As I was trying to deal with an ammunition issue in Iraq in mid-2006, I found myself just outside Baghdad in some Army Colonel’s office.
The details of the issue, which at the time seemed paramount to the success of all lives involved, are now, almost two decades later, of no importance. Ironically, that fact alone, if examined too deeply, could be emotionally toxic and probably a little disturbing when faced with the somewhat darker reality of the fleeting glory of war.
But, for the sake of this week’s post, we’ll leave that be for now and talk about what I saw in that office.
While the Colonel tried to explain to me why I needed to take custody of an immensely dangerous amount of explosives and figure out a way to safely distribute them to a group of highly untrained Iraqi Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal forces, my attention drifted to a poster behind his head.
Outlined in three intersecting circles were the words, “Fast,” “Easy,” “Cheap.” Underneath these three circles was printed, “Pick Two.”
The Colonel had further modified his poster by crossing out the “Pick Two” line and writing, “Pick One” underneath. After a few minutes of conversation with this guy, I came to the conclusion that, in his case, he’d probably fall short on that second offer as well.
I chuckled to myself as I thought about just how ironic that poster was in the Colonel’s office, but after a rough few months in-country and learning the hard way to keep my mouth shut with Army officers, I wisely stayed quiet, simply said my requisite “yes, sirs” and got the hell out there.
Long story short, we figured out the explosives problem. No one is checking but if you ever hear of some EOD teams conducting a handful of controlled detonations in the middle of some Iraqi desert without their Iraqi counterparts present, I’m not sure I know what you are talking about but, hey, all’s well that ends well.
As for that sign, I think it somehow permeated my consciousness because ever since then, I can’t help but see it everywhere – especially in the gym.
Think about how you make improvements with CrossFit.
You can’t generally buy them. Well, I guess you can, if you are willing to pay enough money but is that really an improvement?
Let’s say you are struggling to get depth in your overhead squat while keeping your heels down. A coach might tell you to work on your mobility by implementing a handful of squat therapy techniques. This would take a couple of months of consistently deliberate hard work and maybe even a few more months of dialing back the intensity and working on your mechanics. The time and effort would be slow and extremely difficult, but it wouldn’t necessarily cost you anything in actual money. Meaning, it would be pretty cheap.
But, let’s say you don’t want to take all of that time. You don’t want to put in the work. I know of a handful of really good shoe companies that make some ridiculously expensive lifters that would solve your problem immediately. No work, no time needed…just a couple hundred dollars. Throw in a few knee sleeves, maybe some really good wrist wraps and bam, you are one overhead squat away from your next personal best.
Fast, easy, or cheap…pick one. The metric is very simple. The reality of what it looks like isn’t.
We often delude ourselves into thinking that by picking one, we are assuming the cost of the other two. As I outlined in my example, I don’t believe you can buy your way into improving your fitness with CrossFit.
Bottom line, the program requires some REALLY hard work and a good chunk of time to see results…and that’s almost guaranteed following the daily free programming from CrossFit.com.
But sometimes, you can buy your way out of the hard work and it does come kind of quickly. We do it every day in the gym whether you are aware of it or not.
We pay for class programming. Right now, CrossFit offers it for free but I’m pretty sure, based on historical price points, it ain’t gonna be cheap. But it’s pretty easy to implement and it comes directly to SugarWOD at the same time every week. Fast and Easy? Damn, I’ll pay top dollar for that once they start charging.
When we came out of COVID, we paid A LOT for the new gear that we got. Most of that cost was in shipping because the only company that had supply knew it and they didn’t offer any deals on shipping it out. It was worth every penny to be able to safely run our classes the way we wanted to run them and to provide the best experience we could for our athletes.
The question I’ve been musing on the last few weeks is if I think I’m picking one or even two of the legs of this triangle as my priority, and I am aware of the conscious cost I am assuming by making that choice, are there other, hidden costs that are waiting to bite me in the ass?
What’s the degradation of the quality of the product, the experience, the improvement if I’m willing to pay a convenience cost to alleviate myself of the hard work and time required to slowly reach my goal?
What’s the cost in human capital, emotional energy, or quality of life-experience if I’m willing to spend unnecessary hours on something that I should 100% outsource for a certain price point?
Cost is a metaphorical construct that allows us to understand that life requires a balance of energy. The First Law of Thermodynamics states that energy can neither be destroyed nor created, it simply changes form. Couple that with Newton’s Third Law that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction and you begin to get a sense that there is no free lunch – everything comes at a cost.
The question is what costs are you willing to pay?
By the time I finished my first 9-month deployment in Iraq, I had learned to accept that the Colonel’s modification to his poster was incomplete. Everything was slow, hard, and expensive. He needed to cross out that “Pick One” and add a new line, “Sorry, you’re all fucked.”
In the gym, we’re not that bad off. It might feel like you are forced to spend a little capital in each of the three categories:
- Yes, improvement takes time.
- Sure, it’s gonna be hard.
- I get it, you have to spend a little money down on the Creek.
But I guarantee you that the gains you make in personal worth, human connection, physical fitness, and just sheer joy of life will outweigh any amount of work, time, and money you expend.
In the end, each of us has a choice. Fast, Easy, or Cheap. The choice is always yours but I can’t always promise you’ll get to pick the one you want.
If for some reason, you just can’t get over a bad choice, don’t worry, we can always go blow some shit up in the desert and I promise it’ll all be worth it.
See you on the Creek.