There are certain individuals who are rare in their relentless pursuit of success, conspicuous by their ever-presence and undefeatability. Annie Thorisdottir comes to mind right away. With two titles under her belt, her slow decline has been expected for many years now and yet it never comes. After injuries, disappointments, and a changing of the guard, her chances of winning a third CrossFit Games this year are probably as strong as they have ever been. There is a mental toughness there that can’t be ignored.
This weekend I am in Lisbon to spend time with another legend of our sport who I would put in that same bracket. Jason Khalipa has also won the CrossFit Games, and then spent the following 5 years fighting to get back to that top spot on the podium. He happened to run into the immovable object that was Rich Froning, meaning he had to settle for numerous podiums but never repeating his triumph of 2008. Jason became known as the number 2 guy, the best in the world apart from the champ. Every year people would predict his decline, noting he was too big, the sport has moved past him, he is finished. And yet on Sunday evening in the tennis stadium, there he would be, on the podium yet again. His chase of Froning is the stuff of legend, and was summed up in the now famous scribble on the wall of his home gym…”what’s Rich doing?”. This little message to himself for when he felt his efforts waning came to define his career, and for me, was one of the reasons I became such a fan.
Imagining what the best in the world is doing at any moment in time is what brings me to Lisbon. Jason is now surely one of the very best gym owners in the world. He opened the legendary Norcal CrossFit back in the day, and since has built his organisation to 27 NCFit gyms all over the world and is growing year-on-year. What’s even more impressive is that he built the foundations of this empire while also taking podiums at the CrossFit Games. Since retiring from competition, his seemingly endless energy has been solely focused on building his business and thankfully for me, helping others build theirs. The opportunity to spend time with him and to hear his perspective on my business is one I am very excited about.
To be honest, I am not sure what to expect. The last time I made an investment of this sort was the trip to New England to spend time with Ben Bergeron. The profound difference that made to the gym is almost immeasurable. So much so that I am almost wondering what I’m doing here. I love what we have going on at CrossFit Swords. We have the right people, a strong culture that fits and a facility I am very proud of. The business is healthy, I am personally very happy and we are producing some great athletes. So, I kinda don’t want to change a thing.
And maybe I won’t. That doesn’t mean I want to stop making improvements. What I am interested in are the simple solutions. Like any business, we run into many complex little problems at the gym that always need solving. The process of solving them, while fun, can also slow progress at times and have their own knock-on effects. When you open 27 gyms, I’m guessing a lot of these problems are recurring and become par for the course. I can also imagine that solving them many times and in many different ways brings with it a certain wisdom. It’s this wisdom that I am interested in, the direct routes to solutions, the complex made simple. And simple is what I expect. Hearing his approach over the years, he seems to have simplicity at the centre of what he does, which sounds great to me.
In truth, I have very little interest in owning multiple CrossFit gyms. One great one will do me. That being said, the owner of 27 I’m sure has a lot to teach me, and I can’t wait to get started.