Category Archives: Book Review


The story of how money came into being was that in ancient times people used to barter things for other things.  You had a chicken and needed some fabric for clothes so you found someone that had some extra fabric that needed a chicken.  This was hard so they invented money to exchange for goods and services.  Unfortunately, as the book “Debt” by David Graeber points out, it is entirely fiction.  There is no evidence of any society anywhere that used a barter system.

“If you owe the bank one hundred thousand dollars, then the bank owns you. If you owe the bank one hundred million, then you own the bank.” – Banking Proverb

What Graeber proposes is that money came about as a way to keep track of debt.  Debt is the foundation of our economy both monetarily and morally.  Graeber digs deep into this theory and connects our language and our societal values to the concept of debt.  Essentially two people start off as equals and one does something that creates a relationship of indebtedness with the other.  Sometimes these debts are quantifiable and payable with respect to things of a certain fixed value.  Sometimes these debts can never be repaid like blood debts and life debts (A blood debt is when you kill someone and then owe their family for the life you took.  A life debt is when you save someone’s life and they owe you).

This is all fascinating stuff and hit home today when I read a post about someone having a gofundme page to pay for their trip to Thailand to study with Ido Portal.  First, I was jealous because I want to go to Thailand to study with Ido Portal.  Second, I was incensed because how dare someone solicit people out of their money to go to study in Thailand.  Third, I was wondering why do I even care?

Here is why I am offended. When you ask to fund a project like recording a record or building a new gadget, the donors are essentially paying for something that will be made that was not there before and will benefit them and maybe society.  Essentially you are not giving money to the person but to the creation of a new product.  However, in the case of people using crowdfunding to pursue their own selfish endeavors, you are giving money directly to them and will receive no benefit. Furthermore, there is no personal relationship created where that person now owes a debt to you.   They don’t even know you nor can they even start to repay you even in a symbolic way.

Gifts, despite what Christmas stories describe, are an anomaly.  If you look at the what gifting is really saying, according to Graeber, it is an acknowledgment of some kind of societal or primordial debt.  We give a gift to our parents in recognition of the debt we owe them for giving us life and raising us which we can never truly repay and thus here’s a new tie.  We give gifts to our loved ones for similar reasons, you have shown me love and affection that I cannot quantify or repay monetarily so here is a mug with a clever quote on it.  Even throwing money into a beggar’s cup is a way of recognizing society’s debt to that person.  Our society owes it to the members to keep them safe and fed.

Largely these feelings have crept into the subconscious with our society.  So we know longer think of social interactions as various relationships of debt.  Graeber’s theory may be totally wrong.  However, it rings true with me.  I personally have feelings of indebtedness to friends and family that have done many things for me which I cannot repay with money.  I also have real monetary debts as well.  And when you think of relationships in terms of indebtedness it casts them in an interesting light.

What does any of this have to do with CrossFit.  Probably nothing.  Or maybe it has to do with community.  Perhaps communities are groups of people that previously had no relationship but then through shared experiences are suddenly indebted to each other.  Maybe not monetarily but maybe we feel indebted to those that cheer us on during a workout and push ourselves to perform to help pay off that debt.  The community gives to each member of the community and each member of the community is indebted to the community and that is how it sustains itself and each other.  How did this debt arise?  Is it created out of thin air?  Or does the community give value that is intrinsic and create the obligation?

I tend to think there is some intrinsic value of the community created by a CrossFit box in the giving of knowledge, respect and purpose to its members that creates an obligation among the members to give back to that community with their spirit and caring and gifts of effort and sweat and support of the other members.  It’s something that you don’t get from commercial gyms where you pay a fee to have access to the gym.  CrossFit gyms are different because what they give is something that cannot be repaid with cash.  You cannot repay a sense of belonging or a sense of purpose.  You cannot put a value on your first pullup or getting your first muscle up in the Open.  You cannot repay in any monetary sense these things that the community helped you achieve, so you do the next best thing, you pay a premium membership, you wear the t-shirt, you tell everyone you know about it, and sign up your friends and family.  You become the best person you can be, not for you, but for the community that helped you get there.

There are good debts and bad debts.  Owing more good debts than bad debts is a true wealth that can never be taken away.


The Four Agreements

One of  my favorite books is The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.  If you haven’t read it, go get a copy now and read it. It distills some of the best ancient wisdom into four simple truths.  If you make a pact with yourself to live by them, your life will be vastly improved.

“The First Agreement: Be Impeccable with Your Word

The Second Agreement: Don’t Take Anything Personally

The Third Agreement: Don’t Make Assumptions

The Fourth Agreement: Always Do Your Best”

Read this list over and over again.  It is easy to imagine a situation where a failure in any one of these could lead to making a bad situation worse.  Today I am reflecting on the second agreement: don’t take anything personally.  I spend a lot of time on social media and there are a lot of examples where people get personally invested in arguments on the internet.  What a waste of time.  I like good debate and I am glad the internet allows everyone to voice their opinions. However, I am constantly challenging myself not to take things personally.  I can’t control what you say, I can only control how I react to what you say.



The Rise of Superman

The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance by Steven Kotler is a fascinating book full of both hyperbole and possibility. I do not think it lives up to the title however I feel that it opened my mind to some wonderful ideas that are already being implemented in CrossFit and can be refined further with better knowledge of the flow state.

According to the author Flow exists as a very real state of consciousness where time slows down (time dilation) our brainwaves change from beta to theta and we release hormones like dopamine. It is a state where we accelerate our performance in a non-linear manner and make tremendous gains. It is where creativity emerges and where people become, in the author’s words, superhuman.

Apparently, the phenomenon has been studied in office workers to jazz musicians but is most highly developed in extreme sports enthusiasts. He claims that their physical accomplishments and rapid development are attributed to Flow and but for this state their accomplishments would not have come to pass.

The most intriguing part of the book is the idea of flow triggering and flow hacking. Can we summon this flow state at will? That is the important question and his best solution seems to be jumping off buildings but does concede that there are some less extreme ways to enter the state.

The things you need to create a flow state are focus, instant feedback, risk and community. I was not shocked to find that these are things that we have in CrossFit. It is yet another example of an extreme situation that pushes people into a flow state where they make tremendous gains in short amounts of time.

The Sports Gene

I just listened to the audiobook version of The Sports Gene by David Epstein. I highly recommend it to anyone that is in the fitness industry or is interested in athleticism.

What I really enjoyed is that Epstein discussed not only genetic predispositions to athletic traits, but also gave weight to the necessity of training as well as technology in the development of athletes.

This TED Talk is a great overview. I had heard of the book, but this video got me to pull the trigger in downloading the book.

One of the best take-aways from this book is that there are genetic differences that make people respond to training differently. Apparently, most people are effected positively by exercise (although some are not). Some people respond much better to explosive anaerobic training and others respond better to slower aerobic training. Unfortunately, Epstein and many coaches feel that individualized training programs is what is needed. However, instincts tell me that constantly varied CrossFit programming is what works for the majority of people by having a broad range of stimuli. Imagine if you had 100 athletes and you wanted to maximize their fitness, if you trained them all anaerobically, you would see a disparity of results based partly on their genetics disposition to anaerobic training. Conversely, you would probably see a similar disparity if they were all trained aerobically. However, if you trained them in a mixed modality manner such as CrossFit you would probably see less of disparity between the athletes. Although, those most sensitive to a particular training modality might not be optimized and have less gains than if they were to specialize.

The other side of this is that really we can’t know the genetic predispositions of all our athletes and absent such knowledge a program based on constantly varied functional movements executed at high intensity is the best way to maximize the results to the greatest number of people.