Unleash the Beast – WTF is a #MERBAL?


It’s been a while since we’ve occupied the hallowed cages of the Old LA Zoo. In fact, The Old Zoo was actually my second Friday ever. With the passage of so much time, it became clear, we must return to this creepy relic of former animal abuse.

Griffith Park is a crazy place. It seems that every time you go there, even if you try to run the same path, you can’t. Instead, you end up finding some new part of the park that’s so foreign and so wild that you’re not sure if anybody really knows it’s there. The Old Zoo is no exception: a place converted from an outdated (and truthfully, abusive looking) zoo into a pretty awesome picnic area and corner of the park that’s hard to find even when there’s a pin dropped (cough, cough).

But spirits were high as the herd trampled its way around the park. Bear crawls, Panther pushups, kangaroo hops (box jumps) and an exercise named after one of the most seldom studied and ferocious animals known to man, a man named Bojan, were fodder for today’s sweaty circumstance. On wet grass and sandy hills, the tribe stalked, chased and hunted it’s way through the labyrinth of cages and paths. Such ferocious beasts were never seen since the Zoo relocated to a mile or so away. Thank god we had disney’s most beloved animal centric music to keep us motivated.


There’s something I need to bring up here that’s been of issue to me for some time.

November Project is a movement founded on two primary principles: health and accountability. The whole reason why we drag our asses out of bed in the morning is to go get healthy and not only be supported but to support our fellow tribespeople. While it may be hard, part of what we are here to do is to push each other. Who comes to NP and doesn’t want to get faster? Who could possibly come, be a part of this group and say “I don’t want to be the best that I can.”? If that’s something that goes through your head, you probably won’t #justshowup for very long.


Part of what we do to keep each other accountable is something created specifically for accountability: the #verbal. When you #Verbal to attend a work out, you do it because you are practicing setting an intention. You are telling your tribe “Hey, keep me accountable because I’d do the same for you because I care about you.” You are making a challenge to your future self to hold up a promise that you’ve made. It’s no secret that LA is a city full of welchers (or at least that’s the stigma): a city full of flakes. What makes #np_lax different than the rest of this city is our honest care and lack of pretense. We are a tribe dedicated to being true and supporting one another.

Change can be hard, ask anybody who’s trained for a marathon or set a goal for themselves to get better, run faster and work harder. There are times when “being outside your comfort zone” goes beyond our romanticized, boiled down, instagram version of inspiration and gets downright UNCOMFORTABLE. Like NOT comfortable. Like, DIScomfort. Like, NOT IN A ZONE THAT IS FULL OF COMFORT. Rather, in a place where you are on the line between what you know you can do and what you’ve never done before. As a member of this tribe, you have a responsibility to the others that are here to motivate them, to call them out, to make promises to them and to yourself and set goals that maybe you’re not so sure you can reach. Failure sucks, anybody who says “I like to fail” is frankly, full of shit. Nobody likes it. Otherwise it wouldn’t be called failing. But, what failure does is it shines a pure, bright light on where we can afford to work harder. If your perspective is good, failure can be a difficult but powerful resource of clarity.

Which brings me to my point: NO. MORE. #MERBALS. A #merbal is an oxymoron. As I defined earlier, a #verbal is about accountability and a #merbal is about being an indecisive flake. If you want to come to whatever it is then ante up and drop a #verbal. Then, if you don’t show up, we’ll call you out. If you can’t come to whatever it is, don’t #verbal, we all have lives. But your #merbal is cheapening the effort of those that are putting something on the line, people who have a vision of what could be for themselves and who know they will need ways to push themselves into a new phase of life or of health or of accountability, or of all 3 of those. Harsh statement alert: a #merbal makes a mockery of everything NP stands for. Plain and simple.


When I first started NP I was actually depressed. Not “Womp womp, I’m sad.” More like, “What am I doing with my life and is any of this worth it?” I was drinking about a bottle of wine to myself, by myself most nights. I was smoking about a pack of cigarettes every 3 days and waking up at about noon every day because “Fuck it, there’s no point.” I was lonely and unhealthy and angry at the world because I felt like it owed me something. I kid you not, the reason why I came is because my brother met his wife at NP in Boston and I thought “Maybe I’ll get a date.” I had set my alarm for 6am every Wednesday for 7 months and every Wednesday, I found some reason not to go. It was the voice inside me that says “It’s ok to quit. It’s easier this way.” But when has anything worth doing ever been easy? For some reason, one day (March 18th, 2015) I got out of bed and rode my motorcycle over to NP and as soon as I pulled up thought “Fuck this. These people are probably all losers.” But I walked up and I saw this lanky dude stretching people out and he looked like a point-person. I introduced myself. “I’m Steve.” was the response. About an hour later I watched Steve be named a co-leader. A day later I ran into Steve while unlocking my front door and we realized that we lived in the same building, he had moved in two weeks prior. As we hung out more and more we realized that we were from 20min away from each other in CT, that we had both been soccer referees as jobs in HS and that our families vacationed every year to the same town on the Jersey Shore. Since then, Steve and countless others have motivated me to be not just the best runner I can be, but the best person I can be. I quit smoking. I can’t sleep past 10am anymore. I ran my first 10k last weekend and two weeks from tomorrow, I’m running my first half marathon in a place that I only ever dreamed of visiting. All this came because for one moment, I was uncomfortable.

Why do you come? One thing I really miss about Orrin is that he would walk around and call people out. If your ass wasn’t hitting the ground in a hoistee, he’d say “do it again”. If your pushup wasn’t the proper form, he’d say “Nope, start over”. It may be uncomfortable but we owe it to each other to say “I see you, I appreciate you but your pushup looks like shit and you’re never going to make progress if you keep that up.”


I type this because I love you all and I see the potential that this group holds. I look around the bowl or a creepy abandoned zoo and I see people who already have taken actions to improve their lives and the lives of others. But why are we making getting out of bed in the morning the bar that we set for ourselves? I am taking this opportunity and this platform to ask you all, Please, from the bottom of my heart, call me out on my bullshit. I’m going to do the same for you. It might feel uncomfortable but beyond the discomfort is a world you maybe never imagined.


One of my acting teachers often says “Our work begins where others say ‘that’s enough’.” What is your enough? What are you going to do to move beyond it?

Do good LA. No, fuck that: DO GREAT


Please email novemberprojectlax@gmail.com with suggestions for Friday workout locations. We want to know where you want to go!


Share via socials:

3 Replies to “Unleash the Beast – WTF is a #MERBAL?”

  1. Through the magic of the Internet, we have the joy of hearing what other tribes have going on and seeing the transformative, awesome things going on, like what was posted about here! 

    That said, I’ve got some issues with this. As a longstanding member of the PHL tribe and someone who is committed to what we’re doing individually and collectively across our movement, I’m a bit concerned about the shutdown language and ableist vibes here.

    A #verbal is an invitation to witness. Witness is a function of trust. No one trusts someone who is yelling at them, whatever their motivation.

    While being soft on crime definitely waters everyone’s experience down, I don’t think it can hurt to do more ASKING than telling, and more LISTENING from the sides of our fellow tribesfolk than whipping from behind or taunting from in front.

    People seldom remember how fast you did something, but they do remember how well you did it.

    I like to think the change we endeavor toward seeing in ourselves and facilitating in each other is a bit more comprehensive, and that the passion we bring to (and draw from) NP ought be tempered with wisdom.

  2. “Your work begins where others say ‘that’s enough’.” I love this! And I love you! Thanks for joining this pack of losers (and showing us what winning is all about i.e. double medaling on his first race last weekend)!

    1. Jonathan London, using the phrase “pack of losers” shows you are completely missing the point. 

      I agree that challanging yourself is a good thing, and creating an environment where you feel okay with challanging yourself to be better is indeed a beautiful thing.

      But that happens when people feel supported in their efforts, not judged by self-appointed cool kids on what they consider comparative inadequacy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

To submit the form, please solve this simple math problem *