Succeed Through Practice of the Basics

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Permission to Fail

by Jon Gilson, Again Faster

Give a guy with four pull-ups and two dips a set of rings, and he’ll
pine for a muscle-up.  He’ll pull on those rings two or three times,
confident that the next rep will be the one.  On rep five, his gaze
finds the ground, and the little muscles surrounding his eyes relax.
By attempt ten, he’s defeated, and the swearing starts.

curse of the novice is two-fold.  Along with a wanton desire for
progress comes a concomitant failure to realize that advanced skills
are not the province of the beginner. 

Little attention is
paid to such lowly matters as the air squat while the newly christened
athlete seeks the clean.  The push press is left aside in favor of the
split jerk, and the pull-up gives valuable practice time to the

This phenomenon is unavoidable in our culture of
instant gratification, so there is little point in disparaging our
collective lack of patience.  Without fail, we’d rather be the CEO than
the mailroom clerk, and ambition should not be dampened.

our ring-wielding athlete is unprepared to succeed, and he hasn’t given
himself permission to fail–a surefire recipe for rage.

first step to mastery is preparation.  The dips and the pull-ups need
to be there prior to the muscle-up attempts, or the frustration will be
unending.  Our athlete needs to own the basics, or advanced movement
will never happen.

Even with proper preparation, the athlete
must be willing to fail repeatedly, practicing the impossible until it
is no longer so.  This journey, a seemingly endless parade of
incompetence, is hard on the psyche.  At every moment, it’s easier to
quit than continue. 

The ensuing struggle between ego and
reality is won by the ego more often than not, and practice ceases in
favor of easier tasks and quicker victories.  This keeps experience
within narrow bounds, impeding athletic progress for the sake of
transient happiness.

Recognize that competence lies on the other
side of slogging failure.  Make your preparations, and assault your
target, never forgetting that victory is the end state of persistence.
You’ll find that the curse of the novice is no longer yours, as you’ve
recognized that success comes only by embracing failure at every stage
of the game.


  1. Lisa, John, and company
    This has replaced my other favorite writing by John. He is a potent writer and scholar of real world experiences, and he does justice in articulating the daily endeavors of the average human interested in accomplishing anything other than a average life style. I am inspired to become still more patient, more tolerant of time, and to full appreciate my goals while encompassing the need to fail in order to grow. I understand that through my failure and deficiencies I will eventually master common and complex movements by dedicated practice. I have been humbled in the presence of my fellow Flagstaff warriors fighting their battle of constant work to improve. Patience is not my strong suit, however I can honestly say that I aspire to one day reach proficiency if not mastery within this gym, as well as a father, a worker among workers, a trainer, and a friend. With adequate rest last night I woke up with a strong sense of gratitude in realizing that there are many things I have the opportunity to improve in, and that I belong to a community who really encourages my own personal growth by simply suffering along side of me. I truly hope I return that to all of you. To CrossFit and the CrossFit Flagstaff family: without sounding pansy footed…I am so thankful to know and train with you all.

  2. If any of you watch the main site it seems that our friends Boz and the One World gang are the focus lately. I Adore all of them, really. But when is if CrossFit Flagstaff’s turn? Don’t they know we have the best staff, head trainers, and clients? I’m emailing them for the oversight because the heart of CrossFit lies within us!

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