These were my favorite passages from the Fittest Man in U.K.
Check out this book if you are in need for motivation and you want to push yourself to achieve bigger goals.
- I’ve tasted failure of every sort in the process but I’ve savoured every success, too.
Perhaps the greatest outcome of all of these ups and downs, however, has been that they have forged in me a certain mindset, one that I rely upon in every single part of my life. I call it ‘Start Where Others Stop’. It’s a mantra I repeat to myself when I’m training in the gym and gasping for air, it’s a way of thinking that I apply to my business life to push myself to try new things and it is a declaration that I will always go the extra mile for my loved ones.
to be a more positive sort of person. It doesn’t matter what your personal goals are. All goals are equal. If it’s important to you, if it’s something that has always been in the back of your mind and you wish it could become real, it counts. You can work towards it and, with the mentality we are going to build together, you can achieve anything. Picking up this book is the beginning. Now all you need to do is get a start. This is how I got mine.
When I came along, Mum was just so happy and grateful to have another kid that she smothered me with love and affection. I could do nothing wrong. If I wanted sweets or chocolate, she would give them to me. My dad would always say, ‘You’ve got to stop feeding him that!’ but she would do it anyway because it made me happy, which made her happy. However, this did mean that there were a lot of arguments between Mum and Dad about my diet and my weight.
If you’re wondering why I’m telling you this, it’s because understanding where I come from and how I was raised has been such an important step for me in making a change to my life. When we’re thinking about taking our first step, we have to understand where we come from before we start moving towards that new goal. It could be the context and environment you were brought up in, or maybe just how things have been going at work for the last few months. All our experiences mold our outlook and attitudes, so if you can try to consider what has brought you to where you are, you can start out in the right direction. We’ll delve further into this at the end of the chapter when we begin building your Start Where Others Stop programme.
Proper goal setting starts with the language you use to describe your goals, even if that is just talking to yourself at this stage. Positive statements are much more likely to motivate you than negative ones, so always frame your goals with a positive statement.
Rather than telling yourself, ‘I’m not going to be as lazy,’ instead think of it as ‘I will be a more active person.’ Or in place of, ‘I want to eat less junk food,’ say ‘I am going to eat a balanced diet.’
When Dad finally arrived in 1965, the UK was still very segregated. Back then, if you were Black you had to deal with a lot of racial abuse and it was hardcore. I can’t count the number of stories he’s told me of fights he had just because a group of white lads saw him and it all kicked off and it built a hardness and toughness into him. How could it not? Although it was a different time, recent events around the world that have reignited protests and demands for racial equality suggest that things aren’t entirely different now. We’ve had our own share of issues in the CrossFit community, even.
when they were dating properly as young teenagers in the late sixties and they started going to clubs and dances a Black man being out with a white woman caused a lot of problems.
My parents had it hard growing up, as not only did they have to deal with the racial abuse they received as an interracial couple in the sixties and seventies but they also had very little money. They’ve always been a huge inspiration to me in this regard, as they never had anything handed to them. Everything was earned. Together they built a textiles business from scratch, starting off in the Leicester markets. Bill and Jean Adderley, who started Dunelm, had a little stall next to them! The now retail giant Next had a shop on the corner and was stocked with just a few basic T-shirts. They all started in the same place, in Leicester markets, and then made their way up from there.
Dad was just quite regimented with everything back then and it was exhausting. Luckily for me, when he retired aged 40, he started to slowly chill out bit by bit. He had to try to calm down a bit for us and my mum. Mum’s always been there for us. Her sole purpose was and still is to give us the best life she could.
Dad would say ‘Stop feeding him that! Stop giving him sweets!’ Of course he was right but he was going about it the wrong way. I remember messing around and wrestling with him on the lounge floor. For some reason I used to have a phobia about being on my back. I hated it. So Dad would get me on my back then hold me there while I was kicking and screaming, saying ‘get over it!’ It sounds bad but he was a loving father and just wanted us to face our fears so we could be in control of our lives.
I didn’t understand why he was doing it at the time but I can see now that my dad never wanted our potential to be limited by being afraid. He was teaching me that putting yourself in a difficult position is the only way to overcome your anxieties or worries. Those first few times he got me on my back I panicked but he talked to me and encouraged me to calm down, and before long I didn’t have a problem with it any more.
At school, I was quite lucky – I didn’t really get picked on because I was so friendly and I got on well with everyone. There were lots of groups at school but I was always the one who floated around and was ‘in’ with everyone, I was a character. I had my main group of friends but then I’d still hang out with other people as well.
PUT PEN TO PAPER There is a part of the human brain that is crucial to goal setting and it regulates our actions as we move towards that goal. The reticular activating system (RAS) is a cluster of cells at the base of the brain which is responsible for handling all the information related to things that are demanding our attention at the moment. It is why you tend to notice something more often when you’re thinking about it, such as seeing a certain model of car everywhere when you are considering buying the same model.
Conveniently, the RAS can be co-opted while setting goals and increase the likelihood of success from the very first stage. According to research by the department of psychology at Emory University in Atlanta, USA, all you have to do is put pen to paper. Write down three objectives on a piece of paper and place it somewhere where you will see it regularly – maybe on the fridge or the back of your front door. Try to limit yourself to three, as having too long a list will limit how often you stop to read them. Seeing your objectives regularly allows that part of your brain to make you more aware of your aims. It is a simple method to ensure on a neurological level you are motivated to go for it and make a start.
“A new games console coming out is a massive thing when you’re 13. The PlayStation 2 was just mind-blowing to me; some of the other kids at school were getting them and I was desperate for one. I knew my dad wouldn’t just buy it for me – he’d make me earn it in some way. He always wanted to make us understand the real value of things and now I understand the importance of that, of how he came from nothing and built an amazing life for his family brick by brick.”
Whenever we did anything vaguely good at home or at school, Mum would always make a massive fuss about it and shower us in praise. Not Dad, though. All you’d get out of him was an occasional nod, or sometimes a ‘you did fine’, maybe even a ‘good job’. But when he passed the tape around my belly and checked the measurement, he just looked at me and beamed. He was so happy, he jumped up and hugged me and told me how proud of me he was. Then, exactly as he’d promised, he grabbed our coats and drove me straight to Toys-R-Us.
I understand now how the weeks of eating a little bit better, my dad’s pride when he passed the tape around my tummy and then plugging in that PlayStaion 2 for the first time changed my perspective of what I was capable of achieving. It sowed the seed that personal growth was possible if you wanted it and that finding the motivation to start was the key.
If we’re all honest with ourselves, the first obstacle is always getting started. We can become paralysed by the endgame, by the myriad stairs we will have to get up as we climb towards our goals. The concept of tripping or falling along the way can stop us from ever taking that first step at all. So, too often, we don’t bother even starting.
First of all, we’re going to consider where we come from and where we’d like to get to. We are all shaped by our environments, be that the home you grew up in, where you work, or the people you spend your free time with. Building your understanding of where you come from is an important first stage of goal setting as it helps you key into why those goals are important to you on a deeper and more motivating level.
1) WHO ARE YOU? What are the three defining characteristics of your personality? They can be positive or negative. Who is responsible for the instilling of those traits? Are there any events that have been responsible? Don’t forget that some might be your doing. 2) WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO GO? Now reconsider your goal having thought about what has shaped you as a person. Is the destination the right one? Do you need to alter it slightly to take into account your attitudes and experiences? 3) WHAT WILL GET YOU THERE? Finally, try to identify the primary positive action that will start you on the road to progress. What change will make the largest impact? This is your starting point and in the next chapter we will establish the smaller steps you need to take to make things happen.
We all tend to believe that the better version of ourselves is attainable. It’s human nature. But we also tend to think that either huge changes or fast fixes will result in achieving our goals. Yet it is daily choices or micro goals that have a positive neurobiological impact on our brain.
Scientists at Harvard and the University of Southern California found that even small ‘tokens’, such as crossing things off a list, motivated people to keep working towards the bigger goal. Micro-goals can rewire your brain, flooding it with dopamine – the ‘feel-good’ hormone – each and every time you tick one off. Even simple, daily tasks such as doing the washing-up or putting the bins out provide you with that buzz.
Rather than focusing on your end goal, consider what small tasks you can complete tomorrow that will contribute to meeting your objectives, no matter how little they are. Harvard Business Review researchers found that smaller wins actually increase a person’s happiness and the more frequently they experience that sense of progress, the more chance they have of continuing to be successful in their larger goals.
Savour that buzz. Each one on its own isn’t hard to achieve but the sense of achievement you feel when they are all ticked off at the end of the day is the power of taking small steps in action.
It signified a massive mental shift for us. Whether it was the seminar itself or simply the experience of going through that process of self-evaluation together, we immediately shifted into a different gear and when we got home we threw out all the Christmas chocolates the next day. I had taken loads of sweets on the trip with me but they all went in the bin. We went vegetarian and Dad started researching health and nutrition and went on a massive fitness kick. The entire family was energised; we were vegetarian for six or seven years and then pescatarian after that.
I could have stopped playing for the first XV, gone back to being a force in my own year’s team and running rampant against boys my age but I stuck it out. I wasn’t aware of it, but the mindset that had been given life by my dad and that we, as a family, had committed to earlier that year meant that giving up was never an option. I turned up to every practice and played every game.
Most influential, though, was the mindset of everyone there, from the players to the coaches, even the parents. When you’re playing rugby at school, it’s part of your normal week and almost everyone plays, whether they are genuinely talented or just decent enough to make the top teams, so you have a laugh during training and even muck around during matches when you’re winning. But the Tigers were different. Everyone was there for one reason and that was to get better.
My dad wasn’t a huge fan of going to university for the sake of it, as you might imagine. If I had been really academic and wanted to become a doctor, that might have been different. But he and I didn’t want to waste three years and get in debt, just to do a load of partying. He had no higher schooling and was a very successful businessman, so it simply didn’t make sense to us. So I chose to leave education at 18 but I still wasn’t sure quite what I wanted to do.
If it sounds to you like I’d thrown away a very secure job and set myself up for a fall, you’re not the only one. All of my former colleagues at Nuffield, the manager, even some of my friends thought the same and told me I was mad, yet not a single part of me felt like it wouldn’t work out. I had a goal of creating my own business in fitness and I was working towards it – whatever happened, whatever bumps or hurdles I met along the way, I would navigate them and keep moving. If you focus on the negatives, on all the little things that could go wrong, you won’t get anywhere. You won’t even start.
Doing one-on-one personal training was good but there was of course only one of me and I was limited by how many hours a week I could work. So I pivoted my business to concentrate on group classes instead. I changed the name to Be Fitter with the aim to start running a few group sessions to increase my profits.
It was at this point that my sister became involved. I was very good at coming up with the workouts and coaching the classes and I was as fit as anything. But I was awful with all the logistics. Martine started taking care of the organisation and finances, tracking people who had paid and who owed us money. I was, from a business perspective, absolutely terrible! If somebody who had been coming to our classes for a while came up to me and told me they hadn’t settled their membership yet, I would just tell them not to worry about it and that they could still jump in and train. When my sister came on board it was an immediate shift and if people didn’t pay, they couldn’t work out. Thanks to her, we became a really well-run business behind the scenes. We had this huge community of people who loved the classes and had all bonded over the years and we even hosted massive social events – we had 130 people turn up for one of our Christmas parties once. It was brilliant!
When you take your larger goal and break it into smaller steps, it means that not a single one is ever wasted. When I had to face the reality that my body could not match my drive to be a professional rugby player, all the progress I’d made up to that point set me up for success in the training industry. I had turned myself around physically, transforming myself from an overweight kid to a slightly chubby young teenager and then into somebody known by everyone as being really fit and strong who excels on the pitch.
The path that I had walked meant I could genuinely connect with anyone starting out on their own fitness journey.
BE CLEAR Complexity is the enemy of daily improvement, so break your larger goal into chunks. If you want to work towards a healthier weight, let’s say you set yourself the target of burning off two kilograms by the end of the month. Then split that down into smaller segments. In this example it would be four weeks, so you could set yourself the mini-goal of exercising five times per week. Then break it down into days: what can you do on a daily basis.
‘Grinding’ has become a popular term recently and when it’s used to mean giving your best at work every day, or resolutely chipping away at a DIY project around the house, then embracing the grind can be a positive thing.
All you need to do is find your passion. And if one comes along when you’re least expecting it, grab hold and run with it. The three years of hard work that ended when we locked the doors of Be Fitter Gym for the last time were not wasted because I had found my passion. I had found CrossFit.
TELL SOMEONE ABOUT IT Once you have successfully set your objectives, sharing them with a person you trust will enhance your progress.
It was the first time I had set myself a goal, achieved that goal but then things had not gone to plan and I found it a very hard pill to swallow. It felt like the worst thing that could ever happen to me. After locking the doors for the last time, I sat in my car and cried down the phone to my dad. Having been in business his whole life, Dad had been up and down four or five times and nearly gone bankrupt, even. If you talk to any successful business person, they will probably have the same sort of stories.
Those first few weeks after my holiday was the first time I had really stopped and evaluated what was going on, actually sat down and thought, really thought, about what I was excited by and why. The previous three years
had been such an endless grind but I wouldn’t change it for the world. It added another crucial aspect to my mental strength and I learned that overcoming a hurdle sometimes means taking a slightly different route. If you then go in a direction in which you feel fully invested, you’re headed the right way.
Dad would have openly told me I was completely stupid if I’d opened up a new gym and made exactly the same mistakes as I did the first time around. Instead, he saw that I had adapted and, crucially, that I was passionate, borderline obsessive, in fact, about my new path.
BEING SELFISH IS OK Committing yourself to any form of individual goal can sometimes feel like a selfish pursuit. After all, you are setting yourself a target and working out what you need to do in order to hit your smaller goals along your way, so it is inherently about you. But you can take steps to limit any guilt by reflecting on how your personal betterment can have a positive effect on other people.
For this last stage of the first part of the Start Where Others Stop journey, you’re going to draw a line down a piece of paper to make two columns. In one, write ‘How will I feel when I achieve my goal?’ and in the other, write ‘How will I feel if I don’t achieve my goal?’ Alternatively, head to here where there’s a table ready for you to fill in.
HOW WILL I FEEL WHEN I ACHIEVE MY GOAL? If you answer with positive and excited feelings then it is a sign you are passionate about your direction. If you know that you would be happier in another career, say, or feel real contentment moving your family into a new home, then you will find it easier to switch lanes professionally or save in the long-term to buy a new house. HOW WILL I FEEL IF I DON’T ACHIEVE MY GOAL? If you answer that you will be upset, disappointed and unhappy, those are also signs that you’re passionate about your goal. If you tend towards phrases like ‘I wouldn’t be too bothered’ or ‘I would get over it’, there is likely a disconnection between your feelings and your ambitions. If so, you are free to adapt your goal or to choose one that you are more passionate about. This is something to strongly consider.
If you don’t let yourself take real satisfaction in your progress, if you fail to look around and see how far you’ve come, the rest of the road will seem to stretch far out to the horizon and beyond. You’ll lose sight of why you started out on your journey and where you were aiming to get to. Your speed will slow and you’ll wish you had realised there were so many places you could have stopped, taken a deep breath and really savoured the trip.
We all have a tendency to imagine the best-case scenario and it’s human nature to picture everything going perfectly. We do not spend enough energy figuring out what could go wrong. That is not a negative outlook, rather it allows you to plan for any eventuality and react positively in the moment. It is the true definition of preparation.
Just after that workout, CrossFit posted a video of my finish-line dancing on social media and my support in the stadium and online went through the roof. Everyone was going mental for it and I think I gained 7,000 followers on Instagram overnight. I think how much I was genuinely enjoying myself, how laid back I was compared to some of the other, super-intense competitors really resonated with people.
When you’re chasing down a goal you have to really relish the achievements and victories along the way. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t serious about the bigger picture. My flossing and the happiness streaming out of me on that first day in Berlin, or when I was laughing after struggling through an event that I should have excelled at, in no way meant that I was not committed to getting to the CrossFit Games.
Being more present does not mean you have to meditate. Next time you go out for a walk or on the commute to work, leave your headphones behind and focus on everything around you instead. By being aware of the rhythm of your feet striking the ground or noticing the interesting roof of a building you pass every day but have never seen before, you can unlock the boost in happiness of being in the moment.
I understood what sort of athlete I was in 2018. I knew I wasn’t good enough to qualify for the Games then. I didn’t let that get me down because I believed that one day I would be ready to make that jump. If you’re looking for a promotion or a new job but you know that you’re not ready yet, there is no point getting stressed about it. If you think you’ll be in a position to apply in a year, commit to getting the best out of yourself and enjoying your work as much as you can. Being annoyed every month that you still haven’t got anywhere will only ruin your chances of moving up.
When the mental dust has settled, and you should grant yourself the time for this process to take its natural time, try to view missteps as valuable feedback and something you can use to improve. This comes down to asking better questions of yourself and avoiding falling back into negativity. The following are a good start: 1) What is the one thing I could learn from this situation? 2) How can I tweak my plan to avoid making this mistake again? 3) What is the one thing I will do differently the next time?
This is because to transform a weakness into a real strength, the most important thing is to go further than you have to. A lot of people do what they are told and then stop – they are content doing what is required of them but nothing more and, while they will improve, they will find it impossible to become really proficient at something that once was an obvious flaw. That mentality so obviously relates to your career. If you simply do what is asked of you, nobody will complain. You’re doing your job, after all. If you do that extra bit, though, if you use your initiative to come up with a smarter system, or a better way of bringing in new business, your career progress is guaranteed to be enhanced.
To come first in the UK when everyone from my direct competitors to CrossFit analysts expected me to struggle was a massive achievement and it was far and away the proudest moment of my career so far. I had turned a weakness, something that had stopped me from reaching my goals, into a strength. I was never going to be the best in the world at handstand press-ups, yet all that time practising in the gym gave me the leg-up I needed to make it over the wall. There were two workouts to go but I couldn’t help but feel the momentum was with me.
The researchers concluded that the elite show a commitment to their goals that the near-elite did not. More crucially, they found that following a failure, the high performers showed a desire to return stronger than ever as soon as possible, whereas their less successful colleagues tended to lose their enthusiasm.
1) DOES YOUR TEAM HAVE A SHARED GOAL OR PURPOSE? It doesn’t mean you all have to be going for a single thing – your goals just need to be relatable. If you’re training for a ten-kilometre race and a friend is preparing for a half-marathon, you can still function perfectly as a team.
But if you apply the same specificity to your perceived inabilities as you do to your merits, you can discover where your strengths really are and how to play to them.
Setbacks, when approached with the Start Where Others Stop mindset, can be the most powerful launch pads in any area of your life.
It was only after speaking to a few people that I understood that I had probably had the most stressful five weeks of my life. It had been a full-speed rollercoaster of emotions going up and down every day for over a month and
I hadn’t given myself any real time to chill out mentally. I learned a lot from that feeling. Now, after a big competition, I will always give myself three weeks off from training to completely chill out. A full month, even. I need that time to give my body a chance to recover. More importantly, after the pressure of performing at my maximum level for weeks at a time, or the raw intensity of a full weekend of live events, I have to allow myself to regroup mentally. You need to be OK with that and grant yourself the space you deserve in order to get back to your plan fully primed for more progress.
I don’t regret that experience because it will make me a better athlete, businessperson, friend and partner. If you know you’re not totally on it and that you can’t commit fully to something completely at that moment, it’s right to take a break. More than that, you must take a break. As long as you know that you’re doing so in order to start moving forward again with a renewed passion, you won’t lose sight of your goal. Just as with pacing a workout, planned rest is always the smartest strategy.
When I looked at it through that prism of my mindset, I was able to understand that I could not change what had happened. You only have the power to influence your own response to external events and the terrible impact of a pandemic on millions of people around the world was not something that I or anyone else could even start to contemplate having any control over.
There is no denying that the sport is predominantly white. Membership at a CrossFit box tends to be fairly expensive, so there are socio-economic factors to bear in mind, as the cost of joining a gym can be prohibitive to less privileged people. While reaching less privileged groups is something that could be addressed by the company moving forwards, I have never personally felt uncomfortable in any sort of situation in the sport on account of my skin colour.
I was contacted by many of the top competitors who contend for the CrossFit Games on a regular basis and received notes from other athletes saying that they were so happy that I had made a stand. I think people really appreciated that I was not fearful of saying what I felt. Some people in our position and with our platform are worried about annoying certain people or losing followers on social media, which paralyses them and stops them making any sort of change.
When you are in a position of even slight authority, those people will look to you for leadership.
On 24 June 2020, it was announced that Glassman was selling 100 per cent of the company. It was a powerful example that we as athletes can determine what happens to the sport to which we devote our lives. For us to demand change and for that to have an effect was a positive beacon in what was otherwise an extremely dark time for the sport. I was proud of the impact that we, as a community, were able to have and how we trusted one another to react in the right way. We had faith in the leaders of our communities to make their stand, to ensure those without a real voice were heard loud and clear. I believed that those in my communities, from the elite athletes and the multinational brands, to our UK scene and especially our tight-knit CrossFit BFG tribe, would all say what needed saying and do what needed to be done.
On a wider level, I feel like addressing how expensive CrossFit can be is a clear route to progress. It will always, and should always, be priced higher than a commercial gym, because you’re getting coached by experts who are programming specifically for you and your local community, rather than just paying to use the equipment. But there are ways of making it more accessible to the less privileged and engaging a wider spectrum of society.
Our prehistoric ancestors concentrated on the things that could kill them, like ‘do not eat the red berries’, rather than ‘those purple ones are really nice’. Obviously we don’t find ourselves in that situation today but there are moments in your daily life that can be transformed by a bit of self-belief.
A Black man in that sort of industry was very rare in those days but he had faith he could become a success, rather than listening to the whispering voice inside or the shouting voices of others saying that he should settle for being a mechanic. That he wasn’t going to make it. It all came down to the colour of his skin – people weren’t used to seeing Black men being successful, so for him to cope with that attitude and pursue that path anyway took an enormous amount of willpower and belief. Mum also had her own hurdles to negotiate.
Living in our first home, the same one they bought when they were 21, was proof in bricks and mortar of that self-assurance. That my parents had come from nothing and bought this massive house was an example of what can happen when you trust yourself to be successful, whatever it is that you choose to do.
We all have areas in which we aren’t as strong as others and I will never be amazing at strict handstand push ups. But now I’m good for my size and I’ve brought the movement up to a level where it doesn’t hinder my performance in a workout or limit my other abilities and I’m OK with that. You don’t have to be the best at everything and we have to understand that weaknesses are part of being human.
Davidson Hang is currently in Sales at Cheetah Digital which is a Marketing technology company located in NYC.
Davidson is an avid networker, personal growth- life and business coach.
He loves spreading the love and regularly helps people create and design the life they want for themselves.