Sunday, July 14, 2013
So I have been thinking about this topic for a while, but hesitated to document yet another testament to the altar of Crossfit.
Been there, done that.
Also, FULL DISCLOSURE: these ramblings that I am about to share are just kind of ancillary observations. But as a human resources guy, I have become increasingly convinced and hyper-conscious of the “progression” of Crossfit from my personal life into my professional life.
In this line of work, my professional credibility is highly dependent upon my ability to try and understand people and objectively evaluate their strengths and weaknesses in order to maximize their functional efficiencies in the workplace. But as we all know, people are highly unpredictable, and I'll say it....it’s pretty much a crapshoot.
For this reason, it is very rare that I will ever voluntarily offer a professional recommendation, and will think-long-and-hard before providing one when asked. Yes, I have even declined/neutralized requests simply because I was not sure that I knew the person well enough (despite working alongside them on various projects).
No disrespect intended to my co-workers out there…it’s just that if there’s one thing that I’ve learned after 10+ years as an HR monkey: people at work can be batshit crazy.
There is an environment, however, where people assemble and expose their character on a daily basis, without a filter of professional courtesies and not-so-veiled political machinations. In this place, men and women work shoulder to shoulder spanning different ages and backgrounds. While their results may vary on a daily basis – the people there are always supportive, fueled by something greater than their egos and self interests. This place is called a Crossfit box.
As an HR guy with several years of Crossfit experience, I would assert that there is no array of professional certifications, LinkedIn recommendations or college degrees that can paint a better picture of a person than their “Crossfit Resume”.
Have you ever been pushed to the limits of your sanity at work? This happens daily at a Crossfit box.
Have you ever parked your car in front of a building, dreading the amount of work that lies ahead of you? This happens daily at a Crossfit box.
In fact, all of the challenges and humiliations that might possibly occur in the workplace happen routinely during any Crossfit WOD. Magnified in intensity by a gazillion.
The difference is that people do not WOD because they have to. They sign up for it voluntarily. We don’t just resolve to “hold-on” until the next long weekend or scheduled vacation. We find ways to WOD during our vacations.
And this makes Crossfit a very special environment for assessing character.
I have seen people take risks, push themselves, and make themselves vulnerable (have you ever done a partner hamstring stretch?) in a span of 20 minutes, in ways that may never take place during a lifetime career in the professional world (DISCLAIMER: as an HR practitioner, I would NEVER recommend partner-hamstring stretches in the workplace).
So although I may only know my Crossfit colleagues for 45-minutes to an hour during my daily routine – I feel like I know many of them better than the people that I work alongside for 8-10 per day. I know who they are by their actions, their commitment and their drive…I know who they are because they don’t cheat on reps, and they don’t cry and send out email storms when they feel overwhelmed.
OK, maybe we cry sometimes.
But the people that come to Crossfit and stick with it are conditioned in ways that I think translate from the box to the workplace very well…and the flurry of successful Crossfit-related side businesses that cater to Crossfitters and “civilians” alike seems to support that. In Dallas alone, there are restaurants, coffee shops and retailers opening up all over town that are owned by Crossfitters. These businesses often evolve like a Crossfit box…with very little advertising other than the word-of-mouth shared within our little community, and with great success. And from my totally-biased perspective, they tend to run on business models that are far more innovative and bold than what you might see in the mainstream marketplace.
For me, personally, I have my job thanks to the introduction of a Crossfitter. And at work, there’s a secret society of Crossfitters who know each other from our C2B-pullup-hand rips and our paleo-friendly lunches in the cafeteria. I may not work with them directly, but I know who they are and a little-something about their work ethic.
As Dr. Alison Beglar writes in The Power of Community: “A big issue for human resource professionals is the level of productivity of the workforce. The idea is to have happy and healthy employees who are motivated, more driven, and more energized as they approach their jobs.”….”research has demonstrated the positive connection between healthy employees and productivity.”
That being said, I am not crazy. I would never make an employment-related decision based on someone’s Fran time. The HR-guy in me knows that there is no single-data point that can be used to evaluate the potential of a candidate. But I will say that if Crossfit is designed to prepare you for the unexpected, it’s not hard to see how the lessons of such conditioning might come in handy in situations outside of the box, and that they may lead to success in the workplace.
Monday, February 4, 2013
OK, around this time of year I make a concerted effort to try and avoid being asked the question: “Are you doing the opens?”
If you don’t know what the opens are, it’s a series of 5 workouts over 5 weeks that are used to determine who qualifies to compete in the Crossfit Games for the title “Fittest In The World”.
Yes, that’s right. THE FITTEST IN THE WORLD. Sounds badass? It is.
In fact, just asking yourself the question “am I ready for the Games?” goes against all common sense for most mere mortals. To say “yes” to the question is like admitting that you have aspirations of running for President, or becoming an astronaut. I mean sure, it’s fun to think about, but unless you’re five-years old or perched for immediate glory, it’s probably best (and more sane) to keep such dreams to yourself.
OK, so the opens is not quite the games…but it’s still pretty badass.
Within my community of friends, our culture tells us that registering for the opens is justified and respected, regardless of whether or not you have any chance of being competitive, or any chance of being anything more than a spectator at the games:
From Lisbeth Darsh’s blog post: "Enter The Open, Even If you Can’t Win"
"Sure it’s fun to see who leads the Open, like it’s fun to watch the real beasts of your gym do incredible shit, but it’s the stories of perseverance, drive, and hope in the face of bad odds that make us smile and be proud to call ourselves CrossFitters. It’s competing, even when you have no chance of winning. It’s putting yourself out there. Having heart, in the face of a world that seems to want to stomp it out of your chest."
Indeed, “putting yourself out there” and “having heart” are a large part of the foundation of the Crossfit experience. In my box, those people that are admired and respected the most are not just the Games-level competitors – it’s also the athletes that may finish last but gave it their all; athletes that faced a challenge and stared it down so that they could build themselves up.
I get all of this. This is the language of my people.
And I will be cheering the loudest for all of my friends who compete in the opens.
But I am still not gonna register for the opens.
First of all, it costs $20.
OK, so it’s not a king’s ransom, but that’s 20 bones that are guaranteed to leave my modest coffers and never return when I register for the opens.
Next up is the fact that I can still do all of the open WODs (without being officially ranked against the whole Crossfit world) for free.
I know, I know, keep-your-shirt-on.
Yes, we are a global community, and it may be selfish of me not to officially share my merely-mortal results with the whole Crossfit world.
Wait a sec. Really?
If registering for the opens was not a business transaction, perhaps that argument would sound more authentic. But Crossfit has become a very big business.
Does that make a difference?
A lot of Crossfitters will talk about the spiritual “therapy” that Crossfit provides. Many non-Crossfitters refer to Crossfit like a cult of believers.
All of this is true.
Just as some people go to church every week and pay a tithe in order to be a part of a spiritual community of believers, I can understand why some Crossfitters would register to be in the opens just to participate in the experience with their fellow athletes.
But I also think that it is possible to have a spiritual experience without necessarily “kneeling down and praying at the altar”. And that is why I have chosen to participate in/but not register for the opens.
And instead, put my $20 towards the purchase of a new jump rope.