Action Eliminates Doubt: The Beginning of a 10-year Journey

Action eliminates doubt.  I heard this phrase on Mark Divine’s podcast earlier this week as he was explaining how to get motivated to do something you don’t really want to do.  It really struck me and I ended up rewinding and replaying that segment a few times, because it seemed like such a powerful, succinct summary of something I know to be true.  I have coached many athletes in the gym who are anxious about trying something new, or friends that are anxious about stepping out and taking on a challenging role at work with this same advice, though never put as eloquently as this.

Action eliminates doubt.  It’s powerful for me because I know it to be true, and I remember vividly when I finally proved it to myself 10 years ago.

In the spring of 2012, I was dressed in a suit and tie on a plane waiting to take off from BWI, headed to my last consulting engagement at a hospital system in Boston.  As the plane taxied to the runway, I thought of what I had just done, and the emotions finally broke through and tears welling up in my eyes turned into a full sob.  I don’t know if they were tears of joy or tears of relief, but the guy next sitting next to me probably was a bit confused!
A few days beforehand, I had finally signed the paperwork for my new LLC – the company that would become CrossFit Kent Island.  I say “finally” because this action had been several months in the making.  I had done all my due diligence, put together a business plan (at the urging of my more practical partner, my wife Denee!), and decided that I was going to do it, but the anxiety of walking away from a lucrative salary that I had spent the previous 10 years cultivating, and thus the fear of putting my young family at risk, had been burying me in doubt.  All the “what if” questions that you can imagine were constantly swirling in my head.  What if nobody shows up at this dream gym I had concocted in my head?  What if they do show up and they realize that I’m no good at this?  What if I have to crawl back to my consulting gig with my tail between my legs and admit defeat?
At the time, I hadn’t been well-schooled yet in visualizing success with a “win first in your mind” mentality, but the formulating of a plan, with lots of help from Denee and other gym owners who had walked this path, helped me to identify what I optimistically hoped would happen, as well as more realistically where the pitfalls would be and how I could avoid or get through them.  We also agreed on a timeframe at which we would make a “go, no-go” decision on continuing with the new business, or cutting bait and walking away.
I came to realize that my worst case scenarios that kept me up at night would not be the end of the world, and that my plan, if executed well, would give me a good shot – call it 50/50 – of success.  And yet I hesitated.  I hemmed and hawed, and came up with more fake reasons to delay.  Denee had always been the voice of reason, and fed me with all the questions I needed to ask and contingencies to consider, but I knew she was always all in, and it scared me to potentially let her down.  And then she hit me with one more question that pushed me to burn my boats and commit to an all-out frontal assault.

“What if you don’t do this, and then someone else does?”

That Monday morning on my way to Boston for one of my final trips away from home, I was no longer in doubt.  I was nervous, thinking about the amount of work that laid in front of me, but I was excited, and relieved.  All that pent-up negative energy that was holding me back was gone, and I wiped it away with my Southwest drink napkin, and I opened my laptop as I did every other Monday morning and got to work.  But this time, with hands trembling but my mind clear, I was buying a 5-person equipment package on the Rogue Fitness site and negotiating a lease on a 500-sqft warehouse space behind Food Lion.  Next on the list was planning how to sell my car, and sending laughable logo ideas to Denee that started with Poseidon, Greek god of the sea, overhead squatting a trident.

This year marks 10 years that CrossFit Kent Island has been in business, and as we started from humble beginnings and continued to grow, I’ve tried to keep this lesson in mind.  When you’re afraid to do something that you know you need to do – when it’s what you know is the right path for your life – you plan, and then plan, and then plan some more, identifying all the risks and mitigating what is real and dismissing those that aren’t.  And then you act.

Action eliminates doubt.

Happy 10 years, everyone!  We’re going to throw a massive party in July, stay tuned.