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.



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