I love sports. I love them because they are the epitome of human endurance. They exemplify mental toughness and the struggle to overcome our inner battles. Athletes are warriors. They’re battlers and I really dig people that develop their inner fighter. They have something to prove. They have the eye of the tiger, that, I’ll show you, chip on their shoulder. To me those people are more capable of greatness than any other.
There is nothing I love more, or that I can identify with more, than being in an incredible amount of pain, having everything against you and having every molecule in your body screaming at you to stop and then somehow, some way, you find the strength to continue and fight on.
To me, sports are all about love and romance, history and passion, attitude and humility, agony and glory, preparation and swagger, sacrifice and commitment, fear and courage. Sports play out better than any romance novel ever could. Sports are about overcoming adversity. They are about being challenged and meeting that challenge head on.
Two time Olympic gold medal winner and Stanley Cup winning coach, Mike Babcock likes adversity. Babcock, consider by most to be the greatest active coach in the NHL, believes that teams that struggle early on are better equipped to deal with the hardships they will face throughout the season.
“I have been coaching a long time. I’ve been around championship teams and every championship team I have been involved with goes through adversity,” Babcock said. “What you do is embrace adversity and it allows you to get better. Without it, you never win in the end.”
What Babcock means is that when we face adversity it gives us the opportunity to find out who we really are. When we face it, it allows us to make adjustments and get better. When people just waltz through life and everything always comes up roses, you never develop the ability, or the courage to look at those dark places and find the will to dig deep. When we face adversity and find a way to overcome it, that experience gives us confidence and a belief that there is nothing that life can throw at us that we can’t handle.
In addition, sports show us the immense power we have over our own minds. I have watched hockey players take a puck to the face and leave a few of their teeth on the ice and one or two shifts later, they’re stitched up and back on the ice. Can you imagine the inner battle that is going on in the heads of those athletes? Fighting through the pain. It’s all about the power of mind over matter.
Any runner will tell you that within the first few minutes of every run their body is begging them to stop. Fighting through the pain exemplifies the power we have within ourselves. Those that achieve have gained mastery over their inner voice and use that mastery in all aspects of their lives. When we experience emotional pain we have that same ability to fight through that pain.
The road to the NFL didn’t come easy to our cover model, Clay Matthews. Colleges weren’t beating a path to his door looking to hand out a football scholarship. In fact, only a couple of community colleges gave him a look, but not one tier 1 school gave him any thought. His younger brother was given a scholarship to Oregon State, but not him. He was small in high school, a late bloomer. What did he do? He went to USC and made the practice squad as a walk on. In his third year he was bumped up to the special teams squad. In his senior year, a starter went down to injury and he got his chance. Once given the opportunity he never looked back. The Green Bay Packers moved up in the draft to select him and now in his 7 years with the Packers, he is a Super Bowl Champion and has made the Pro Bowl 6 out of 7 years in the NFL. What they say of Matthews is that he plays with that chip on his shoulder and that he has never forgotten all those people who passed him by and didn’t believe in him. He exemplifies the ‘I’ll show you,’ attitude. Oh and what happened to his little brother who got the scholarship? He got drafted by the Eagles and after a few unsuccessful years was released.
That attitude isn’t exclusive to athletes. One of my favorite authors, the late, Wayne Dyer grew up in and out of foster homes, because his father had left the family when he was very young. Dyer talked about his struggles early in his life and how he battled with his father’s abandonment. He said that he finally was able to find forgiveness after finding his father’s grave and sitting down and having a conversation right there by his tombstone. Dyer started life with less than most of us have. He carried around a ton of baggage that didn’t belong to him. But all of these inner struggles gave him something that a life of privilege never could – it gave him the will he needed to succeed.
In the biography, The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life, written by Alice Schroeder, Buffet disclosed the hell he and his older sister had to endure at the hands of their mother. He revealed that his mother would repeatedly yell and verbally abuse them until they wept. He admitted that he did not have much of a relationship with his mother as he grew older, but some would argue that the adversity he faced, early in life, gave him the edge he needed to be better and smarter than everyone else in the world of finance.
When we are faced with adversity we have two choices, we can get crushed under the weight of what happened to us, or we can shove it off, get that chip on our shoulder and say, ‘I’ll show you.’ When my Narcissist ex tossed me aside for another woman, I begged for death, but as I have grown and walked further down my path, I now look at all of the things that happened to me, all the pain, all the heartache, the struggles , the storms, and the obstacles – I look at them all with gratitude. Because of them – not despite them, but because of them – I realized that I am a warrior. I am a fighter. I’ve got some edge to me. I don’t look to anyone for permission or gratification. I take what is mine. I am strong. I am unbreakable. I am self-made. All of it because there were people that wanted to impose their will on me.
When you have to fight and claw your way through life, you will find that which is indestructible in you. When everything is handed to you – not only do you not appreciate success, you also don’t know how to deal with adversity when it comes. Don’t believe me – ask Paris Hilton. It’s time you embraced your inner warrior and showed all of those people that hurt you exactly what you’re made of.
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