An inspirational post-training chat with Commando Steve about mindset
I met Commando Steve Willis in February this year. What an epic day it was! I’d just completed the first WOD in my first Crossfit Open and a last-minute opportunity was presented to me – a two-hour training session with Commando Steve. I didn’t think twice before saying yes. Afterward, I had quite a candid conversation with the Commando about life, language, mindset, and what it takes for him to stay sane and focussed.
Training with Commando Steve
I had no preconceived ideas about who Commando Steve was as a person. I don’t watch The Biggest Loser, I don’t read the magazines that talk about he and Michelle, and I didn’t even know he had a column in one of the metro papers. All I knew, from what I’d heard, was that he was a bad arse fitness trainer. That reputation was certainly confirmed in the two hours I spent with him, along with a group of about 40 others, in the middle of a summer’s day – running up and down hills, dragging tires, crawling through human tunnels and lunging to within an inch of my life (and this is AFTER all those lunges in 16.1!). But it was his mindset and the pep talks throughout the training that I thrived on.
“Excuses are the loopholes we find when we over complicate things.”
He said if you’ve ever worked in a big organisation, you’ll likely have noticed that over complications can cause stagnation. That’s why, where you can, it’s best to keep things simple: break it down, get back to basics, focus on one thing, one movement, at a time, and you’ll see progress faster.
“On the other side of fear is courage. On the other side of suffering is wisdom. On the other side of weakness is strength.”
You don’t just go straight into battle with courage. You don’t just wake up one morning and know all the answers. You don’t just go into the gym and squat double your body weight on the first attempt. There are trade offs we first must make, lessons we first must learn, feelings we first must master, experiences we first get to live through. It’s all part of the process of progress, growth, and the beauty of life. Everything is temporary. Be aware that whatever challenges you face, they will pass. Then, on the other side, something wonderful awaits you. Just stay focussed on the vision and on what you want.
Oh, I also learnt a few technical things, of course, to do with squats, push ups, and burpees. Mostly though, I just worked up a killer sweat and heart rate. Luckily there were people with hoses constantly spraying us with water.
After the training, sitting on the hill I’d just ran up and down countless times in those past two hours, I chatted to the Commando about what gets him out of bed in the morning, the power of words, and how he stays focussed.
What motivates Commando Steve
He is a very present kind of person, Steve. When he talks to someone, his eyes are focussed and attentive. He is not easily distracted. He is respectful, courteous and well-mannered. Both during and after the training session, I got the very clear impression that the Commando is genuinely interested in the people he meets, and that he is always considering how he can add value to the one who is in front of him in that moment. It was not unexpected when I asked him, that Commando Steve said he was motivated by seeing progress and growth in others. He recognises, too, the impact that he as an individual can make (just as others can) by living – not just leading – by example. That’s what motivates and inspires him, and is the thing that gets him out of bed in the morning.
Commando Steve on mindset, philosophy & linguistics
Turns out Commando Steve Willis has quite the interest in philosophy. He’s even studied it. Unsurprising, I suppose, given his background in the military and the mental toughness required in such a field. He’s since been able to apply much of what he nurtured in the army to personal training and also life. He recommended that a friend of mine training to be a fighter pilot read a book called Resilience – Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life, by Navy SEAL Eric Greitens. The same book was mentioned by mental performance coach Justin Su’a on episode 42 of The Brute Strength Podcast – The Body Achieves What The Mind Believes (go listen – it’s great!).
Something that was surprising, however, was the Commando’s relatively newfound interest in linguistics. He’s been studying it too. I’m not talking Spanish and French, but the actual study of language – the origin of words and their meaning. Our words carry so much weight and can be so powerful. So, again, it’s perhaps unsurprising on second thought that the Commando has an interest in truly understanding the meaning what he and others say.
What it takes for Commando Steve to stay sane and focussed
Steve’s a busy guy with lots of commitments – TV, personal training and bootcamps, writing columns, being a dad, and a partner. When I asked what it takes sometimes to keep sane and how he stays so focussed, he couldn’t reiterate more strongly how important it is to take time out, alone, in nature. Every few months he goes camping for a weekend on a deserted beach or in the bush, anywhere where it can be just him, nature, and maybe a book. You can’t always be switched on and constantly giving yourself to others without taking the time to tune-out, tune-in to yourself, and recharge your batteries.
Afterward, when friends and acquaintances asked, “Is Commando Steve really as inspirational as he seems on TV?” I could answer them with complete conviction: “You have no idea.”
*All photos courtesy of Speaking One Thousand Words Photography