“How many can you do when you’re tired?”
That was the question that a good friend asked me once as I was struggling through the end of a workout. At the time, I wanted to pull myself up off the floor and punch him in the throat. But that’s hard to do when you’re fighting off an aneurism, so I ignored him and pushed through the final reps.
But I’ve never forgotten that question.
It’s actually become more of a statement than a question. It’s a challenge to your character, your moral fiber, and your grit. Crossfit changed my life. Not just physically, but spiritually, relationally, and as a leader. Rich Froning, Jr. (4X Crossfit Games Champion and who will be speaking at our Spur Leadership Conference April 15 in Austin) isn’t worried about me challenging his status anytime soon, but the lessons learned and transformation of my thinking me altered the trajectory of my life.
January 4, my wife Julie and I joined a powerful cohort in our church who committed to Fearless30–30 days of reading one Proverb in the Bible every day, and committing to a phenomenal eating plan known as Whole 30. The Whole 30 book by Melissa & Dallas Hartwig explains it all in great detail and tackles the challenges, excuses, and obstacles that torpedo a lot of our half-hearted attempts to wrestle our food demons to the ground. And the Hartwigs bring a great tone and humor to their work as well.
The HIGHLY oversimplified basics of Whole 30 are:
- 3 square meals a day–no snacking.
- Whole foods only–no preservatives, chemicals, sugar-added. At all.
- No added sugar or artificial sweeteners–naturally occurring sugars in fruits and vegetables are fine. But no added sweetener, even in coffee.
- No grains. Wheat (and wheat products, i.e. flour, etc.), corn, etc. are no-no’s.
As Julie and I pushed through the end of Whole 30, I returned again and again to that question-statement: How many can you do when you’re tired?
Like Crossfit, Whole 30 purges a lot of faulty thinking that leads to faulty choosing and living. As a leader, a husband, and a dad, my responsibilities demand that I flush faulty thinking and choosing so that the people I lead and the people I love don’t suffer the consequences of those faulty thoughts and choices.
But the flip side of that is also true: The people I love and lead are the beneficiaries and recipients of service, encouragement, joy, passion, and life when I operate out of functional, healthy, Godly thoughts and choices. There are many that I’m still discovering, but here are four monster leadership lessons from Whole 30:
- Hard choices are easier on a team. During the Whole 30 program, whenever I was especially tempted to cheat or cut a corner, I remembered that I was doing this with my wife and daughter and other friends from church (our son Joseph who’s 19 and has the metabolism of a hummingbird was having NONE of Whole 30). I couldn’t look them in the eye after they had made good choices all day and say, “Yeah…I just felt like having some pita chips…Sorry ’bout it.” Leadership requires hard choices, and the courage to make those hard choices for the good of the whole grows by association. Your team–who you’re around, who you trust, who you allow to speak into your life–is the single greatest factor in your capacity to make hard choices well.
- Hard choices are worth the short-term pain because of the long-term gain. One of the Hartwigs’ greatest lines re: Whole 30 reads like this Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Birthing a baby is hard. Losing a parent is hard. Drinking your coffee black is. not. hard. You’ve done harder things than this, and you have no excuse to to complete the program as written. That hard conversation you have to have with someone you love or lead? It’s worth the acute pain of discomfort to correct or avoid the chronic pain of dysfunction.
- Hard choices get easier the more you make them. Once Julie and I pushed through the first 8-10 days of Whole 30, we realized a couple of things: 1. We can do this–if we made it 10 days, we CAN do 30. And 2. The more we made the choice to stick to the program, the more we saw and felt the benefits of making those choices, so the more we wanted to make those choices. The more we choose to love and lead people well and consistently, the more we see the blessings of those kinds of choices and actions. In addition, the more we live like that, the more people we attract who want to be a part of that kind of life, or family, or business, or church.
- Hard choices are uncommon. The more hard choices you make, the fewer people will want to run with you. We all naturally and instinctively drift toward the course of least resistance. Choosing to fight through that resistance, to embrace that discomfort, pain, or uncertainty is more often the road not taken. When you choose to do hard things, the pool of candidates for your tribe will shrink. But as the depth of your tribe grows, your life, your capacity, peace, joy, and therefore your impact and your influence will expand exponentially. This may sound a little harsh, and it may be even frightening. It’s just true.