I’m writing this coming off of a catastrophic 36-hour trip. My travel plans were totally botched, and I’m back now in Minneapolis, a city I’ve just recently made my home. It’s full-on summer, and it’s beautiful, sitting here in the park with my son.
I’ve been a fan of Core for a long time and brought their meditation trainer (think – a magic 8-ball wooden ball thing) on this brief trip. I’m reflecting on the concept of starting, and what it means to start things. It’s something that I deal with so much with the November Project, the free community workout movement that I co-founded. People always say to me, “oh, I’m not fit enough to go. Not fast enough. Not a morning person. I’m not a runner. I need to know more details on the actual movements. What do you do for the workout in harsh weather?”
I would always tell them they just need to show up. Starting. Starting is often our biggest challenge, isn’t it? It’s something we can all relate to. And the obvious thread here, with Core, is, how do you start meditating? The vast majority of people have heard of meditation. But then there’s the people who don’t know how to start – and I’m that guy. Hell, I’m married to a well-known yoga instructor. My mother is yoga instructor. I’ve been practicing since 2002. I’m at the festivals. Kale. Mala beads. Fresh, burning sage. Breathe. Relax. Let it out. The whole thing. I’m in that world, but I didn’t ever feel like it was super easy to jump into.
Why couldn’t I start meditation as I continued to hear about all of the positive effects? I practice my own moving meditation, with running, or even with riding bikes. But I couldn’t start meditating in stillness, so there I was – just like the people that I preach to about November Project. I knew I needed some help getting out of my own way to start meditating.
I think people like to try new things, but people also like being good at things. When you try something new, you are accepting openly being bad or running the risk of being bad or looking silly or doing things wrong. Fear of failure on any level, for anything, is very real to people.
In my experience, that’s the reason that people don’t start. That fear can keep us frozen and it’s a bummer. I have been surfing for the last five years and it was a good life lesson. I was really, really bad for a year. If I go all the time and can bring humility, I’ll figure it out and get a little better every time.
I’ve learned a lot from watching how kids just try things out, for fun, or until they’re a little better. And that’s fine, right? As adults, we all want to be experts on our second day. I think we’re all smarter than that, but we just get in our own way.
We love talking about how busy we are. How boring is that? I’m busy, I’m busy – it’s almost like being busy is one of our hobbies. It’s overused, but it’s also real. We have to keep putting the work in. I’m proud to say that I’ve worked my way up to a 12-minute meditation. There’s something really cool about that – it feels like I’m learning every day, and it’s something I didn’t think I could do.
We all have setbacks – try something new, get a ¼ of a percent better every day, and then have a bad day or something doesn’t go well. When this happens, I just think about how I need to make this time valuable. I’ve got to show some progress. It’s about confidence in the work; I think I have to deal with that throughout any experience.
I have a friend who has been surfing her whole life. She’s really not that great, even though she’s been surfing for 13 years, so she tells people she’s a beginner. I keep circling around this concept, that people think that the perception other folks have of our success should define where we rank ourselves in life. And I just I wish I could take a Sharpie and write everywhere, for all of us, myself included, that it isn’t for your friends. Whatever THIS is. It isn’t for your family. This isn’t for your spouse or for your Instagram. It’s for you, for every one of these days that you’re alive.
The bummer is that we live in this world where we are so very outward facing, even when it’s not on social media. Whether we’re talking about romance, or the networking game, or career – you’re dealing with expectations from others, and perhaps, expectations from yourself. I know people who ran a few marathons before they would even call themselves a runner. We aren’t always aware of it, but we impact other people by limiting ourselves with our own expectations.
I think achievement-oriented and successful people are the ones who have the hardest time getting started – they stand in their own way. When I get a group together for November Project, we’re all ready to work out. It doesn’t matter if you’re a high-powered executive when you’re in a group of 200 people. And it’s much more interesting when it’s a smaller group of 40 people – they have to be themselves and they have to have a little fun and interact. In this setting, we’re all equal human beings. Both at November Project and now as a coach to corporate executives, I see people struggle with that. But we can do it – I’ve seen how certain settings can really be an equalizer.
It doesn’t matter what you do for a living. People don’t want to fail in front of their peers, but when we’re all in gym clothes, standing there in our running shorts, it doesn’t matter what you do. If the sun’s about to rise in a few minutes and we’re all getting ready to work out together in the middle of the public park, it just doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter at all.
Even the best athletes don’t get a gold star, because if they don’t get out of the house and join us, it doesn’t matter. It’s the metric of being there that matters most. So when the workout begins, whoever is there in the judgment-free zone and is showing up for themselves – those are the rock stars.
With November Project, we are creating a safe space to start. We believe in bringing people together, creating new athletes, creating runners. I like to say, come as you are. We are judgment-free. We have a great community – the co-leaders do such an incredible job owning and creating a judgement-free environment. Because we may be way different, but yes, we have all ages, shapes, and sizes. It’s their town. And they’re inviting everyone to come on out and do the work. We take photos and we do it in a way in which the workout is actually set up so that no one’s ever left behind.
One thing I’ve worked to overcome is a self-inflicted sense of discouragement. I think a lot of people struggle with that. We tell people in November Project to try and come, just come one time, and then you’ll know if you don’t like it. I have friends that just fearlessly pop through different experiences, so that they check them off and say they’ve tried them, like adventure tapas, or fitness nigiri. That’s a really rare mindset. It’s really rare that we find things we like. We know what works. I’d love to see a world where you get mad when someone hasn’t tried something new. I’d love to see dads at the park going, dude, you better have tried to go to a fucking ballet class. You should be able to just do it. What else have you tried? I would urge people if they’re in the conversation about health, mental wellness, or meditation – whatever they know that could have an affect on their life – to just try it. There’s apps, there’s studios, there’s tools to get started.
What if our brag-ability was being able to say, “Last month, I tried 30 different things. A taco place, a dating app, a tennis racket stringing class. I tried this meditation practice, I went to a yoga studio. I test drove a Ferrari.” What if we could make that shift? It could be so fucking fun to do an ice carving class and then go put shingles on my own roof, then go get a YTT certification. If people were just trying, it would be such a different world.
So let’s get out of our own way. Core in hand, or even without. Do it on the train, listening to your own breath, or even with another app. Let’s just start.
Brogan Graham is a co-founder of the November Project, a fitness & social revolution with a presence in 51-cities around the world. He is a motivational speaker who has worn countless hats in his career, with a background in stage performance, D1 athletics, marketing, and social media. He’s a hugger and is very open to high-fives. Find him. Tell him your story.
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