This post is the third in a series of essays about my father, Pat, and his interesting connection to my understanding of CrossFit. If you’ve read the previous two posts, read on.

However, if this is your first entry into the “It’s Just Pat” series, you may want to go back and read the first two for context. If you don’t care about context, then read on.

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My Dad always parks his car as close as possible to the entrance of wherever we are going. 60% of the time, he generally finds a legal parking space. The other 40%, well, they fall somewhere between amusingly creative and gut wrenchingly dangerous. 

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Either way, when riding with Pat, you get REALLY close to the front door.

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For most people, parking doesn’t generally register on their list of concerns. They’ll drive up, look for a spot, and take whatever’s available.

Nope, not Pat.

He doesn’t bother with anything outside of the first row. He pulls up, looks to see what’s available, and if there aren’t open spaces, he’ll take the time to look one more time before getting a little creative.

Most of the time, simply by having the willingness and the patience to make one more pass, he will find a parking space that most people would overlook. If he doesn’t see what he likes, well, then the real fun begins.

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Here’s the deal – in the world of Pat Ryan, getting a good parking spot is a game of percentages and in order to up your odds, you have to be willing to fail a few times before having some success. 

In other words, as Carol Dweck says in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, “Failure is information-we label it failure, but it’s more like, ‘This didn’t work, I’m a problem solver, and I’ll try something else.’”

In this metaphorical conceit of parking, I have started to see so many similarities to what we do at the gym.

Too often, athletes will immediately express concerns about a movement, loading, or some other element of a workout that they don’t think they can complete. Usually, I haven’t even finished the workout brief before a hand will go up or a brow will furrow and I hear,

“Hand stand pushup? I can’t do handstand pushups! Will there be something else for me to do?”

Inside, I am rolling my eyes and screaming in utter emotional pain.

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Hopefully, on the outside I’ve maintained a more composed expression as I try to explain, for what feels like the millionth time, that we will always scale and modify for every athlete.

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At first, I used to think these questions were a reflection of my coaching. That I couldn’t connect with my athletes. That they didn’t trust me to find them effective scaling options or appropriate modifications. That they didn’t like me.

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But over the years, I have learned that these questions have nothing to do with me, the workout, or even specific athletes.

These types of questions are simply a manifestation of our default tendency of getting stuck in a fixed mindset about what we can and can not do.

In the case of my father and his ridiculously effective parking skills, nothing he does is by chance. 

He recently gave my sons another golf lesson and he kept explaining to them that successful golfers spend the majority of their time in play versus constantly chasing their ball in and out of bounds.

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I know, simple, but simple doesn’t mean easy. In order to stay in play, a golfer must play within his skill level. He must always play within 70-80% of how far he can hit his club. He should avoid getting locked into having a fixed idea of how a hole will play and instead look for chances to learn from missed shots. He must always exploit failures for future gains.

It’s like my Dad always parks his car as if he’s playing golf.

As a die hard CrossFit nerd, I can relate.

We CrossFit so that we can be fitter. Fitter people are healthier. Healthier people are happier. Happier people live better lives. 

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But we also have the capacity to improve our perspective on what we think we can and can’t do. We can learn to take one more look at something that we believe is impossible. We can slow down. We can take a breath. We can patiently see if there’s another perspective or option available to us instead of immediately thinking we can’t do it. 

From this perspective, we can also still play within out limits. We scale. We modify. We drive our experience towards the desired stimulus of the workout as directed by the coach.

Who knows, when it’s all over, we might even surprise ourselves by doing something we never even thought possible; but if we are too busy already telling ourself it’s impossible, we will most definitely miss that prime parking spot.

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In the end, sometimes our luck will run out and there just aren’t any parking spaces; other times, there are. However, there’s something more going on here than being lucky. The old saying goes that luck is simply the manifestation of preparation meeting opportunity. 

As my father has said, this is a game of percentages, folks. The more often you can put yourself in a position to take advantage of your preparation, the more likely you are to appear to be lucky when things go your way.

Whether that’s parking close to the door, hitting the ball from the fairway, or getting your first double under, the more you embrace a growth mindset the more likely you are to enjoy the process and avoid disappointment when you fail to achieve some preconceived fixed end-state.

However, I will say that if you want to be as lucky as Pat with your parking, you also need to be willing to park on the curb, on the sidewalk, in the grass, or anywhere you damn well please because, hey, it’s just Pat.

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See you on the Creek.

-Coach Jack