I wrote this post in September 2008 on my old college blog. It was inspired by a video of John Smith talking to his team after practice (Link). I just rewatched the video for the first time in a while and it gave me chills.
As I move back into school this year, it brings me back to a harder time: the beginning of my sophomore year. My roommate Thomas and I had to completely repaint and fix up our new room, which was debris-laden and disgusting at best. Due to an error in the housing arrangements, we were forced to live in the basement of the house. The only problem was that it wasn’t actually a room, but the former kitchen. We hauled bag after bag of trash out before we could even move our furniture in. Upon moving in, we found three dead rats (one was cleaned to the bone) and scores of dead cockroaches.
On top of all this, the rigorous academic year had just started, and preseason wrestling was as grueling as ever. We were lifting three times a week and running more 400s that I could count on my fingers. Day-in and day-out, it was exhausting on the mind and body. Needless to say, I was very stressed out.
When all aspects of my life seemed dismal, suddenly there was a glimmer of light. That glimmer came when Thomas returned home one day with an Xbox and the game Guitar Hero. I’ve never been crazy about video games, but I was hooked immediately.
For those of you who’ve never played Guitar Hero, you’re missing out. Instead of a classic Nintendo controller, players use a near life-sized electronic guitar to simulate real play. You have to strum it and hit the right frets to play along with popular songs on the screen.
I started off on Easy mode.
I’d like to say that I was a natural, but I was horrible. I played on Easy mode for a long time. A few times, I tried playing Medium, but failed right away. So I stayed in the kiddie pool, refusing to jump into the proverbial ‘deep end’. The game started to consume me and I played it incessantly, but I wasn’t getting any better. Then one time Thomas called me out, “You’re never going to get better unless you stop messing around on the easy levels.”
It was as if he had challenged my manhood. Was he calling me weak? I’d show him. So I took the plunge into Medium…and failed…then I failed again…and again. Determined to succeed, I must have failed 15 times before I could complete a song on Medium, but once I got there it was a breeze. Looking back, the Easy level was almost laughable. How could I have ever been that bad? So I played on, trying to master Medium.
Another time, my friend Rodrigo challenged me to a head-to-head match on Hard. I tried backing down. “No way, I’ll get my ass kicked.”
“Come on, man. You gotta try it sometime.”
“But you have to use all four fingers on Hard, there’s no way I could do that.”
Eventually he convinced me to play and proved me right—I got crushed. But I played on, and eventually I could manage on Hard. Looking back, the Medium level was almost laughable. How could I have ever been that bad? So I played on, trying to master Hard. You get the point.
Sometimes, the level above us seems daunting, so we avoid it. It is the unknown and unfamiliar, and it’s a little frightening. I was comfortable playing Easy, and winning. It is always comforting to know you can succeed without any challenges. The price of that comfort is that you never progress. When you stray from your comfort zone, it is not easy. There are new challenges and overwhelming obstacles you will have to face, but it is these struggles that define and sharpen your resolve.
This applies to all aspects of life. When you push yourself past your comfort zone, you are forced to adapt, quickly. In the process of ‘jumping into the deep end’ you perform on a higher plane and eventually make a distinct jump to a higher level. Think of the first time you did something scary and how uncomfortable you were. Push past it and it’s no longer a challenge. Take the jump.
Want to hear about my adventures as a professional MMA fighter in Peru? Check out my book, The Cage: Escaping the American Dream.