I’m not a big fan of labels. Not the ones on my clothes or the ones we all seem to attach to ourselves and others. There are two labels I’m happy to have attached to me however – Crossfitter and Small business owner. I wear these two proudly but sometimes, they can both weigh heavily on my psyche.
I recently shared a social media post about my CrossFit journey on the page where I’m a member and it struck me, as the comments came flooding in, that being a ‘CrossFitter’ is very much like being a small business owner.
Of course, I could write a bunch of cheesy metaphors like ‘sweating it out’ or ‘high intensity effort’ to join the dots between these two pursuits.
But I won’t.
Instead, what hit me about these two passions of mine were these similarities:
It’s easy to get distracted by what others are achieving
When I first started CrossFit, I was blown away by what many of the other athletes were able to do. Heavy Olympic lifts, controlled gymnastics movements and incredible high intensity, high repetition conditioning sessions. I watched in awe but also in despair as I compared what they were doing to what I was not doing (or seemingly not able to do). I was pretty sure it would take me many years to get to their level so I automatically started finding excuses for my lack of prowess. “Oh I’ve only been training for a few weeks”, or “I’ve got pins and plates in my ankle so I’ve lost mobility” and similar justifications.
I know I’ve done the same in business over the years. I see what associates and competitors are doing and watch in awe as they fill seminars, write and sell books, create products and make tons of money. Naturally, excuses have been paraded forth either outwardly or in the privacy of my own mind but either way, I’ve compared myself to others for years!
It can feel pretty lonely, despite being surrounded by others
One of the oft stated benefits of joining a CrossFit gym (known as a ‘box’) is the community you immediately become part of. It’s true to an extent there is a community spirit and welcoming feel to most CrossFit boxes. Yet it’s also completely possible to feel totally alone even when you’re surrounded by fellow members. The stretching is done by: me. Lifting heavy weights done by: me. Hanging upside down: me. Counting my pullups, pushups and burpees: me. Sure the atmosphere is supportive but we’re a bunch of individuals with individual goals and individual results.
This loudly echoes my life as a small business owner. Lots of other people doing it. Plenty of associations and small business communities for us to be part of and yet, when we’re cradling a laptop in the wee hours, bathed in the mind-altering alpha waves from our LCD screens, we’re pretty much alone. Planning my years, months, weeks and days is done by: me. Marketing my brand and attracting clients done by: me. Creating content, products and systems: me. Finance, bookkeeping and accounting: me!
Personal bests are a double edged sword
In the early days of my CrossFit journey, every time I showed up it seemed I logged a personal best (or PR: personal record in CrossFit-speak). As time progressed, it seemed I didn’t and I often had days where I couldn’t even match a previous PR! Predictably I felt like I’d wasted that day’s training session and start to question my methods. Was I eating right? Had I done enough stretching? Was I just not cut out for this sport?
Early on in my small business journey I had some stellar results. It seemed like every time I opened my door results came through it.
Until they didn’t.
I questioned my choice of industry, my niche, my marketing, myself. I almost quit my business on several occasions (I recall one Christmas spent looking at Seek ads on my computer).
Progress needs a clear definition
The last time I did a front squat session was roughly 15 months into my CrossFit journey. I was able to best my previous PR of 110kg for a single lift, by just 2.5kg or a measly 2.3%. It had taken me 7 months to achieve that increase. I recently was only able to match my personal record of 92.5kg for 20 repetitions of a back squat, despite training for a whole month since then. Of course, I felt deflated, robbed even. All that hard work for what? The same lift I did a month ago? Or a meagre 2% increase on 7 months ago?
Some months my business seemed to stagnate, even slip backwards. I’d lose a client or two, leads would dry up and I’d lament the long hours and stress when I seemed to be getting no further ahead than I was before. How would I ever achieve my goals if I wasn’t progressing? The problem is, I’d been defining progress as large gains, not consistent effort. I’d set myself up with the wrong focus!
You don’t know who’s out there til you look
Until I shared my original post with my CrossFit community, I incorrectly assumed that I was somewhat anonymous at our box. What I came to realise is that many had been watching my journey and comparing themselves to, you guessed it, me! While I wasn’t seeking encouragement or approval for myself, it was heartening to read the messages of support. What was even more fulfilling were the number of messages, both public and private, thanking me for sharing my story as it had inspired others to keep going, refocus, and even a couple of athletes to reactivate their membership!
So often in business I’ve felt alone, anonymous and insignificant. I’ve incorrectly assumed that others are too busy, too successful or too stressed to have the time or interest in connecting with me, much less supporting me. Of course nothing could be further from the truth and almost without fail, when I reach out and share my stories, fears and even my triumphs, other small business owners are only too willing to connect, engage and support me in my efforts. In turn, they tell me they get clarity, insight and inspiration from helping and engaging with another.
Perhaps the greatest gift I’ve received from my time as a CrossFit devotee has been the new found love of the simple, the routine and the mundane. By simply showing up, working on the basics and bringing consistent effort I’ve been able to achieve some pretty impressive results with my lifting, gymnastics and overall fitness. Not bad for a forty-something guy with 2 busted ankles and a dodgy shoulder.
By translating this to my daily habits as a podcaster and small business owner, I’ve rekindled my energy and drive to do the small stuff and do it consistently well. No need to chase massive improvements in revenue, marketing results or personal productivity. Just incremental, predictable and, dare I say it, boring progress can lead to very satisfying outcomes indeed.
To read the original, full Facebook post in my CrossFit community click this link: