Filtering for Character

By t. | In Articles, Mindset | on August 13, 2013

“We’re forging elite fitness but we’re filtering for character.” – Coach Greg Glassman

Some say individual character is difficult to define.  I disagree.  Character is only difficult to define if you are accepting of poor behavior.  Many people are.  They lack conviction. defines character as the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of a person.  That definition covers both good and bad character.  For brevity and the purpose of this article, we will use the word character in the context of good character.

People of good character typically live by principles or a code, even.  They are honest, loyal, candid, respectful, and friendly.  They have compassion, empathy, dedication and self control.  People of character all believe in the one rule…  do unto others as  you would have done unto you.  All these things add up to one thing…  honor.  Honor is an abstract.  Many cannot define it either.  At Maxim Mag’s Warrior Challenge, I was put on the spot and asked for my definition.  I came up with this explanation.

Honor – The Foundation of Good Character

[pullquote align=”left” type=”simple”]“If you enter and leave your CrossFit affiliate and you don’t say hi or good-bye to anyone, guess what? You might as well go to the globo-gym and zone out. You’re missing half the point here…. it’s not enough to be a character in CrossFit, you need to have character. Integrity, honor, respect: these things matter here. If you don’t have them for yourself and for others, then don’t cross my threshold: I don’t want you. Find your own community that does not require these things. But if you have a good heart and an open mind? Come on in…. You’re one of us.” – Lisbeth Darsth[/pullquote]If Greg is correct and a gym can filter for character, ours does. Those with out honor, integrity, or humility, will not last here.  Those folks looking for an easy workout where everyone tells you did a good job, you will not last here.  Those whimsical people looking for a quick fix to fitness, won’t last here.  Even better… those who are excited about the next fitness bandwagon will not last here.  Only those possessing a dedication and commitment to themselves and their fitness will appreciate, understand and take advantage of all CFW offers.

Each day we put 100% of our effort into training our members.  If they sham a workout by skipping reps, shorting reps, not adhering to a programmed tempo or post bogus times and/or loads, we tell them.  We are not buttholes about it, but we are going to let shammers and cheats know how they can do better…  we do it constantly and we don’t stop.  Those guys and gals get tired of being told they suck and they go to facilities that are ok with crappy character.  But there is more to it than just calling people out. Our gym’s atmosphere gives no one a reason to compromise their integrity.  Competition is certainly important to progress, but the times our members post on the board are not our priority.  Our priority is teaching each member exceptional technique and providing the programming that leads to optimal fitness development.  This method provides our members with standards from the day they start.  It also tends to weed out those guys and gals that are willing to cheat themselves just to post a better time.

Our workouts can be technical and difficult.  If you are just looking for the fast paced, metcon CrossFit that puts no thought into their programming, we arecore-values1 not it.  To last at CFW, you have to be willing to put in the work that produces results and that sometimes means doing exercises and workouts that are not always the CrossFitter’s definition of “fun”.  Rather, they are hard, require you to remain mentally engaged throughout and a desire to truly improve.  Not everyone has the desire to master anything, much less exercise movements.  We think anything worth doing is worth doing the best we can possibly do it.

Our members appreciate that we go the extra mile with our programming.  We carefully put it together weeks and months in advance by the most experienced guys around.  Some gym owners get their programming from other coaches like OPT, Outlaw, or Catalyst.  Many just add a CrossFit WOD to a program by Wendler, or other well known strength coach, and mess it all up.  While I commend them for being aware enough to realize they do not know how to program effectively, I just find it funny that some actually advertise it as a plus.  CrossFit Wilmington members get programming from guys who’ve done more than just attend a CrossFit certification or two.

CFW is not a quick fix.  The first character filter members encounter is the day they join.  We ask members for a six month commitment. We are committed to our members and invest a great deal in them.  We need to know they are willing to give no less than we give them.  If someone says to me “I don’t want to commit” or “I’m not sure I will like it” I politely invite them to try another, less mature, facility or Planet Fitness.  Gyms that do not require some type of commitment from new members, do not value their own service.  CFW started off that way, but we quickly realized what we offer to our members is very valuable… so much we have had countless members describe their experience at CFW as “life changing”.   Many CrossFit owners, some are my buds, disagree with me on this one, but only because they are afraid to try it.  Some say it is a way for them to differentiate their facility from the larger chain gyms.  I realized a long time ago, CrossFits are not competing with Gold’s or O2 or whatever big gym.  So for every potential member we lose because we ask for a whole six months of their lives, CFW has 10 committed members of character who we can focus our efforts on.

Luckily, character…  either good or bad, is an individual choice.  Your behavior, in or outside the gym, and how you conduct yourself daily is something you get to decide on.  If you cheat yourself or others, you will never get far.  If you treat someone poorly for your own selfish interests, you cannot out live that act.  In the gym, you can only reach your potential if you accept only the best from yourself.  Our members know we only want exactly that for them.  They know if they are tempted to slip and cheat themselves, we will politely remind them it is not acceptable.  In most cases, all you have to do is look around and peer pressure will take its toll.  It is hard to cheat yourself when you look over and see a pregnant woman doing the workout as programmed.  Or maybe you’ll see a MARSOC guy just back from a 8 month trip to Afghanistan killing a workout.

Hopefully you will see yourself, only better than you were yesterday.







9 Comments to "Filtering for Character"

  • Clint says:

    August 13, 2013 at 5:15 pm -

    Good Stuff…..needs to be talked about more often in the community

  • Chip says:

    August 13, 2013 at 5:33 pm -

    Well said T. CFW as “life changing”, no question about it. Thank you to the staff and morning crew that push the hell out of me.

  • t. says:

    August 14, 2013 at 4:31 pm -

    I appreciate Lisbeth’s quote “it is not enough to be a character, you have to have character”.

    If you choose “the path of least resistance” and favor your own whims and wants over honesty, integrity, and loyalty you mark yourself. No one will ever trust you. Good people surround themselves with good people. Bad people find themselves alone because oddly, even bad people do not like to be around other bad people.

  • Sensei says:

    August 15, 2013 at 9:09 am -

    A part of personal character and honor is also having the ability to promote oneself and ones product or service without having to do it at the cost of others. This being said, sometimes necessity of honesty overwhelms political correctness…

    Zach Brock taught me about “Community” (just by being himself) from day one in our box. Every day, EVERY DAY, he would not leave without going to everyone in the gym and saying goodbye. Shaking their hand.

    Very cool stuff.

  • t. says:

    August 15, 2013 at 4:12 pm -

    Agreed honesty and candor should always beat political correctness. Yeah, people may get their feelings hurt here and there, but if you’re lacking character and do wrong by others, you should have thicker skin. It is funny paradox of business that it can be assumed you are speaking badly of the competition when you speak highly of yours even when it is not the case. This article is about CFW’s atmosphere and clients qualities and good character. Something both our members and staff are obviously very proud of.
    You are so right about Zack. I wIsh he was still here.

  • Molly says:

    August 15, 2013 at 8:06 pm -

    T- great article. “Life changing” is very accurate when describing CFW. Everyone goes above and beyond to encourage, educate and help you achieve what you have deemed unacheivable.

  • Will P says:

    August 16, 2013 at 10:00 pm -

    “Life changing” is almost an understatement.

    CFW not only filters for character but also helps build it for those who are ready. I started at CFW way back when they were in the original gym and have gone through several stints where I would show up for a couple months and then disappear for a while. I wasn’t ready mentally or physically for what CFW was offering and while I wouldn’t necessarily say I had ‘bad’ character I certainly wasn’t the person I wanted to be.

    The turning point came last summer when I had the privilege to do one-on-one personal training with T. As he said in a recent post we had a very “spirited” conversation one day about motivation and effort (or lack thereof). I faintly recall him motioning to the girls bench pressing next to me and politely pointing out that they were using more weight than I was. To say the least I went home feeling defeated that day and had to do some serious soul searching. Luckily what he said finally clicked and has stayed with me.

    I still have a mountain to climb to get to where I ultimately want to be, and truth be told I probably won’t ever be satisfied because if anything the CFW and WSC staff and our community has shown me is that the only limitations you have are the ones you place on yourself. It wasn’t quick, and it certainly hasn’t been easy but I finally feel I’m moving towards my potential, wherever that may be.

    As the old saying goes you’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with and I owe CFW and our community for helping me every time I step into the gym to grow not only as an athlete but as a person as well. Thank you!

  • t. says:

    August 17, 2013 at 10:04 pm -

    Wow. Thanks Will. I’ve motivated people to do things in many different contexts over the years. I’m very happy the hard line approach I took with you that day worked. The results are obvious to all.

    But don’t think that will get you of the hook for punching me I’m the face this morning. Ha.

  • Amanda W says:

    August 18, 2013 at 2:42 pm -

    Will I am glad we motivated you 😉 In all seriousness, constructive criticism does little for those who are easily offended. Congrats on making an honest assessment and turning your efforts into results! Looking good dude!