This is the face of a champion.
It’s not pretty.
It’s beat up.
It’s bloody, scarred and bruised.
You’re not given respect.
You have to earn it.
You earn it through the grind.
Testing yourself against the best.
Putting yourself in situations that make you better.
Taking your beatings.
Learning from them.
Adjusting your game plan.
Trusting your experience.
Not giving a shit that you’re bloody, battered and bruised.
Because that’s what a champion looks like.
The scars are experiences.
They are reminders, stories and motivation.
And they are what made you the champ.
THE MAKINGS OF A CHAMPION I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to get tickets UFC 154 in Montreal. The experience was amazing. It was raw. It was animalistic. It was poetic. Kudos to all of the fighters for being so accessible, athletic and entertaining. But the main event – the Welterweight title fight – was where the champion was made. You see, once you enter the ring, it doesn’t matter that you’ve been a champion before. That belt was taken away from you the second you stepped in the ring. And you have to earn it back.
Seeing George St-Pierre fight Carlos Condit through a full five rounds was one of my personal highlights for 2012. It was technical. It was brutal. It showed tremendous heart. It also taught me a lot about life. You have to fight to be on top. The road is never easy. You have to grind it out with hard work.
We are not infallible. As dominant as we may have been a year or two ago, things change. You have to constantly improve yourself in order and bust your ass to create your legacy.
But most of all, you have to keep moving forward. Don’t be afraid of getting kicked in the face. Scramble, get back to your feet and earn your championship.
A couple of weeks ago, I bought a massive blank canvas. The intention was to create some home made art for myself. I wanted something for my bedroom that would inspire me each and every day. I’m a gentleman who is in love with words, so I gravitated to my favourite quotes. Out of the ones that I had scribbled down across various notebooks and scraps of paper, I found my top five quotes for consideration:
“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them” – Walt Disney
“Bad decisions make great stories.” – Unknown
“A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.” – Francis Bacon
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” – Dr. Seuss
“You have to do stuff that average people don’t understand, because those are the only good things.” – Andy Warhol
I mulled over these for a couple of days, trying to figure out which one I liked the best. Which would put me in the best mood day after day? Which quotes could be applicable to the challenges that I would face that day and put them in perspective? Which ones would be applicable to work, athletics and relationships?
It wasn’t until I was talking with my sister that I had a striking realization – none of these quotes work. Why? Because none of them were funny. Sure, they tote heavy life lessons that I should try to remember every day. They’re words that encourage taking risks, learning from your mistakes, pushing the boundaries and appreciating your experiences. But they’re not funny.
Humour inspires me. It’s the trigger that makes me happy. It puts me in my most productive mindset. Silly humour washes away worries, insecurities or concerns. It’s like a warm hug from a giant teddy bear. It makes me feel safe. It makes me feel like anything is possible. And that’s what I need to crush the day.
Some people get inspired by tragedy. Some by hope. Some by deadlines. Some people get inspired when they see all of the amazing shit that other people in the world are doing. For me, the most consistent trigger that works day after day is humour. Something silly. Something to make me smile.
Jay-Z proving that you can achieve anything, with a killer photo of him standing on the roof of his childhood home at 560 State St. He went from living in the Brooklyn projects to owning the town’s NBA franchise and building their arena across the street.
One of my friends at work gave me the book “Born To Run” to read a while back. It sat on my desk collecting dust for about 6 weeks until I had a long flight to Germany and I started reading it. It’s written by Christopher McDougall who sets off on a quest to figure out the secrets from the greatest ultra distance runner in the world.
And it’s not just a boring technical running manual. It’s a story with incredible (real) characters, amazing insights and solid science. But above all, it inspired me to get off my ass and go for a run. Not because I felt guilty about it. It inspired me to rediscover the fun in running. To run with a smile on my face.
The deep dive into the Tarahumara tribe in Mexico, the cutting edge science and the human psychology lend themselves to uncovering a lot of lessons. Here are the top five that I gleaned from the book:
1. Humans are born to run. Love it. Do it. Leverage it to make your everyday life better. Don’t let your body atrophy because of a desk job and a sedentary lifestyle.
2. Life should be fun. The Tarahumara runners are some of the distance runners in the world. Why? Because they smile when they do it. Because they’ve been taught that it’s fun to run since and early age. And they never lost it.
3. Age is but a number. Sure, the prime age for a distance runner is 27 years old. But a 60 year old runner can still run as fast as a 19 year old. Your peak athletic ability descends at a slower rate than it ascends as you age. Especially if you train your body and give it the activity, nutrition and lifestyle it’s designed for.
4. Escape to nature to find happiness. One of the characters in the book ran to escape heartbreak. He found solace and peace through 50 mile runs over mountains, forests and fields. For you, nature can mean escaping the city, or simply finding a quiet spot in a park. But take the time to appreciate nature. It allows you to go back to who you are as a human being.
5. Technology doesn’t solve everything. In fact, it can work to create more problems than it solves. Complicated running shoe technology have systematically skyrocketed running injuries. In trying to solve problems, we’ve created technology that doesn’t allow for a natural running style. We are trying to out-engineer our bodies. The same thing happens in the workplace. Emails have systematically gobbled up our time. If you want to do work, do work. Being CC’d on an email chain isn’t doing work. Thinking and creating is.
Some books teach you through information. Some inspire you through stories. Some motivate you to get off your ass and run. For me, Born To Run was able to accomplish all three.
This week’s inspiration is all about breaking the rules. Nike paid filmaker Casey Neistat to make a film about its Fuelband and #makeitcount campaign but instead of shooting a straight advertisement for Nike, Neistat took the money, went on a 10-day around the world adventure and created an advertisement for life.
You’ve done the hard work. You put in the hours. You hit the gym. You did the drills. You have game time experience. You’re preforming well, but you can’t get to the next level. There’s a missing ingredient. That ingredient is a pinch of swag.
Swag. It’s the confidence to execute. It’s the willingness to take the game on your shoulders. It’s ability to deliver a win in in a clutch situation.
To be clear, it’s not cockiness. Derrick Rose has swag, but he’s not an asshole. He’s a grounded guy. But he has confidence. Confidence that the hundreds of hours he spent working on his delivery is going to pay off. And that swagger is what gives you the confidence to take the shot. Preparation and experience is what gives you the skill set to nail it.
Without swag, you’re not taking enough shots. You’re not putting yourself out there and chasing the opportunities that you want. Without swag, you’re giving up before even trying.
Find your swag. Find it and start taking your shots. Because your swagger is your ticket to the next level. It will transform you from a bench player in to an all star.
Strength is a funny thing. It’s built by being tested. If you want to lift heavier weights, you test your muscles until they grow stronger. If you want strong creative ideas, you have to challenge your mind to produce creative insights, thoughts and art. Strong character is demonstrated by being able to do the right thing in sketchy situations. Returning a lost wallet. Being honest when it’s simpler to lie. Being able to go out, have some drinks with your friends and be above extramarital temptation.
These thoughts on strength inspired me to put words on paper. Consider it a manifesto. A “call to arms” to be strong. Because life doesn’t always go the way that you wish it would. But these challenges are tests. They test your mind, your body and your character. And these tests make you stronger.
The “Be Strong” Manifesto
Life is a test. And only the strong succeed.
So be strong. Lift heavy burdens. After all, that’s how we get stronger.
Use your brain. Form strong opinions. Express them.
Use your heart. Have strong values. Don’t compromise them to fit in.
Figure out who you are. Establish a strong identity. Project a strong sense of self.
Be strong for your friends. Be strong for your family. Support the people that you love.
Build a strong network. Surround yourself with strong people. People who push you to be stronger.
Test your strength. Again. And again. And again. You’ll come out stronger.
Welcome the next big challenge. Because now you have the strength. To confront it. To own it. And to wrestle it to the ground.
Be strong. Be successful.
The inspiration for this manifesto came from two things. The first was the fact that I pushed myself to hit a personal goal that I was working towards for a long time. The second was someone who was able to help me reboot from a recent challenge. These words helped me. What’s helped you?
A mystery person dropped a set of postcards from Nike on my desk. It could be the delusional inspiration of a Monday night or the fact that I was getting stared down by a postcard Mohammed Fara, but it got me thinking about the difference between dreams and goals.
Dreams are inspiring.
Goals are exhausting.
Dreams are irrational, free flowing and unexpected.
Goals are on purpose.
Dreams are fate.
Goals wrestle fate to the ground.
Dreams exist in your mind.
Goals are a reality.
There’s no failure when you’re dreaming.
You can fall short of a goal.
Dreams can change your life.
So can goals.
There’s a time for both. But if you’re stuck on doing just one, then you’re missing out on your creative potential. Dreams make you feel good. Feel inspired. They’re the crazy ideas that pop into your head. The ones that make you think, “Wouldn’t it be cool if …?” They give you something to look forward to.
Goals are the way that you make shit happen. They are the 15 shitty scripts you had to write until you finally got one that was good. They are the hours of training you put in to be ready for tryouts. They are the nights that you skipped the party because you had to an interview the next day. Goals make you put yourself out there. You take risks. And they give you a finite result – either you succeed or you fail.
Anyone can dream.
Not everyone has the stones to sweat for theirs.
This is the inspirational story of Simon Wheatcroft – an ultramarathoner. He pushes his body to the limit to run insanely long distances. Through his story, he describes the nature of the competition against himself and the drive to keep moving forward.
Some people look at characters like Simon and see craziness. Why would someone push themselves to do something so extreme? The answer is simple. Because when you push yourself that hard, you end up on the edge. You’re at the very limit of what’s possible. And that is where all of the fun stuff is.