The Notepod #3 – “Chasing Excellence”

This week, I’m talking about Ben Bergeron’s book “Chasing Excellence

If you have Netflix and also don’t like reading: check out The Redeemed and the Dominant. I watched this midway through and you get some of the behind the scenes.

How do you write an entertaining nonfiction book?

I definitely wanted to keep reading. The narrative is following two of his athletes as they compete in the 2016 CrossFit games. (They both also win.) Each chapter focuses on a characteristic (Commitment, Grit, Positivity…) that’s needed to win the games. Then the chapter usually jumps from the present day event back to the months of training in a session where they focused on that movement.

Would you start with someone with above-average talent or someone who’s mentally tough?

The book focus on the mental side of competing at that level. Everyone that makes it to the games is physically world class. Nobody there is perfect.

From “Chasing Excellence”:

“Given the choice between coaching an athlete with above-average talent or one who is mentally tough, it might surprise you to hear I’d pick the former. Not because I believe talent is more important, but because I know I can teach someone to be mentally tough.”

As much as I like the idea that you can practice and work hard to become great at something, there are limits in different disciplines.

I always like the simplicity of the NBA comparison. If you want to make it to the NBA, it’s better to start with a 6’5″ who is mentally weak than someone who is 5′ and 10x tougher mentally.

It reminded me of this Greg Jackson quote in Sam Sheridan’s “The Fighter’s Mind

“Mental toughness is learned. It’s not a skill that everyone has, or is born with. There are people that are born tougher than others mentally, or figure things out earlier in their life. But if you have motivation you can acquire mental toughness, it’s just about what your body gets used to putting up with.”

Why is it a good thing to get some experience at the top level?

Because you might realize you’re already there. “Chasing Excellence” mentions Mat Fraser not qualifying for the Games earlier in his career:

“At the North East Regional that year, Mat, a former Junior National Weightlifting Champion, did well in events involving moving a barbell, but had obvious holes in his game. He finished fifth overall, two spots out of contention for the Games. Instead of being demoralized, he was heartened—it was his first time interacting with Games-caliber athletes up close, and he walked away thinking, If I work hard and practice, I could beat them.”

This reminded me of Mark Hunt’s book “Born to Fight” (which I need to do a Notepod episode on), where he talks about his fight with someone at the top level:

“The bell rang and as I walked back to the corner it occurred to me this prick didn’t even hit that hard – I’d been hit harder than this my whole life. I even managed to drop the dude in the second round with a running leg kick, but as the last seconds of the third and final round ticked away I knew I’d lost on points. In those moments one thought spun around my head over and over again. That was it? The guy couldn’t throw fireballs from his hands or Dragon-Punch twelve feet into the sky or do anything I couldn’t do. If that’s all those guys had, I could get my hands on them. If I could get my hands on them, I could certainly put them to sleep. They weren’t the characters from Dragon Ball Z, and Jérôme wasn’t Super Saiyan”

Have I personally experienced this? Look, no. Not athletically.

But there are definitely those moments in life where you realize someone is human. Or that some group of people is made up of… humans.

(For more on “Born to Fight”, check out these posts. For more on “The Fighter’s Mind” check out this Notepod episode.)