5 things that CrossFit taught me about entrepreneurship

Anyone who has been part of the CrossFit community for any length of time knows
that the sport of CrossFit and the lifestyle that it fosters have been a breading
ground for entrepreneurs, startups and new companies all looking to build that
lifestyle into their life more permanently. Even Greg Glassman who is a self
proclaimed “staunch libertarian” has set the barrier of entry to gym ownership
pretty low, believing that the affiliate fee and the owner’s sweat equity will allow the
cream of the crop to rise to the top. As of late, people are beginning to realize in
droves that owning a gym is not the only path to making the community a more
permanent fixture in your life. Every month, if you frequent the local competitions
you’ll see new apparel, nutrition and training companies popping up all over the
place. I am no exception to this entrepreneurial firestorm that has seemed to take
over the functional fitness world. Through a combination of both seeing a need in
the market as well as a deep desire to become more imbedded in the CrossFit world
I decided to start LuaVíve LLC, a supplement company based in San Diego,
California. Now, after just over a year of business, I have been through a few ups and
more lows than I like to admit. One thing is for certain though; the weekly WOD’s
have prepared me for this entrepreneurial adventure much more than I had
originally realized. For anyone considering taking the leap into the startup world, I
highly suggest you take a few lessons from your box’s daily programming before
leaving the ground. Without further adieu, here are the five biggest things that
CrossFit has taught me about entrepreneurship:
#1. It’s always harder than it looks but significantly more rewarding as well.
We have all been there before. That moment you get to the gym, stretch out and look
up at the white board to see the numbers 21-15- 9 starring back at you in one small
representation of sequential pain. The first CrossFit workout I had ever done, like so
many others, was Fran. Coming from the Globo-Gym world, if I am being honest, my
first reaction was to snicker. How could these so called “elite fitness” enthusiast
possibly do three small super sets and then call it an entire workout? That was until
I spent the 15 minutes afterward lying on my back with my lungs on fire, my heart
in overdrive and my brain trying to comprehend where the train had come from
that seemed to run me over so quickly! I have repeated this experience thousands of
times since that day in 2009 but I always come back for more. To those that are
considering starting a business, I urge you to take heed of the lessons that Fran tried
to teach you from day one. You will most likely overestimate the work and your
ability. By the time the pain catches up to you, you will have gone to far to stop. Your
best bet is to press on, because pushing to the finish will always have you coming
back for more. The sense of accomplishment, especially with the presence of a hard
fought victory is a feeling that runs parallels through business and the world’s
fastest growing fitness community. Take a three second breather if you must, but
don’t stop moving toward your goal.

#2. Community is everything: Perhaps the reason that so many are willing to call
our sport a cult, do so because of the insanely strong bonds and community that it
creates. My guess is that if many of these people got to feel a glimpse of the support
that comes inherent with that community, judgment would quickly turn to
understanding. When I first began iterating with my first supplement, LionHeart
ReFuel, the iterations were rough to put it lightly. The ingredients were made in a
lab that I had created at home and the labels were printed on what basically looked
like paper. It wasn’t pretty but I wasn’t ready to quit. I showed up to every local
competition that I could bright and early, eager to talk to fellow CrossFitter’s about
what I had created and how it could help them. I thought that hustle and being
present would be what made the difference but in those early days I learned that is
just a small part of the success. What really mattered is who showed up for me. And
fellow CrossFitter’s did, in droves. I received tons of support from other local
businesses willing to cheer me on. We have evolved considerably since then like any
good CrossFitter or business should, but I can’t help but get nostalgic thinking about
that early support. I was suddenly half way through a WOD and trying desperately
to get my first muscle up. Just like any box would across the country, the cheers and
yells from the sideline made all of the difference.
#3. Advanced skills take time to develop: No one walks in to a gym for the first
time and starts stringing muscle ups together. Well not many people can, but those
that do… Seriously, where do you even come from?! Anyway, I digress. I was not
that person. I spent months swinging around on the rings with a mood that settled
somewhere between unwavering determination and utter frustration. This is a path
and a feeling that many in the CF community are extremely familiar with. The first
time that I went to pitch my business to a venture capital firm in order to hopefully
get funding, I wished for the frustration of burnt out forearms and a clumsy swing as
I talked myself in circles, tripped over my words and ultimately did not get funding.
But, as the story goes, if everyone quit after their very first attempt, the CrossFit
Games would look much closer to a one on one duel. It is simply not realistic to
expect Froning-esque mastery on the first try, or the second, or the 100 th . Skills take
time to develop. Do not get frustrated when it feels like you are blowing a sales
meeting or a pitch. Go back to the drawing board if you have to so that you can begin
to correct your deficiencies. Be honest with yourself about your current skill level.
Pretending to be Rich Froning has never helped anyone get to the Games. Your
greenness will show at first but if you are honest with yourself and the people you
are dealing with, the good people will do what they can to help you out. Before you
know it, you are getting through the muscle ups two or three at a time, business
meetings are becoming more and more fluid and newbies will look on with the same
bewilderment that you felt back when you first attempted an RX WOD.
#4. Invest in yourself. The snatch always felt foreign to me. The sequence never
made sense and quite frankly the whole movement was hard to conceptualize. It
was like my body wanted to be powerlifting but my mind wanted to be playing golf.
The input was a lot to process at one time and the result was a discombobulated
mess… at first. Luckily entrepreneurs everywhere had seen this same short fall and

businesses reacted accordingly with the introduction of the specialty certifications.
The community responded predictably and suddenly Olympic lifting had been put
on the United States map. Athletes everywhere, itching for more knowledge and
more ability began to sign up in unprecedented numbers. People could immediately
see the value in investing in their own ability and business should be no different. It
is an absurd notion to think that because you have a good idea for a business you
will be good at accounting, or marketing, or presenting, or team building, or a host
of other skills that being a good entrepreneur takes. You have to be willing to invest
in yourself to improve you ability. The immediate is usually a few bucks spent for a
weekend of new knowledge and application. The long term gain usually falls
somewhere in the 10 X growth range. Every time you build a new skill, it begins to
mount up on top of the old ones and in time you will have so many new disciplines
at your disposal that recognizing the old you will be near impossible.
#5. Set attainable goals to reach insurmountable ones. Building an empire is
overwhelming, so is your first RX’d Hero WOD. Both of them take a bit of focusing on
the first few steps. It also takes a decent amount of disregard for what is possible. It
is simply impractical to think that your startup will succeed. Realistically, most do
not. Most people also don’t do 2 miles of running, 100 pull-ups, 200 pushups and
300 squats every single memorial day. They just don’t. CrossFitters are a different
breed. We know how far determination can get us and we do the impractical and the
impossible on an almost daily basis. Little girls who are supposed to care about
Barbie dolls focus on how much weight they can clean and jerk and guys who are
supposed to pick between being big and strong or being fast suddenly are both. But,
just like CrossFit started out with a single affiliate in Santa Cruz California, it has
now grown to a mind blowing paradigm shift present in locations all over the world.
Don’t focus on the big picture at first. Know where you are going of course, put one
foot in front of the other, do one rep at a time and crush your weaknesses as they
present themselves. Entrepreneurship is the most rewarding Hero WOD you have
embarked on, don’t stop until it is over!