Plan for the Worst, but Act to Avoid It

Bottom Line Up Front:  Wear your mask to help prevent a second shutdown.

As rumors swirl around the timing of a second “shutdown” of gyms and other local businesses in Maryland (and a step was already taken to close restaurants early just yesterday), I’ve sensed a feeling of inevitability in talking with our members.  “It’s just a matter of time,” and “There’s nothing we can do about it, they (the government) have made up their mind.”  While those statements could obviously be true — none of us except Governor Hogan’s inner circle could really know — what if they’re not?  What if we can still affect that decision-making process by stopping the spread, again?  My sense is that the scientists and doctors that are advising our state and national leaders are making their policy suggestions based on data.  They don’t want to see small businesses close any more than we do.  But when the public stops following general health guidelines like wearing a mask when we’re around unfamiliar people (in this case literally “not family”), and the virus starts to spread again more rapidly, they are obligated to make decisions based on keeping people safe.  We can’t fault them for doing their jobs.

I think we still have time to turn this thing around, and not follow the states that have already shut down or severely restricted their gyms for the second time (Washington, Oregon, California, New York, Michigan).
PLEASE wear a mask inside the gym while you’re not working out, and indeed anytime you are around people you don’t live with.  I know it’s not the most popular thing in the world, it makes it hard to breathe and you look like a goofball, but if you take a step back those seem like kind of silly reasons not to do something that will positively impact your health.  In fact those are the same reasons people give for not doing CrossFit workouts!
In the end, wearing a mask and taking the proper precautions is all about our community coming together to stop the spread and stop the UN-inevitable shutdown.  With just a bit of personal sacrifice, we can hold the line and once again be a model state with low virus metrics and open businesses, schools, sports, and all the other things we love to do!

Thanks for being a part of our AWESOME team.


Thank You, Veterans

Veterans Day is a special American holiday because it sets aside a day for us all to think about and thank those in our local communities that have stepped up in service to our country.  Choosing to be a warrior, with all of its demands, sacrifices and risks, is no small leap.  There are many other professions that might offer the same excitement, and without the shadow aspect of a violent death being a very real outcome.  Our nation’s veterans, our WARRIORS past and present, are true professionals who embody courage, excellence, leadership, and service.

Today, as our country stands divided over petty political arguments, let us together put that aside and instead take the time to reach out to a friend or family member who has served.  Let’s let them know we appreciate what they have done and will continue to do for our country.  One day isn’t enough, but it’s a good reminder on an annual basis of the daily sacrifices that members of our military make to get ready for war, and then step up to fight and win when their time comes.

Happy Veterans Day to CFKI members Alan, Andrew, Ben, Ben, Bo, Brendan, Bruce, Dante, Emily, Irish, James, Jamie, Josh, JT, Ken, Nate, Nick, Omar, Peter, Robie, Ryan, Tim, Wayne.

Specialize in Not Specializing

“The fitness that CrossFit advocates and develops is broad, general, and inclusive. Our specialty is not specializing. Combat, survival, many sports, and life reward this kind of fitness and, on average, punish the specialist.”
— CrossFit Journal

The finals of the CrossFit Games start in two days, and the people that we’re about to watch compete are the best fitness generalists in the world.  Maybe that doesn’t sound very sexy, but what I think this means is that the winner has a legitimate claim to the title “Fittest on Earth”.  This is especially true if we define fitness as being the most able, on average, to complete any physical task known (or unknown) to man.  The Fittest on Earth should not just be the fastest sprinter or the absolute strongest person in the world.  They should not just be the most gymnastically talented, or be able to swim the longest distance without tiring.  In fact, the Fittest on Earth probably wouldn’t win any of those individual crowns.  But if you had all of those single-event champions compete against each other in the other events, i.e., if the strongest person in the world was put to a long-distance swimming event, the results may not be very good… they may actually be disastrous!

The point of the CrossFit Games, then, is to identify the woman and the man on this planet that rises to the top after a series of very challenging, and very different tests.  CrossFit defines ten general physical attributes that must be trained in order to develop general fitness, which are strength, stamina, power or work capacity, speed, endurance, flexibility, agility, accuracy, coordination, and balance.  These attributes will all be tested and demonstrated by the Games athletes in large doses.

These attributes, and thus our overall fitness level, are also tested during the annual CrossFit Open, the precursor to “The Games”.  The two major results of the CrossFit Open are that the entire CrossFit community (and anyone else that wants to jump in) receive a major annual test (and major dose of humility), and that an international leaderboard is created, at the top of which sit the qualifiers for the next CrossFit Games.

If we strive to do well in our next fitness test, the 2021 CrossFit Open (beginning late February), we must treat ourselves like overall fitness athletes, like the generalists we will see this weekend, and not specialists in one niche of fitness.  We don’t mean to be JUST the strongest, or have JUST the most endurance in our peer group, but we strive to excel at everything.  And those areas where we find ourselves lacking should be our major focus areas when selecting a near-term goal to achieve.  Those of us that have completed the Open before – let’s remember that dish of humble pie that we were served up when “that one workout” came up that made our fitness house of cards crumble to the ground.  Next time that workout or that movement (hello, double-unders) comes around, we’ll be a little bit more prepared for it.  Maybe still not the BEST, but we’re making headway and we’re improving every day.

Looking forward to checking out the CrossFit Games this weekend!  You can watch it on the CrossFit Games site, on their Facebook page, or their YouTube channel.  And check it out on Saturday, 1-3pm, live on CBS!

Train hard, stay safe, and work your weaknesses!


How We Will Make It Through

Sometimes I get writer’s block, and in fact last week I didn’t put anything out there in the blogosphere because there was just a blank space where my right-brain creativity (sometimes) is.  So this week I was all ears, and Denee suggested I write about how we made it through the COVID shutdown.  We not only survived when many other gyms and other businesses didn’t, but we thrived.  Why is that?

In thinking about that question, I first of all stopped myself from believing that we have “made it through.”  I don’t want to throw a Mission Accomplished carrier landing party just yet, as it seems this pandemic situation has lasted a lot longer than most people would have imagined.  So, although our initial “shutdown” period is over and we are operating almost normally, there is always a chance that our operational plan could again be flipped on its proverbial head.

But I’m not worried.  Our CrossFit Kent Island community has thrived during this time, and I think the best explanation why is that we have a shared story.  We are all a part of this story that is bigger than ourselves as individuals, and we all stick together because we want the story to continue.  It’s just too awesome to stop!

The story begins for us when we first walked into the gym and were thrown into a brutal workout experience.  We had never experienced anything like this before, and during the thing, it sucked.  But then we were helped off the floor and high-fived by several smiling faces, all of whom had just gone through the same miserable workout, and they were congratulating us!  “Not many people step up and do what you just did,” they told us.  We were now part of a special team of people that enjoy challenging ourselves physically, mentally, and even emotionally, in order to grow.  Hard Work and Growth became core values that we lived by, and we were Having Fun doing it.

As more new people came into the gym, we learned to take our eyes off of ourselves and look out for them, making sure they felt welcome and encouraged.  We remembered being in their scared, tenuous situation just a few short years, or months, ago.
The good feeling of looking out for our own in the gym made it a no-brainer to support each other when we were in trouble, and the Service aspect of the CFKI story began to take hold.  We have led service projects for fellow members, our overall Kent Island community, and local non-profits that tie closely to our values, with amazing fundraising and community-building results.  We support and help each other when we are in a strong position to do so, and we know that when we are down, experiencing some tough times in our lives, our teammates will be there to pick us up.

Our shared story of challenging ourselves to constantly improve, of suffering through tough times together and being there for each other, is what binds us together.  And we don’t want that to end, so it doesn’t.  You, the CFKI community, bound together and did what you didn’t need to do, which was to help the gym financially by continuing your memberships and working out at home.  We stayed connected through social media (it does work for good sometimes!) and supported each other emotionally from a distance.  We were once again suffering together, and it made us even stronger, and did not pull our CFKI team apart.  This strategy — of continuing our training regimen together but without physically being with our teammates — it could have failed, and in fact did fail at other gyms that did not already have the bond, the emotional connection through a shared story that we have.  This is why I know we can weather any storm that may come in the future, and why I am so proud to be apart of this AWESOME community.

We are at a difficult and rather scary crossroads now as a country.  The heightened tension of the pandemic has added to an already ultra-polarized political situation, with two groups of people shouting exact opposite messages at each other and nobody listening.  We have an opportunity to model to everyone in our larger community the values of supporting each other, listening to each other and respecting the suffering that everyone is going through, and to lean back on a shared story that we all have as Americans.  There have been times in our national history that we have been very connected, and it usually happens after tragedy… shared suffering.  We are truly in an extended “tragic” situation right now, and it’s up to us as leaders, as models of positivity and service to others, to pull our community and our nation through this together, not apart.

I hope you can forgive the quick foray into politics, but I couldn’t push it out of my head and my heart.  This group of leaders, of warriors, of strong but humble, patient and compassionate human beings, has done it before — we have “made it through” tough times. And we can show others how to do it again.


Leadership: Be a Copycat

Last Sunday a few of us completed a GORUCK Challenge event, one of many that I have done over the past few years.  In trying to count them all, I’m coming up with 10 GORUCK events that I’ve been a part of, although there may be more.  It started when someone at GORUCK HQ called me not long after we opened our doors at CFKI in 2012, looking to partner with CrossFit gyms on this new “Challenge” event they had come up with.  I asked them what it was all about, they said basically to bring a backpack full of bricks and you’ll find out when you get there.  And bring as many friends as possible, this is going to be a team event.  12 hours overnight in Baltimore, getting wet in the Inner Harbor and then sandy at the base of Federal Hill, carrying a giant telephone pole through East Baltimore, and bringing 15 individuals together as a team through shared suffering, and I was hooked.  Well, maybe not immediately — if you would have asked me right after the event I would have told you that was the hardest thing I had done to that point in my life and I should probably settle back into 15-minute AMRAPs.

But I was hooked, apparently, and not because I enjoy pain (I don’t) or even rucking long distances (I don’t think anyone really enjoys that).  It was the leadership lessons that I learned from being temporarily in charge of the group (the instructor would make people the Team Leader for a while, and then rain down criticism and a chance to try again when you messed up), and also the leadership qualities I admired in the instructor, Cadre Chris Sanchez, a Recon Marine veteran.  Chris taught me, and all of us, the value of tenacity in getting things done — he had to ask several Inner Harbor-stationed police officers before he found one that would allow us to get in the water.  He reinforced in me the value of humor when you’re going through a difficult situation, shouting “how are those kipping pull-ups helping you now, CrossFit?” when I was struggling under the log.

Overall, the instructors at GORUCK all have different leadership lessons that they are hoping to impart on their crews during a Challenge event, and I have benefited greatly from those direct lessons.  But it is really their individual characters and their personal leadership qualities that I have become drawn to, and what keeps me signing up to learn more.

There are a few other leaders that I have stuck close to over the years, and although they may not know it, have become my mentors.
One is Jason McCarthy, the founder of GORUCK.  A Special Forces soldier turned backpack designer, he started GORUCK with the idea that everyone should have a “go-bag” or “go-ruck” with essential supplies in case of an emergency.  And he wanted to bring the quality gear that he enjoyed in the military to the civilian world, in the process bridging the gap between the two communities.  From Jason, mostly through his writing but also in the few personal interactions I’ve had, I have learned how to communicate clearly and directly, and how to be transparent about what is really going on.  GORUCK, like every company in the world, has had its share of up’s and down’s, and the transparency with which he shares bad news just as readily as good, without complaining but just out of a sense of “honesty is the best policy”, has kept his community super tight-knit and growing all the time.

Another is Jocko Willink, former Navy SEAL Commander and now leader of the management consulting group Echelon Front.  One of the scariest dudes you can imagine, not only because of his accomplishments in the military but because of his intimidating presence and the constant scowl on his face.  I can just imagine his grade school pictures.  From Jocko I’ve learned a couple things.  The first is something also intrinsic in my own personality but he takes it to a whole new level — he is a man of few words.  Listening to one of his 3-hour long podcasts, you may “hear” him pausing for effect… for 10 seconds.  When a few of us saw him speak live in DC, he started his on-stage presentation by just sitting at a desk and reading letters.  To himself.  Eventually he spoke about those letters from WWI soldiers home to their wives, but for a solid 5 minutes there was no sound.  I’m not saying I’m going to coach a CrossFit class like that, but damn!  That was powerful.
The other lesson I continuously learn from reading and listening to Jocko is that you have to take ownership of everything that is happening in your organization.  If something goes wrong, and you’re in charge, it was your fault.  Someone was not properly trained, or was not given clear instructions on what to do in that situation, which falls back on the leader.  A leader that understands this and truly embodies it will grow other leaders in the organization with the same mindset.  I’m still working on this one, but I’m lucky to have many other leaders at CFKI that step up and take ownership when I drop the ball.

Finally, Mark Divine, founder of SEALFIT, has shown me that it’s OK to be vulnerable and admit your mistakes, especially to help others not fall down the same way.  In small group settings and even in his latest book, Staring Down The Wolf, he talks a lot about how his life experiences have shaped him — through failure.  And sometimes failure is not a bad thing, if we’re really going for something hard.  Fail Forward Fast is his mantra around developing new ideas and service offerings, and it’s apparent in how much different material the SEALFIT and Unbeatable Mind organizations have put out, and how they continually evolve to get it better and better with each iteration.

When you’re a leader of an organization, especially a young leader with a lot to learn, don’t be afraid to try on some of the leadership qualities that you admire in others.  Straight up copy them!  There’s a reason you admire those qualities — because they are effective and inspiring.  When you’re faced with a complex situation, put yourself in your mentor’s shoes.  What would they do?  How would they step up as a leader here?  Embody their strong qualities, and then go out and lead!

Your Values in Action – A Personal Ethos

A friend recently told me that one of the things she values the most, and enjoys making part of her life, is HARD WORK.  That’s awesome, I thought, and I agreed that it was one of mine as well.  Indeed we’ve made it one of the core values of the CFKI community, along with growth, service, and fun.  But why, then, do I feel like I have some of those days when I don’t feel like working hard?  Listing my core values and reviewing them as part of my morning practice is helpful, but in order to make my values come alive I decided to revisit an exercise I had done as part of my introduction back in the day to SEALFIT/Unbeatable Mind training – creating a personal ethos.

If values are single words or phrases that represent characteristics that you feel are most important in your life, an ethos is a longer description that includes those values in a way that paints a picture of how you want to show up in the world.  It’s how you describe your ideal character, with respect to your actions and your interactions with others.  You might also hear it called a creed or a code of conduct.

A good place to start is to spend some time thinking about what your values are.  There are many websites out there that list a bunch of potential values that you might find resonate with you.  I like this one that walks you through a quick exercise to select some potential values, then group them and narrow them down to a small list (3-5 is great).
The values that I keep coming back to when I run through this exercise are personal development, discipline, perseverance, humility, and service.  All of these give me a positive charge of energy, and I feel that when I am truly embodying these values I feel most alive.

Once you have identified your values (and it doesn’t have to be perfect – it’s a good idea to revisit these once in a while to reflect on if you are actually living them, or if they seem like someone else’s values), begin to craft them into action-oriented statements.  See if you can elaborate on each of these values in a way that instructs you how to live that quality each day.
For the value of Perseverance, the phrases I came up with were:
 – Never quit
 – Thrive in adverse situations
 – Create physical and mental toughness

Putting it all together, you will create your personal ethos.  Checking in with this each morning is a great way to remind yourself what your mindset should be when making key decisions, and how you want to “show up” with your family, friends, and teammates.

Here is mine (after many iterations!):

Each day I will strive to master myself so that I can I humbly serve my family and my community.

In order to succeed, I must be disciplined and innovative. The success of our CFKI mission depends on me — my coaching skill, leadership, and business acumen. My training is never complete.

I step up to challenges, and I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity. My community expects me to be an example of physical and mental toughness. I must earn their respect every day.

Creating an ethos, or code of conduct, will not be a quick one-and-done endeavor, but if you invest some time in it and create a statement that you want to truly live by, it can be a powerful daily tool to keep you on mission.  Enjoy the process!


Move More to Sleep Better

I’m a very slow adopter of technology, interesting for someone who majored in Information Systems in college.  I guess sometimes I’m just stuck in my ways.  But recently I have begun to listen to more podcasts, under the constant pressure of friends asking “have you listened to this one yet?”  No!  I’ve never even heard of that guy!  But pretty much everyone has a podcast now (should I have one?), and I do like understanding how people I look up to in the fitness, mental toughness, or business world think.

Recently Jason McCarthy, founder of GORUCK, started a podcast called Glorious Professionals, a nod to the US Special Forces start as “glorious amateurs” and their current moniker, the “quiet professionals”.  His latest guest was none other than the Supple Leopard himself, Dr. Kelly Starrett.  Kelly is the godfather of “mobility” within the CrossFit community, as he is a practicing physical therapist as well as owner of CrossFit San Francisco.

I encourage you all to listen to the entire episode (there I go — “have you listened to this one yet???”), but in case your lack of commute-to-work time is knocking out your podcasting capacity, I wanted to drop a knowledge bomb that I got from this episode.

According to Dr. Starrett, humans are evolutionarily designed to do just a few things.  Sit on the ground (not chairs), walk with heavy things, and maybe throw things.  We have the capacity to walk (or run) long distances, and if we don’t do that, or especially if we don’t move very much at all during the day, it throws our basic physiology out of wack.  And that might affect your sleep!  Just going to a CrossFit class and moving with intensity for 30-45 minutes is not going to cut it.  That goal that many people have floated around of getting 10,000 steps per day is a great one, because in addition to keeping your metabolism fired up, getting that amount of movement in per day creates what Kelly called “sleep pressure”.  At the end of a really active day, you want to go to sleep!
Think about what happens on the opposite side of the spectrum — you have a standard weekday, especially in the time of COVID, where you don’t leave the house.  Again, maybe you go to the store or you get up and do a workout, but the rest of the day, little to no movement.  At the end of the day, you’re not tired and can’t fall asleep so you park in front of the TV until midnight, maybe self-medicate with alcohol to reduce your stress.  When you struggle out of bed in the morning and have to launch yourself toward the coffee pot, the cycle continues.  What we’re doing is relying on chemicals to put ourselves to (bad) sleep, and then chemicals again to wake up and make it through our day.  All the while, we kind of feel like crap, have little energy, feel sore, get sick.

I have recently been having a hard time sleeping, and have chalked it up to stress, getting older, or the inevitable scapegoat, COVID!  I’ve never been infected with the microscopic monster, but the coronavirus is preventing me from sleeping?  No, it’s because other than pacing around the gym for a few hours each day, the rest of the day I’m not very active and I haven’t created the need, the “pressure” for my body to want to sleep when it’s time to get some Z’s!

Movement and sleep are such critical parts of our human lives, and in general we’re screwing both of them up.  The good news is that they are very closely linked!  Let’s commit to moving more, and sleeping better!

To your health,


Consistency is Key, Right Now

Have you ever heard from a (well-meaning) friend or coach that the secret to achieving your fitness goals, or the key to a successful nutrition plan, is consistency?  And when they just stop their super-motivating pep talk there without elaborating further, have you ever felt like giving them a few consistent punches to the face?

Well, because I have the luxury of preaching from my keyboard and I’m out of harm’s way, I’ll quickly tell you… they’re right.  But consistency is really hard!  Think of the long haul of doing the same thing every day, FOREVER!  So don’t think that way.  It’s a recipe for failure, especially within the context of the pandemic we are going through when unwanted restrictions seem to be lasting longer than any of us would have guessed.

If the long haul of consistency seems like a bad word, let’s fall back to a single decision point:  NOW.  When you start to feel overwhelmed with having to be perfect all the time, understand that this is not a reasonable goal – nobody is perfect!  But what you can do is narrow your focus and just try to make a decision right NOW that will move you toward your goal, and not away from it.  Remind yourself of what your goal is and WHY you want to achieve it.

That word WHY is a crucial one as well.  “My goal is to lose 20 pounds.”  Why?  Unless you are clear on this answer, your goal will not motivate you to keep going and to make a good decision right NOW and then in the next NOW down the road.
Some positive answers would be to be the healthiest version of yourself possible, to motivate your kids to achieve their own goals, or because it will advance you toward another, loftier goal like coming off of blood pressure medication.
Some not-so-strong answers because they are more on the negative motivation side would be because someone else (Mom) wants me to do it, or because I will love myself more if I look different.  But you can flip those reasons around and charge them positively!  I want to show my mom and everyone that I am strong and I can achieve my goals.  I love myself and I want to become the image that I have in my mind when I picture my “future self”.

And when you take a quick break from your consistent good decisions and treat yourself with dessert or take an unplanned day off from going to the gym to go do something fun, don’t sweat it!  Coach Alex Ray talked to us a few months ago about planning a great nutrition strategy, and one of his major points that stuck with me was to stop attaching guilt and shame to our decision to do something “off-plan”.  There will be plenty more NOW moments for you to come back strong.  Enjoy yourself, and understand that you’re not going to ruin all the progress that you’ve made with one glass of wine.  Then the next time you’re at a NOW decision point, remind yourself of your goal and your WHY, and keep forging ahead.


Work Your Weakness

“Good, better, best. Never let it rest. Until your good is better and your better is best.”
– Tim Duncan

If you try to describe an athlete that we would consider to be best in their respective sport, one adjective you might use to describe them is “well-rounded”.  This is not a judgment of their body type, but instead of their lack of ugly sharp edges in their skillset.  A baseball player who is considered one of the greats will have demonstrated an ability to crush the ball out of the park, but also can throw you out at home from centerfield.  A soccer superstar is not only an amazingly talented goal scorer, but they never come off the field – they have extreme endurance and durability (as soccer players go, anyway…)

How would we apply this model to a CrossFit athlete, or just someone who strives to achieve a supreme level of fitness?  Well-rounded in this case would mean they are strong, fast, coordinated, agile, flexible, durable and endurable.  In general, they don’t have any holes in their game.  This does not mean that they are necessarily naturally talented — indeed they probably have great genetic potential in at least one of these fitness domains — but more likely they have worked their butt off to identify and fix any weaknesses.  They are hard workers, and also very honest and self-aware about the things that are holding them back.

Moving away from the theoretical view of an ultimate fitness machine, and bringing us back to today, let’s be honest about where we all are in terms of our fitness.  Many of us have developed significant holes in our game from our fitness and nutrition habits degrading during the COVID lockdown.  And that’s alright, that’s where we are and we just have to acknowledge it and deal with it in a positive way by turning back toward a more disciplined life (eat healthy foods, get back to training in the gym or outside).

Others came through the lockdown period with not as many chinks in their armor, as they remained focused and did what they could to maintain their fitness.  But… what about all those heavy weights that were sitting at the gym, not being lifted?  Many of us, even if we were consistent with our conditioning work and were throwing dumbbells around like there was no tomorrow, have developed a bit of a strength imbalance (I know I have!)

So, we’ve identified it, and we’re going to fix it!  Beginning next week, we will start a consistent schedule of strength training in our group classes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  For our first 7-week cycle, each Monday we will work on Power Cleans, each Wednesday we will train with Presses, and each Friday we will get after some Front Squats.  We will start and end the cycle by testing our 1-rep max in each of these lifts.  After this initial 7-week cycle, we will switch gears to three more lifts and follow the same protocol.
We will be introducing a strength bias to our CrossFit program, which will be noticeably different from our group CrossFit class experience for at least the past couple years.  We’ll have to stay focused on our conditioning workouts as well, especially on the days that we are not training strength at all, to make sure that this aspect of our fitness does not fall off.

I’m pretty excited to have everyone set a new post-lockdown strength baseline, and then test again after 7 weeks of progressive strength work.  Let’s all work hard and lean into this opportunity to work on our weaknesses!


Are You Holding Your Shield?

This week I’d like to share an email I received from The Daily Stoic, which is a great daily email service that routinely reminds us to think, to hold true to our values, and to do what is right not just for ourselves but in service to others.  The overall message of the ancient Stoic philosophers was to pursue wisdom and self-mastery, and to persevere through tough times.  Very relatable to what we’re all facing right now!

Wearing a mask in public has been a contentious subject, especially in the last month or so as we’ve all gotten a bit tired of “the new normal” and we want to get back to our old lives.  I’m right there with you all — I’m frustrated and tired of having to change my daily routine.  But, I feel that it’s important to think about the potential impact of discontinuing the recommendations put forth by the CDC and other health professionals.  If we stop wearing masks now, in some sort of Rage Against the Machine revolt against the government, or just because we’re tired of it, we risk extending the pandemic situation for longer than it has to go on.  Granted, I’m not a doctor, and I didn’t even stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, so in the absence of my own medical expertise, I choose to trust in the health professionals who are urging us to stay the course to stop the spread.  I hope if you’re reading this and realize you’ve become a little relaxed on your personal mask-wearing in public, you’ll reconsider — for the greater good and for a quicker resolution of this crappy situation.


From Ryan Holiday and The Daily Stoic:

The world has asked a lot of us over the last few months. We had to stop traveling. We had to shut down our businesses. We had to take our kids out of school.

It asked even more of some of us. The doctors who had to work round-the-clock shifts. The nurses who did the same. There are those among us whose businesses will never reopen or whose jobs will never come back. There are some of us who didn’t get to say goodbye to people we loved, who had to watch funerals over the internet.

In a beautiful article a few weeks ago, Steven Pressfield (who we interviewed here) spoke about how the Spartans—the ancient Greeks who the Stoics admired so much—would have responded to this kind of collective sacrifice. He quotes Plutarch, who explained why the Spartans punished with death the soldier who dropped his shield but not his other protective gear, “Because helmet and breastplate are worn to protect the individual alone but the shield is borne to protect the whole line.”

“Why are we asked to wear surgical or face masks in public, to practice social distancing, and to observe self-quarantining?” Steven asked. “Answer: Because these practices are not for the individual alone but for the protection of the whole line.”

This moment we are in is a test. It’s a test of your character. It’s a test of your Stoicism. It’s asking whether you just pay lip service to sympatheia, or whether you actually believe it—whether you can embody your philosophy as Epictetus said. We talked about this with John Brownstein: The mask is not for you. Social distancing is not for you. It’s for the grandmother of the person you never met. It’s for the chemo patient. It’s because you might be a carrier and not know it, and so in wearing a mask, you protect the strangers you see and the strangers they see too. In deciding to eat the deposit on your family vacation, to pay for extra sick leave for your workers, to donate to a food bank, you are not helping yourself—you are doing something far more important and more noble.

You are protecting the whole line. And as a Stoic, as a Spartan, as a Citizen of the world, that is your job.