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The CrossFit Kells No Complaint Challenge

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“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.”
-Maya Angelou

My favorite quote of all time. If we all followed Angelou’s advice, imagine what kind of environment we would live in.

Too idealistic? Probably…negative thoughts, actions and words are too easy and, for some, too much fun to indulge. Some people just absolutely, positively, 1 million percent LOVE to complain (you’re probably thinking of someone right now). This doesn’t mean that YOU can’t follow this approach though.

SO…in the spirit of the new year, and of sharpening our mental axes here at CFK, we are inviting you to participate in The CFK No Complaint Challenge.

The challenge will begin on Monday, January 16th.

To explain, we’re going to lean-on author Tim Ferriss. Ferriss did not create this challenge, but he publicized it in 2014 (see the Huffington Post article at the end for more detail, which I will be quoting from).

Ferriss is a world class thinker, human-experimenter, podcast host and all-around interesting human. And since he paved the way, we’re going to mimic his approach here.
As Ferriss points out in the article: “Word choice determines thought choice, which determines emotions and actions”. The goal here is to bring more positivity to your daily life. Every single one of us, to varying degrees, complains every day…that’s why this is a challenge. But it IS possible to change this.

Here is what the challenge entails:

1) Get yourself a wrist band or bracelet, or a simple rubber band
2) Go 21 days without complaining
3) Each time you catch yourself complaining in those 21 days, switch wrists and start from day zero

As you will see, for Ferriss the effects were immediate and life changing.

This challenge is not for everyone. And that’s fine! If your reflex response to this is a snarky comment, or an eye roll, or something similarly unenthusiastic…totally fine. The next challenge might be a better fit.

Also, if you’re not going to take the challenge seriously, please don’t sign up. There is no defined winner of this…everyone will finish at their own pace (it took Ferriss 3 months to complete his 21 days). In order to keep to that kind of integrity, you need to enter this for the right reasons and commit to seeing it through.

So if this is not your cup of tea, no worries…we’ll be doing a more conventional challenge in February that you might like (which will not conflict with this, so you can certainly do both as well).
To take this for a test drive, over the next 24 hours keep track of the number of people who start conversations with you that center on a complaint or criticism. How prevalent is complaining in your life? How much do YOU complain? Will you be able to control your emotions/thinking for 21 straight days to do this?

So what IS a complaint?

Here is one of the, well, challenging parts of the challenge. This is a subjective measure. This is why it’s critical that you WANT to try this, and that you’re committed to sticking to it in its entirety.

Ferriss explains:

“This is where I disagree with some of the rules set by Will. He asks you to switch wrists whenever you gossip, criticize, or complain, and the definitions can be a bit vague. He also requires you to switch wrists if you inform someone else they are complaining. I think this is counterproductive, as I’m big on constructive criticism.

I defined “complaining” for myself as follows: describing an event or person negatively without indicating next steps to fix the problem. I later added the usual four-letter words and other common profanity as complaint qualifiers, which forced me to reword, thus forcing awareness and more precise thinking.

Following the above definition, both of the following would require a wrist switch:

“Man, I went into the post office and had to stand behind this rude jerk for 30 minutes. What a waste of time.”


“John can be such an a**hole. Totally uncalled for.”

The following variations would not:

“Man, I went into the post office and had to stand behind this rude guy for 30 minutes. It was a waste of time. From now on, I’ll go in the mornings before 10 a.m. to avoid the crowd.”

“John was a bit of muppet in there, wasn’t he? I suppose I’ll just send the e-mails directly to Mary in engineering for the next two weeks to get buy-in, then he’ll have to agree.””


So for our purposes here, complaining will be describing an event or person negatively without indicating next steps to fix the problem. ALSO, this includes no swearing. Yes….this will be something that might keep some of you out of the challenge. I hope not, but I do get that quitting swearing for 3 straight weeks might prove impossible for some.
Consistent with the Angelou quote, the goal is either to change what you don’t like about situations, or change your attitude.
The results for Ferriss from this experiment were threefold:

1) He sharpened his critical thinking skills causing him to reflex toward solutions vs. lazy commiserating (e.g. gossip and criticism)
2) He neutralized negative events, because a tentative solution had been offered. This resulted in better sleep and better conversations with those whom he was in contact
3) People wanted to be around him. It’s more preferable engage with a positive problem-solver vs someone prone to negative gossip

There you have it! If you are IN, sign up on the big board at the gym. Here we will track progress until all participants finish their 21 days.

Who’s in??


P.S. See the entire article here: