Yesterday evening at Kane Hall on the University of Washington campus in Seattle, Washington, I had the honor and privilege of attending a seminar presented by the founder of CrossFit. Known by most as simply “Coach,” Greg Glassman shared insights into how the CrossFit phenomenon was created and the importance in establishing a free enterprise system in which affiliates thrive.
This was the first time, aside from CrossFit Journal videos, that I have heard Glassman speak. Overall, I found his demeanor likeable and his perspective straightforward. He was not afraid to discuss the economics of the business and fielded questions that many folks have put on the table, such as issues around saturation and brand protection.
“an opportunity so rich that it became an obligation.” -Greg Glassman
Throughout his speech, there were several nuggets of insight that I found particularly interesting. Glassman discussed that business owners should focus on pursuing excellence as opposed to money. “Excellence is the beacon. Excellence is the light house,” Glassman said. Excellence is the only thing that is constant and should be the focus of all that we do. He said, “Markets move capital to excellence.” Glassman pointed out that by building a brand and culture that exudes excellence, the money will follow. This process cannot happen by focusing on money first. Focusing on excellence allows individuals to pursue a passion. Glassman said that his goal was to establish “the best training program every created.” This perspective allowed him to provide a value to his clients that other gyms and personal trainers did not make a priority. He focused on excellence without ever realizing he was becoming an entrepreneur and the wealth soon followed.
Glassman said that, “Business is presenting uniquely attractive opportunities.” I absolutely loved this definition. You typically read that business is about solving a problem or taking an existing idea and manufacturing it more efficiently or for less cost. What types of opportunities are businesses offering their clients? I work in Higher Education and even through that lens, this perspective is applicable. If you are not able to provide a unique and attractive product/service/experience to customers, you will not be in business for very long.
Glassman shared his experience in Africa, building schools, and how the CrossFit community banded together to raise money through the CrossFit for Hope work out. The work out generated nearly $1.7 million in donations. He discussed how much power there is in giving. A quote that truly stood out to me about this experience was that he felt it was “an opportunity so rich that it became an obligation.” Wow. A millionaire founder of an exponentially growing fitness program made it a point to discuss how giving is enriching to the point that he feels obligated to continue doing so. I find that to be a powerful perspective.
Towards the conclusion of his talk, before taking questions and answers, Glassman discussed his marketing philosophy. He said, “The best marketing is when you are so good that people won’t shut up about what you do.” There was laughter in the crowd as I am sure most people have heard the joke, “How do you know that someone does CrossFit? Because it’s all they talk about!” Glassman said he doesn’t recommend marketing. He recommends branding. Focus on your brand and clearly communicate to others the value that your company offers people. His goal was not focused on maximizing the rate of return on his investment, but to “maximize the healing.” He knew that if he focused on healing his clients by providing “the best training program ever” and optimizing their nutrition, the marketing would take care of itself.
Glassman set up a free enterprise model of affiliation, as opposed to franchising his brand. He has almost single-handedly created a platform in which thousands of individuals have become entrepreneurs. He expressed that the overall “pie” of revenue generated by the CrossFit brand and community (Affiliates, shoes, supplements, apparel…etc. All companies that are positioned as targeting the CrossFit population) is estimated at $1 billon. The CrossFit brand slice of that pie is roughly $50 million. Glassman conveyed that the overall goal is for the pie to continue growing, while his slice continues to shrink. Glassman has put his opportunity for obscene wealth on the backburner to empower those in the community.
I was not quite sure what to expect from this seminar. I decided to come in with an open mind and worst-case scenario was that I got to listen to the founder of this life-changing activity that we have come to know as CrossFit. I mean, it’s not every day that you get to listen to a millionaire speak for roughly $10 a ticket, right? I could not have been more appreciative for the opportunity to hear him speak. I felt rejuvenated and excited as we walked back to the car. These “business” lessons are extended beyond the boardroom and the bottom line. These words are how we should be living our lives.
Focus on excellence. Seek opportunities to give that are so enriching it becomes an obligation. Pursue your passion. Provide uniquely attractive opportunities. Pay attention to the process and not the end result. If you’re good at what you do, people will not shut up about you. Do not market, brand. Maximize healing.
And most importantly, as Glassman said, “Love the hell out of your clients.”
A special thank you to the Freedom Foundation for hosting this event.
Last Friday I had the opportunity to facilitate one of my favorite days of the year, our 3rd annual Leadership is You, student leadership conference. As one of the founders and chair of the conference, it has been remarkable to see it grow over the past three years. I am always taken back by the amount of energy these 120 plus students have at the end of a six-hour day that covers a vast spectrum of leadership content.
As with any large event, frustrations and miscommunications occur that some times leave you wondering if the stress is worth the struggle. It all too often becomes about your own feelings and I have, at times, forgotten how important it is to take a step back and realize that this event is not about me. It is not about my frustration in navigating the political buoys and stroking staff egos. This event is about the students. This event is about promoting, for a relatively short period of time, the opportunity for students to push the boundary of their comfort zone.
This morning, I received the below message as an email forward from a student that has and continues to overcome obstacles on a daily basis simply to remain a college student.
“I went to the leadership conference today with L****. I really, really didn't have the time to go, but something inside me just pushed me to go. The day was incredible! Both L**** and I are speechless as to how inspiring the speakers were. The speakers were so uplifting and encouraging. I really, really needed that. I am so glad that you told me about it. I would highly recommend that conference to any student in the future. They had us really thinking deeply about our lives and where we are going and how to get there. I think I learned more form the two speakers that I saw in one day than I have learned in my whole life from anyone. Thank you so much for encouraging me to go. It really, really was life changing -- at a time when I really need it most.”
(Note: I am not the professional staff member that encouraged this student to attend the conference, but I am so glad that the staff member did.)
This is why I do what I do. As much as this student needed to be at our conference on Friday, I needed to receive this note. I needed the reminder that it is not about me. It is about her. That what I can do every day, no matter how large or small, has the ability to create an impact for that individual that I may not have the immediate perspective to recognize. It brings me joy knowing that an event that I could help facilitate will be an unforgettable moment for this student.
Actively seek perspective. What may seem insignificant to you could be a dramatic and impactful moment for that individual.
I’ve been on this amazing journey of getting into CrossFit since January. I’ve even gone as far as to obtain my Level-1 CrossFit Trainer Certificate. Although I have seen significant gains physically, I cannot begin to explain the mental enhancements that I have experienced. As I inch my way closer to being a part of this amazing community for one year, it made me think about what parallels we can draw to real life. What lessons and experiences can I take with me when I leave the gym.
Lesson 1: Your body can do more than your mind thinks you can.
I’m on round one of a four round work out, thinking, “How am I going to get through this? I cannot get through this.” But to this day, I always have. I have always finished the work out. I haven’t always been first and I’m typically quite slow, but I always plug along and finish. After awhile, that voice in my head started to go away. This does not mean that the work outs are getting any easier, it just means that the fear of failing is subsiding. When my head wants to tell me to stop, that I’ve reached the limit and can go no further, I have always been able to stretch those boundaries physically.
I see this happen with my students every day. They are afraid to live up to the potential that they have inside of them. The fear of failing prevents them from succeeding. By overcoming these mental hurdles, time and time again, you will realize that you possess all of the necessary skills to overcome your fears. This continuous practice of mental toughness is imperative to finding success.
Lesson 2: Just keep moving forward
I read in an article that stated, “progress is slow, and then it’s fast.” This could not be truer. In a world where instant gratification is readily available, the patience and consistent hard work that is needed to do great things is hard to find. Is excellence a process or a destination? I would argue both. Keep your head down and just keep moving forward. The most gratifying workouts are the ones that took a tremendous amount of discipline just to get to the gym door. When you battled every excuse to not go to the gym, but found yourself there regardless. That is progress. Baby steps add up quicker than you realize.
Lesson 3: Rest on the ground
Burpee: the act of getting your entire body (chest and hips) on the ground, and then getting your entire body off the ground (jumping).
No one enjoys doing burpees. But like coach says, burpees keep you out of the nursing home. If you can get yourself on the ground and back up, you can live an independent life.
The most difficult part of the burpee is getting back up and off the ground. When resting, rest on the ground, this way you have to get back up.
Set yourself up to succeed. If I am mentally and physically exhausted, by resting on the ground I am forcing myself to get one more rep. I HAVE to get back up. Put yourself in positions that force you to succeed.
Lesson 4: Community leads to success
When doing any research into CrossFit, one of the first things you always hear about is the sense of community. I belonged to a large gym and when I didn’t show up for three months, how many phone calls do you think I received asking where I had been? Zero. When I don’t show up for two days, I get texts asking where I am and why I didn’t show up. I’ve established great relationships with the regulars that attend my class time. We all suffer together and that creates a bond.
We can do more as a group working individually, yet collaboratively, then we could as individuals. We can push and encourage each other beyond the point that we can push ourselves. The positive attitudes amongst each other are contagious. The sense of community leads to a greater amount of success for each individual that is a part of it.
If you’re searching for success in your life, whatever that may be defined as for you, I can guarantee that implementing these lessons will help you achieve it. You CAN do you more than you think you can do. KEEP pushing forward, ESPECIALLY when you don’t want to. Put yourself in positions where you HAVE to succeed. Find a community to SHARE and find success in.
I am passionate and write about personal development, leadership, education and healthy lifestyles. I work in higher education and I am committed to being an outstanding mentor and professional in my field.
Copyright 2019 Noah Cheek. All rights Reserved.