Chasing Excellence Notes

Chasing Excellence: A Story About Building the World's Fittest ...

Link (Amazon)

Written by the man who coached both the Men’s and Women’s Champions in the 2016 CrossFit Games. The book is a mix of storytelling and wisdom – and a must-read for anyone who is attempting to pursue not just competence but excellence.


  • A “bad” situation might be the best thing that ever happened to you. Reframe.
  • “It’s impossible to spend any time around Ben without becoming a better person.”
  • Mental toughness isn’t something you’re born with, it’s something you can actually improve. But you have to practice it.


  • The only way to get better is to pound on your craft, day in and day out, doing the right thing over and over and over again. “There are no secrets, there are no tricks. If anything, it’s the opposite. Whether you are a pro athlete or a guy running a business, or driving a truck or going to school, it’s simple. Ask yourself where you are now and where you want to be instead. Ask yourself what you’re willing to do to get there. Then make a plan to get there.”
  • Working and training at the champion level is not for everyone. Too much pain, sacrifice, hours, monotony. There’s so much you have to think about and dedicate yourself to chase perfection. Not about talent, it’s about commitment.
  • Excellence is asking yourself: Am I committing everything I have to make myself the tiniest percentage better I am right now, no matter how hard I have to work, no matter what I have to give up?
  • Commitment is about a focus on each minute.
  • You’re focused not on the outcome of your dedication, but the dedication itself and the person you’re trying to become
  • Champions wake up with one goal in mind: becoming better.


  • What is grit? It’s when things get harder, you push harder; when you fail, you get back up stronger; when you don’t see results, you don’t get discouraged but you continue to pound away day after day with relentless/consistency/heart/passion.
  • What people don’t see is that behind most every talented person who has become a massive success is a daily schedule of grind, hours of suck, and a whole string of difficult, lonely moment working on the tiny details that will get them to where they want  go.
  • Talent + Grit = Unstoppable
  • “People err who think my art comes easily to me. I assure you, dear friend, nobody has devoted so much time and thought to composition as I. There is not a famous master whose music I have not industriously studied through many times.” –Mozart


  • Staying positive is hard for us because our DNA is hardwired for survival. Far more important to remember which big furry animal would kill you than that butterfly is pretty.
  • Where most people see adversity and difficulty, you want to see advantage and opportunity.
  • Positivity is directly linked to improved performance. If you stay positive, you perform with greater speed and accuracy.
  • Almost two-thirds of the words in the English language convey the negative
  • Tell yourself the right story – the positive one – about what the adversity means for your own success. The obstacle is the way.
  • Your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, and your actions dictate your future.
  • Preparation, not your attitude, will dictate results. Positivity doesn’t guarantee anything, but it can lower perceived exertion, make things seem more enjoyable, and improve your chances of competing at your potential, and give you a competitive advantage

Embrace Adversity

  • Sometimes when you’re in a dark place you think you’ve been buried, but you’ve actually been planted.
  • The days when you have to do things that scare you, when you have to take risks, push against challenges and difficulties – those are the days that make you stronger, faster, better.
  • Overload Principle: you can force adaption in your body by consistently pushing past yesterday’s limit; you can make yourself stronger by showing your body what stronger feels like
  • Humans naturally fear adversity. Ironically, adversity is the only thing that makes us better. In fact, we’re certain to face adversity on Earth. It is 100% guaranteed. So when we do face it, putting ourselves through adversity will help us.
  • “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”
  • Visualization is an incredibly powerful tool, but it’s not enough to simply visualize success. You need to also envision adversity and setbacks.
  • Michael Phelps set a world record in the 200m. He swam BLIND. He only knew what he could do because he visualized adversity.


  • Confidence is about your competitive drive, your focus, positivity, perseverance and grit, and whether you can maintain those characteristics when it matters most. Can you maintain the characteristics of a champion, regardless of what life throws at you? That’s confidence.
  • Event + Response = Outcome
  • We don’t control the events of life. We only control our responses to them.
  • “Exceptional competitors understand that their primary competition is themselves. They understand the biggest struggle is always the one within, the struggle to bring out their best physical and mental self to the competition floor and maintain presence until they cross the finish line.” – Bob Rotella
  • If you win the battle in your own head, you’ve won. Regardless of the outcome
  • True confidence is being secure in the knowledge you did everything you could, even if that excellence doesn’t produce victories.
  • Be a racehorse and a bumblebee. Racehorses are incapable of focusing on anything but themselves. Bumblebees fly… contrary to everything we know about physics.
  • Tying success or failure to one single point in time, one event which you don’t even have much control over, sets you up for unavoidable failure because there’s no way anyone can win every single time.
  • What Katrin wrote – her definition of success:
    • “Success to me is giving full effort knowing that was the best I was capable of. That said, full effort means nothing if day-to-day preparation was not all I had. Success to me is giving everything I have into each and every day, each and every moment; training, recovery, family, friends, giving back, inspiring, loving what I do. Then, come game time, give full effort, knowing I am the best I am capable of becoming.”

Maximizing Minutes

  • Deliberate practice is different from normal practice. Deliberate practice is stepping outside your comfort zone and trying activities beyond your current abilities. 
  • Are you giving each minute the respect it deserves? Every minute of your day is a building block that goes toward creating your success, your measure of excellence. Every minute deserves your utmost attention and commitment.
  • Passion is the only way to commit your all. You have to love it.
  • To watch – How Great Leaders Inspire Action.
  • Story about Samuel Pierpoint Langley vs. Wright Brothers

The Process

  • Nick Saban: “Don’t think about winning the SEC Championship. Don’t think about the national championship. Think about what you need to do in this drill, on this play, in this moment. That’s the process: Let’s think about what we can do today, the task at hand.”
  • When character and process are both in place, the results will take care of themselves.
  • Ray Allen: “What makes [KG, Paul Pierce LeBron James, Dwayne Wade] champions is the boring old habits that nobody sees. They compete to see who can be the first to the gym and the last to leave.”


  • Create a list of what you can control vs. what you can’t control.
  • Focus ruthlessly on what you can control. Ignore the rest.
  • Serenity Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Turn The Page

  • When you make a mistake, all you can do is turn the page. What can you do in this moment to prepare for tomorrow? Anything we do looking back can’t help us.


  • Mat Fraser, a CrossFit competing athlete, reached out to a high school coach and started practicing with high schoolers twice a week. That takes humility. Then he went from last to first in the CrossFit Games the following year.
  • When you reach a certain level, it’s easier to hide your weaknesses behind your strengths. But continually ask: what can I do better?
  • Further Reading: Teaching Smart People How To Learn
  • Single loop learners look for external reasons they’re not succeeding; double loop learners look inward for solutions

Competitive Excellence

  • “Excellence is the gradual result of always wanting to do better.” –Pat Riley
  • “I will maximize my minutes by thinking, acting, training, and competing with excellence, regardless of circumstance.”
  • If you can compete with excellence when you’re ahead, you can do it when you’re behind
  • You can’t train on autopilot and compete with purpose. In order to perform at the highest level, you have to prepare that way every single day. When Mat Fraser trains, he doesn’t do it compete. He trains like he’s possessed.
  • Excellence can only be achieved today. Not tomorrow or the following day – because they don’t exist in the present moment. The not-so-hidden secret of extraordinary success: clarify what you really want, then work as hard to get it for as long as it takes.


  • “In any game played with the body, it’s the head that counts.” –James Kerr
  • Further Reading: Clutch by Paul Sullivan
  • Clutch is the ability to do what you can do normally under immense pressure.
  • You cannot summon what you do not have. The traits you need when the stakes are highest must be worked through in training.
  • Who you are on the competition floor is a reflection of who you are in practice – no more, no less.


  • “Vision without action is a dream. Action without vision is a nightmare” –Chinese proverb
  • Katrín Davíðsdóttir ordered fish and veggies after winning CrossFit Games to celebrate. The process reigns.
  • The only way the process works is through action.
  • Success is a decision, not a gift. The ideas in this book are only useful if you can decide to apply them to your own life, day in and day out.
  • Further Reading: A Champion’s Mind by Jim Afremow
  • You don’t become a champion and then start acting like a champion. You start acting like a champion first.
  • It’s the manner in which you try to achieve your potential that defines you as a champion – no medals, titles, accolades. When you start acting this way… when you commit to the process fully… everything else falls in place.

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