Greatness is relative.  It’s an individual Identification.  Some people want to be great Athletes, some want to be great scholars, others strive to be great parents or great spouses.  But what is Great?  What does it mean to you?  The bottom line is, you can’t be great at something if you can’t identify what great is and more importantly, what it means to you as an individual.  Now, although this is a necessary first step, it’s only the beginning.  You see once you’ve looked inside of yourself and decided what it is that you want to be great at, and you can articulate what that would feel like, then comes the next step…the hard part.  PUTTING IN WORK!!


Let me give you an example from my personal experience.  Once upon a time, in a land not so far away they call Pennsylvania,  I used fire to chase the Velociraptors out of the cave gym I frequented.  Seriously though, I’ve been involved in sports from a very early age, and I was in the weight room with my friends and a few of their dads when I was 10.  Eventually I got older, and news flash, so will you, and I discovered this thing called CrossFit.  WIth my sports and military background, I immediately gravitated to the sport of fitness.  I began competing in CrossFit Comps both locally and Regionally and won several Masters Events.  In my first CrossFit Open, I made the Top 200 in my Masters Division and went on to the Masters Qualifier Event which is the equivalent of The CrossFit Regionals.  I was ranked 103 in the World out of more than 5,000 competitors.  Was I  an overnight success?  NOPE because it takes years to be an overnight success.


I knew I wanted to be great at this sport.  I knew what that meant to me and how it would feel advancing to the Games someday,taking the podium and  feeling honored and proud to represent our FAMILY.  I also knew that I lacked proficiency in several CrossFit movements and the Masters Qualifiers quickly introduced me to one of them…..The Ring Muscle Up.


I’ve always been pretty strong, and I had an opportunity to display that during the first Qualifier WOD, 1 RM Clean.  I hit a 300 lb clean putting me 3rd in that WOD.  Not a bad start.  305 and 315 took second and first place for you curious folks.  Needless to say, I felt really good at this point.  Then came WOD 2…AMANDA.  Amanda is 9,7,5, Ring Muscle Ups and Squat Snatches.  I had gotten muscle ups a few months earlier.  And once I got them, I immediately put them on the shelf, pat myself on the back and said, “I got that shit”.  Then I probably went and started lifting heavy things again because I like that and Muscle Ups are Fucking  Hard!.  Yes, they are hard, and more importantly they are perishable.  Because I didn’t pay any attention to the “Hard Work” throughout the year, I didn’t get one muscle up during Amanda and ended up taking 200 out of 200, killing any chance I had to making it to the Games.  They only take the top 20 in each Division and they sure as hell aren’t going to take someone who can’t perform all the movements.  I’ll kill it next year I said to myself.


Lesson learned right?  WRONG.  Fast forward a year to the recent 2015 Open.  Although I had an entire year to train and to become proficient in the movements I had difficulty performing, I again chose to take the path of least resistance.  I continued to do the things I enjoyed, the things I was good at performing.  Lifting Heavy.  I managed to put 10 lbs on my clean and during the first WOD of the Open, my heavy training paid off.  Or did it?  I hit a 300Lb Clean and Jerk which put me 5th in the World on that WOD.  Not bad huh?  Well the CrossFit Gods had different plans.  After the 2nd Wod, I was near the Top 50 in the World.  Then the 3rd WOD was introduced.  Muscle Ups!!  Are you kidding me?????  At that point it was too late.  Even though after the announcement I spent the entire weekend training and practicing Muscle Ups, I was only straightening the deck chairs on the Titanic.  I scored 2 Muscle Ups and practically finished in 2000 place in that WOD.  Dropping me all the way to 257th place.  257th???  I didn’t quit though, I forged on hoping to crack the Top 200 and go onto the Masters Qualifiers for the second year in a row.  Unfortunately, or should I say, deservingly so, I did not make the cut.  I finished 226.


Okay so what’s the point?  I wanted to be great at CrossFit, I knew what that would look and feel like.  The problem was, for how strong I felt physically, I was mentally weak.  I couldn’t break through the mental barriers that prevented me from training on movements I sucked at performing.  It’s Human nature to avoid the things that are difficult in life.  The fact of the matter is, the things that are most difficult are usually the right things to do.  The tough decisions are usually  the best decisions.  Remember Frost’s The Road Not Taken? Whether it is a difficult decision in business or your personal life, or a difficult class to take at school, The things that seem the most difficult usually produce the biggest reward.


You can be great at different things.  Remember only you can define what greatness means to you.  My goal is CrossFit.  In what areas do you want to achieve your perceived greatness?  Look within yourself,  find it, embrace it and put in work.  Take a cooking class or an online course on nutrition.  Really hold yourself accountable in your profession to be a great employee.  Instead of cracking that beer (Gluten Free or not) get off the couch and go play catch with your child.  Cook your wife dinner or take your husband to a Yankee Game as opposed to doing whatever else you feel would be more enjoyable. Sacrifice a little time to be that Great Person you know resides within you.  Break through those mental barriers and put in the work.  My plan this year to to be “Lord of the Rings”.  What are you going to do?

Mark Ziolkowski