Work Hard, Find Yourself

Hello and welcome to the Living Revolution ūüôā

We are going to take a break from our regularly scheduled program this week. This week marks the beginning of the 2015 Crossfit Open. It marks the 8th year of the Crossfit Games as an organization, and the 4th year of the Crossfit Open. If you aren’t familiar with these competitions, I’ll leave some links at the bottom. I suggest you educate yourself ūüôā

This competition season also marks the 5th year since I began my journey with Crossfit. At some point, we’ll get in to that whole story, but that isn’t what I want talk about today. Today I want to talk about the importance of testing yourself as a means of self discovery.
¬†You can see this in the microcosm of every box around the world where people pit themselves daily against the barbell and against the clock. You can see this in the macrocosm of the Crossfit Games where international athletes gather to find out who can do the most work in a weekend. ¬†This entire movement is about finding out what you are made of. There is no other event in the world like the Crossfit Open. Participants from 100’s of different countries battle against each other to find the limits of physical and mental fitness, and to find out who will be named “Fittest on Earth”.
Crossfit has turned in to a phenomenon. I was watching behind the scenes clips and motivational clips from  the 2014 games this morning, and this program has turned into an international gathering of athletes, supporters, admirers, and sponsors. Elite level athletes are signing endorsement deals and signing autographs. Like it or not, Crossfit is a Thing. We can watch people exercise on ESPN, and it really is a big deal!!
Crossfit began as a program for Operators and First Responder’s. The kind of fitness developed by early Crossfit workouts was functional and it correlated well with the kinds of jobs that required a ridiculous volume of work, high levels of endurance, and the ability to focus under duress. Think about Special Ops warfighters, or inner-city SWAT team members. The mentality required to perform some of the “original” WOD’S correlated well with these “high intensity” professions. This kind of training conveniently packaged the concept of mental fortitude and psychological toughness and made it available to “the masses”.
 
As more people found out about the Crossfit Method, and as the organization grew, Greg Glassman began issuing challenges at his gym in southern California. He wanted to find the toughest and the fittest and the most durable. He wanted to find the fastest, the strongest, the most resilient. A few people stepped up and said they would test themselves against the program Glassman created. Greg Amundson and Annie Sakamoto are two names that always come to mind, and I am sure you can find a few more if you really look hard. These few became known as “Firebreathers”. Their goal was to find the “most fit”. Their goal was train for the unknown and also the “unknowable”. Their intent was to create a system that could effectively prepare a person for ANY physical challenge or endeavor. All aspects of fitness were considered, generally described ¬†in the 10 components of fitness. It was suggested that the person who could perform best in each of these categories would be considered ¬†the “most fit”.¬†
 
How could someone be good at ALL these things? How could someone train in such a way as perform competently at ANY physical task? How was it possible to devise a system that sought to “punish the specialist”?¬† Were there people who sought out their weaknesses and worked to make them their strengths? Were their people who were willing to place themselves in difficult and uncomfortable situations, simply to see if they possessed the physical and mental character to not only survive, but to to thrive?¬†
 
The simple answer ¬†is “YES”. And they came in droves! People around the world began following “Mainsite” (www.crossfit.com) and performing the “Workout of the Day”. People started constructing home gyms in their garages and backyards. Videos began showing up on Youtube and slowly but surely, the movement began to grow. The first Crossfit Games was held on a small ranch in southern California, and was an “invite-only” event. There were roughly 200 athletes, and a man named James Fitzgerald was crowned “Fittest Man on Earth”. In the eight years since, the sport (and the community) grew exponentially. This year the Crossfit Games will be held at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California, and it is estimated that more than 250,000 people worldwide will compete in the 2015 Crossfit Open.¬†
 
Whether you are a hopeful Games athlete, or you simply seek to stay fit and active as you age, Crossfit provides the template for self-discovery through hard work.  Through the competitive template of the Crossfit Open, we are able to test ourselves against each other and against the clock. More importantly, we are provided the opportunity to test ourselves against OURSELVES. We find our limits,  then we choose how to proceed from there. Can you push a bit harder? Can you lift a bit heavier? Can you continue moving just a bit longer? These are questions no one else can answer. I am looking forward to learning more about myself this year as I compete in the 2015 Crossfit Open. If you are competing or participating in the Open this year, I would love to hear your Crossfit story!! Drop me a line at tobias.shea.livingrevolution@gmail.com or leave a comment here!
 
As always, thank you for reading my words and for participating in the Living Revolution!! Until next time…Peace.Tobias.

Priorities and Sacrifices

Hello and welcome to the Living Revolution ūüôā

Happy February! We made it through the first month of 2015, and we are rolling right along! To everyone who started a new process, started chasing a new dream, or found their passion this year, I commend you, and I encourage you to keep up the good work! At the¬†end of the first month, what changes have already taken place? What data¬†do you have from the past 30 days, and how are you going to use that information to continue your process and build on your success in the coming months? Lifestyle change isn’t always simple, and sometimes change can be challenging. To be successful, we need to develop positive strategies and behaviors that contribute to, rather than detract from, our success. To that end, I want to talk today about how we make choices, how we prioritize our time and energy and the “sacrifices” we make to achieve our desired results.

As a frequent observer of human behavior, I am often struck by how people make decisions, and how people react to the choices they make. I see people in the gym all the time who show up 10 minutes late to class, socialize instead of pay attention, and then whine about how sore they are or what they see on the whiteboard. They seem generally unhappy and their presence greatly disrupts the flow and tone of my class. I am always curious about how these people function in other aspects on their lives, and I wonder if they consider the fact that while it is a positive behavior to show up to the gym, the rest of that negativity and unpleasantness greatly detracts from any forward progress that may have been achieved.

By contrast, I also see people who arrive 15 minutes early, spend 10 minutes mobilizing before class, encourage other members through their workout, and generally contribute positive energy whenever they attend my classes. These people aren’t always the fittest, they aren’t always the fastest, they aren’t always on top of their game. But they don’t let the challenges they face break their spirit. They don’t let their struggles and problems bleed in to all aspects of their lives. They recognize the beauty of the process, they recognize the value of discipline, they understand how to prioritize their time, and they show a willingness to “make sacrifices” to achieve their goals.

When we think about sacrifices, we typically think about giving up something we really want to get something we are trying to convince ourselves we want. This is a silly premise to start with, because¬†every choice is a “sacrifice”. Every time we choose something, by default we can’t choose something else. The words we use to describe this equation are what get us in some serious trouble. When we talk about living a healthy lifestyle, or changing behavior in any way, we talk about “giving up” something (sugar, caffeine, porn, etc.) because that object is preventing us from getting something we really want. It may taste good or feel good, but you¬†know you¬†can’t do what ¬†you REALLY want to do if this “something” stays in your life. Using this terminology immediately imbues this conversation with a negative connotation, and we convince ourselves that it really is a “struggle” to avoid cookies, or to drink black coffee instead of a 36oz mocha, or to read a book instead of surfing the web for porn. You tell yourself it will be “hard” to do without these things, but¬†you tell yourself you can manage because you REALLY want to lose a couple pounds, or not be such a hyper spazz, or you would like to have a relationship with a real person instead of your computer screen. People fail at this all the time, and I think it is because instead of turning their attention towards their new PRIORITIES, they refuse¬†to shift their mindset from focusing on sacrifice, and they get stuck.

When we prioritize something, we put our attention toward that thing. We focus, we concentrate, we engage, we emphasize. Take a quick minute right now and look up “sacrifice” and “prioritize”. Go ahead, I’ll wait… isn’t it interesting that these two words are basically opposites that mean the same thing? If we prioritize any behavior, by default we can’t do anything else. Instead of focusing on what we are giving up (sacrificing), we put our energy towards the choice we made and the behavior we perform.¬†¬†If we choose to make something or someone important, then we make time for them. Period. If we talk about things we want to do, then those words must be expressed in action, or the words are null and void. Placing value on priorities allows you to look forward in a process, rather than constantly looking back to remind yourself all the stuff you “sacrificed” to be where you are now. Do you understand the difference?

We have so many¬†opportunities to pay attention to how we live and what we do. We have limitless opportunities to choose something to improve. How does each decision¬†build on the previous? How do patterns present themselves and repeat themselves? How do those little parts of the process add up to something larger or more profound? The idea I’m talking about here is complex and it requires effort and it forces us to choose what our priorities are, and it forces us to live what we believe. Here’s an idea: let’s make choices in life based off what we want and what will bring us the most happiness. Try it. Pursue activities that make you¬†feel alive. ¬†Do stuff that makes you¬†use your body and mind in all the myriad ways Nature intended. Choose to interact, choose to reach out, choose to connect.¬†¬†When we focus on the joy in the decisions we make, rather than decrying all the stuff we are missing out on, we are able to find happiness easier. Yes, it is true there will be stuff you miss out on, we can’t do everything, all the time. However,¬†we can PRIORITIZE what will bring us happiness. We can choose to be happy with our struggle, let go of our “sacrifices”, and relish the small accomplishments that add up to large success.

Here is a cool article that ties in well with what I’m talking about here, check it out: The Brutally Honest 6 Reasons You Are Still Overfat

I’d love to hear how you are progressing in the New Year so drop me a few lines and let’s start a conversation! What are you prioritizing this year? Let me know! As always, thank you for reading my words, and for participating in the Living Revolution!! Until next time…

Peace.Tobias.

 

Book Review: “The Sex Diaries Project” by Arianne Cohen

Hello and welcome to the Living Revolution!

Today’s post will be short and sweet because it is only an introduction. If you haven’t yet heard of Arianne Cohen, I suggest you check out her website www.ariannecohen.com. She writes on a wide array of topics, from being the tallest girl in the room to how to create a more organized cubicle. She brings a catchy sense of humor to her journalistic endeavors, and her perspective is both interesting and entertaining. I’m telling you all to check her out because I just finished reading her excellent book, “The Sex Diaries Project”.

That’s it, right there ^^^. Essentially, the book is a peek inside the collected (private) sex lives of modern Americans. A plethora of different relationship types are represented, and Cohen adeptly uses this large sample group to elucidate a few important common themes and practices that can be found in almost every relationship. Throughout the book, Cohen shows how people’s sex lives are driven by the shared needs, wants, and desires of individuals in a relationship and how dysfunction in a relationship (sexual or otherwise) is usually a result of unfulfilled needs and miscommunication. She also shows how sex can be used for a variety of different purposes, depending ¬†on the context of a given relationship. The personal, private nature of the diaries add a sense of share-humanity to this collection, and I found myself relating to more than a few of these candid stories.

Okay, I’m going to stop there. This book as a great read, and I am sure you will find something valuable in this book that you can apply to your own life. If this topic sounds a bit too risque for you, then I encourage you to check out some other works by Arianne Cohen, including “Help, It’s Broken: ¬†A Fix-It Bible for the Repair-Impaired”¬†and ¬†“The Tall Book: A Celebration of Life on High”. If you do check out this book, drop a comment here or send me an email and tell me what you think about Sex Diaries. ¬†As always, thank you for reading my words and participating in the Living Revolution :).

Until next time…Peace.Tobias.

Proficiency, Efficiency, and Excellence

proficiency = a high degree of competence or skill; expertise.

efficiency = the ratio of the work done or energy developed by a machine, engine,etc., to the energy supplied to it, usually expressed as a percentage.

excellence = the fact or state of excelling; superiority; eminence.
Hello, and welcome to the Living Revolution ūüôā
  The definitions above have been simplified, but I think it is hard to miss the meaning of these powerful words. How grandiose!! How magnificent!! The synonyms go on and on, but I want to talk more about the ideas represented by these three words. These terms were brought to mind after I attended a local weightlifting seminar, but as I ruminated on what these words mean, I was inspired by how they can be applied to any and all aspects of life.
When applied to the sport of weightlifting, or more broadly, the concepts of human movement, these terms follow a simple progression: develop proficiency first, maximize efficiency, then achieve excellence. Again, in terms of sport, every championship team and Greatest Of All Time athlete possesses these attributes. They dedicated their lives to developing a high level of proficiency, they supplied the passion to refine their chosen craft to leave behind only what brought success, they endured the gauntlet of challengers to establish their superiority.
  I started thinking about these words, and I started to get a little bit pumped up. I mean, what would happen in your family, your community, or the world, if we all started pursuing our lives with these ideas in mind? What if, even in the simplest tasks, we sought to develop expertise? What if we did even common tasks uncommonly well?
¬† Some of the worst parts of humanity stem from apathy and indifference. Our darkest moments are when we choose not to participate because of laziness or disinterest. Instead, let’s continue to evolve, and pursue excellence in all aspects of our lives. From the most mediocre task to the magnificent adventure, let’s begin to cut away the unnecessary bullshit, and strive for optimal efficiency. For every little action, for every little movement, for every posture and position you encounter throughout your daily life, I challenge you to develop unrivaled proficiency. Go out in the world today and BE AWESOME!
  Do you have some amazing ideas about how to apply the ideas of proficiency, efficiency and excellence? I would love to hear from you!! Drop me a line at tobias.shea.livingrevolution@gmail.com, or leave a comment below. Also, you can find me on Instagram now!! @livingrevolution (duh.).
¬† Thank you so much for reading my words, and as always, thank you so much for participating in the Living Revolution! Until next time…Peace.Tobias.

Learning Gratitude

Welcome to the Living Revolution ūüôā

First, I want to say “Thank You”. Many of you have been reading my words and interacting with me for a few years now, and our on-again off-again relationship continues to give me reason to think hard about how I live my life. You hold me accountable, you provide a sounding board for my thoughts and rants, you give me feedback about how you live life, and through all that, we establish and maintain community. Many of you I see in real life, and we further strengthen our bonds with face-to-face interaction. For all of this, I am exceedingly grateful. So, again, “Thank You” :).

Which brings me to my point today. I don’t see enough gratitude in the world, and I am here to say we need more. I am here to say we need to think more grateful thoughts, we need to speak more grateful words, ¬†we need to start living more grateful lives and acting out gratitude on a person-to-person level. This is not rocket science, and everyone reading these words has the ability to change the world in a positive way by fostering gratitude, and living more grateful lives. Here’s why I think this is important…

In a quick search on the interwebs for definitions of “gratitude”, I also found an extensive list of antonyms of gratitude. For those who may not remember from middle school English class, antonym means “opposite”. A brief list of antonyms of gratitude include the following words: boorishness, callousness, censure, condemnation, disloyalty, ingratitude, rudeness, thanklessness, thoughtlessness.¬†Each of these words, in turn, has a list of synonyms (words with similar meaning), but I am sure you get the point. If ¬†you don’t know what these words mean, I encourage you to look them up, read the definition, and then feel how you react to those definitions.

A common theme between all these words is the idea of separation or dis-integration. When you condemn someone you pass judgment on them, and place yourself above them in a hierarchy, separating yourself from them. When you are disloyal to someone, you betray their trust, you break the bond of faith, and separate yourself from them. When your behavior is callous, rude, or thankless you show people you are insensitive, unsympathetic, lack manners, and you separate yourself from them.

I know I have experienced something like these negative feelings in my life, and I assume, many of you have as well. I know that I treated people unpleasantly as a result of my own selfishness and narcissism. I know I missed opportunities for genuine connection with other people because, I made the choice to react callously or thoughtlessly. I know I experienced a less-fulfilling life in those moments when I am not paying attention to how truly blessed I am.

This is unacceptable. ¬†In those moments, I haven’t set a good example for others to follow. In those moments, I’ve missed an opportunity to make another human being feel good. In those moments, I allowed my ego to cloud my thoughts, to disrupt my flow, to set me at odds against the rest of humanity. When I selfishly put myself in my little box that is all my own, when I choose to withhold gratitude, I separate myself from potential connection, from relationship, from community. ¬†I FAIL.

Human beings are social creatures, by nature. Even the most introverted soul requires some measure of positive, real-life, face-to-face interaction with other human beings to live a healthy, happy, fulfilled life. When we consciously choose not to express gratitude, we suppress that urge for connection. When we choose to not be thankful, we numb ourselves against the vulnerability and openness that giving thanks requires. When we choose to be grateful for this thing over here, but not that thing over there, we allow those minuscule fissures of separation to take hold, and it only gets worse from there. So, let’s not do that, okay?

I need to be clear here, and be very specific about how we are all going to start practicing gratitude. I need to be specific because some people may take my words and put them in tiny, separate boxes, and may decide they only want to express gratitude “when it seems appropriate”, or “when it makes sense”. But, that simply won’t work. We need to start being grateful for EVERYTHING.

Start with the easy parts. Be grateful for your home, food, income, family and friends. If you don’t have these, or if you have reasons you aren’t grateful for these things, you may have a larger issue that needs to be addressed!! Next, extend your circle of gratitude beyond “survival-mode”. Be grateful for your smartphone, the internet, the beautiful sunrise, and your favorite pants. These things are all helpful and useful, and it doesn’t take too much effort to be grateful for them. From here on, things start to get difficult…

Extend your gratitude outward to the annoying acquaintance who won’t stop talking to you while you are in line at the coffee shop. Extend your gratitude toward the telemarketer who calls to sell you life insurance,¬†just as you sit down to dinner. Be grateful to the cyclist who brazenly chooses to ride in the middle of the lane instead of merging to the side so you can pass. Now, you are on the right track, but there is more still…

 Choose two or three small challenges or problems in your life, and consciously express gratitude for lessons the Universe is teaching about yourself  as you navigate these challenges.This part may take some practice and a little time to get used to. You will need to be more mindful of how you interact with other people. You will need to practice holding your tongue, and filtering your thoughts, and formulating conscious response to situations and people, instead of simply reacting to situations and people. You know, THINK. Use the fore-brain that supposedly put us at the top of the evolutionary ladder, and take charge of how you perceive the world around you, and how you interact with the other agents of the Universe who exist here with you.

Finally, you need to bring your awareness to the people and situations that are actively bringing “negativity” to your life. I use quotation marks, because defining something as negative is simply a matter of perspective, and you can always change your perspective. Did someone you love just die? Be grateful. Did the ceiling of your bedroom fill with rainwater, then burst and disintegrate above you in the middle of the night? Be grateful. Did a fake African prince hack your bank account and steal thousands of your hard-earned dollars? Be grateful.

This will not be easy. This will expose nerves you never knew you had. But this work is necessary. This work is worth it.

However, most of us will never get to that last part. Because it’s hard. It requires effort. It requires practice. It is a pattern of thought that goes against the “me, me, me” selfishness and insecurity so common in modern society. I can’t say much to convince you of this truth. But I can say this: if you never make the decision to express gratitude to the negative stimuli in your life, you never open yourself up to potential gifts, graciousness and healing that result from coming out the other side of those challenges. Missing out on all that potential awesomeness is truly a tragedy.

Wow. Okay. That rant turned in to a novel. I hope you all get my point. I’d love to hear your tales of gratitude, and maybe even some lessons you learned from choosing to make yourself vulnerable, and choosing to invest the time and effort ¬†to say “Thank You”. ¬†As always, thank you for reading my words, and for actively choosing to participate in The Living Revolution. Until next time…

Peace.Tobias.

On Redefining Masculinity

Welcome to the Living Revolution ūüôā

Well, friends, I survived October.¬† The last couple weeks have been an incredible trip, fraught with emotional perils like I’ve never encountered. Much of my internal universe has shifted significantly and continues to bend, flex, contract and expand as I process these new feelings and all the excellent information I received from the friends and family with whom I sought counsel. I am looking at the world through a very different lens as I write this now, and I want to share with you some of what is going on in my head :).

Two stories in the popular media grabbed my attention this month. First, a¬†communal act of bravery and unselfishness demonstrated by a team of middle school football players. The second, a bullying scandal from another¬†football team, the Miami Dolphins. The actors in this story are, by most conventional definitions, considered adults. The actors in the first story are boys, just delving into puberty, young men, at best. Both stories are emotionally charged, but they inspire feelings on opposite ends of the spectrum of human behavior. The Dolphins story pisses me off and makes we wonder how some human beings are infected with so much negative energy and darkness they forget how to treat¬†the people around them¬†with dignity and respect.¬†The first story inspires me and reminds me there are good things happening all around us, and changing the world in a positive way still takes place on a person-to-person level. It makes me ecstatically happy to see compassion, camaraderie, courage, and love acted out by children who probably don’t yet understand the gravity and influence of their actions.

In light of challenges I’ve been working through recently in my personal life, I am looking at these stories and asking questions about what it means to be a “man” in both these situations. What impact does gender have on stories like these? What are the cultural implications for men when we recognize these kind of stories on a national level? What kind of precedent is the current generation setting for acceptable male behavior in modern society? What changes must be made now for men who wish to live healthier, happier, more fulfilled lives? What lessons must we teach our sons to ensure they won’t suffer¬†or create suffering as a result of their emotional immaturity and ignorance?

Here is the link to the blog article that got me thinking about all this:

http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/9939308/richie-incognito-jonathan-martin-miami-dolphins-bullying-scandal

Here is a link to the story about the middle school football team:

http://elitedaily.com/news/world/can-learn-lot-middle-school-football-team-video/

I believe we are all familiar with how our culture and American society views and expresses masculinity, and how this culture defines being a “Man”. Boys are taught to be tough, to go for the kill, to compete, engage and destroy. Men are reminded to never show weakness, to suppress emotion, to grow beards and build muscles,¬† to overcome, pillage and conquer. These notions and ideas are antiquated leftovers, the dregs of a mentality that has little practical applicability to modern culture. However, these ideals persist, and we find the negative consequences from this kind of thinking in aspects of culture ranging from professional sports to politics to business. Problems arise when our men and boys don’t see these attributes and behaviors as metaphors, but rather as tangible characteristics they should develop and express. Problems arise when we forget to teach our boys and men¬†how to temper aggression¬†with¬†empathy, sympathy and compassion, and how to turn off the “killer instinct” when it is inappropriate. ¬†In the sport-specific examples above,¬†we forget these men and boys are playing a game,¬†not fighting a war, and we forget the “ripple effect” these stories have as they reverberate through our collective consciousness.

For¬† my part, I will tell you where my focus has shifted. While I value my “masculinity’ and what it feels like to “be a man”, ¬†I am also learning how to subvert this way of thinking and open myself up to expressing my manliness in ways that have nothing to do with aggression or violence. For example, I am learning new ways to express¬† humility toward my partner and my children through the¬†domestic endeavors of daily housework. I am learning compassion and patience from my kids, as I attempt to understand life from their perspective, and frame our interactions knowing they are still figuring out¬†how this crazy world works. ¬†I am learning more about trust and love as I work to make myself emotionally vulnerable to my partner and my intimate friends. I am stretching my boundaries and learning about courage by pursuing my desires without attachment to an outcome, but rather enjoying the process and the journey of what my life is right now.

None of this is easy work, and I am confronted by challenges on a daily basis that make me sit down and think hard. But, I’ve recognized the value of this work, and I continue to see positive changes in my own behavior, and I continue to recognize how my positive energy impacts the people with whom I interact. So, I am writing this post for a few reasons. If you are male-gendered and reading this, I encourage you to check the links I posted and feel how you react to these stories. I want you to turn a critical eye inward to determine where you find yourself on the spectrum of human behavior. Do you embody and express empathy, compassion, and sympathy in your everyday life? Why or why not? What example are you setting for other men,¬†OR if you are a father, what example are you setting¬†for your children?¬†If you are female-gendered and reading this, I want you to check the links, and think about how you interact with men in your life. Do you continue to accept and allow aggressive, offensive, hurtful behavior in your daily life? To what standard do you hold the men in your life? How can you take action to teach men this nastiness is unacceptable and it is time for a BIG CHANGE?

Ultimately, this isn’t a gender issue, but a HUMAN issue, and I understand that we all need to be working to prevent behaviors like bullying, racism, aggression and interpersonal violence. We all need to be working harder to proliferate behaviors of kindness, compassion, empathy and sympathy, because life is already hard enough, without any added interpersonal bullshit.¬†This post is part of my commitment to change, both in my personal life, and in the world around me. Won’t you join me? Thanks so much for reading this, and for participating in the Living Revolution :). Until next time…

Peace.Tobias.