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The movie Catch Me If You Can is based on the life of Frank Abagnale Jr, a career criminal who ended up working for the FBI. At one point in the movie, the main character’s father, Frank Sr, is speaking at a banquet, and he relays the story of 2 mice that fell into a bucket of cream. One of the mice grew weary trying to get out of the cream. The mouse was weak and it drowned.

I don’t know anyone that wants to be the mouse that drowns. I’m pretty damn confident that those reading this blog post want to become the best possible version of themselves. Is it not the reason we walk through the doors of a gym? The camaraderie is amazing and the social aspect is fun. Both certainly help to keep us coming back for more. When it comes down to it, however, the most compelling reason one joins a gym full of iron, particularly a CrossFit gym, it to become awesome.

We all have our own version of what it means to be “awesome”. Body composition changes, independence, fitness competitions, reduced dependence on medications, improvement in one’s overall health; all are valid definitions. Many of us also have questions as to how to do it.

Where do I start?

What is the first thing I need to do?

How do I proceed?

In what order should I arrange the steps.

When does it happen?

How do I ensure continued progress?

The questions are common and reasonable. Without a doubt, we can’t just will our way to awesomeness. We can talk about it, think about it, cry about it, whine about it, and dream about it, but we still cant simply will out way to being great. It takes action.

I made it through Officer Candidates School and received my commission as a 2d Lieutenant. The Basic School, where all newly minted 2d Lieutenants learn how to be a Marine office, is also where they are given their Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), i.e. their job. I was determined to become an Infantry Officer. My Special Platoon Commander (SPC), an officer charged with our instruction and professional development, Captain Fredriksson, disagreed. 3 months into The Basic School he let me know in very clear terms that I was not cut out to be a “grunt”. He was going to see to it that I was made anything but that. To this day I remember the conversation. There are 3 days, when I reflect back on them, that still evoke a visceral reaction from me. 2 July 1992, the day I crashed my motorcycle up on the Skyway. 13 November 2005, the first time I was ambushed. 9 April 1999, the day that man told me I wouldn’t be a grunt. His cold, matter of fact delivery is still fresh in my mind. I told him he was wrong. The unblinking stare combined with curt smile that was not so much a sneer as it was a polite smile that seemed to confirm what was to him fate accompli still puts a smile on my face, though it didn’t then.

I had work to do. I started by studying my ass off. I ensured I knew the orders process (the manner in which Marines convey to their subordinates what they must accomplish). I practiced drill techniques, land navigation, and map reading. I checked weapons out of the armory and practiced taking them apart and reassembling them. I read copious TM’s (technical manuals) and FM’s (field manuals). I practiced writing and giving 5-paragraph orders. I got a few of my fellow 2d Lieutenants to practice squad and platoon sized formations and attacks with me. I built terrain models and fighting holes. I woke up everyday determined to become an Infantry Officer and I ensured that I did something, daily, to make it so. I don’t remember the exact day we were assigned to our MOS, but I sure as hell loved every minute of being a grunt.

This training cycle was not unlike my time at TBS. I wanted to break 500 lbs in my DL and 400 lbs in my BS for the first time, and wanted to get back up to a 700#, 25 yard yoke walk. At the start of the training cycle it had been only 12 months since I had major shoulder surgery. I’m scheduled to get the other shoulder fixed 19 May. I was faced with a few challenges. Questions started to race through my mind. Then I focused. I thought back to what brought me success time and time again through out the years: showing up. Every day, showing up to do hard work.

There was nothing that was going to stop me from achieving my goals for this cycle. I ensured I got plenty of sleep the night before heavy lifts. I kept my diet on lock down. I listened to my body and made the necessary adjustments. And as busy as I was I never caved in to an excuse. I made time for the gym. I showed up and worked hard every damn day that I was supposed to. Many of our athletes were faced with similar circumstances. Some were recovering from injuries, while others were faced with training around them. Family commitments, work challenges, moves, money, the list goes on and on. For those that chose to show up, the rest fell into place and they were rewarded with big personal records.

In the story told by Frank Sr. there were two mice that fell into the bucket of cream. The one was weak and gave up trying to swim. It drowned. The second mouse was a different kind of mouse. It worked hard. It kept swimming and working so hard that it eventually churned that bucket of cream into butter and it walked on out. I don’t know if there was anyone more pleased with me receiving the MOS of Infantry than was Capt Fredriksson. He saw potential in me, but that was all it was, a bunch of unrealized and untapped potential. An astute judge of personality, he told me I couldn’t become what I wanted knowing that it would absolutely make me do what ever it took to prove that I could. He saw that I was in a bucket of cream and he needed to make sure that I was going to climb out. When faced with challenges while in pursuit of a goal put aside the self-doubt and endless questions and use my favorite training technique: show up. Show up and be the mouse that churns butter.

Semper Fi, Coach Robby


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