Written by: Coach James“No matter how good you are at something, or how you rank your accomplishments, there is someone out there who makes you look incompetent. You’re a good cook, but there are many great chefs. Some Mafia don has a tackier yacht than you. Some obsessive CEO has a more complicated self-winding watch.” – Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for LifeIt’s human nature to want to compare ourselves to others. We tend to envy those who have the things we want or who embody the qualities we feel lacking in. While the comparison can inspire us to do great things, it can also cause us to flee, or worse yet freeze, when faced with our own shortcomings. In what may seem like a stark contrast to last month’s newsletter article where we talked about the value of friendly competition, this month I’d like to focus on the most important opponent we should be facing: ourselves.There’s a Nobel prize-winning concept in behavioral psychology called the Dunning-Kruger Effect, which established a relationship between perceived and actual ability in a given task or of knowledge in a certain field. What they found was that people have a tendency to learn a little about a subject and then develop an overwhelming sense of confidence (read: arrogance). However, as they continue to develop their understanding, they often realize just how complex the subject is, and their confidence plummets to a point at which they feel as if they know nothing. On a long enough timeline, and with enough effort, they’re able to regain their confidence, but never to the degree it was when that individual was truly ignorant at the start of their journey. Shown graphically, it looks a little something like this:I’ve used this framework to outline and understand a lot of experiences in my own life. I still remember the first time I saw a photo of someone in the bottom of an Overhead Squat. It was 2007, and the person was a Houston Rockets cheerleader with what looked to me like 135lbs overhead (I later realized it was 65lbs and those were bumper plates), and I thought to myself, “I can squat over 300lbs, surely I could do that!”. I quickly loaded 135lb on a barbell and unsuccessfully tried to get it overhead with a wide grip. I was immediately humbled by the experience, but I was determined to figure out the ‘secret’ to this movement. Through CrossFit, I learned about the Snatch, but my shoulder mobility was so bad I couldn’t do an overhead squat without putting my hands against the collars of the bar. I was young, reasonably strong, and extremely stubborn, so eventually I learned to muscle my way through a really ugly bodyweight Snatch. It felt like a huge accomplishment, and I entered my first Weightlifting competition in July 2010. Although I won my weight class, there was a lifter there two classes lighter than me and lifted considerably more. For me, it was the first time I’d been introduced to any real competence in the sport. After diving deeper, I realized that there were guys out there my size lifting twice as much as I could and thought I should probably just give up right then and there. I loved the sport though and started training solely weightlifting. I saw a good amount of success and even qualified for some high-level competitions. A few years into the sport, I found a coach who made me question everything I thought I knew, and basically made me start from scratch. I relearned everything from the ground up, and although it took nearly two years to see any real progress, I eventually snatched over 300lbs and placed 4th in the country at USAW Nationals. But even at the peak of my performance, there were still guys lifting as much as 10% more than me.It took me nearly 4 years to realize a goal I set for myself in 2012, and once I had accomplished it, I expected to feel elated. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Throughout my career, I had constantly compared myself to those around me and felt like my achievements in the sport were never good enough. I let my ego get the best of me, replaying over and over in my head that I was one lift away from a medal, one tiny mistake from walking away, from standing on the podium of the National stage. Instead of taking a much-needed break, I kept pushing harder and harder which, as many of you know, eventually lead to a pretty severe back injury and a lot of forced time off. Since coming back, however, I’ve done my best to forget the numbers I used to lift and start anew. I scale workouts frequently, and I have to say I’m really enjoying falling back in love with the process, one day at a time.When you’re first starting off a new endeavor, especially one as metric driven as CrossFit, it’s easy to get caught up in the numbers and compare yourself to those around you. Someone will always be stronger, faster, more mobile, etc, and that’s exactly the way it should be. All of us need someone to push, someone to chase, and someone to inspire. Each one of us has our own journey and potential, and it’s up to us to remember to always compare ourselves to who we were yesterday, not who someone else is today.