I was losing everything, right there in front of everyone. Televised, with bleachers full of onlookers. My reputation was being ruined, my business - destroyed, and my future - derailed. I was hopelessly lost.
I had come out of the gate as I had expected and trained, flowing through my opponent with grace, and pulling out a victory from seemingly nowhere… But with that win, I felt all my energy sap. It had taken me too much energy, and I had 8 more fights to go. So, when I lost the two fights following that, I felt the whole world crumbling down, and my attitude came unglued.
I had risked my entire livelihood coming out of retirement, earning my spot on the US Team, and making my way to fight at world championships. My mind spiraled down to where my heart had sank. My body collapsed into the team chiropractor’s bed with too many injuries too fast. Trying to tell him about my neck, jaw, shoulder and lower back, he only said, “It’s okay, relax, I saw. Lay down; let’s patch you back up.”
I had heard my wife’s shoes clopping down the bleachers from so far away. My failures so blatantly demonstrated right in front of her, after she had invested ten months of her life having to deal with my adopting a third full time job of preparing to fight again. A losing attitude lets small things cast a great shadow, and I felt its cold umbrage avalanching over me.
When she got to me, she leaned over the railing behind me and asked what I had been doing. I stammered, “Losing.” She grinned through her words, “Babe, we didn’t invest a year getting ready for this for you to give up. You can’t shut down. You have to switch ON!” I replied it was almost impossible for me to come back now after those two losses in a row. She smiled and said, “When has ‘almost impossible’ ever stopped you before?”
She cupped my crushed face and said, “You can’t control what happens. You can only control how you handle it. Winning or losing doesn’t matter. People won’t remember it. But they will always remember how you dealt with it. You came here to hold your Grace under pressure, to show what you were capable of when things are their worst. Well, they’re the worst, Hon, so this is now your chance to do what you had intended to do. Stop worrying about losing. You’re God’s warrior. Go out there and be the Grace inside you.”
She had brought tears to my eyes with each word, and I choked on her final sentences. I threw away my concerns about losing, and went back to win each of my matches to follow. Every time the referee lifted my arm, I looked down at the mat stunned by the victory. Focused on performance, I had no longer fixated on the scores, skills, ages or sizes of my opponents. My spirit had been set free by my wife’s trust and belief in me.
On the road toward your goals, failure is your pavement. You can’t get there without driving over potholes, around debris, and through storms. Instead of worrying about what will happen if you crash, pay attention to your driving.
As the referee held up my hand for the final victory, and the official placed the gold around my neck, I had remembered the medal had never been the point. It had always been the opportunity the pressure of the events had given me to transform my spirit from coal to diamond, to dig inside and find my true potential and for one moment reveal to myself, the divinity which we each are. And by exposing that single truth, give myself an insight to which I could for the rest of my life, live up to.
Your success is not determined by what others do to you, by what officials, judges, or referees see, or by what time or space allows. It’s determined by how you respond to them. Not by what life brings you, but by the attitude you bring to life within you. You’ve got to win in your heart before you win on the mat. You are as powerful as you realize yourself to be.