Control the Controllable
Written By Bryce Smith

It is not the situation but how you respond to it that makes the difference.

While you cannot always control what happens, you can always control how you respond to it [1]. Being a taller athlete in the sport of CrossFit, this is sometimes a very challenging concept for me to apply. I cannot control my height and the distance I must travel to complete repetitions and so I train my mind and body each day to be as efficient as possible and fight the urge to become frustrated by my size in a small man’s sport. If I allow this concept to frustrate or anger me, it is like holding onto a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; I would be the only one to get burned. Keep this lesson filed away as you continue to read this blog.

Through observation in life, I have come to realize that too often people play the blame game. Successful people and successful athletes take responsibilities for their actions. We as humans are lucky in that we always have the power to choose. How we look at an event is going to affect how we feel and how we perform [1]. Leading up to Regionals, there was a workout released that had strict handstand push-ups. Well, being six feet, four inches, and two-hundred and twenty pounds, I was not too excited about that event. I could stress about it, or I could challenge myself to improve at that movement and understand that I may not be the fastest or strongest, but that I would give my full effort leading to full victory. I ended up completing those handstand push-ups in a timely manner and we qualified – in the face of adversity – for the CrossFit Games. Successful people take responsibility for themselves and their game. Stan Musial summarized this concept with a baseball analogy in a nutshell, “When a pitcher throws a spitball, don’t worry. Don’t complain. Just hit the dry side like I do. [1]”

This leads me to another short story about a friend of mine who was working at the time as an assistant college basketball coach. He had been there for six years and was absolutely killing it. He had earned the respect of the entire staff for his hard work and dedication to his craft. That summer, the head basketball coach was relieved of his duties and a big name coach took control. My friend was so excited for the upcoming future of the team and so he put together a video compilation of potential recruits for the university. Later that summer, he got a call from the head coach to come in for a meeting. All excited, with a pep in his step, my friend headed on over to the head coach’s office ready to get a nice pat on his back after his awesome video compilation. He gets to the office and the coach begins praising him for his hard work. He mentions how the coaching staff loved him, and the players really appreciated his coaching style, but that he was going to be relieved of his duties. My friend was shocked and stunned in silence. The smile completely fell off of his face and his fists clinched. He later called me and told me that his initial mindset was to jump across the desk and deliver a “This is Sparta,” now referred to as a Holly Holm kick to his ex boss’s face. He caught himself and remembered some of the lessons he had taught his former players. The most important one being that you can’t always control the situation, but you can always control how you respond to it. He decided to take a deep breath and stand from his chair and say, “I think I can help you and the team, but I understand and wish you the best of luck.”

He left that job with his head held high although at that moment, it wasn’t easy to. This story reminds me of that Invictus Poem where William Ernest Henley writes, “Under the bludgeonings of chance, my head is bloody but unbowed.” No matter what obstacles may be thrown our way, we are always the masters of our fate and the captains of our soul.


1) Mack, Gary, and David Casstevens. Mind Gym: An Athlete’s Guide to Inner Excellence. New York: Contemporary, 2001. Print.

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Bill James
Bill James
April 5, 2020 8:29 am

Hey Bryce,
You’d appreciate a book I recommend all the time titled Change Your Questions Change Your Life by Marilee Adams. Just search the author on YouTube and you’ll get the connection.
Stay well!

Anu K
Anu K
June 9, 2016 12:10 pm

Great examples and article.I was relieved of my position in Dec. and was supposed to walk out directly from HR interview. I asserted my right to come to my desk, that I had worked 6 years at, picked up my personal belongings and left. I didn’t take no for an answer and why I can’t do something when I gave precious years of my life working at a place. I will always be proud of my reaction to that situation. Thanks Bryce for the share

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