Burpees: the bane of existence for public school gym students and CrossFitters alike. This simple grouping of movements puts the fear of Pukie into the hearts of healthy, wickedly strong, incredibly fit athletes.
No matter what, the burpee always wins.
But that’s like life, right? To be successful, really successful, you have to work harder than you would expect, do uncomfortable things in ways that are most efficient, and, most importantly, sometimes you have to fight through the pain.
The idea that burpees are an awful lot like major enterprises in my “regular” life came to me, not while I was in the gym, frantically jumping out, in, and up, but when I was sitting behind my computer, weighing very important decisions that would affect the way I run my business. It was mentally tough, it was humbling, and roadblocks popped up in places I would never have suspected. During one of those road blocks, with a blistering headache and the nearly overwhelming desire to quit, I thought…this is exactly what 50 burpees feels like.
Then I thought a bit harder, this is exactly what one burpee used to feel like.
Then I thought just a bit harder, and it became clear: doing a perfect burpee, with intensity, form, and care, is the physical manifestation of what my brain is doing right at this moment.
I finished my task at hand, put the larger decisions out of my mind for a while, and considered the physical movements that make up the burpee. Then I considered the mental maneuvers that – for me – make up a successful venture.
It kind of blew my mind.
For those of you uninitiated into the Cult of the Burpee, here’s CrossFit Moncton’s Kevin Wood showing how it’s done (on the site, you can find demonstration videos of 4-5 burpee variations…each just a bit more sickening than the last):
(Doesn’t look too bad, right? Try doing 50-100 of these…for time.)
STEPS TO SUCCESS IN BURPEES, AND IN LIFE
- BURPEE: Start in a standing position, ready to ROCK.
- LIFE: You have an idea; you are poised to make it reality. You are happy, excited, with lots of confidence and hutzpah.
- BURPEE: Put your hands on the floor and jump your legs out behind you until you are in pushup position.
- LIFE: Feels good to be getting in there, doesn’t it? Getting some traction on your idea, putting in the work, sailing along. This is GREAT, you guys! I can do this forever!
- BURPEE: Drop until your chest touches the floor.
- LIFE: Oof. Ok, I went a bit too fast there, go a bit ahead of myself. But that’s ok because I can always pick myself up again. I am strong and capable!
- BURPEE: Push back up into pushup position.
- LIFE: That was unexpectedly difficult. What the heck? All of a sudden I’m not sure I can support myself here. What have I gotten myself into? No, no, I’m good. I can handle this. I’m good. I’m ok. Just gotta keep moving.
- BURPEE: Jump your feet back up by your hands.
- LIFE: Ow. OW. Why is this so hard? I’m not sure I’m cut out for this. This looks so much easier when other people do it. Other people are successful in this type of scheme. What’s their secret? What’s their trick? WHO CAN I PAY SO I DON’T HAVE TO DO THIS ANYMORE??
- BURPEE: Stand up, and jump with hands over head.
- LIFE: What?? I’m not done yet?? I’m tired. I have nothing left. I just don’t have it in me for one last push… Fine. Ok, fine. Stupid idea. You win. I’ll do it.
- BURPEE & LIFE: Finally, that’s one more miserable, uncomfortable, SUCKY thing over and I am better for it. I did it! Holy moly, I did it!
What I’ve come to realize is that it takes real physical training to do a metric crap-ton of perfect burpees in a row. It takes real mental training to be truly successful in any aspect of your life. No one grows to love burpees (or if they do they know DARN WELL TO NOT TALK ABOUT IT), and no one loves the grind, the pressure, and the stress that comes with doing something of real value. The benefits are extrinsic.
In other words, the only way to reap extraordinary rewards is to embrace the suck.
(There are quite a few other similarities I thought of as I got into writing this post, but didn’t want it to turn into a novella. Can YOU think of any?)