“History is only the pattern of silken slippers descending the stairs to the thunder of hobnailed boots climbing upward from below.” – Voltaire
It is possible that Voltaire was not in fact the one to say this. I could not find any conclusive evidence, but I am not so worried whether he was the one to have said it. I am more so worried about crafting a blog post about hard work and grit that only a handful of people will read. So here I go.
The Voltaire (?) quote highlights a cycle of power. A group ascends to power through hard work that was facilitated by their sometimes working class ethics and drive while another group quietly shuffles down the stairs after getting too comfortable with their power. The silken slippers have been suckling from the teat of power – all is easy and given to them. The hobnailed boots know what real work looks and feels like and are willing to callous their hands doing it.
In my own special way I saw this is a metaphor for today’s society and the hard work we do on a daily basis at CrossFit Ktown. There exist too few physical trials in today’s world – at least for most of us reading this blog. We neither have to toil for 12 hours a day in a sweatshop wary of losing a finger or limb to the machinery, nor do we have to plow the land by hand to ready it for planting. More and more power tools replace the need for human driven tools like handsaws and hammers. Our homes are heated and cooled to an appropriate level by a thermostat we can control from our phones. But CrossFit Ktown gives us a chance to get a win against the slow death of being in silk slippers.
Doing hard things are really good for us. It is after all the basis of physical adaptation like strength building, aerobic improvement, and general health and wellness. There is of course a balance, and we have spoken about that in previous blog posts. Going through trying times emotionally is also good for us. These times help us learn more about ourselves and can give us strategies to use going forward. Do not shy away from the hard things in life.
I confess to you now that I still get scared before Fran, row sprints, wall balls, and the Assault bike. I have a full on, visceral reaction of anxiety to that damn Assault bike. But I do them anyway (most of the time!). I do them because doing that which I fear is very worthwhile. It is at the margins of my experiences that I learn the most about myself. This is a very important piece of the fitness and life journey we are on, and Ktown gives us ample opportunity to experience it each week. Drink it in!
Those people wearing the silk slippers, they stereotypically lack grit. Those wearing the hobnail boots, they stereotypically possess grit, perseverance, resilience, and ambition to name just a few positive traits. These are generalities, but you can find examples of this over and over throughout history. Let us visit a quote from Cyrus the Great in Herodotus’ Histories: “Go ahead and do this, but if you do so, be prepared no longer to be rulers but rather subjects. Soft lands breed soft men; wondrous fruits of the earth and valiant warriors grow not from the same soil.” Cyrus said this to his Persian subjects after they successfully rebelled against their Mede oppressors. His subjects wanted to leave their barren and unworkable land to occupy the Mede’s verdant and fecund lands. Cyrus warned them against this because he knew they would be trading their proverbial hobnail boots for the silk slippers.
So I warn all of you the same. Do not get complacent or lazy. Continue to push yourselves. Continue to face challenges and fears head on each day. Lululemon likes to say we should do one thing a day that scares us. Say what you want about stretchy pants, but for me that often means giving 100% effort in the nastiest of conditioning pieces or digging deep to eek out another 5lbs for my 5×5 back squat. Training diligently allows us all to continue to develop our grit, resilience, and of course our bodies. Keep it up!