This is a long story but I hope you read on. I promise it is worth your time.
I’ve been having trouble with motivation lately. I am usually incredibly optimistic but life’s circumstance has tempered that lately and there have been days where I question my commitment, my priorities and my integrity. Yesterday was a day I would rather forget and by the time it was over, I was struggling to find a tiny piece of something to keep me going. I was having a hard time envisioning something to look forward to so I thought back to the last thing that I truly enjoyed. I didn’t have to look far.
A little over a week ago I was totally immersed in the experience of NorCal Masters, a competition I had trained hard for and had looked forward to for months. When the weekend finally arrived, it was everything I had hoped for. For the first time in the 3 years I have competed at NorCal I had support, I had encouragement, I had strength and I had confidence in myself. I did what I wanted to do and proved to myself that my hard work had paid off. I was encouraged by my performance and not once did I wish I had done anything differently. But in all honesty, that was not the best part of my weekend. The best part came at the very end, as I watched a man I did not know do something I found incredibly inspiring. If I had known the whole story then, I think I would have been even more overwhelmed by what I saw. I hope that if you are struggling with motivation or have been questioning your choices in life and the gym lately that by telling you his story, you might find what I found – a reason to move forward and look ahead at life in a different way.
The 50-54 age men’s final was stacked with perennial favorites. Games athletes, high-profile athletes – you name it. There was also a man named Augie Johnson, who by all rights, seemed entirely surprised to find himself there. He was the closest athlete to me and I could tell I was surrounded by his supporters. When they announced the workout – which included heavy snatches (135 lbs.), bar muscle ups, and ring muscle ups, Augie was visibly nervous. His crew informed me that if Augie made the first set of 6 snatches, he would PR 6 times. It was obvious that this weight, 135 lbs. would not be a huge challenge for the rest of the field. The clock started and Augie started his snatch attempts. He failed time and time again but he never stopped. He reset, he focused and he tried again. And he made one. The crowd exploded. The grin on his face was all everyone needed. The crowd was now focused on Augie and we watched him fail, and then PR, time after time until all 6 were done. He did a little dance, gave the bar a nice parting gesture (captured by his crew on video and played over and over I might add) and walked over to start his bar muscle ups. By this time, most of the other athletes were at least through 2 whole rounds of the workout. Augie did not get another rep in the workout when time was called but he never stopped trying. In the hearts and minds of the crowd though, Augie had won. He won because he never quit, he never gave up and he didn’t let it beat him. I walked away asking myself if I could have done the same thing. I’m not sure I could have.
As the crowd was packing up and leaving, I saw Augie loaded down with gear and heading for the exit. I ran over to him and blurted out how out of the whole weekend, his performance was the most inspiring thing I had seen and that I just wanted him to know. This man, who had no idea who I was gave me a big hug and a giant kiss on the cheek and said thank you. I could tell that he really meant it and that maybe the whole experience had been overwhelming for him too.
It’s a nice story, right? It’s one we often see – especially at competitions and during the Open. But there is more to it and I am kind of glad I did not know it at the time. See, Augie had lost his son (who had just started CrossFit) in a swim training accident. Augie found a letter on his son’s computer that he had written just a week before the accident. This has been Augie’s inspiration and with his permission, I am allowed to share his son Nick’s letter with you here.
By Nick Johnson
Where do you go when the buzzer sounds and the stands clear?
Do you look towards your team and say to yourself that you did everything you could?
Or do you hold your head up and never make the same mistakes again?
When the other team is taller and stronger, do you become physically weaker or mentally tougher?
When all is said and done, do you accept defeat, or rise and rise again…
You’re a human being.
The laws of physical ability do not govern you.
You are the one thing on earth holding yourself back and moving yourself forward.
What other people say and do means nothing because you are the master of your fate, and nobody can tell you otherwise.
People with less motivation, less drive, and less ambition will try to tell you the world has its limits.
They’ll give you some damn good excuses as to why there’s no point in trying.
But they don’t define your reality, you do.
Only you decide when you’ve had enough.
No one else can decide when it’s your time to call it quits.
Only you can face your team at the end of the day and live with who you are.
So go on and be great, be everything you thought you could be.
Shit, shock the world and be the underdog, come-from-behind winner.
In a world where things don’t always add up, how you choose to act is all that matters.
Be all you can be. Good luck.
Santa Barbara, CA – March 24th, 2014
If after reading that you don’t feel motivated to live your life the way Nick saw it, I don’t know what will. I would like to thank you Augie for sharing your son and for truly living his words. You have inspired me to try and be the best version of me I can and to not let anything or anyone change that.
So let the challenges come…I’m ready to be great and shock the world – and I hope you are too.