Mastery & the Near-Win

Mastery & the Near-Win

In 1984, Jackie Joyner-Kersee missed winning the Olympic gold medal in heptathlon by one third of a second. ONE THIRD. Her husband suspected that this loss — a loss so incredibly close to the win — would fuel her tenacity to win next time. Four, long years later in 1988, Joyner-Kersee not only won gold, she set a record for points earned in heptathlon that has not been surpassed since.

The value of the “near-win” is the topic of this enlightening Ted Talk on Champions by art historian and critic Sarah Lewis. The near-win propels us toward our goals, Lewis suggests. “The near-win changes the landscape and puts our goals in more proximate vicinity.” Sometimes we don’t realize how close we can get until we fall just short.

Ben Saunders said, “Triumphs are not merely the result of one grand achievement but the propulsion of a lineage of near-wins.”

Lewis connects this lineage to mastery. Success is just a moment, but what we are always celebrating and creating is mastery; mastery is not a commitment to a goal, but a constant pursuit. In that pursuit we  find there is always more to learn.

Masterful artists and writers often feel their work is incomplete even when the outside world would consider them masterpieces. Painter Paul Cézanne only signed 10% of his paintings (!) Kafka wanted all of his work burned at his death. People are not masters in their craft because there is a conceptual end, but because they realized there isn’t one. The pursuit of mastery is an ever-onward almost.

That’s also part of the allure to CrossFit. We thrive when we feel we still have more work to do and in CrossFit there is always an area to improve.

As athletes, parents, artists, coaches, bosses, workers — the good ones anyway — we often feel we can’t do enough. We become better out of an unfinished idea or task, even if that idea or task is to simply best our former self.

Onward students of mastery! May your near-wins teach you more than you realized possible and continue to propel you forward.


Tuesday’s Workout

200m MB run (20/14)
30 Alt DB snatches (50/35)

And Coming Wednesday

A) 5 RFR (:30:30)
Plank from hands
Strict Pullups
Squat cleans (50%)
Alt pistols

B) FQL, working up across sets



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