Outlier Lifestyle Weekly Challenge #2

“You can’t consume much if you sit still and read books.” – Huxley

Week 2: Develop Keystone Habits

An Outlier leverages the power of habit.

Remember that version of your best self? Habits are the daily behavior that permit us to ceaselessly strive towards that self. Habits are also a sort of dislodging and best-self-defeating surrender to craving. Charles Duhigg, in The Power of Habit, claims that habits never really disappear. Instead, we simply edit our behavior loop. For this week’s challenge, we extract a parcel of the book’s thesis – the part heralding keystone habits. Keystone habits provide what we commonly call “small wins.” They help other habits flourish by creating new behavior standards AND they do well in curating environments where positive change becomes contagious (It’s Not a Cult, It’s a Cultureremember?). Effectively, keystone habits start a transformative process. This week’s challenge involves 2 such habits (to be completed daily):

  1. Small Win #1: Make your bed every morning.
  2. Small Win #2: Read something substantial for 30 minutes.
    *You might start HERE with a prophetic and cautionary tale from 1991. What would she have thought about the dizzy of social media?
    *You might also start HERE and HERE if you’d like some Zone Diet reading prep.

At 10 Experience, we attempt to encourage everyone to develop healthier, keystone-like habits. Once we – the collective ‘we’ – choose who we want to be, we all grow towards that purpose. Like a sheet of paper that once folded tends to fall forever that direction, let’s bend our will at growing into the best possible version of ourselves.

Turn the page,



Duhigg, C. (2014). The power of habit: why we do what we do and how to change. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks.

Outlier Lifestyle Weekly Challenge #1

A memory of Tonya M.’s 2017 bountiful generosity.

Week 1: Be charitable

An Outlier understands that the benefit of altruistic behavior is manifold. We choose to highlight only a couple:

  1. It helps others in need. This is the most important and obvious reason for this week’s challenge.
  2. It helps sort yourself out. Not only does this sort of behavior clean up your material world, it also provides an inner cleaning as well. Actions like these lend credence to the notion that we can change the world by first changing ourselves. That can start with your ‘room.’

Yes, your first lifestyle challenge is quite familiar. While your Facebook check-ins carry quite a charitable punch, this week we ask you to do more. It’s simple: donate unnecessary coats/clothes/shoes or any sort of unnecessary-to-you-but-vital-to-others stuff to a local organization (Goodwill, The United Way, local churches, etc). You can google: “charities near me” and find a cache of places.

Do well.

PS: As our tagline reads, we believe fitness to provide inspiration in directions that aren’t vanity related. A touch of virtue signaling is better than a blank check-in. So, when you find yourself trucking a bunch of stuff, take a quick picture and post it to social media. Use the hashtag #10exlife and let’s continue to carve out what the 10 Experience truly means.

On Voluntary Hardships

Once December was a month; now it is a year. – Seneca

Seneca wrote volumes of letters chocked-full of [Stoic] wisdom. And I am wont to describe the holiday season with a more befitting quip. It’s true, unlike any other season, the weeks preceding the calendar change are laced with parties and friends, food and family, and celebratory landscapes riddled with pitfalls (for health-minded people). As a consequence, we fall in. We crawl out. Then proceed as quickly as possible to the next bottom of the next pit. It is, this sort of self-defeating-yet-deliciously-rewarding behavior, almost as predictable as the local radio station’s 48-hour playlist from December 24th through 25th. In other words: it’s normal, it feels good and presents alongside a healthy dose of nostalgia.

From my vantage, the problem starts festering in the cold and gray weeks that follow. The epicurean fountain runs dry and we find the burning flame of the holiday hobnob snuffed-out, lickety-split. The habits developed in previous months are more challenging than they were before. The blandness of ‘healthy’ food, of a more muted social calendar, and the midwinter bleakness of January sits heavily atop our existence. It’s suffering (or the closest thing to suffering we modern Westerners experience) and feels as if we’re on the wrong side of a bad punchline. Now, isn’t this is the season for resolution? And, more, what’s the point of this unnecessary hardship?

In the 1930s, Victor Frankl, a man more familiar with suffering than any of us, developed a theory of logotherapy. Before he could apply it in his psychiatric practice or present it in book form, he and his family were hauled off to a Nazi concentration camp (his family didn’t survive, he did). Through his hardships there, he experienced the dramatic power of his logotherapy. In short, logotherapy is founded upon the idea that humans are motivated by the search for a purpose in life. In his case, brutal suffering ceased to be suffering at the precise moment he found some meaning to it.

*Let me assure everyone, I am not nor would I ever liken the challenges of diet and lifestyle to those of a death camp. Woe is anyone to make light the horrors of the Holocaust.

It’s from Frankl’s lesson’s that we might all better answer to suffering’s purpose. The upcoming Outlier Lifestyle Challenge is sure to present plenty of hardship. Some asks will certainly make you uncomfortable. It’s during these times that I simply suggest we choose to endure them both happily and voluntarily. According to Frankl, we can discover powerful meaning in life in three different ways:

  1. By creating a work or doing a deed
  2. By experiencing something or encountering someone
  3. By the attitude we take towards unavoidable suffering

In the weeks to come, you can expect challenges from outside the fitness box. We will ask you to make sacrifices. But we believe that gratification delayed is a sort of greater gratification. If nothing else, start by conceptualizing the highest good you can – fitness or otherwise. Then ceaselessly strive to attain it. Frankl calls that tragic optimism; beholding the best of our human nature – the ability to turn suffering into human achievement. An empowering concept, indeed.

Where is what you most want to be found? Where you are least likely to look.

(In sterquiliniis invenitur)



Frankl, V. E., Lasch, I., Kushner, H. S., & Wnislade, W. J. (2015). Mans search for meaning. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

Seneca, L. A., & Campbell, R. (1969). Letters from a Stoic. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.


Limits to Growth: A Cautionary Fitness Tale

I recently finished reading another book. Per usual, it prompted some thought about distilling its lessons into ones worth applying to my life and, from what platform I have, ask you to consider in yours. In oversimplified form, the book – Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update –  reads something like this:

Since the late 1900s, sea levels are rising, glaciers are retreating and ice around the Arctic Sea is thinning. Our arable lands and fisheries (75% of them) have been exploited beyond their ability to regenerate and near collapse. These, according to author Donella Meadows and co., are symptoms of a world in overshoot – where society, in a hurry to grow, consumes resources faster than they can be restored and pollutes faster than Earth can render it harmless. All this leads toward collapse, but there may be time to address these problems and soften their impact. 

Let’s begin by defining overshoot. Overshoot, according to Google, is to pass a threshold unintentionally, especially by traveling too fast or being unable to stop. It’s for this reason I find myself compelled to share some curious similarities. While this isn’t a forum to discuss political positions, environmental stance or distribution of wealth, I posit the triggers of ‘overshooting’ growth on a global (environmental and economical) scale mirror those of overshooting on a fitness one. The theoretical essence of growth is universal after all – there must be a limit.  Meadows reasons that there are three causes of overshoot: first, comes rapid change. Then, follows limits to that change. And, finally we see errors in perceiving limits or controlling change.

The nature of growth, concerning physical change i.e. the development of fitness, follows the same trajection. Join me in following our newest (theoretical) member, Billy Ordinary – let’s call him BO, for short – through an imaginary, and maybe familiar, fitness journey. The same story (relatively) could be told for Billy’s wife – Bobbi, his parents – Bruce and Barbara, and most anyone with untethered notions on growth.

Phase 1: Rapid Change

  • BO decides that 15 odd years of physical complacency, family and career focus have changed him beyond physical recognition and he’s ready to wrestle his body back under control.
  • BO’s buddies tirelessly post about training at a local CrossFit gym.
  • BO decides to join them for a trial.
  • BO wakes up after day 1 and finds himself tender in corners and regions he’d long-forgotten…but he feels compelled to return.
  • BO joins the gym.
  • BO completes a consultation, assessment, and graduates Prep Course.
  • Enlightened, BO ‘overhauls’ his diet – eliminating fast food, most sweets (aside for weekend treats) and saunters off into the setting sun; the one casting shadows on his former life and habits.
  • After a few weeks, BO finds himself a few pounds lighter and stronger. So strong, in fact, that he’s added 35kg to his deadlift numbers.
  • BO knows – the sky is the limit for his fitness’ future.


Phase 2: Limits to Change

  • Months pass (maybe a year or so) and BO finds himself many pounds lighter and almost twice as strong as before.
  • But, BO isn’t quite satisfied. His fitness tool belt should possess triple-unders and a triple bodyweight deadlift.
  • BO elevated his expectations. He sees what’s possible – it’s pasted all over Instagram and Facebook.
  • BO wants to be leaner so he overhauls his diet again. This time it’s for real – if it ain’t Paleo, it ain’t food!
  • Rest days are now a thing of the past for BO. He actively recovers with long runs, hikes and swimming intervals.
  • BO also wants to be stronger. He performs a little internet digging and decides to add some extra ‘leg work’ on his own time.
  • The Smolov Jr. program fits BO’s aspirations just swell.
  • BO knows best – his problems are solved. Ultimate fitness is nigh.


Phase 3: Errors in Perceiving Limits

  • More time passes for BO.
  • BO, in an effort to achieve Instagram-worthy abs, now measures all sustenance entering his mouth. If calories are above his daily allotment – which never happens – he’s ill. But, BO does lose another handful of pounds.
  • BO, in calculating his macronutrient ‘needs’, spent many late nights scouring the web for the perfect macro-nutritional formula.
  • BO is often tired, but that’s just part of it, BO thinks. He often relies on a few extra scoops of preworkout or cups of coffee to ‘crush’ his training.
  • During his late-night research, BO stumbled upon a competitive CrossFit blog. He decides to follow it in addition to his squat template.
  • Speaking of training, BO’s squat increase is negligible, but he skates-by, nearly able to successfully complete the Smolov Jr. program.
  • BO, unsatisfied, opts for the full-blown Smolov program this time around. “If you want more, you have to do more.” – he says to himself.
  • A couple of weeks pass. BO starts the ‘leaning’ portion of his nutritional plan and the peaking portion of the squat template.
  • It’s Tuesday, BO had a horrible and long day at work, but he plans to ‘destress’ during his second training session today.
  • Pressed for time, BO makes some aggressive bar-loading increases during his 5-minute warmup.
  • BO’s squats feel just a bit off. He washes those feelings down with an extra swig of pre workout.
  • BO loads his bar according to Smolov, and begins his first set. The bar feels quite heavy. But, squat he must and be strong he will.
  • On rep 2 of 3, BO looses control and starts folding forward. In an attempt to escape (not drop the bar on himself) he squirrels his way from under the crashing load and narrowly avoids catastrophe.
  • BO stands and feels a twinge in his back, but it’s not immediately painful. Frustrated, he makes a good decision – the first in sometime – he heads home.
  • The next morning, BO finds himself struggling to sit up and out of bed. His back hurts badly. Bo thinks, “What did I do to deserve this?”
  • BO knows – he’s sidelined himself with a serious injury.


It’s obvious that BO needed something in which to believe – he chose himself, his own fitness (might we all choose such benign pursuits). It’s easy to lose something in our haste to remake ourselves: a sense of limits, an awareness of the importance of our body’s resiliency and, ultimately, its limitations. The extreme case of BO makes a number of obvious points. Like proponents of endless growth on a limited planet with finite resources, BO overshot his target: fitness as he defined it. Ignoring obvious signals (losing sleep, lowering calories, increasing stress through training, overwhelming periods at work, etc), he made unsustainable choices and was literally forced into a fitness ‘recession.’ To steal an analogy from Meadows, the difference between a sustainable [fitness and BO’s] is like the difference between stopping an automobile with the brakes versus stopping it by crashing into a brick wall.

No matter the physical quest (be it competitive fitness, injury rehabilitation or, simply, to live long and prosper), I believe it our responsibility to create opportunities for education on the pursuit of, and provide an opportunity for, sustainable fitness. Opportunities that meet the needs of the present self without compromising the vitality of future ones (remember A Curious Case for the Morality of Fitness?). When successful, fitness becomes a medium for real, unlimited growth (inspiration and fulfillment). Then we might turn the consumptive corner to see a most satisfying vision: the purpose of existence is much greater than physical expansion, consumption and accumulation. Perhaps we might even entertain the idea of ‘negative’ growth – to undo excess. And in the name of something greater than ourselves, drop below limits and stop behaving in ways that cost more than their worth.

Such is my hope.


G- ———> formerly known as BO


Meadows, D. H., Randers, J., & Meadows, D. L. (2010). The limits to growth: the 30-year update. London: Earthscan.



A Curious Case for the Morality of Fitness

A few months ago, I blindly stumbled upon a podcast that scratched a yet-to-be-cured itch. And a philosophically profitable misstep it was. This was my first introduction to Jordan Peterson. Peterson is a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of Toronto (formerly tenured at Harvard). In 1999, he authored Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief, a book I’m currently slogging my psychologically-ignorant self through. But lately, he’s garnered more acclaim, among other things, for his lectures on The Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories. It’s from one of these talks that I attempt bridging my clearly biased notions to his.

Jaak “The Tickler” Panksepp

During the lecture, Peterson discusses research pertaining to the social behavior of rats at play. The researcher, Jaak Panksepp, discovered a ‘play mechanism’ existing within the brains of juvenile rats (he also discovered that rats giggle!). These young rats roughhouse and tumble with both larger and smaller opponents. Individual rats win this game by ‘pinning’ the other. Simple enough, right? However, and this is where it becomes curious to me, for the game to continue in the future, the weaker of the wrestling rats must ‘win’ at least 30 percent of the time. If not, he quits playing. In fact, when rats experience excessive winning or losing, the game effectively ends quelling all future play. Is this an argument for Mickey Mouse morality? Maybe.

Distilling Peterson thoughts into something more digestible – life isn’t a singular game. It’s a set of games. To receive invitation to the game today, tomorrow, and in all the days that follow, one must ‘play’ – winning and losing – so that they’re permitted to participate in the next 100 games. In other words, for rats or otherwise, some moral rules of engagement apply beyond today’s game.

How does a group of playing rats relate to fitness? For me, this points to an argument for what Peterson calls a meta-truth. A transcendent truth, if you will. While we aren’t rats, the same morally conscious behavior can be applied broadly to our capricious pursuits of fitness. Like the rats, our game – fitness, in this case – isn’t a singular day, test or workout. It’s a set of training days over the course of our exercising lives. We must participate – win and lose – so that we’re permitted to continue training throughout the next 100 cycles. Granted, we aren’t directly competing with our buddies. Instead, we wrestle to find balance between our two-headed ego – the current one demanding a PR-at-all-costs today and the future one hoping for physically vibrancy 10 years from now. Both selves need to win often enough to strike a healthy balance. This means we must avoid viewing today’s success or failure in a vacuum.

To be clear, this is a far cry from a nod at mediocrity. Instead, it’s a call to action for high-order thinking, an intellectual fitness. If we win today at the cost of all tomorrows, how meaningful is winning?

Perhaps, there’s such a thing as fitness morality…perhaps not. Regardless, I believe the line of thinking to be an extension of a bigger one. But, when we whittle at our behaviors daily, they’re wont to assume a recognizable pattern. I realize the philosophical leap I’m taking. Regardless, it seems pertinent and worthy of thoughtful investigation. Jordan Peterson, my philosopher king, might advise us to live in accordance to the rules which we would have become universal law. In other words – live and stand in our own truth. Besides fitness, what might we achieve if we started playing all life’s games this way?

And that’s the moral of the story,



Dr Jordan B Peterson, Professor of Psychology & Clinical Psychologist. (n.d.). Retrieved September 01, 2017, from https://jordanbpeterson.com/

J. (2017, June 06). Biblical Series III: God and the Hierarchy of Authority. Retrieved August 30, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_GPAl_q2QQ&t=5932s

Social deprivation and play in rats1. (n.d.). Retrieved August 30, 2017, from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0163104780910778


10ex Enough: Captaining our Soil


As some of you know, last year’s trip to Polyface Farm highlighted a need to amend a number of my consumptive habits (at least if I planned to continue standing in my own advice-giving truth). In the almost-12-month interim, I’ve done a fair share of agricultural-based reading, plucked some of the lowest hanging behavioral fruit and sewn some, what I posit to be, responsible seeds of changes. Now, I’m far from espying the pinnacle of Mount Salatin, but I choose to believe I’m slogging my way towards responsible citizenry.

A few months back, one of Trista’s coworkers, knowing my penchant for #HOAhusbandry, sent a book my way. I found its title, Ten Acres Enough, just curious enough to whet my reading appetite and peeled in. Its remarkably eloquent author, Edmund Morris, recalls his personal motivations for moving his family away from Philadelphia’s perpetual hustle to rural New Jersey in order to ‘learn to be content and happy’ on ten acres of land. Morris’ story, as you probably expect, speaks directly to both chambers within my heart of hearts – the risky business side and the pursuit of happiness side alike. From my agrarian readings, the book was remarkable. Rest assured, I don’t intend to beguile everyone into starting a garden (but, you should!). Instead, it’s my opinion that lessons from Morris’ nineteenth century pastoral practices might also shed light upon the recipe for cultivating our character…or what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature.

Awareness: No man conquers a farming difficulty until he sees it plainly.

If we fail to curate a degree of self-awareness – whether you’re after weight loss, muscle gain or improved health – it’s likely we’re pruning away the buds of success. Tired of a creaky knee or achy back? Can’t quite shake those last 10 pounds? Stuck at the same Snatch load for the last 6 months? Taking an objective and critical look at daily behavior is the key to solving such riddles. Developing awareness is a skill in itself – one that, like our gardens, requires little acts of honesty performed often.

Responsibility: If you would push a crop through, look after it yourself.

After tooling ourselves with the spade of awareness, we must learn to wield it skillfully. Clearly, the responsibility to make necessary changes lies with us alone. If you would prefer to lose those 10 pounds, solve the riddle of chronic pain or literally ‘push’ a PR through, look after it yourself. A garden won’t weed itself…and the man who refuses to take responsibility for his problems has no advantage over the man that fails to identify them.

Mastery: Let every foot of your farm show the touch of refinement.

https://10exlife.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/IMG_6224-e1500574812913.jpgThe well-tooled and responsibly-skilled practitioner is just now on the path to harvesting this coveted change. Only after accepting the truth, can one supplant these ideas to everyday behavior. If knee or back pain derives from a broken movement and responsibility for modifying movement is ours, we must refine this behavior. Like building a rich soil, those traveling along the path of self-mastery – a complex and profound place – can count themselves fortunate after realizing that for every mile traveled, their destination lies two miles further.

I’m wholly aware of the tired ‘reaping and sewing’ farm cliches. But the principles of husbanding small plots of the land and those of refining the corners of human character aren’t too dissimilar. Through this lens (Morris might agree), nothing about life is commonplace and nothing is the in-between. The threads that join our every act and our every thought are infinite. If we permit it, many a happy and enjoyable moment can come between the slices of everyday work in the field or on ourselves. And as such, those things giving life value, be it gardening or fertilizing the human experience, ‘can be had for nothing…[they come] as gifts from Providence, and neither air nor sky, nor beauty, genius, health or strength can be bought or sold.’ Whether these grand and humanizing quests are aimed at food production or towards personal perfection, it is our hope that with a sound approach to fitness and philosophy, you find our teachings and your daily interactions at 10 Experience enough.

Masters of our fate…captains of our soil,



Leonard, G. (1992). Mastery: the keys to success and long-term fulfillment. New York: Plume.

Morris, E. (2012). Ten acres enough: a practical experience, showing how a very small farm may be made to keep a. Place of publication not identified: Hardpress Publishing.



Uncle Warren’s Principles for a Profitable Life

A number of my recent readings have pointed at shoring-up a personal blindspot – financial intelligence. As I wander into my, wait for it…middle-aged years, it seems prudent to have a more comprehensive understanding of financial fitness. Don’t worry, I don’t intend to bore you with fiscal jargon or involve much discussion in the way of money. And, by no means, should this dissertation imply that I’ve any sort of command on the situation

Early in my folly, I was lucky to be pointed towards Warren Buffett. Too obvious, right? I’m certain, you’re well-aware of the mountain of wealth he’s responsiblefor possessing. I was too (his net worth tips the scale a bit over $76 billion). However, I was less aware of his more mountainous and equally impressive wealth of knowledge. To quote a friend, the man is a proverbial, “fount of knowledge.” Much like his fortune, he liberally distributes this mental capital en masse via letters to his shareholders. These investment letters, laced with scores of wisdom, provide the principle from which I withdrew larger and over-arching truths about living from him, the Oracle of Omaha. I believe these lessons, and countless others, to be an investment worth everyone’s study.

Lesson 1:

“Run your business as if: (1) you own 100% of it; (2) it is the only asset in the world that you and your family have or will ever have; and (3) you can’t sell or merge it for at least a century.”

Let’s start by treating our body as if we own 100% of it – we do! Obviously, it is the only one we will ever have. And, like it or not, our family will depend on us for many years. Moral implications aside, we certainly can’t sell nor merge ourselves, but too often we might rely on ‘selling out’ to dependence on pharmaceuticals or ‘merging’ through invasive surgery and repair. In a nutshell, the responsibility of living long and well is ours and ours alone. The sooner we accept these terms, the earlier we’ll observe profit from taking ownership of our fitness and life alike.

Lesson 2:

“It is better to be approximately right than precisely wrong.”

We – as investors, exercisers, parents, friends, no matter the hat we don – need to do very few things right as long as we avoid big mistakes. Think about this in terms of proper movement or generally sound nutrition. It’s sometimes less seductive – this sticking to basic principles or known ways to success. Trendy, get-rich/fit-quick fads are the perpetual rage in the fitness and investment world. Yet, calling someone who follows the latest hypo-caloric diet trend, exercise program or life-hack a champion of fitness is, like Buffett quips, “like calling someone who repeatedly engages in one-night stands a romantic.” The lemming analogy seems appropriate here. A follow-the-herd mentality, especially when steering the business of your fitness, is almost always bad. What the wise do in the beginning, fools do in the end.

Lesson 3:

“It’s very important, always live your life by an inner scorecard.”

Enduring fitness, and I dare say happiness, is won by those who focus on both the quality and diversity of their time’s investment (read as: movement, nutrition, recovery, longevity) – not by those whose eyes are glued to the leaderboard. If we can enjoy Saturdays and Sundays because we haven’t checked Wodify scores or stepped upon the scale, might we give it a try throughout the week? This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t strive to improve on an objective scale. We should! Aiming at perfection is much akin to navigating by the North Star, it’s not a place we’ll ever reach, but it provides a guiding perspective for our travels.

Whether in the gym or our objectives otherwise, our energies are only able to be fully expressed with investment of our most valuable, nonrenewable resource time. Buffett has been quoted ad nauseam on compounding interest and it’s relevance to growing his compounding assets. I tend to agree; not concering my meager wealth, but in relation to an ever-profitable existence. Let us consciously chase these pursuits with the long-game in mind. Like Buffett in his annual letters, I’m compelled to share, in my greenhorn way, how I think so that you can evaluate not only our success as a fitness business, but also assess our approach to management and life in general. When we’re consciously judicious with how we invest time – with whom, doing what, and thinking of – we are sure to notice long-term gains in the caliber of life’s experience.

Still carrying fire,



Buffett, W., & Cunningham, L. A. (2015). The essays of Warren Buffett: lessons for corporate America. Washington, DC: Laurence A. Cunningham

Carry the Fire

Recently, one of you suggested I read Cormac McCarthy’s, The Road. I’m glad you did. In 2007, McCarthy won a Pulitzer for it. Ten years later, he won a piece of my heart. Like other dystopian texts, the plot is based in a post-apocalyptic world. In it, a father and son push a cart full of scavenged food along a frozen and dangerous road filled with ‘bad guys’ on their journey to the coast. The father teaches the boy only what he deems necessary in relation to the world in which they find themselves. He instructs him in physical and survival skills. But, most importantly, he teaches him how to ‘carry fire.’ It’s a dark and powerful narrative that meditates on both the good and bad extremes of human nature. It’s gut-wrenching, but’s also enlightening.

I want to be with you.

You can’t.


You cant. You have to carry the fire.

I dont know how to.

Yes you do.

Is it real? The fire?

Yes it is.

Where is it? I dont know where it is.

Yes you do. It’s inside you. It was always there.

For me, parts of McCarthy’s lessons were analogous to the conclusion of this year’s Outlier Challenge or, truly, any challenge we face (lucky for us, our challenges aren’t all dark and survival-based). On our respective journeys, we meet opportunities in which we might, in moral terms, choose be a good or bad guy. Eat junk. Skip sleep. Mindlessly watch tv. Glaze over a smart phone. Collect things for things’ sake. Forgo learning. Zone out during conversations. Destroy Mother Nature. Sometimes, we take the easy road. This year, like in year’s past and likely the future, it’s my hope that you too will choose to carry the fire. Choose to live in a way harmonious with some unspoken creed, one better serving you and those you touch. And why? For nothing more than the sake of goodness, for purpose…because, like Dostoevsky once wrote, ‘For the secret of man’s being is not only to live but to have something to live for. Without a stable conception of the object of life, man would not consent to go on living, and would rather destroy himself.’ McCarthy has left us plenty of fat to chew, lest our posterity truly find themselves in a world resembling his road.

I choose to believe that you, the #423nation, are a principled lot and are both stubborn and adventurous, yet independent enough to consider ideas contrasting your own. The unnamed father in McCarthy’s novel said it best, ‘Remember the things you put into your head are there forever…You might want to think about that.’ Perhaps, next you find yourself slipping into a behavior that mightn’t’ serve your ‘head’ or higher purpose (read as: eat an entire pizza, a dozen donuts, and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s), you might instead curate the fire you’ve carried for the last 6 weeks. It’s inside you. It was always there.

Think we’re simply working on fitness? I think we’re working on concepts.



Dostoyevsky, F., & Garnett, C. (1912). The Brothers Karamazov. New York: Macmillan.

McCarthy, C. (2006). The Road. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.



State of the #423nation: What is 10Experience?

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As December winds toward end, I find myself reflecting on the year’s happenings. What were my mistakes? Successes? How could I have been more productive? From what experiences might I take lesson? Am I happier? Does life look the way I’d like? Collectively, we (coaches) are equally as curious about the gym’s dealings. How did our service improve? Did we evolve? Where’s opportunity? What are our blind spots? And, holistically, does the daily experience align with our stated purpose?

It’s with such thinking that we began whittling out some tough thoughts concerning the heading of our ship, the #423nation. Below you will see a picture of the commemorative mugs. They honor and celebrate the longevity of our faithful members. The OG’s, if you will. Printed on the mug is “10EX” – 10Experience. And a reference to a timeless rumination from beloved philosopher king, Marcus Aurelius. My task for this spiel is to share the meaning of those words in a possibly circuitous way and bring you all further into the fold…because in the end, like the Uncle Buffett asserts, we must have people to match our principles, not the reverse. Stay with me…

I’ll start with an aside from a recent book I’ve read – The Alchemist. In the story, a shopkeeper sends his son to learn the secret of happiness from the wisest king in the world. The young boy wanders in the desert for many days before finally coming upon a beautiful castle atop a mountain (where the king lives). After entering this castle, the boy sees a hive of activity. Orchestras played and business teemed from in every nook. The wise king conversed with anyone wishing to gain his ear and, thus, the boy faced a considerable wait. Finally, hours later, the boy had his chance to explain the nature of his search – to learn the secret of happiness. But, the king didn’t have time just-then to explain the secret. Instead, he suggests the boy look around the palace and return in 2 hours. In the meantime, the wise king does require a task of the young boy, “as you wander around, carry this spoon with you without allowing the oil to spill.” The boy saunters off, eyes fixed on the drops of oil in the spoon. After two hours, the boy returns. The king asks the boy about his noticings – of all the beautiful tapestries, gardens and pieces of art. Ashamed, the boy admits he had observed nothing at all. His singular focus was with the oil in the spoon. “Then go back and observe the marvels of my world,” said the wise man. Happily, the boy returns to exploring the castle. This time, he saw the gardens, the mountains and each piece of art within. When returning to the king, he was able to recall, in detail, all he had seen, but had lost the drops of oil in the process. Again, the boy was ashamed. The wise king then offers a piece of advice, “The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world, and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon.”

Our story – 423 Strength & Conditioning, Five Rivers CrossFit and CrossFit 423 –  isn’t too different from that of the parable. From inception, the nature of our business – the gym – was to help as many people as possible. We believed utopian fitness to be the secret of happiness. The best way we knew to serve that purpose was through this novel approach to exercise – CrossFit. Does anyone remember our original catchphrase? Proof. Not promises. The ’secret’ was to make people as fit as possible. We held the idea that you’d better finish every workout on your backside or else you couldn’t claim full effort, much less victory. Like the young boy, we’ve spent a fair portion of time focused too much on the oil: CrossFit competitor training or bust – #hatetheruns, National level Weightlifter or bust – #423barbell. And we’ve spun webs in a number of other wanderlust-like directions. Caveman Kitchen, anyone? Often times, these pursuits, while well-intentioned, didn’t precisely align with the original pursuit – helping people. But, it turns out, they do possess lesson-rich merits.

I suppose the 10Experience is an idea we’ve incubated for almost 7 years. Like the young boy, like Marcus Aurelius, we’ve wandered all over the fitness map and finally realized that we may have found what we’re after: not money or fame, not indulgence, but simply, how to live. Greatness is not a singular quest in fitness or business, it’s a human quest…and it’s a choice we hope [and wish to inspire you] to make daily. What makes a great human? I’m reminded of a quote a friend recently shared:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, [lift heavy, run far, run fast, jump high, live free from pain], die gallantly. Specialization is for insects. – Robert Heinkin

Interesting, right? A short time ago, I had a conversation with a member in Morristown. He posed an equally interesting question (truly, the one leading into this exploration of thought). He asked, “Does your business look like what you wanted 7 years ago?” My answer – not even close. Like artists and chefs and authors, I choose to believe that we, as coaches and teachers, deal in inspiration. Our medium just happens to be fitness. Fitness can be CrossFit, but doesn’t have to be CrossFit. It can be S & C work, Weightlifting, powerlifting, triathlon-ing…but it doesn’t have to be. Our purpose, now more crystalized, is to improve life through the means of fitness – to provide gentle nudges that might yield a better definition to your secret of happiness. Perhaps, if you’re ever asked a similar question about your gym, something like “Is that 423 place what you expected?” We hope you might take pause to answer, “No. It’s 10x better.” Now, that’s the rub! What is the 10Experience? It’s simple: inspiration through fitness.

To the journey,


Coelho, P. (1998). The alchemist. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.



Distilling Some Thought on Resolution

Yea, the season of resolutions has returned. And, with it, renewed zeal for weight loss, inspired hopes to break less-desirable habits in favor of forming better ones, and plenty more. To me, there seems some modicum of logic applied to this behavioral revision. It is the changing of a year, a fresh start, and the pinnacle of the ‘I’ll start Monday’ notions. As one somewhat involved in the health and wellness field, I’ve always found it much more curious. Why not start now? How does a date of 1/1/__ change your intention (assuming there’s merit)? But, I digress…let me clear the air by emphatically stating – I take no issue with New Year resolutions. Wholeheartedly, I support any favorable behaviorial change.

While thinking on resolutions, I inevitably began to dissect the actual word. If you know me, you know I like words – their structure, origin, nature, meaning. You can’t spell etymology without the ‘g’ (nor geek). Stay with me, here…


re – ‘again’ or to move ‘backward’


root word: solve

solve – to work out the answer to (a mathematical problem)

hmmm, to move back and work out the answer again…

There I was, resolved to reducing a common noun into it’s elemental parts, trying to tease out insightful deductions, when it struck me, like an apple to the skull – eureka! Except my epiphany was much, much less weighty than Newton’s (I hope the puns aren’t for nothing). My attempts to find hidden insights are an exact – maybe not exactly – analogy for New Year resolutions. I was taking a simple word and attempting to turn it into something complex. Why? I knew the definition, but I sought intricacy…while possessing proper understanding. We, resolutioners, behave in the same manner. We state a definitive goal of _____. It’s likely we know the path to achieve said goal – just like I knew the meaning of resolution. Typically, the solution involves consistent behavior in alignment with our goal – so simple. However, for some reason, we seek complexity when simplicity would otherwise prevail. In short, we try to reinvent the wheel when it already works rather well. Perhaps during this goal-setting season, we might all consider better tuning our other resolution (see: vision). May we focus on the finer degrees of a detailed life. Life…in technicolor. Anyone?

It isn’t lost on me – the timely nature of this post. Yes, the Outlier Challenge 2.0 is a few short days away. What will it involve? Check your email and review updated rules, scoring and structures. I promise, we didn’t reinvent the nature of the challenge. Why should we? The age-old axioms of nutrition and behavior still ring true.

To err is human to [begin again] divine,