A recent inspirational CrossFit Games 2013 motivational post compares the decision to participate in the CrossFit Games 2013 Open with Cortez conquering the Aztecs:
“Cortez was an excellent motivator. Here’s how Cortez got the “buy in” from the rest of his men. He took away the option of failure. It was conquer and be heroes and enjoy the spoils of victory…or DIE! When Cortez and his men arrived on the shores of the Yucatan, he rallied the men for one final pep talk before leading his men into battle. “We will go home in their ships.” And he uttered these words that changed the course of history. “Burn the Ships”. By burning their own ships, the commitment level of the men was raised to a whole new level. Amazingly, the men conquered the Aztecs . . . Why did they win? They had no escape. No fall back position. They had no choice! It was “succeed or die” Tomorrow is WOD 13.1… You have five WODs to burn your ship and prove to yourself what you are made of.”
CrossFit Games 2013, Inspiration and Syphilis.
Here is something that is important to know. The Aztecs did not have ships. Cortez had syphilis and was crazy. Never let a lunatic “make you” burn your boats or bridges. You can probably get into enough trouble on your own.
There is something to be said though for group cohesiveness, identity, and support, as well as individual autonomy. Athletes tend to do better when they feel supported by their teammates. CrossFit is a team experience even though athletes may compete as individuals. So preparing for the CrossFit Games 2013 should probably include bonding with your team. There is a good potential mechanism for support: oxytocin. This is a biomolecule that stirs feelings of commitment, loyalty, and bonds individuals. It reduces feelings of anxiety. Being able to handle anxiety is a hallmark of a good athlete. Athletes also seem to do better when they have a sense of control over outcomes and training. Perhaps a good motivational speech is one that can induce an oxytocin dump in athletes’ brains. That may be the root of charismatic leadership.
(Cortez’s men may have really needed to support each other because of what Cortez did to them, never mind the help they had for their mission from blindsiding the Aztecs and infecting them with smallpox.)
Pepping GJ, & Timmermans EJ (2012). Oxytocin and the biopsychology of performance in team sports. TheScientificWorldJournal, 2012 PMID: 22997498