By Emily Evans-Miller
Every month we feature a title that we think really shines. This month’s featured title is As Many Reps As Possible by Jason Khalipa, releasing January 8th.
Why We Love It
The start of a new year is the perfect time to set goals to get your mind, body, and spirit on track for whatever challenges may lie ahead. Whether you want to live a fitter life and be healthier, grow your business, or improve your relationships in 2019, CrossFit Champion and former World’s Fittest Man Jason Khalipa’s As Many Reps As Possible outlines a mindset that will give you the tools to push through adversity and find success.
In this preface to As Many Reps as Possible, Jason gives us some insight on how he survived one of the toughest times in his life and how that challenge inspired this guide to finding your inner strength.
As Many Reps as Possible: Develop The AMRAP Mentality
By Jason Khalipa
I began working on this book in the fall of 2015. At the time, life was really good. I experienced some personal and professional success, and I felt strongly about what I wanted to say in regard to building a successful business, being an entrepreneur, and doing both while staying balanced—mentally, emotionally, and physically. My work and family life were firing on all cylinders. I felt like we had “it all.”
Things changed suddenly on January 20, 2016.
It was a Wednesday, and we had taken our four-year-old daughter, Ava, to the doctor. She had been experiencing pains in her legs. At first, we thought these were growing pains, something
every child experiences. But soon after she started to experience severe bruising that just didn’t make sense. She’d also had a series of ear infections…bad ear infections. The doctor told us that one of the infections was the worst they’d ever seen. It was pretty ugly stuff. I started to think something was really wrong.
At around 2 p.m., the nurse drew blood for a test. They thought that Ava might have some sort of significant deficiency that was throwing her system out of whack, like a severe lack of iron. They put a rush on the samples and sent them to the lab.
While waiting for the results, we had gone back home. My wife, Ashley, was making dinner when the lab called at about 6 p.m. They reported that there was something “irregular in Ava’s
blood work,” and that we should expect a callback shortly. This was not the kind of thing we wanted to hear.
Five minutes later, Ava’s doctor called.
“You need to take Ava to the Stanford emergency room right now,” he said.
That was all he told us, but the urgency in his voice told us to not hesitate. We didn’t have to be told twice. Leaving our dinner on the counter, we made the nerve-wracking thirty-five-minute drive from our home in Los Gatos to Palo Alto.
Our initial thought was that the irregular blood work must have had something to do with that kind of significant deficiency and it needed to be addressed right away, but we were just guessing and hoping for the best…we were in the dark about what was actually going on.
We entered the hospital through the ER and were directed to an individual room for immunocompromised children. We were alone in quarantine—things started to get really heavy. I will never forget that first trip. Unfortunately, it’s one that we would become very familiar with. A nurse led us to the room, and before she handed us off to other staff, she said something that took my wife and me off guard.
“There’s one piece of advice that I have for you,” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of things happen here, a lot of stories. Keep a date night for yourselves. You have to keep your relationship strong.”
Ashley and I just looked at each other. What the hell is that supposed to mean? I thought. For a split second, I considered telling her off, but I held back. Her words slowly began to make sense. It was like she had seen couples like us pass through those rooms for years…and she had. She knew we were in for one hell of a ride—after all, we wouldn’t have been called in like this if it wasn’t a big deal.
Soon enough, we would figure out what all this was about. My father-in-law, Jeff, joined us in the treatment room with Ava as soon as he could. We sat there for hours, until around 1 a.m., when a doctor came in. She told us that two more pathologists had looked at the blood test results and asked me if I wanted to step outside the room to talk about their findings. We went out into the hallway to speak privately.
“We’re fairly certain your daughter has leukemia,” the doctor said.
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“We’re 99% sure.”
More emotions hit me at that moment than I can accurately describe. I broke down and cried for a while in the hallway. As you can imagine, a thousand thoughts—mostly bad ones—went racing through my head. I wasn’t an expert on cancer, but I knew it wasn’t good. No one ever wants to receive a cancer diagnosis…especially for your four-year-old daughter.
I pulled myself together, went back into Ava’s room, and shared the news with Ashley and her father. Ashley and I went back out into the hallway and cried together. After some time alone, we made a pact that after we told our families the news, we would not allow tears in front of Ava. No matter how badly we felt or how grave the situation may look…we would always be positive. To this day, after many surgeries, treatments, and hospital stays, we have held to that commitment.
We also made another pact: we were going to crush this thing. Starting that very moment. So, we went back into the room and got to work. We talked with Ava about the disease, and why we were at the hospital in the middle of the night. Because she was so young, she didn’t know what words like “cancer” and “leukemia” meant, so it was up to us to explain it all. She’s a smart kid, though, and she knew that something big was happening. Ashley and I were able to define the disease in a way that was honest, but also hopeful and positive. Ava had an illness that was going to take some hard work to treat, but we were all in it together.
I knew right then that everything I had been fortunate enough to accomplish in my life—in business, as a world champion athlete, as a person, and with the financial foundation we had put in place—had been preparing me for this challenge. This was the test. We had a strong family. We had good health insurance. Our company, NCFIT, a fitness startup, had become a thriving, successful business staffed by competent people I trusted. I knew that Matt Walker, our CFO, and the rest of our team could run the show while I shifted one-hundred percent of my focus to this new fight against leukemia.
Later that same night, I sent Matt this email:
From: Jason Khalipa
Date: Thursday, Jan 21, 2016 at 1:44 AM
Subject: New Path
I have never cried as much as I have tonight. It is with a tear in my eye that I say Ava has leukemia and I will be at Lucile Packard hospital for at least a month. Treatment starts today.
Until further notice I don’t want to be involved in any business. Maybe this is a day, maybe a week, maybe 6 months. I don’t know at this point. Matt, perform all necessary duties. Until I say otherwise you are the acting president. Let’s catch up when necessary on necessary
items. Can you please draft up an email to all employees? Let everyone know in the company that I don’t want to talk about anything unless it’s related to my daughter getting healthy.
A lot changed that night, including my reason for writing this book. Originally, I wanted to counter some of the nonsense I saw in the business section of airport bookstores. Over the years, I had
picked up books here and there on my travels—and I was always disappointed. These book promise reward without effort, and a successful future without planning and hard work. Some were very hypothetical, with no real substance; others were based on a particular case study and were too focused on something that didn’t apply to me. I saw everything but the simple message that said, “Get out there and get to work!” So, I decided to write a book about working hard, nonsense-free.
But it’s much more than that for me now. My why for writing this book, my fundamental motivation and reason, has changed. I have always wanted to win, always wanted to be successful—but I had no idea that one day our daughter would be diagnosed with leukemia. Now, I had to win. This terrible event forever shifted my perspective and gave me a deeper why.
Even though my why had changed, I noticed something interesting relating to my stronger purpose for writing this book. The key principles and lessons that had been a part of my personal journey—from being a drifting kid out of high school without a clear vision to a world-champion athlete with a family and a multimillion-dollar business built from the ground up—were lessons that had become the vital skills and foundation I would need for what was by far the greatest challenge I had encountered: my daughter’s diagnosis. As I’m sure you can imagine, or perhaps know from personal experience, being a parent and dealing with this kind of situation as effectively as possible requires emotional mastery, discipline, endurance, the capacity for total focus, and much, much more. I did not have these skills at the beginning of my journey.
When I look back over my life, I truly believe that I had been working toward this confrontation with cancer the entire time. In high school, I had a lot of fun with my friends, and was never overly concerned about the future. I partied hard and spent weeks on end hanging out by the pool, doing nothing. It was almost too late when I saw that people around me were working hard and moving forward, while I was stuck in the same place.
But I learned valuable lessons from valuable people all the same. As an adult, I developed a skill set that allowed me to accomplish great things while still making family a priority. All the while, I had been practicing different pieces of the tool that would see me through the most difficult challenges I had ever faced. That tool is the AMRAP Mentality.
My entire experience has confirmed my belief that it’s critical to have a strong why to guide the actions and directions we pursue in life. I am grateful every day that because I had incorporated the AMRAP Mentality into my life for so many years, I was ready to fight, not without fear or exhaustion or pain, but without being hampered by those things. In the end, it allowed me and my family to focus on one thing: getting Ava well. And I know that it can do the same for you, so that if the day ever comes when you are hit hard by life and knocked down the way we were…you stand right back up, more motivated than ever.
About Jason Khalipa
Jason Khalipa is a San Jose, California, native, CrossFit Games world champion, first-time author, and lifelong competitor. Jason married his high school sweetheart, Ashley, and the couple was blessed with two beautiful children, Ava and Kaden. Jason and Ashley are extremely passionate about fundraising and building awareness for children and the families of children battling cancer.
Jason is CEO and Founder of NCFIT, a global company aimed at making fitness effective, fun, and accessible. With thousands of participants worldwide, NCFIT is widely considered first in class in functional training by industry insiders. Jason is also one of the most accomplished athletes in CrossFit Games history. In 2008, Jason was crowned the Fittest Man on Earth, and has earned other top finishes across the board. Jason had the honor of representing Team USA three times in the worldwide CrossFit Invitational and earned Spirit of the Games honors in 2009.
Jason attributes much of his success in life and competition to the love and support of his wife and children, as well as to the AMRAP Mentality.