One of the Times I Almost Drowned
I couldn’t keep from sharply inhaling as my whole head dropped under the water surface for the fourth of fifth time. As the weight of my sodden clothes dragged me down, I fought upwards and the 5 or so meters left stretched out in front of me like an ocean.
Despite the dramatic prose above, I was not fighting for my life. I was trying to become a Physical Training Instructor in the Royal Marines. I’d been put forwards for it, but frankly I had no interest in a goal I hadn’t chosen (there’s an entire lesson here in its own).
But here I was anyway, attempting for the third time to complete a very simple swimming test. And failing for the third time.
I was yanked out of the pool and knew I’d failed the second test of the 3 days. Which meant I’d failed the whole course – no second chances. At 08.00 on the first day, I still had to complete the rest of the course.
I’d never really swum before. I preferred running; where you can rest without drowning.
It had never been my forte until I decided to face my demons a few months back and rid myself of my “unique” swimming style (something like one of those wind-up dogs that does backflips crossed with a slab of granite).
As an athlete, I have pretty much always been precisely "good". Never poor, nor excellent.
A solid 6.5 out of 10.
My limitations as an athlete however, have been the foundations of becoming a coach who has changed hundreds of lives.
For me, it has never been easy to move well. It has never been simple to stay injury free. I wasn't gifted with a gigantic VO2 max or flawless co-ordination, savage strength or masses of power.
But I still perform at a fairly high level. This is due to one thing:
The knowledge that my current ability level has no reflection of my potential.
Growth mindset, insecurities or tenacity - call it what you will, but this is what I brand it:
A refusal to play with the hand life has dealt me.
Poor genetics, a lack of time, scarce financial resources, injury or other setbacks mean fuck all when you have a long term vision and a thirst for self-improvement.
When coaching CrossFit athletes on their mindset, (whether in the Inner Athlete Performance Camp or elsewhere) I hear variations of the following line all the time:
"It just feels like I keep on getting knocked back. I can’t make any progress before something fucks me over”
Of course you do! Welcome to life. If I've learned two things over my 25 years, they're:
A. No matter what you have in mind, things will rarely go exactly as expected.
B. The former has no bearing on how happy, successful, strong, healthy or fulfilled you will be.
In fact, there are a select few people in my life who have suffered more turmoil than one person should ever have to endure. Yet, it's these people who are the strongest of mind and the most enjoyable to be around.
It’s those people too that stride purposely towards their goals without objection to any misplaced steps.
Your path to your ultimate goal will be littered with hardship, injury, set-backs and more fear than you would ever expect. Yet it's these events, and more importantly the refusal to let them impede you, that will make you.
When reading something like this, it's easy to be pumped up momentarily before falling back into routine.
The mindset you seek is not given, but built. It's created thought by thought, action by action and yes, set-back by set-back.
It is something that's cultivated and the only way to make that happen it is to start small.
So next time you're struggling, know this:
One more rep now, builds more than a physiological response. It builds fortitude and a champ's mindset.
"What is to give light, must endure burning" - Viktor Frankl
P.s. Why mindset? Because without it, fuck all else matters.