A Few More Things I Learned…

Exactly one year ago, I received an email request for review of 2012.  As I sat down at my computer to review the year, I found that I had writer’s block.  In past encounters with writer’s block, I would start by making a list of ideas about the topic at hand.  So, after brief contemplation, I began drafting a list.  The result was powerful: the “42 things I Learned Leading up to 2013″ went viral and, in just 3 days, TTMJ had over 100,000 unique views of my impromptu list.

Again this year, I received an email request for a recap of 2013, or a reflection on the 2012 list- were the things I learned still true? Or do I have anything to add to the list?

In TTMJ style, I will do both.

The List of 42 had a profound effect on me this year.  Whenever I encountered a challenge or crossroad, I tried to apply what I knew and see if the event would reshape my point of view.  2013 might have been one of the most difficult and trying years in my last 37.  The joy of having children has added a layer I never could have expected.  But between being a dad to two wonderful two year old twin daughters, a husband, and having three full time jobs that require international travel and 80-100 hours a week of work, to say I have been busy is an understatement.  2013 was a year of growth and a year of learning and this list encompasses both of these.

1.  Never stop training.  The minute that you allow the mindset of “the gym will be there tomorrow” to permeate, the wheels fall off.  Time is a cruel mistress.  She is unforgiving and does not accept excuses or mediocrity.  Walking into the gym each day is your way of kicking Father Time in the balls while reciting lines from a Dylan Thomas poem at the top of your lungs.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on that sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

2.  Seeing children experience the holidays for their first time renews your faith in humanity.  My girls had their first real Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas and needless to say it sparked something in me.  I had become a grinch over the last bunch of years, turned off by the mass commercialism and consumerism that has taken anything I remembered as a kid and curb-stomped it like the scene in American History X.  I found myself in the Disney store buying costumes, putting up Christmas lights before Thanksgiving, buying each of a 7 foot inflatable Pumpkin, Turkey and Santa Claus and taking my kids on drives at dusk to see the neighbors’ lights.  No matter how many times we drove the neighborhood, their laughs and screams of delight never ceased.  Christmas morning, I saw my girls open up two Tickle Me Elmo dolls.  They laughed and pushed on his midsection for hours.  This was ironic because the Tickle Me Elmo is the pinnacle of mass consumerism when in 1996 the little red doll that shakes when he laughs reached cult status caused fighting (and even riots) and was sold out for the rest of the decade.

christmas-vacation-chevy-chase-family-car-under-truck

3.  Life is a stage and everyone, whether they know it or not, decides which role they play. Who are you going to be?  The Rock in Fast 6?  Brad Pitt in Fight Club?  Or Jesse Heiman*?  If this is your blockbuster, look the part, act the part and be the part.  Don’t stand around getting upstaged by some extra working for bagels and free coffee in your movie.  Don’t talk about, be about it.

“Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.”

Power-Athlete-The-Rock-CrossFit-Football

*If you ask who is Jesse Heiman, then the point was well made.  Google him now. 

4.  No matter how hard you try, you cannot “out supplement” a bad diet.  I get countless emails asking about which supplements to take, as if there is some magical supplement out there that will fix your problems.  There are supplements that work, but many that don’t.  The one thing I know is, if food quality is not at the top of your list, all the shaker bottles in the world won’t fix it.

5.  Mediocrity is the full length fur coat you are wearing when you get thrown into a fast moving ice cold river…wearing lead shoes.  My team at work hears me say repeated,  ”nothing destroys a body, a mind, a business, will or relationship like mediocrity.”  Don’t be ordinary when extraordinary people get to have so much fun and go cool places.

Fuck mediocrity.

Power-Athlete-Fuck-Mediocrity

6.  Live in the moment.  To paraphrase Lau Tzu, “if you live in the past you are sad.  If you live in the future you are anxious.  If you live in the moment you are content.”

In football, you must live in the moment: the play that is happening at that instant is all that is important.  You cannot think about the sack you gave up two plays ago or you are going to give up another one. You can’t worry about the 3rd down pass rush that might be coming in the 4th quarter. If you start thinking about it now, your biggest fears will become a reality.

Be present.

7.  If you use the internet for anything more than booking travel, make an effort to master proper written communication skills; do not abandon grammar and spelling. The written language is taking a beating that would make Stalin flinch.  New mediums of communication like text messaging, IM, iMessage, social media and unedited blogs are causing damage that can only be likened to a supernova in our solar system.  For those of you who didn’t take Astrophysics at Berkeley, is a bad thing.

Raiders-Fan-Bad-Grammar

8.  Money won’t make you happy.  But it does provide a freedom to live your dreams without worrying about where the rent is coming from.  Last month, while on a work trip with a friend, he revisited a topic we discussed years ago:  is too much money a bad thing?  He had asked about the seemly endless amount of money in the NFL and can it really make people happy?  I told him that some of the richest people I have met and worked with were the unhappiest and emotional bankrupt people on the planet.  And their seemingly endless spree of money spending was just an attempt to mask their own unhappiness with consumer crap.  I watched guys and girls buy more shit than I thought was possible for one person to own and never seemed content.  These high ticket items provided a momentary distraction from the reality of their lives.  But as soon as the shine wore off the new watch or car and they realized they were the same person, they would buy something else as a distraction and the vicious cycle would continue.

CrossFit-Football-John-Welbourn-Bundy-Steve-Everret-Doug-Brzenzinski-RC-Daytona-Bike-Week

About 10 years ago, I was in Daytona Beach with Bundy and we took a ride up to north a dive bar in Ormond Beach.  As we walked out the patio, we heard a band playing some familiar songs.  It was Lynyrd Skynyrd doing a warm up show before playing on the beach in Daytona to 100, 000 people the next night.  As I sat there with 9 fat drunk bikers and Bundy, I heard Johnny Van Zant sing, “Simple Man.”  Usually, that song was just a 5 minute pause between “Give me 3 steps” and “Free Bird”, but that night, it had a profound and lasting effect.

Mama told me when I was young
Come sit beside me, my only son
And listen closely to what I say.
And if you do this
It will help you some sunny day.
Take your time… Don’t live too fast,
Troubles will come and they will pass.
Go find a woman and you’ll find love,
And don’t forget son,
There is someone up above.

And be a simple kind of man.
Be something you love and understand.
Be a simple kind of man.
Won’t you do this for me son,
If you can?

Forget your lust for the rich man’s gold
All that you need is in your soul,
And you can do this if you try.
All that I want for you my son,
Is to be satisfied.

Boy, don’t you worry.
You’ll find yourself.
Follow you heart,
and nothing else.
You can do this,
if you try.
All that I want for you my son,
is to be satisfied.

Be a simple man.

Simple-Man-John-Welbourn-Power-Athlete-CrossFit-Football

9.  ”We fail at the margin of experiences” and “We don’t know what we don’t know.” are two juxtaposed thoughts that I have encountered in 2013.  The first quote is credited to Greg Glassman, creator of CrossFit, and the second I attribute to the movie, “Zero Dark Thirty”.  As people make their way in life they encounter problems.  They solve these problems based on a few simple procedures.  They either work within the frame of their past experiences, ask someone whose opinion they value, or shoot from the hip and guess.  Usually, it is combination of all three.  The outcome, whether positive or negative, will shape the next decision and the next and the cycle continues.  Herein lies the problem with knowing your margins: margins can lead to limitations, limitations become boundaries and eventually become the Grand Canyon.  Don’t be afraid to fail at the margins; the margins are where the game is played and kings are crowned.  Nobody ever wrote a book or made a movie about the guy that played it safe.

Fuck safe.

10.  ”Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.”  Archimedes was assassinated 2250 years ago by a Roman solider while his village was pillaged.  His quote is more relevant today than anytime in history with the rise of the internet and communications.  I have long viewed Talk To Me Johnnie, Power Athlete and CrossFit Football as my lever and fulcrum.

2013 has been an eventful year for Power Athlete and CrossFit Football.  My team and I traveled to 4 continents and certified close to 1000 new CrossFit Football coaches.  While 2013 was a success, it was a year of laying the groundwork and creating the foundation which will shape our direction for years to come.

The new CrossFit Football site is launching today.  This site has been 5 years in the making and I want to thank Luke, Harry and Kyle for making it happen.  In the next few weeks Power Athlete will be launching a membership site for those that really want to “suck the marrow” out of this training system.  We are putting our finishing touches on the content and it is especially exciting for me as it is the culmination of 5 years worth of work..

Riding on the success of the Wade’s Army donation for shirt effort for the last two years, we are taking Wade’s Army to another level by creating a charitable organization, 501c3.  Now we can offer tax deductions to our corporate sponsors and individual contributors.  We are planning on sponsoring events and making a difference in the fight against Neuroblastoma.

Personally, I have two books to finish writing.  The first is a cookbook with my good friends, Charles and Jules from Paleo Comfort Foods; this book will be a big dose of the Power Athlete Diet mixed with a ton of great recipes for Power Athletes around the world.  The second book is the Power Athlete Training Manual, and it is long overdue, but much like everything in life, the best things take time.

“The future is promised to no one”

John

John Welbourn is the creator/operator of CrossFit Football and Power Athlete. He is a 10 year NFL veteran. John was drafted with the 97th pick in 1999 NFL Draft. He went on to be a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999-2003, appearing in 3 NFC Championship games, and for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2004-2007. In 2008, he played with the New England Patriots until an injury ended his season early. Over the course of his career, John has started over 100 games and has 10 play-off appearances. He was a four year lettermen while playing football at the University of California at Berkeley. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Rhetoric in 1998. John also is owner of CrossFit Balboa, an S&C gym in Orange County, CA. CrossFit Balboa is one of a handful of Westside Barbell certified gyms in the world. In addition to training MLB, NFL and other professional and Olympic athletes, John travels the world lecturing on performance and nutrition. You can catch up with John as his personal blog on training, food and life, Talk To Me Johnnie.

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Posted in Aggressive, Talk to Me Johnnie | Tagged , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

28 Responses to A Few More Things I Learned…

  1. ac jones

    Great post, not the usual news years stuff you see everywhere, but great points all round. That spelling error in the fortune cookie mediocrity pic is making me cross-eyed somehow though…

  2. Hellz 2 the yea, Johnny!

    I play this song to my son ALL the time!

  3. Anthony

    Awesome! Thank you for the excellent article/ programming/ everyday awesome look out on life.

  4. john

    I love Back To School. I took a poetry class in college an Dylan Thomas was one my favorite poets. Thomas Moore was another.

    The Last Rose of Summer

    ’TIS the last rose of summer
    Left blooming alone;
    All her lovely companions
    Are faded and gone;
    No flower of her kindred,
    No rosebud is nigh,
    To reflect back her blushes,
    To give sigh for sigh.

    I’ll not leave thee, thou lone one!
    To pine on the stem;
    Since the lovely are sleeping,
    Go, sleep thou with them.
    Thus kindly I scatter
    Thy leaves o’er the bed,
    Where thy mates of the garden
    Lie scentless and dead.

    So soon may I follow,
    When friendships decay,
    And from Love’s shining circle
    The gems drop away.
    When true hearts lie withered
    And fond ones are flown,
    Oh! who would inhabit
    This bleak world alone?

  5. Jerad Mochel

    I read your “42 things” post about once a month. This will be added to the repertoire. Your words often strike a chord with me. Just want to say thank you.

  6. Steven Platek

    John,

    Really inspiring stuff; thanks brother!

  7. Luke

    2014… the year of Power Athlete Nation!

  8. Daz

    Nice John,
    I’ve an appreciation for poetry, but this is all I can ever remember;

    There once was a man from Belgrave,
    Who kept a dead whore in a cave,
    He said, ” I admit, I’m a bit of a Dick,
    But think of the money I’ve saved”

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  10. Mex

    @Daz. That movie also immediately popped into my head while reading this . haha…don’t what that says. Maybe I should read more. Back to School is great though.

    pumped to see all the new stuff coming out!

    Great work John, and thanks for all you’ve shared with us

  11. Great recap and first part hits home with my Dad. He needs to get back in the gym and regain his strength. I already shared this with our CrossFit Farmland community. Looking forward to 2014 and CFFB.

  12. Matt

    Great post….I caught the misuse of a word (wrong their) in the section right after the your rant on grammar….I don’t care….thought you may.

    “And >there< seemingly endless spree of money spending was just an attempt to mask their own unhappiness with consumer crap."

  13. AJ Belch

    love TTMJ and all the PowerAthleteHQ posts, great lists, great programming. I’m real pumped for 2014 and what it will bring for CFFB and PAHQ.

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  17. Tim Riggins

    Good stuff as always. In regards to number 7 everyone should pick up the book elements of style . I forgot how to write with all the texting.

  18. copper

    John,

    This message resonated with me. I am a 53 year old police officer and have been following Crossfit Football almost since the beginning, and prior to that I had been Crossfitting since 2001 and training in one form or another since I was a teenager, and have been committed to a healthy lifestyle in which exercise and proper nutrition have been an important part of that lifestyle. In mid October of 2013 I suffered a stroke while doing a morning workout during the DWOD portion of the workout (the DWOD involved rounds of pullups, pushups, double unders). At any rate after spending about a week in hospital, I was released and allowed to return home. with instructions that the only physical activity that I was allowed to participate in was walking. My wonderful spouse, knowing that recommendation would not sit well with me made me promise that I would follow the Doctor`s advice. I was very fortunate and blessed that I didn`t suffer any debilitating physical or cognitive deficits as a result of the stroke. As you so eloquently put it in your message,` FUCK BEING SAFE`. In less than two weeks after being released from hospital, against Doctor`s orders, I began back on the path of my physical training regimen. In the early morning hours after my spouse went to work, I began doing 300 pushups daily on the floor òf my bedroom, when I didn`t stroke out as a result of the exertion, I said to myself, `OK, I`m good to go` and repeated your slogan ÌRON SHARPENS IRON` as I continued my daily morning ritual of 300 pushups and slowly worked up to 600 consecutive bodyweight squats. It has now been a little over two months since the stroke and I am doing well and recovery is going well. I look daily to your site for inspiration in anticipation to soon wrapping my hands around a cold heavy barbell, although the Doctors are still telling me that may have to wait a few more months before I can do that. To that I say `better to live one day as a lion, than one hundred days as a lamb`.

    FUCK BEING SAFE

    Regards and keep up the great work.

  19. Copper

    Thanks John,

    Solid advice to anyone. As I have learned after close to 30 years of policing, Stupid is as stupid does, and there are old cops and bold cops, but no old and bold cops. Rest assured that the physical training that I am currently doing, which consists primarily of bodyweight calisthenics, rowing the erg, and kettlebells, is with the approval of my health care team. As I noted in my original message, I look forward to when I can wrap my hands around a cold and HEAVY barbell.

    fair Winds,

  20. Philipp

    Great post like everytime!
    I’m looking forward to get your first cookbock!
    Like you said, the best things need time, but do you have a clue when it will be done?

    Thank you John!

  21. jeremy

    Good stuff,
    My mom gave me a Lynyrd Skynyrd cd when I was in high school. I don’t usually like classic rock (I think my parents wore it out for me when I was a kid) but their cd ‘legends’ is a great album. She will occasionally text me just 6 letters… BASKOM, to remind me to live a good simple life.
    The “fuck safe” remark made me think of a quote I heard while watching a documentary on capturing giant squid on film. I wrote it down but cant find it right now, so here’s a loose memory what one of those scientists said… “youll never achieve success unless you risk failure, and youre not risking enough if you don’t fail a few times”. beautiful.
    thank you for all your work on these sites you maintain

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  26. I love what you wrote here. From not accepting mediocrity to living life in the moment, it should be common sense, but everyone gets so wrapped up in having things. I love the blog and love your attitude.

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