I work as a developer since 1997 (yes, it’s been a long time), and I try to bring most of what I like to my day to day life and if for any reason you follow me on Instagram you know that I’m kinda addicted to crossfit, of course I’m not an athlete, but I’ve found ways that crossfit teaches lots of people skills that I think are really useful in business and life.
In case you are unaware, CrossFit is a multibillion-dollar fitness phenomenon that has taken the world by storm, or at least a big bunch of people, but it is not just that, it can teach you some really good professional and life skills as I’ll try to show bellow.
1. Celebrate every success, even small ones.
It is widely accepted that being humble is a good thing, but that is nothing wrong with being happy about your achievements, there are many coaches that tell you do do it, many self help books, and I honestly think that it will help you’r life and your career.
If you learn to celebrate every small success, you’ll keep your motivation, and your happiness.
In crossfit we celebrate every time someone learns a new ability, every time someone beats their past 1RM (1 repetition maximum, it is the maximum weight one person can use in only one repetition of one specific exercise), and it happens all the time, because if you are training, you will be better next month than you are today.
We celebrate the fastest one in workouts for time, and we also celebrate the last one because they kept pushing until they finished.
This means that if you go for one week to a Crossfit gym, you’ll celebrate lots of small achievements, depending on what was your fitness level when you got there, you’ll celebrate different things, but I’ve seen people celebrating their first pull up, push up, the first time they completed 10 reps of one exercise, the first muscle up, the first time you finish the daily WOD (for more than a month after I started at crossfit I was not able to finish the daily workout in the specified time)
And after you learn this in the gym, you should apply this to everything in your life!
Celebrate small goals, no matter how small they are, celebrate delivering a feature, the first day you did pair programming, the new cool library you just learned how to use, one day/week/month without bugs in production, that your project had less bugs reported than the previous period, that you’ll be presenting something for your coworkers, anything that you wanted and achieved.
For this to work, you need to define small goals, small steps to improve, things that will challenge you but you can achieve.
2. Don’t let difficulty defeat you.
Somethings will simply be difficult, but they are not impossible, they might seem impossible for you today, but remember the previous item, small steps.
I’ve already achieved many things in the gym that seemed impossible for me, my last “impossible” achievement was doing “double under”, it’s that rope jump that you jump once and the rope goes twice below you. The thing here is that I could not even do single under correctly when I started, then I practiced to do 10, then doing 100 become easy, and now I’m really happy doing 30 DUs, of course I need to stop after these 30 DUs and wait for my lungs to catch up, but this is just one simple thing today that seemed impossible to me, and if I had just set a goal to do 100 DUs I would never achieve it.
In my work it is not really different, English is not my native language, and I’m sorry if I write something wrong here, I really try to make everything correct, but earlier in my career, having a blog in English, or doing a presentation in English seemed like an impossible dream, I’ve first set the goal to start learning English, then to talk to people in English, then to write, and last year I finally did a presentation in a conference in English, and it was a really big achievement for me.
Similar to some workouts in Crossfit, you need to learn to “peace” your goals, if the coach tells you that one part of today’s workout is to do 100 pushups, your first thought might be, I’ll never do a sequence of 100 pushups, but if you do 20 sets of 5 resting between them, you’ll notice that you’ll do the 100 pushups today.
Like in your job when your boss asks you to create a mobile version of the web app that your clients use, and you’ve never wrote one mobile app, you might think today that you can’t do it.
But if you peace the job, split it in small pieces, you’ll probably be able to do it in a lot less time than you initially expected.
The lesson here is, do not let hard things, or impossible things throw you our of your way, just split it in small doable pieces and keep working until it is done!
3. If it’s worth doing, do it right.
No body likes to do things they they do not think are useful, but that is not the point here.
We have one “say” in crossfit: “the way you do one thing is the way you do everything”, meaning that if you do not do the exercise correctly in the part of the class where the coaches are teaching you the movement, you’ll not do it right in the WOD (Workout of the Day).
If you practice it wrong, you’ll do it wrong later, and if you do it wrong later, you might injure yourself.
This has a very direct link with my day job, since I’m a software developer, if I do not write the tests before the software, I’ll probably not test it correctly later, or the code I’ll be writing will not have the same quality as a well tested and testable code, meaning that it will probably present more bugs, and worse than that.
The codebase will be built on less than optimal foundations, causing it to degrade faster and that will probably “cause injuries” to the project later, making the software harder to maintain, causing the new features to take longer to implement and all types of problems to happen.
But if you write test first, write well tested and testable code, in a modular way, you’ll have less problems, new features written faster because you can safely refactor your software…
So, if you’ll do it, if it is worth doing, do it correctly, do it the best you can do, otherwise it is probably best to not do it, because if you do it in a less than optimal way now, it will come back to bite you.
If it doesn’t impact directly your project, it will impact your name, because the other developers that see your code will know you didn’t do your best there, or worse, they might think that it was your best and your name will be trashed.
4. Embrace the suck.
Some exercises are painful no matter what, so get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Pushing endurance to the limit always causes the body and mind to rebel, shouting “Stop!” CrossFitters call that the “dark place” where everything inside wants to give up and shut down. It takes physical and mental strength to push through. There are plenty of office “dark places:” long hours before a deadline, prepping for the promotion that someone else gets, or wondering whether you’re in the wrong career. Instead of becoming frozen in self-pity, bask in the glory of the suck. Let it motivate you to become a better employee, and see bigger results down the line.
5. Embrace the community.
Another really great thing about Crossfit is the community, some people think it is just for professional athletes, but that is not the day to day in any crossfit Box (the fancy name we call the Gym), when you go to a crossfit Box, you’ll see your neighbor, lots of common people, like myself, people that if you see anywhere else, you’ll never guess they even workout.
But that is the beauty, all these people will cheer for you when you are doing a workout that is hard for you! Usually the one that finishes last is the one that has more people cheering for them.
That is usually the complete opposite of what you would expect, people are cheering for the least fit ones, so they keep pushing themselves, the force of the community will help everyone there, and you’ll feel welcome there.
That is probably the most important thing about crossfit, the community inside and outside the box, after you get addicted to crossfit (it probably happens to most of us ??), you look for crossfit boxes when you travel and everywhere you go, people will welcome you there (I’m not talking about the people that get paid for it, I’m talking about everyone that is training there).
And this same community feeling will help you in any career you choose, for example, one thing that will help a lot is going to meetings about your technology of choice, going to meetups, helping who is learning and learning with others. Writing what you know so that others can avoid the pitfalls you’ve already faced.
People will thank you, will remember you, and it will help you probably indirectly in your future.
Going to lunch with people that work with you also helps, for example, I was indicated for my current job by an ex colleague that worked with me in a company around 10 years ago and we used to go lunch together. Then we’ve met a couple of times in conferences about the technology we work with, and when the client needed a developer he remembered me.
Being part of a community, being active in a community, can be the difference between a mediocre and a wonderful career, or even a mediocre and a wonderful life.
6. If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it
If you are still reading, you probably remember the first item in the list, but to be able to celebrate small successes, or even big ones, you need to know you achieved something.
In crossfit we usually annotate somewhere our current achievements, probably most crossfiters will be able to tell you what movements they are able to do and the ones that they didn’t learnt yet, what is their maximum unbroken reps of most exercises, what is their 1RM max of all the weight lifting exercises, …
Of course all these numbers are personal measures, I can’t compare my deadlift 1RM with the big guy in the gym, but knowing what was my last max lift, allows me to celebrate next time when I’m able to lift 1KG more than the last time, knowing that I was able to do 33 pullups, allow me to celebrate when I do 34.
The same apply to anything that you are doing, if your project took 2 weeks to deliver a feature, but your last best time was delivering a feature in 1 month, you need to do a party, but you’ll not be able to do that if you didn’t know that your last best was 1 month.
If your project had only 2 critical bugs reported this month, and the previous month you had 3, you have reasons to celebrate, but if you didn’t had that number you’ll never know you improved over the last period.
If you published 5 articles this month, but you do not know how many you published last month, 5 might be good or bad, if you know it was 4 last month you need to celebrate, if it was 10 last month, you probably need to understand what went wrong, what changed, …
If you measure things, you can understand if it was an improvement, or if you need to review your process.
But beware that the meaning of the measurement is more important than the actual number.
For example, I worked in a company some years ago that had for all projects the goal of closing 90% of the critical bugs found in the project, and after we started doing SCRUM and BDD, in a month we had only 2 critical bugs, and closed only one, meaning we didn’t achieve the 90% goal of the company, and we had to explain to the management why we didn’t achieve the goal, the project was put under review…
All because they forgot what the metric was about and just looked at their dashboard, so it is of course important to measure things to track progress, but do not forget what that number you are tracking is about.
7. (BONUS) AMRAP
Yes, I know, the headline of this post says 6 things and we are in the seventh now, but this is important!
There is one type of WOD in crossfit that we call AMRAP, that means As Many Reps as Possible.
In this workout type, you’ll focus on what you are doing, forget anything else during that period (that might be 5 minutes, 15 minutes, …) and do your best to do as many as possible of that specific workout.
During one AMRAP you’ll not stop to get water, you’ll not check your whatsapp, you’ll not answer your phone, or check your instagram feed, you’ll do as many reps as possible of what you are doing right now.
And this type of focus can help you in any aspect of your life, you can apply this to your family life or to your job, for example, when you are doing something with your children or significant other, how many times did you looked at your phone? Try to focus in the moment, and dedicate yourself to what you are doing right now, you’ll see the benefits of it!
To help apply this to your work, you can try the Pomodoro Technique (I have a post about it in Portuguese, I’ll translate it and post the link here), I think of Pomodoro as a series of AMRAP with predefined interval times (I think we did one of these in a crossfit class this week ???)
There is an ex Crossfit Games athlete, entrepreneur and crossfit Coach called Jason Khalipa that wrote a book about using AMRAP mentality in business and life, and he also did this really good presentation that you can see on youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zO00A9WG26s
Of course nothing that I wrote here is specific from crossfit, those are things that are useful for your career and life that you’ll learn in crossfit, but you can also learn it in other places.
As usual, if you can think of something else that you can learn at crossfit that can help your career, please send me a comment or email.