Workout of the Day
Five sets of:
Overhead Squat x 1-2 reps
Rest 3-4 minutes between sets;
and then,
“Three-Man Rowing Challenge”
In teams of three, complete as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes of:
Row 300 Meters
Rest 20 seconds
(Switch team members every 300 meters. Your Concept 2 erg should be set to “Intervals: Distance,” with a 20-second rest period between each 300 meter interval.)

Difficult Difficult, Difficult Easy
Written by Geoff Thompson and Published on Alwyn Cosgrove’s website

(Editor’s Note – I believe this is the first time I have posted non-original content on our website. I am doing so because I love the message of this article and its wide-ranging applicability to our lives. I hope you can get beyond the fact that it’s written by a British martial artist. The martial arts content/aspect might not speak to you, but hopefully the message will still convey. So, I only half-heartedly apologize for not providing you with original content today, but suspect that many of you will very much enjoy this perspective. I hope you take a moment to reflect on how this applies to you in the various roles you play in your life.)

I bumped into an old friend from the distant past. In my early days as a hard-nosed knuckle-dragger he was one of my compatriots, and one of the hardest working martial artists around. He had always prided himself on his sinewy mentality when it came to all things physical, and he had a prolific work rate. After a brief (and predictable) catch up (how’s the work, the car, the kids, the wife and the mum – in that order) he said ‘hey, you still doing animal day?’
Animal day, for those that do not know, is a form of knock-out or submission fighting (any range, any technique) that I pioneered in the mad, bad (and often sad) 90’s. A time I absolutely loved, but a time I am also grateful to have left behind.

I shook my head in the negative. It had been a many years since I engaged in my last animal day fight.
‘Why not?’ he asked, adding, ‘I’m still mad for it.’

‘Because it is difficult easy,’ I said, ‘and in order for me to continue growing my character, I don’t need difficult easy. In order for me to grow my character I need difficult difficult.’
He gave me one of those loud, squinty eyed confused looks that shouted from a hundred feet ‘Explain!’

So I explained.

Even as a veteran of thousands of fights, animal days were still a scary experience for me, it was violent and dangerous and extremely difficult. But because I had fought so many times and knew the terrain well it no longer stretched me.

Whatever it was that I needed to reap from that hard period of my life had been well and truly harvested; there was nothing left for me to learn there. Animal day was still difficult, and from the outside looking in it probably looked as though it was mad difficult, but for me it wasn’t, in fact it had become difficult easy.

My friend was still in love with the ground-and-pound style fighting and whilst his physical prowess was evident he had not grown even a single inch in any other area of his life, probably not for the last ten years. His was the mistake made by many; they presume that if something is difficult then they are in the arena. But experience has taught me that the only time you are truly in the arena is when you are (ever so slightly) out of your depth.

Difficult easy is when you are on familiar terrain, not matter how hard the going.

Difficult difficult is when you find your self at the bottom of someone else’s class with three crazy training partners; fear at your left, doubt on your right and (that big bastard) uncertainty squaring up in front of you.

Difficult easy is treading water whilst kidding yourself that you are swimming against the tide.

Difficult difficult doesn’t need to employ pretence because it is drowning and swimming for its life.

I see many people suffering stalled development because they are so busy occupying themselves with very worthy, respectably, difficult easy tasks that they use to avoid the difficult difficult areas of their lives.

I am doing it right now as it happens. I should be doing a re-write of a difficult (difficult) film script that is over due, but instead I am busying myself with a piece of difficult (easy) work that is not really due to be in print for another fortnight (damn, caught myself out again!)

Some (more) examples; you bury your relationship problems (difficult difficult) under hundreds of miles of road running (difficult…but easy).

You fill every spare moment with hard lists of worthy causes (difficult easy) so that you don’t have the time to invest in the book that you were always going to write, or the film you would love to make (if only you were not so committed in other areas) or the (difficult…very difficult) painting career that you had always intended to create.

You immerse yourself in course after course, book after book (so difficult, and yet….so deliciously easy) on becoming a life coach/property developer/master chef instead of just getting out there (difficult, oh so difficult) and actually doing it.

Listen. Let me tell you, the moment a task becomes difficult easy you stop growing. That is a fact. In order to re-establish your vital development you need to take an honest inventory (difficult very difficult – I have done it) of your life, ditch the pretence, and embrace the black that is….difficult difficult.

And stop chasing ostentatious challenges (that are difficult easy for you) and sort out your health; you are three stone over weight and your blood pressure is off the scale.

Kill the worthy endeavours that you think other people will think are impressive and do something truly and uniquely impressive; take your (secret) addictions to task and kill the porn (in all its forms).

Stop collecting trophies and certificates and belts that tell the word how successful you are and actually BE a success, by taking a hammer to that creepily burgeoning fear that you are harbouring.

And don’t, please (like my old mate) fall into the trap of mistaking hard work – even extremely hard (easy) work – for progress. Because, let’s be frank, difficult easy is really just another way of saying ‘easy’, and there is no growth in easy.

We aspirants are into the hard game, the long game, the difficult difficult game. What we are not into, or what we should not be into is the game of easy.

  • Thanks for sharing this CJ, Good stuff.

  • Thank you for posting this one. It’s a delicious read that speaks volumes to me:

    (1) I’ve written three books that are collecting dust because I haven’t pursued the difficult difficult task of getting one of them published.

    (2) I founded one of the first early college high schools in the nation in 2002. One of the co-founders and I have talked about capturing our experiences and those of our students in a book. I left the school in 2006 and we’ve yet to publish a book or even an article because I now know it to be difficult difficult.

    (3) At work, I am charged with leading efforts to build councils within the two clusters of Area Nine. Basically, the task involves meeting with communities and supporting/nurturing/establishing conditions wherein each community cluster determines that it’s time for them to embrace the notion of “community-based school reform”. Talk about difficult difficult!

    (4) For years I tinkered around the edges of health, wellness, and fitness…I’d workout in spurts, I’d eat a quick meal or two each day (I became a fan of Ensure during this time), I was rudderless, without a purpose/direction/plan for where I wanted to be physically and mentally as a result of my (minimal) efforts.

    I’ve found sharing my goals/hopes among fellow sojourners increases accountability for me when it comes to what I’ll certainly now call “difficult difficult” work. So here it goes (I welcome fellow inVicti checking in on the status of things):

    (1) I’m sending the manuscripts of three books (i.e., The Tale of Imani the Bunny, The Dreammaker: Preachin’ John’s Quest for True Freedom, and Be a Servant, Be a Leader) to my graphic artist cousin THIS weekend so that I may self-publish one of them within the next twelve months.

    (2) I’m in Greensboro, North Carolina, for a conference and to launch an online journal as a member of its editorial review board (CACE Considers Black Masculinity Oct. 14-16 I’m having lunch today with the aforementioned fellow co-founder of The Early College at Guilford…I now know that we MUST discuss and WRITE something.

    (3) I cannot work any harder as an area superintendent–there’s only so much that can be done in a work week. Now I know I MUST invite Area Nine administrators (i.e., principals and vice principals) to join in efforts to establish these councils. I must empower them to serve their schools as shot-calling (and big balling) CEOs. This is difficult difficult work as our district is rule-bound and compliance-centered.

    (4) I just completed 16 sessions of the Performance Development Clinic with Calvin Sun. I now MUST take the lessons learned from the clinic and couple them with lessons learned from others (e.g.,, Shane’s Ergo Clinic, Nuno’s Running Clinic, the Self-Myofascial Release Clinic, and conversations with Snacks, George, CJ, Dani, Nicole, and August). Crossfit inVictus is equipping me to embrace difficult difficult head on…even on the days when I finish last and the WOD hands me my a#$ on a silver platter. Difficult difficult is being in the birthplace of Krispy Kreme doughnuts and passing up the chance to eat a dozen of them (classically glazed is the only way folks) with a half gallon of whole milk…but difficult difficult will be done…

  • jw3

    I loved this post…Another good one to review from time to time…

  • Brent

    Like it, I also did OHS today: 4×1 205-205-230 PR-205 then Main Site WOD 6:32. Burpees unbroken but slow HPC 15-8-4-3-6-4-3-2.

  • Where is my easy button? Kidding…great article. Love the examples…

  • Pat


  • Cynthia

    As much as I loved the article and really really got the message, I love Wings’ post more. I will be keeping an eye on you, Tony Baloney. You’re kind of hard to miss in your purple shorts, blue shoes and wife beater tank tops. 🙂

    I’m fortunate to live my life in the “easy easy” style!

  • George

    Amazing Tony, thanks for sharing.

    On a side note, please don’t forget to send in your questions to Cal and me for the nutrition Q&A!

  • courtland

    Ok, time for a contrary view. Clearly anyone who has won national titles at pretty much any sport knows what hard work is about and has some serious discipline. So big props right up front. That said, I think his writing style is pretty hard to stomach–it’s not a surprise that most of his books are “motivational” (as opposed to serious fiction or non-fiction).

    I think his intended audience must be those who are “three stone” overweight and who are doing nothing about it. And this fakespeak “difficult easy difficult difficult easy easy easy difficult”? Gobbledygook.

    “The minute something becomes easy, you stop growing?” Not so. Sometimes the thing that becomes easy is merely a step in a series. You don’t stop “growing” linguistically, psychologically or intellectually when you have mastered English and can read and understand “Finnegan’s Wake” but decide to forgo reading an English translation of Hegel’s “Phenomenology of Spirit” or Proust’s “Remembrance of Things Past.” Maybe the latter are just boring to you.

    He also completely ignores the increased stress component that surely underlies constantly fretting about whether something is “difficult difficult” enough (it’s making me ill just to type that silliness). I also disagree with trying to analogize hard physical work to every other sphere of activity in life.

    Sometimes we should be endeavoring to make things simpler and more efficient–which is itself a challenge to creativity, diplomacy (see Wingsandthings’ post above) and balance.

    Lastly, as random aggregations of molecules with only illusory notions of (and not actual) free will at our disposal, hurtling along in a completely random universe, we are all of us out of our depth every single moment. We know not what comes with the next set of atomic positions. Being is, then, (oh, the dread to have to write it) difficult difficult. Apologies in advance to those who believe in Flying Spaghetti Monsters.

    I would distill and rework the piece into a much more easily digestible:

    “Pursue your dreams with focus and vigor. Sometimes it’s going to be tougher than is comfortable, but if you stick to it and continue to evolve along the way, your life is probably going to be more enjoyable and your deathbed won’t be crowded with as many regrets.”

  • michaelchasetx

    I just read the article on C.J. in OPT’s Sept. newsletter:
    Getting that balance, getting that sleep, for that matter, getting that recognition from someone who knows and cares …. Awsome! You rock!

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  • Wow. I need to (re)read this on a weekly basis.

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