fight-club

Why We Should Treat Our Faith More Like Crossfit

A few weeks back, I tweeted (and posted to Facebook) the following about Crossfit:

Naturally, it was well-received with plenty of favorites and comments to go around. The majority of the responses on Twitter and Facebook had the same sentiment, which went something like this. “You might think you understand Crossfit, but you don’t talk about it 24/7, so you obviously don’t get it.” The responses were funny and expected, given the current stereotype that Crossfitters are obsessed with their new-found passion. While it is funny to jab at the ridiculousness of such dedication, it got me thinking about my own life. What am I so passionate about that I can’t stop talking about? That I dedicate my life to? My family? My job? My faith? The obvious answer should be my faith, but that isn’t always the case. Should we treat our faith more like Crossfit?

Shout It From The Mountaintop

If you talk to anyone who is currently doing Crossfit, it probably won’t take more than a few minutes before it comes up in conversation. They will talk about it in the same glowing manner that someone might talk about their spouse or child. You can try to steer the conversation elsewhere, but it will ultimately end back at Crossfit one way or another. Little things will trigger talking points that lead right back into Crossfit because the athlete subconsciously is always thinking about it. How cool would it be if we couldn’t avoid talking about Jesus in this way? What if, even without trying, we couldn’t help but ooze about the goodness of Jesus Christ. The goal should not be to nauseate everyone into annoyance with us and Jesus, so we shouldn’t go about it the wrong way. If someone wants to talk about the upcoming football season, you don’t have to quickly change the subject to “whether God cares about football or not.” Speaking about God and Jesus should flow out of love, not guilt. Imagine the difference in responses between the following two people. The first talks about how much Crossfit has helped turn their life around and is positive motivator for them. The second person tells you that you’re fat and need Crossfit or you might die. Which one is more appealing? Love. Love will always be the most appealing motivator. So let your love of Jesus and His for you flow out and it will naturally come up in conversation.

Religious Dedication

Crossfitters would scoff at the notion that their dedication is “religious” because, quite frankly, their commitment generally makes religious people look lazy. People who are hardcore about CF will generally do it every day (barring rest days) for at least an hour. The time spent on the actual workout doesn’t even begin to scrape the surface of the total commitment. It impacts other decisions like food consumption, relationships, and social engagements. Dedicated Crossfitters often view decisions as “How will this affect my workout?” They often plan their entire day around when their workout will be taking place. They don’t want to take time off because some of their progress will be lost. What if we had that level of intensity for Jesus Christ? What if we viewed everything we did as “How will this affect my or others’ relationships with Jesus Christ?” Or “How can I manage to sneak in an extra hour today in quiet time meditating over God’s word?” How crazy would that be?! What if we dedicated the time that Crossfitters do on a daily/weekly/monthly basis to our walk with the Lord. My life would look radically different than the few hours that I generally give Him each week. The same way that athletes get in better physical shape with more  exercise, we can become more spiritually fit by spending time with the Lord. I challenge myself and everyone else to take our faith seriously and dedicate the necessary time to grow spiritually.

Community/Accountability

This one doesn’t just apply to Crossfit, but to exercise in general. Working out, or even just doing hard things, is far easier when you are doing it with others. Even the most self-motivated people need a boost to reach their full potential. On days when you don’t want to work out, having that annoying text from a friend calling you lazy is exactly what you need to get going. I will be able to do 10 reps by myself, but can probably do at least a few more if someone is encouraging me to push through the pain. The same holds true in our spiritual journeys. We need to be self-motivated, driven internally to serve the only God worth serving. But this will eventually leave us flat on our face. We will struggle with doubts. We will become spiritually drained. We will lose the motivation that once burned so deeply. That is where our community steps in and carries us. This community can take various forms: church, mens/womens group, bible studies, etc, but the message is always the same. You are not in the alone. Not only do you have the holy trinity cheering you on, you have a support group here on earth too. We often underutilize this ability because we don’t want to appear weak and in need of help. In reality, only the weak refuse help from their spiritual brothers and sisters. We need community like we need air and water. It can sustain us at times when nothing us will.

The Challenge

I realize that many people are probably insulted that I am comparing how we treat our Lord and savior to a fitness craze, and I completely understand your sentiment. It shouldn’t be a real comparison, but unfortunately it is. We (and that definitely includes me) treat our faith like it is just another ho-hum activity or hobby, a small piece of who we are. In reality, our relationship to and with God should define us. There should be no question about how important it is to us because it will encompass everything that we are. This life is too short and too precious to get caught up in things that don’t matter. I’m ready to start taking my faith more seriously, which means treating it like Crossfit. Who’s with me?

Quicken $1 Billion Contest

Why Your Odds of a Perfect Bracket Are NOT One in 9.2 Quintillion

Original Post as of March 18, 2014. Reposted with minimal changes on March 16, 2016. Some of the references (such as the $1 billion challenge) will not apply, but the overall logic still does.  

Warren Buffet made quite the buzz when he announced that he would award $1 billion to anyone who could fill out a perfect NCAA bracket. We have all seen the number being thrown around over the last several days. “Your odds of filling out a perfect bracket are one in 9.2 quintillion, or 9,223,372,036,854,775,808.” The problem with this number is that, while technically mathematically accurate, it doesn’t really give an accurate portrayal of one’s chances. The odds are far better, but I won’t mislead you into thinking that anyone can fill out a perfect bracket. No one has ever done it so far, and no one will likely ever do so (without the help of a computer program that creates billions of entries). So how “great” are the odds then? Let’s dive into the numbers.

The 9.2 Quintillion Number

So where did the 9.2 quintillion number come from and why is it off? The number came from 2 to the 63rd  power, which is 2 times 2 a whopping 63 times. That gives us our outlandishly large number. The problem with this number is that it operates under the assumption that in every game, there is a 50/50 chance of either team winning. Anyone that knows anything about basketball, or even just March Madness, knows that this is not the case. While upsets happen, the higher seeds win the majority of the time. So clearly this number is not an accurate representation, and the odds are much higher.

The Numbers Game

We have established that a 50% chance of winning per game is wrong, but how can we accurately predict such an unknown quantity? Luckily someone far smarter than me figured out a better system. Jeff Bergen, a math professor at DePaul University, came up with a system that was very impressive and fairly accurate. His system estimated the chances that higher seeds would win out, thus giving the relative probabilities of an educated fan selecting a perfect bracket. His conclusion was that the odds were 1:128 billion. The only issue that I had with his methods is that he used some probability assumptions (albeit logical ones) instead of historical data. I am using his methodology, but plugging in historical data. All the data used was taken from Mcubed.net. A full spreadsheet showing the advanced calculations that I used can be found in this Google Spreadsheet.

Second Round

Round of 64 (Round 2)Odds of Higher Seed WinOdds (Approx)
1 vs. 16100.0%
2 vs. 1594.0%
3 vs. 1485.3%
4 vs. 1378.4%
5 vs. 1267.6%
6 vs. 1166.9%
7 vs. 1060.0%
8 vs. 951.4%
Perfect Region (To this point)8.8%1 in 11
Perfect Bracket (To this point)0.0059%1 in 17,000

For the purposes of this article, I will refer to the rounds by their official name. The play-in games are treated as the first round, so the round of 64 is technically the second round. After the second round, your chances of having a perfect bracket have already plummeted to .0059%, or about one in 17,000. With the number of brackets submitted each year, there will probably be a small handful this year that are still perfect after round two.

 Third Round

Round of 32 (Round 3)Odds of Higher Seed WinOdds (Approx)
1 vs. 881.1%
2 vs. 774.4%
3 vs. 654.3%
4 vs. 555.4%
Chance of Perfect Region1.59%1 in 63
Chance of Perfect Bracket0.000006414%
1 in 15.6 million

The gap from the second and third rounds is extreme, and almost no brackets will survive. The numbers say that the chances of remaining perfect are about 1 in 15.6 million. The good news is that you still have a better than 1% chance of having a perfect region at this point, so you’ve got that going for you.

Fourth Round

Round of 16 (Round 4)Odds of Higher Seed WinOdds (Approx)
1 vs. 467.2%
2 vs. 361.0%
Chance of Perfect Region0.652%1 in 153
Chance of Perfect Bracket0.000000181%1 in 550 million

I don’t know if anyone’s bracket has ever made it this far, but it seems quite unlikely that anyone’s has. The odds jump to 1 in 550 million, which are worse than the odds of winning the Mega Million Lottery (1 in 258.9 million).

Rounds Five, Six, and Seven

Round of 8 (Round 5)Odds of Higher Seed WinOdds (approx)
1 vs. 254.5%
Chance of Perfect Region0.3555323512286200%1 in 281
Chance of Perfect Bracket0.00000001598%1 in 6.25 billion
Round of 4 (Round 6)Odds of Higher Seed WinOdds (Approx)
1 vs. 150.0%
Chance of Perfect Bracket0.0000000040%1 in 25 billion
Championship (Round 7)Odds of Higher Seed WinOdds (Approx)
1 vs. 150.0%
Chance of Perfect Bracket0.00000000200%1 in 50 billion

It’s almost not even worth discussing the possibilities of making through these rounds, but I will summarize just to show how unlikely it is. At this point in the tournament, it is assumed that each game is almost a 50/50 chance. While this seems favorable, imagine having made it to this point unscathed, then flipping 8 coins and needing all of them to land on heads. Not likely.

Concluding Remarks

So what is the final number, adjusted for basketball knowledge and historical data? One in 50 billion. While this is still highly unlikely, it is far better than the 9.2 quintillion number, or even the 128 billion number proposed by Professor Bergen. The entry limit for the Quicken $1 Billion Contest is capped at 15 million. Even if you maxed out your entries, you would still have a 1 in 3,333 chance of winning. If that is worth it to you, then get to filling out those brackets. Enjoy the tourney and let the Madness ensue.