EPISODE 63 — Mat Fraser — The Fittest Man on Earth
The CrossFit Games are the most grueling athletic competition on the planet. To even qualify, you must place in the top 10% of hundreds of thousands of competitors in trials. Events at the finals are not announced before the games. Each competitor must be able to lift hundreds of pounds, run a 5-minute mile, and complete obstacle courses at breakneck speed to even stand a chance.
To win one CrossFit Games is a terrific achievement. Mat Fraser has won five. In a row.
In this episode, he’ll reveal the mindsets, habits, and sacrifices necessary to achieve true excellence, answering questions such as:
- How does this CrossFit champion approach things he’s not good at?
- Why was failure key to Mat’s initial success?
- What separates Mat from his opponents?
- What drives Mat to be the very best?
- How did Mat know it was time to retire from CrossFit?
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14:23 – Remove “what if” from your vocabulary. “After college, I decided to go all in on CrossFit. I made the call that I was going to do one year where there were no what-ifs. What if I wasn’t distracted by a girlfriend? What if I had a better sleep schedule, a better diet, a better training regimen? I decided to live one year without a single sacrifice and see what the results are. If I didn’t get the results I wanted, then I could go back to those other things. But I won. After a year of that dedication, I won the world championship by the largest margin of victory ever. And it was all worth it. It was great. I set up my life so that there was as little risk as possible.”
25:57 – Drive beats skill. “When I was competing from behind in the 2019 Games, I had no doubt that I’d still win. It doesn’t matter how much better somebody is than me at an event, because no skill level can trump the amount of passion that I have. I am willing to go to lengths and depths that I know that they won’t touch. So I went onto the floor of that last event knowing that I was going to win. There was no doubt in my mind. They could be better than me, but I will hurt and suffer tenfold of what they will. I wanted to rely on my heart rather than my muscles, as corny as that sounds. I knew that I could put myself into this deficit and still pull through because it’s what I’ve already decided is happening.”
35:18 – Pride lasts forever. “I knew 2020 was going to be my last year competing, so I wanted to put my absolute best foot forward. It was my last chance to set the records that I wanted to set. I asked myself, ‘What do I want my story to be in 20 years? Do I want it to be that I almost got those records, or do I want to put my stamp on it and walk away?’ That feeling of pride never leaves. It’s only a matter of time before someone beats my records. It’s only a matter of time before someone who’s better than me comes along, whether that’s next year or 20 years from now. But that feeling of pride and success is there forever. No one can take that away from me.”
40:58 – Minor improvements produce major results. “ I don’t think my dominant performance can boil down to any one thing. There was a whole laundry list of things that I was doing, and not a single one of them on their own would have made a noticeable difference. But when you start accumulating dozens of these different habits over the years, they start to add up. It all came from a coach that I had early on who told me that my training is not special. Everyone is doing what I’m doing in the gym. Everyone’s doing hard rowing intervals or squatting heavy, so I needed to find the 1% gains elsewhere that they’re not doing. So I tried finding those little areas, like taking my sleep more seriously than anybody else. I set up my life so that I didn’t have to think about anything outside of the gym. If you do one of those things for one day, you won’t notice a difference, but if you’re doing 30 or 40 of these things over multiple years…that’s when you start setting records. I woke up with one goal and one goal only: to be the best competitor there ever was.”
44:49 – Turn your weaknesses into strengths. “In 2015 I had a terrible go at the tire flip on the competition floor. So I started practicing it on my own and would just flip it and flip it and flip it, and now I think I’m one of the better people in the world at it. That gave me the confidence moving forward that just because I was bad at something one time doesn’t mean I’m bad at it forever. It just means you need to work on it. It gave me that confidence when I found something that I was bad at because then I could get better. I just needed to put an attack plan together.”
49:19 – Hard work pays off. “When I first got into CrossFit, I looked at my competitions like school exams. I would look back at my scores and ask myself, ‘What was my poorest event finish? What did I struggle with?’ My whole CrossFit career just became one big problem-solving session. Everything I did, I just focused on how I could get better at every aspect of it and put in the work.”
52:44 – Suffer now for the glory later. “There are dozens of different reasons why I trained the way I did in the gym, but I’d say the most common one was that I want to have a cool f***ing story when I’m old. And another theme was that I want to have a life that I want to live, not a life that I have to live. When I was competing, I knew that if I wanted that freedom later on in my life, I needed to do these sh***y rowing intervals, for example. There’s nothing enjoyable about that, but the sense of pride and freedom it’s going to provide…that’s what I’m after. Someone asked me once if I have an addiction to suffering. I don’t enjoy it at all; I have an addiction to the product of suffering. I’m always working for that better tomorrow.”
1:13:58 – Game changers do things better than anybody ever before. “There’s a sense of pride to doing things in a different way or doing them to a level that no one’s ever seen before. It makes you proud of yourself, and I think that’s the most important thing. I’m always striving to make myself proud because the people that I choose to have in my life love me no matter what. So I’m trying to find every little nook and cranny where I can get a 1% gain here, a 1% game there. If you accumulate enough of those things, you’re going to change the game.”
EPISODE RESOURCES & REFERENCES
Junior Weightlifting Championship
Olympic Training Center
Olympic Education Center
Essentialism by Greg McKeown