The Difference Between Cowards and Heroes

I’m typically not one for Facebook posts.  My last open-ended post spurred such a vitriolic discussion I took it down.  I learned the hard way that people have a difficult time remaining civil on the internet.  But yesterday I couldn’t help myself.  

I wanted to elaborate without clogging up my own Facebook feed (which I don’t really check anyway) so I thought this medium might better target the audience I intended the above post to reach.  However, my target audience is not the “Cowards” I reference above, but rather a nod to their opposite.  The ones I consider Heroes.  

A Coward, both literally and figuratively, is “someone who is scared.  Someone who is easily intimidated.” And honestly, there are few things scarier and more intimidating than to put yourself out there to be judged.  When you have to genuinely face the question, “Has everything I’ve done for X amount of time been worth it?”  I don’t care if you’re a Games Veteran or brand new, that is SCARY.  

But if you’re willing to honestly be judged and own the outcome no matter what, you’re never a Coward.  In my opinion, you’re a Hero; in other words, the opposite of a Coward.  Someone who is “noted for courageous acts and nobility of character.”  

Please note that nowhere in either description is the outcome of any relevance in differentiating between a Hero or a Coward.  The only thing that separates the two is the approach taken.

The infuriatingly common reality is Cowards rarely get exposed as such.  Sadly, most Cowards are lauded publicly and confused with their opposite.  You’re likely to find loads of Cowards in the murky world of the unverifiable.  A swamp of “you can’t prove it false so therefore it just might be true.”  A place where statements are everywhere but plausibility is not.  Cowards love to post INCREDIBLE (meaning without crediblity) stories and/or outcomes where everyone can see but no one can prove.  Sadly, it's enticingly easy to live as a Coward.

Our world is a coward’s playground. Most people abandoned a sense of Coward-exposing skepticism long ago.  Largely because there's just too much bullshit and too little time, or to put fancifully we suffer from Verifiability-Fatigue.  We just don't have time to question the feasibility and likelihood of outcomes and stories.   We just passively toss out a thumbs up emoji and move on not realizing we tacitly validate outcomes and stories lacking any plausibility or fact.  And as we’ve all learned lately, if a narrative is compelling enough, facts to the contrary are all the more easily dismissed.

But I see first hand the real consequences even small instances of this Verifiability-Fatigue creates.  Real consequences like the people I watch at DCF who work incredibly hard to eek out small gains.  Small gains that, overtime, result in awe-inspiring progress.  The athletes who put up outcomes they are, and should be, proud of.  People who fit every letter of the Hero definition above.  Yet they have their work, progress and outcomes belittled by seeing those INCREDIBLE (see above) outcomes from those Cowards who have never and in all likelihood would never, beat them when the competition is head to head and honest.  

For clarity, I don’t get mad for my own sake.  I genuinely stopped caring about scores long ago.  I get mad when I see the people whose work I admire feel defeated and downtrodden for dishonest reasons.  To hear them question, “Why am I even doing this if so and so is suddenly better than me?”  When they question whether their remarkable progress is even worth it anymore.  

Now, if you say to me “well they just need to toughen up” then I doubt you know what it’s like to actually put your heart and soul into anything and feel like it was all worthless.  That's brutal no matter how “tough” you are; or no matter how much of a heroic mindset you possess.  And it’s always heartbreaking to see people you care about feel worthless.  So the best I can do is to remind them about the difference between Cowards and Heroes.

In my opinion, a key separator that makes you either a Hero or a Coward falls along a simple demarcated line.

I find cowards largely focus on outcomes.  That’s what’s most important to them.  And like all people they find the path of least resistance to what they care about. In this instance; it's usually dishonesty in it's many forms. They sharpen their skills by cutting corners and improve their ability to “get away with it.”  It’s quick, simple and effective.  They know people largely aren’t skeptical enough to question them and will just pat their outcome on the back with no regard toward how they achieved it.  They are that kid in Middle School who, when questioned, replied, “Just ask my mom...” knowing full well you likely never will.  They’ll bend your ear about what they can do or have done because they know you’re unlikely to ask them to actually do it.  And if you happen to catch them they have this reason or that excuse so they can creep into their fallback of “you can’t prove it false so therefore it just might be true.”

A Hero, on the other, takes great enjoyment in the process; recognizing the outcome as merely a by-product.  They rarely even mention their results because it’s just not important. They value effort and talking about outcomes simply isn’t worth the effort expended.  They admire the work people put in, not the outcomes they gained; because they know an outcome is as worthless as the actual score on a workout.  The only thing that has real worth is the lesson learned and/or the progress gained.  They know at the end of the day a forged outcome is as valuable as forged currency, no matter who might be tricked into accepting it.

I mentioned on our podcast (Plug Alert: Available on iTunes!) that every serious athlete needs to train themselves to focus solely on the process and never the outcome.  In other words, develop the viewpoint of a hero, not a coward.  And though it can be almost impossibly difficult to internalize the rationale is simple:  Outcomes are fickle and often luck-dependent, process is not.  I’ve watched athletes at every level of this sport (and others) have honest scores and placements robbed from them by someone else or something they could never control.   However, I’ve never met anyone who has set an honest personal record only to have it robbed from them by someone or something else.

So focusing on a journey based solely on personal goals requires ZERO reliance on anyone but you.  Hard work and personal bests are never fickle like scores and outcomes.  They are decided on merit and merit alone.  Your personal bests are yours and a Coward’s falsehoods have no bearing.

Unfortunately most athlete’s competitive CrossFit starts and ends with the CrossFit Open.  A competition, despite CrossFit HQ’s best efforts, mired with largely unverifiable outcomes.  And, thusly, a haven for cowards who thrive in the largely unverifiable quagmire it is.  A place where Heroes have to wade through the muck of Cowards the Open attracts.

So I applaud any real Hero who takes part. More so those who are ok with any outcome they get.   The ones who say, “Fuck the cowards who might beat my score; you don’t matter.”  Those who know beyond any shadow of a doubt their outcome is honest and valuable no matter their placement.  I say you earned that “loss” and you're all better for it.  

Because at the end of the day the outcomes aren’t worth the bytes they take up on the (regularly crashing) website they’re stored on.  But the approach to those outcomes mean everything.  And, eventually, when that honest outcome kicks some coward’s ass; then you’re not just a hero.  You’re a genuine, undeniable, verifiable fucking winner.

Andrew Killion