The Single Piece of Coaching Advice That Taught Me How to Win
Sometimes, you need a little bit of tough love.
The year was 2017, and I was getting ready for my first IBJJF world championships as a wee little 19-year-old blue belt.
In the tournament, I was going to have around 120 people in my division, many of whom were far better and far more experienced than me. I had never won a gold medal in the IBJJF before. I had only been training for a little over a year.
I hadn’t won anything ever, and I was going to compete at Worlds. I was young, hungry, driven, and in pretty good shape, but I wasn’t that good and I didn’t believe in myself at all.
I was being “realistic” by thinking that I was probably going to get my ass beat.
The problem is, before a fight, this isn’t a great mindset to have.
As usual, my damn self-awareness was acting like more of a problem than anything else.
Results don’t happen in your head.
I had no business competing at the world championship that year. I “knew” that I wasn’t going to win.
Yet still, I signed up and decided to give it my all in preparation.
The problem was, no matter how hard I trained or how great my technique was, I still had the mind of a loser.
A few days before I left for Long Beach, I was having a conversation with my coach about the upcoming tournament, and I said something to the tune of “I know I’m not going to win, but I sure as hell am going to try my best.”
I thought I was being self-aware and realistic, but really, I was just allowing my defeatist worldview to dictate my reality.
My coach told me something that I’ve never forgotten:
“If you’re going into a tournament like Worlds and you don’t think you’re going to win, you probably shouldn’t even sign up.”
I needed that kick in the butt.
I needed someone to tell me that my mindset was trash because up until then, I was operating a body that had the potential for great things but a mind that was still getting over his middle school bullies.
I had the mind of a beaten down, sad baby.
I needed to change. I needed to grow up.
Working on my mind changed my life.
All of a sudden, I had to completely change the way that I thought about competing, training, and life in general.
What I realized is that I was viewing my life through the lens of someone who thought they knew their limits and had accepted them. I was a mediocre competitor because I held myself to the standard of mediocrity. I was content to be average because I believed that I was below average. I believed that average was good enough.
The problem is, in what I do, if you’re content to be average, you won’t be able to hang. You might get hurt.
And so, I dedicated the next 4 years of my life to cultivating the mind of someone who was a winner. I trained my body really hard, but I also trained my mind (which most people, I learned, never do). Mental training become one of my daily habits and mindset became one of my strengths.
And? I started to see results. Small at first.
I started winning local tournaments, regional tournaments, and eventually, reaching the podium at some of the major tournaments like the Pan Ams and even the Worlds. I got pretty good at what I did.
I didn’t win a gold medal (or any medal) at the 2017 blue belt world championships. I barely made it to the second round. However, I learned incredible lessons from that training camp that has made me someone who has the capability to achieve almost anything he sets his mind to.
I learned how to develop high expectations of myself and not let those expectations break me down.
2 years later, I became a world champ for a day.
Now, I only hold myself to the standard of a world champion.
Your doubts are lies until you think they aren’t.
There’s nothing wrong with doing things for enjoyment and enjoyment alone, but that isn’t what this article is about. This article is for chronic underperformers. If you desire to achieve great things in your life but don’t believe you have it in you, I see you.
I was that guy. Heck, I still am that guy sometimes.
I still get nervous before competing in Jiu-Jitsu. I still feel nervous before publishing my writing. First dates still sometimes turn me into a painfully awkward fast talker.
However, over time, I’ve trained myself to learn that the thoughts in my head do not define my perception of who I am. You can be anxious and successful. You can be depressed and grateful. You can seem perfect and still be painfully unhappy.
If these thoughts are driving your behavior, all that that means is that there is more training to be done.
Specifically, for most of us, there’s more mental training that needs to be done. A lot of people hit the gym and work their arms, legs, and abs, but few people look in the mirror and work on their minds. Even fewer people are able to actually confront that negative voice in their head and make it into something that they actually have some sort of control over.
Hardly anyone is able to master their mind. Those who do are the greats.
You have to confront that voice in your head that tells you that you can’t do things, smile at it, and basically tell it to fuck right off. Then you have to learn to build your doubts into unrelenting self-belief.
It’s hard, but there’s nothing that is more worth it.
There have been thousands of books and even more articles written on mental training, but few people actually train their minds.
Why? Mental training is hard. Mental training seems like it’s not that important. Mental training takes a backseat to physical work because physical work gives you results that you can see pretty quickly.
The thing about mental training is that without it, it’s not what you see, it’s what you don’t see. You don’t see results.
It’s not enough to practice “positive self-talk” if you have aspirations that you’re looking to manifest into reality. To become a person that does incredible things, you have to build an incredible mind that is strong enough to bear the work that is required to do those incredible things.
If you are able to do this, you’ll probably be able to change your life.
At the very least, you’ll change your mind.
“What a liberation to realize that the “voice in my head” is not who I am. Who am I then? The one who sees that.” — Eckhart Tolle
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Learn how to quit needing so much stuff.
The other day, my mom asked me what I wanted for Christmas.
I know I’m lucky to have parents who want to give me Christmas presents, but I’ve recently realized that there’s pretty much nothing anyone can give me that will make me happy.
Somehow, I guess I became one of those hippy kids who doesn’t want excess material objects anymore. I just want peace.
In our materialistic, possession-obsessed society, the vast majority of people are obsessed with adding new things to their life.
People want new cars. New houses. Better habits. More victories. Younger, sexier partners. “Secrets” to success from the newest influencers.
New this, new that.
Most people spend their lives adding different aspects to their personalities without ever taking the time to understand who they really are.
Don’t be like most people. Start detaching from your desires before you become married to them.
Some people will see this as my cop-out excuse for a responsibility-free life.
Others will say that I’m only saying this because I’m young have the “privilege” to desire fewer things.
Those are valid arguments, I guess, but those people are missing the point.
Removing your dependence on desire is taking on responsibility for yourself in the most extreme way possible, and anyone can do it. Anyone can train themselves to have fewer desires. I’ve done it, and I am not special in any way. I just think a lot.
No matter who you are, you can detach yourself from the constant materialism that pounds your eyeballs every single day.
Plus, quitting is also the secret to high performance.
Want to be a winner? Quit the bad habits that hold you back.
Want a better relationship? Quit spending time in bad relationships.
Want to stop procrastinating? Quit feeding the monster of your own excuses.
None of this quitting will guarantee success, but without quitting the things that hold you back from self-actualization, you won’t have a chance.
I’ve quit many things in my life, and every “quit” has made me happier.
I quit wrestling to start doing Jiu-Jitsu, and I stopped being average. I quit a bad, codependent relationship, and I learned to take care of myself. I quit spending time around anxious, fear-ridden people, and I learned to be courageous and stand up for myself.
When I look back on the short 24 years of my life, it’s clear to me that I’ve quit the right things. I get it, I don’t know everything.
However, I do know when it’s time to stop.
I quit all these small things to give myself a chance at the grand goal of internal peace and happiness. I quit desires that were making me unhappy. I desire few things, and thus I’m easier to please.
The fewer desires you have, the easier it is for you to become happy.
Most people never figure that out and as a result, they spend their lives chasing material happiness that wears off the second the feeling of status and power stop hitting their dopamine receptors.
My only tip on happiness is this: learn how to quit and be freer from your desires.
Before you go…
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Wishing you the best,
Learn how to quit needing so much stuff.
The other day, my mom asked me what I wanted for Christmas.
I know I’m lucky to have parents who want to give me Christmas presents, but the funny thing is that there’s nothing anyone can give me that will make me happy.
Somehow, I became one of those hippy kids who doesn’t want excess material objects anymore. I just want peace.