As a business, Four Barrel recently completed our first member feedback survey. This survey was an incredibly informative tool for how we can better serve our members. One of the overwhelming themes in those surveys, were the comments regarding “Community”. It was the most common answer to the questions “What is good about Four Barrel”,and “Why members stay at Four Barrel”. None of that was surprising to me because I love this community, and I automatically assume everyone else does too.
However, a piece of this bothered me. I have tried in the past to explain what “Community” means, when I talk about it with new members completing on-ramp. I talk about it with people that I want to try CrossFit. I talk about it, A LOT. Through all that talking, what I haven’t been able to do is articulate what community means, and why it is important to what we do at Four Barrel. I have not been able to explain to people on the outside, why the community is unique. I have not been able to elucidate what makes our community so incredible.
So now, after thinking about it for months, I want to tell you what I believe community means and why I think it is vital to our organization. Most importantly, I want to share with you what I believe you should be doing to ensure our community endures. I believe that our community can be summed up by discussing three important aspects.
First, it is clear that as you become part of the community at Four Barrel there is a clear sense of belonging. Many of us would identify ourselves as “Crossfitters”. Most of us plan our day, our week, our lives around how we are going to get sufficient time at the gym. Many of us judge the quality of our day, based on the quality of our workout. We go through this process of carving out time in most of our days, because Four Barrel is where we feel we belong.
Abraham Maslow’s work as a psychologist has become the foundation for much of the thinking around human motivation. He claims we all make choices to satisfy one of our basic five needs. The first two needs, physiological (food/water) and safety are self evident; we all need to eat and we all need shelter from the storms. In this hierarchy of needs, third is the need for belonging. This always seemed a little less obvious to me. However, he wrote that humans, no matter who they are, need the acceptance, love, friendship of a social group. He wrote that we all need to belong.
Four Barrel, like no other organization I have ever been part of meets the need for belonging in a variety of ways. For instance, at the end of any class, after people tackle incredibly difficult physical feats, they celebrate with each other. Watch as members wander around the gym greeting others, giving hugs, high fives, and fist bumps. Watch as people huddle together to talk and support each other. As you witness these things, be clear about what you are seeing. You are witnessing people coming together to provide each other with friendship, love, and acceptance; you are witnessing first hand what a sense of belonging looks like.
There is talk all over social media and television about having the right mindset. This focus on mindset was recently summed up in a book by Stanford University Research Psychologist, Dr. Carol Dweck. Dr. Dweck’s monumental work explains that there are two basic mindsets: fixed and growth. These mindsets function in the ways that we see ourselves and our abilities.
Those with a fixed mindset believe that we all have certain strengths and weaknesses that are static or fixed. People who hold this type of mindset tend to avoid challenges. They shy away from activities that challenge them, because failing at something that they believe they are good at, can have devastating effects for them. When you tell yourself, or someone tells you, that you are smart, strong, or fast repeatedly; this becomes your belief about yourself. When your mindset is fixed, and something happens to challenge that vision of yourself, you don’t know how to deal with the challenge to your belief that you are smart, strong or fast. The problem with this mindset is there is always someone out there who is smarter, stronger or faster than you. When faced with these realities, people who have a fixed mindset tend to quit.
Those with a growth mindset believe that there is joy in any challenge. People who see themselves as capable of improving and growing are able to celebrate their growth and the successes of others. Having a growth mindset, truly having this mindset, means you are able to persevere even when the work is difficult. Persistence in the face of challenge is the hallmark of a growth mindset.
Look around the back of the gym on any evening. Inevitably there will be 4-10 people working in the back on something they believe they can conquer. They are not typically hammering away at things they are good at, they are trying to master something new. I can not begin to guess how many countless times I have watched someone walk out of the gym with lash marks from their jump rope all over their arms, legs, and back (I have even seen some people lash their face), from their quest to “get dubs”. In spite of the self inflicted whip marks, those same people will be back at their quest for dubs the very next day. This process continues for days, weeks and sometimes months, and yet they don’t quit chasing those dubs. This is growth mindset in action.
Four Barrel Fitness breeds growth mindset. You cannot help but adopt this view of the world as you spend time there. Dr. Dweck argues that those with a growth mindset find lessons or inspiration in the success of others. Listen to people cheer each other on during an especially grueling workout, that is growth mindset. I remember the gym members just stopping class last year as Chris Hall attempted one of the Master’s qualifying workouts. None of us had anything on the line, but there is inspiration in seeing one of our own dig in and try to do something remarkable. There is beauty in taking the risk and giving it all that you have, I watched Chris do exactly that. When classes resumed, people were inspired and really went all out. Not one person thought, “Well I’m not as strong as Chris, so I am a weakling, I’m going home.” No one came close, because Four Barrel breeds a growth mindset in everyone who spends time there. Another reason that our community is great is the collective growth mindset, one where we all take risks, find inspiration in each other. Additionally we should try not to view our successes and failures through the lens of how it compares with someone else.
In the education world there is a constant discussion about the concept of shared efficacy. This concept simply means that collectively we believe that we can help anyone learn, grow, and master the things that we want to teach them. For there to be true efficacy by its definition, this belief has to be supported by data. For efficacy to be lasting, our belief has to be fed and reinforced by tangible evidence.
One of my greatest blessings is being part of the staff at Four Barrel. Collectively, the coaches are some of my favorite people. They are masters of teaching, supporting and guiding our members. What I believe sets our staff apart is our shared efficacy. I have seen repeatedly, them work with members to help them improve the way they move, sleep, think, and recover. I have seen them give of themselves far beyond what is expected, simply because they believe they can help make someone else’s life better. I know that as a group we believe that we can help any member meet their goals if they are willing to work and take feedback. It really can be as simple as that.
I am certain however, that coaches alone can not create a shared sense of efficacy for all of our hundreds of members. Efficacy long ago spilled into the collective beliefs of our members. I have seen innumerable members take time after class to help someone in their chase to master a muscle up, to improve their mobility, or to heal their hurts. Our members believe that they, and all those around them can in fact get to skills, strength, mobility etc. that they couldn’t before. They believe it because they can see clear tangible feedback in many ways. People who use wodify effectively can see their growth over time in a clear line graph. Many times I have looked at my graph for back squats and marveled at the growth. People can easily look at the scale after a year at Four Barrel and be astounded at their number. Countless members have had to go and shop for new clothes, because their old ones didn’t fit. All of this is feedback, this is data, to support the fact that as a community we can help everyone become a better, stronger, faster version of themselves.
As a member of this community I believe that you have an obligation to help support the other people in the community. Everyday that you enter through the front door, come ready to test your limits, knowing that failure is how you grow. Have the right mindset. As you tackle new challenges, revel in the process of getting better, and believe you will get there. Help others feel part of the community by greeting and talking to everyone you can. Finally, celebrate your wins and the wins of all of those around you.
This is what community has come to mean to me. Four Barrel is my place. The staff and the members that come here to grow, learn and laugh every day, are my people. The people in the community are what makes environment great. If you are reading this, and you are one of those people, thanks for being there with us. If you are reading this, and you are not one of our staff or members, its time. I can’t wait to see you all there…
Mike has been doing CrossFit since 2013. He started out doing the workouts on his own from crossfit.com. He then started having other people join in for workouts and was hooked on the community aspect of CrossFit. During the summer of 2014 he went to Four Barrel because he knew he needed coaching. He was immediately drawn to the culture at Four Barrel. He received his L-1 certification in June of 2017. Coaching CrossFit has been a natural extension of his first career, teaching. He has two master’s degrees and two bachelor’s degrees in teaching. Those experiences serve him well as he work to help people learn and grow. His family is also part of the Four Barrel community. Four Barrel is his home away from home.