Ben Bergeron’s book Chasing Excellence is the best non-fiction book I have read in years.  It summarizes the key principles from half a dozen other must-read books using each single chapter to succinctly explain an entire book worth of material using real life  CrossFit training and competition tales to show how each principle is applied.  While I realize that the CrossFit examples may not resonate as well with non-CrossFitters, everything in the book applies to life outside the gym and competition arena.
I found it so insightful and invigorating a read that I immediately ordered a copy for myself and bought a highlighter so I could reread it right away marking out the most impactful passages.  I almost ran out of highlighter!  I left few pages unmarked.  There is much more to the book than I can share in a single blog post but let me paraphrase a few key highlights while acknowledging there is much I must leave out.

Character & Process:
While most coaches focus on developing skill, ability, tactics and strategy, developing Character and Process are at the foundation of Ben’s coaching approach.  People are not born with a champion’s mindset or habits, they must be developed and trained.  That is good news for you and for me because it means that just like the champion athletes Ben trains, you and I can develop a champion’s mindset. 

When circumstances get harder, you work harder; when you fall down, you get back up stronger; when you don’t see results, you don’t get discouraged but just continue to pound away with relentless consistency.

Your DNA is hardwired to alert you to threats (negative stimuli) for your own survival.  This means that staying positive requires practice and training.
Never whine.  Never Complain.  Never Make Excuses.
Your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your character, your character determines your destiny.
If you talk (complain) about things outside your control you will see/experience more of those things.  There is no good/bad without you, just your perception.  There is the event and the story you tell yourself about what it means.

Sometimes when in a dark place you think you are buried but you’ve actually been planted.
Humans only improve through adversity.
Most people fear overload, discomfort, adversity.  They prefer to do what they are good at because it looks and feels good and feeds the ego.  It makes them feel talented and gifted.  It also prevents them from growing.  We need struggle.  It is part of life for everything on earth.  It isn’t if you will encounter it but when.  And the form it takes matters less than how you respond to it.  Struggle itself is the journey.  We have an aversion to the one thing that produces the results we crave.  Struggle provides your defining moments and should be sought after not avoided!  You do not become a champion in spite of adversity but because of it!  Prepare for adversity, embrace it as your opportunity to grow.

Confidence doesn’t come from controlling the outcome but knowing you control your response.  It is your ability to maintain your perseverance, grit, focus and positivity – the character of a champion – no matter what life throws at you.

Event + Response = Outcome

We do not control events or outcomes, we only control our response.  Successful people focus their energy and attention on the R in the equation, unsuccessful people focus on the E.  Successful competitors understand the biggest struggle is always the one within.

Faced with adversity most focus on external factors starting a negative internal monologue. 

Confidence comes from understanding that success is measuring up to your own potential regardless of outcome. 

Train like a racehorse:
Racehorses do not second guess, they do not sandbag wods, they don’t compare themselves to other race horses, they just perform.  They perform the same in training as on race day.  Winning or losing doesn’t change them in any way.  The next day is just another training day because winning or losing is just part of the process not an end point. 

If your goal is to beat your competitor you are not reaching your potential but merely clearing the bar of the next person’s potential.

Deliberate Practice:
Occurs outside your comfort zone
1. Designed to improve performance
2. Repeated a lot
3. Feedback on results continuously available
4. Mentally demanding and not necessarily enjoyable because you are working on improving weaknesses.

Outperforms drive.  Passion allows perseverance when a sane person would quit.

People focus on results instead of the day-to-day things that will get them there.
The only way the process works is through action.  Success is a decision not a gift.  Ideas are only useful insofar as you apply them consistently day in, day out.  There is no golden road to excellence; Excellence is the golden road.

An athlete can only control training, nutrition, sleep, recovery and mindset.  Nothing else.  Ignore everything else!

Be in the Moment:
Turn the Page.  What can you do right now, in this moment, to prepare yourself for the next event?  Looking back does not help.  Look forward.
Live in the present moment with non judgment, an open mind and positivity.
The next moment is unaffected by what just happened.  It’s gone.  Once it’s happened it no longer exists.  Living in the past is a liability that diminishes future opportunities. 

Sports do not build character but reveal it. 

The ability to do what you normally can but under extreme pressure.  When stakes highest perform just like in the gym when there are no stakes at all.  Focus on the task, not the outcome.  Adapt to adversity, control your own performance, ignore competitors, maintain optimistic confidence that if you do all you can it will work out.  Know that you will be satisfied with your best effort whatever the outcome.  Who you are in competition is a reflection of who you are in practice. 

There is a lot of gold in the concepts paraphrased above and more to be found in the book itself.  I was particularly fascinated by how these concepts are manifested and applied in training and competition.  Ben takes this beyond a philosophical exercise and builds it into a real world practice.  For anyone chasing excellence in any area of their life there is no book that I recommend more!

If you can study and apply some of the key concepts provided above to your life, your outlook and the results you are able to produce in life will begin to change dramatically for the better.  It isn’t as easy as reading a pithy quote, it will require the daily effort of putting it into practice moment after moment until it becomes your habitual way of operating in the world.  Character is built one rep at a time.  It isn’t what you know, it is what you practice consistently.  It is a process!  The process of becoming a champion.  It is the golden road.

Monday WOD

Equipment: Barbell or alternative, PVC Pipe or alternative

Warm Up
1 min Each:
Deadlift, Jump & Shrug
Power Cleans
Front Squats
Squat Cleans
Shoulder Press
Push Press
Push Jerk
Split Jerk Left
Split Jerk Right
Clean & Jerk

1 rep max alternatives

Clean & Jerk