Back when I worked as a personal trainer there was a 4 month period where I trained 2 Amateur MMA fighters. At the time I was starting my journey into MMA and was learning at the same Martial Arts Gym that these two fighters had been at. Both of them had fights coming up that were pivot points in their careers that might lead to the professional world. Me being who I am combined with a lack of understanding in the realm of human psychology, lead me to believe that these two guys would take this process very seriously. I was certain that if they were flirting with professional careers as MMA fighters then there was no question that they would have the utmost discipline in how they approached their strength and conditioning. Of course, I was wrong.
We agreed to a schedule of 3x/week for 1 hour of training starting at around noon. From day 1 they were late every single day. Some days they would show up smelling like weed. Their diets were garbage. They were doing the typical thing were you starve yourself and sweat off 20 lbs the week or two before you fight. I’m a pretty athletic guy. Even more impressive than my athleticism is the fact that for most of my life I lacked athleticism. Through diligence and a desire to learn, I have become very tuned to how my body works. This allows me to continue to gain in my athleticism even at 37 years old. These guys didn’t want to warm up. They didn’t want to learn to do the movements properly. They didn’t want any advice on nutrition. They just wanted to sweat and leave.
Both of them were very talented and seemed to have promising futures on the horizon. They came and did the workouts, barely. They both won their fights. However, they left so much on the table in terms of what they could have taken away in knowledge. You’re going to get in a cage and fight another person who has been training to take your head off. Wouldn’t you want to grab every advantage possible? I suppose I think like this for two major reasons:
- As a kid if I wanted to be able to play sports and have any chance of contributing, I had to play hard. I was heavier, slower, and usually had way less experienced in whatever sport we were playing. If it was basketball I had to try to rebound and play hard on defense. If it was football I had to try to block and play hard on defense. If it was baseball I tried to practice hard but very rarely played in the games. Despite herculean effort in improving, I wasn’t as good as my peers. I had to work hard to get the smallest of opportunities in pick up games.
- I took that attitude to the military. I never understood soldiers going out and getting drunk on the weekend. You’re going to be in combat battling for your life and your teammate’s lives. Wouldn’t you want to grab every advantage possible? Add to that, I had never been physically gifted and I knew, going into the military, becoming a Special Forces Soldier was going to be a long shot for me. I lived like a soldier so that when the time came I could perform like a soldier.
Bernard Hopkins was a world champion boxer and fought professionally into his early 50’s. He had a 28 year career. When you look online and watch videos of him fight, you don’t see crazy speed or power. You don’t see a lot of flash. You do see discipline. When you watch interviews, Bernard often talks about living a disciplined lifestyle. Clean eating, recovery, and staying in shape are regular themes. To be a professional athlete in your fifties is a rare thing but to do it in a combat sport like boxing might seem unthinkable. Here’s the deal, most people won’t approach it with that level of focus and consistency. We conflate age with physical degradation and there is some truth to that. I mean, if you live long enough, you’ll eventually die ( 😉 ). However, there are things that accelerate decay and things that decelerate decay. Barring life altering trauma or onset of chronic illness (not due to lifestyle), the more decelerating activities you do then the more longevity you’ll have. To eat clean and exercise as a lifelong habit takes discipline.
The fighters I was training had talent but they were severely lacking in discipline. Hell, they may have been tough, really tough… but they lacked discipline. Developing discipline opens up the opportunity to do things that seem improbable when compared to averages. I would highly advise against most people starting a career in day trading or beginning a journey into MMA fighting (let alone at 37 years old). The reason I would advise against it has nothing to do with a lack of intelligence or athleticism. It’s the lack of will power to build, and fortify self discipline. It’s the inability to keep showing up and being present with the process.
Think about these examples:
- Budgeting is simple math. When done correctly and consistently can lead a person out of debt and into financial freedom. It’s basic arithmetic. How many people actually do it consistently?
- Physical therapy after a major injury can be very effective assuming you have a good provider. However, it usually takes lots of time and consistency with what feels like very basic exercises. When I worked as a trainer I very rarely saw a client work for years to heal an injury. It can take that long. I had a significant shoulder injury that took several years of basic work to heal. I did it. How many people actually go through that process?
Another way to look at this is learning to be more excited about doing the thing rather than talking about it. I’ve met so many people who have a business idea. I’ve met so many people who want to leave their job or lose weight. They talk about these things with passion. Wouldn’t you rather have the actual satisfaction of actually doing it? Again, I think I have an advantage from childhood here.
I used to get so much trash talked to me when I was younger: “You’re fat and slow!” “You suck!” “You’re lame!” “You’ll never be any better than you are now!”
I loath trash talk. However, they were right in some ways. I was slow. There were times where I was putting in so much work to become a better baseball player, yet when I got opportunities I was coming up empty handed over and over. I learned to be quiet and work on what I wanted. That habit hasn’t changed much.
Being the best fighter in the world is a myth. Anyone can get hit by a lucky shot on the chin. It’s a probability game. The more things you do to set yourself up for success, the more you increase probability that your punches land more often than your opponent. Actual combat is the same way. There are no ‘Super Soldiers’ but there is the ‘Super Prepared’.
There’s a quote from the Bible that I love:
In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty. – Proverbs 14:23
The struggles of my youth developed in me the appreciation of the process of growing self-discipline. Self-discipline has helped me toil in silence on so many things that have then led to profitable outcomes. I appreciate that I will always have room to grow in self-discipline.
What are you talking about consistently and not doing anything about? Are you actively seeking to grow your ability to self-discipline?