite a bit. I think I’ve learned that, yeah, that I’m capable of a lot. And it’s interesting now having been sailed into, I don’t call it no man’s land, but entrepreneurship or, basically the land of being a private contractor and deciding what I want to do, that I have earned some skills, like you said, over the last, over the last few years. So it’s been really, it’s been a good year to be like, just to sit back and assess those, cause I never did. I wouldn’t have had an answer to your question six months or eight months ago. But now I’ve been kind of forced to sit back and look at it and be like, OK, Whoa, what are you going to do next? And in order to figure that out, kind of look back and look at what’s been accomplished. And so yeah, I know I can grind and now I want to be more intentional with it and be like, OK, let me decide where I’m going to put my efforts. And that goes for personal life, too. I’ve got some massive goals for being a parent that are going to take some really pointed direction. It’s been a thoughtful year. And, yeah, I guess that’s the recognition, I can grind, but I’ve also picked up a lot of skills over the last couple of years and now it’s time to kind of decide where I want them to go.
Sean: 48:44 – Yeah. Well listen man, it’s been an absolute pleasure being able to, you know, not only call you a friend but also a coworker for the past seven years and I hope, like you said, that we are not done covering this wonderful sport that we love.
Rory: 48:58 – Amen brother. And likewise, likewise. It’s been my great honor.
Sean: 49:02 – Yeah. And thanks so much for taking the time to do this. I really appreciate it, man.
Rory: 49:04 – Of course.
Sean: 49:08 – Huge thanks to Rory Mckernan for taking the time to talk with me. You can follow him on Instagram. He’s @Rory Mckernan, just his name. Also be sure to check out his YouTube channel and the book he wrote with Katrin Davidsdottir is available for sale now on Amazon or anywhere else that books are sold. Are you a stressed business owner who’s working too much and still struggling to make a profit? If you want to grow your venture and reach the next level, Two-Brain Business is here to help with a free 60-minute call. It is not a sales pitch. It’s just an opportunity for you to get real, actionable advice from an expert who’s built a successful business. For one-on-one guidance on how to take your business to the next level, book your Free Help call today at twobrainbusiness.com. Thanks for being with us today, everybody. We’ll see you next time.