I was a coward and a quitter. Some may find that a harsh critique of a young kid still finding his way. The facts remain, I was yellow. It seemed when the chips were down, my instinct was to run. Lies became an easy out, turning tail was a road I traveled far too often, and quitting became a friend with whom I found too much comfort.
Several years and some pretty crazy, “could have made a movie about this” type of moments later and I was in the Northwest Community Center with Jimmy Ralston. Stumbling around the squared circle getting my ass kicked by someone a hell of a lot smaller and probably a few years younger than me was a sobering experience. Despite the ringing in my ears, the taste of blood on my tongue, and an eyeball that seemed to be swelling further shut by the second, I felt a hell of a lot better than I ever did by quitting.
Of all my failures and bad habits, quitting was most devastating to the development of my character. It was crippling and powerfully addictive. The first hit was immediately warm and comforting bringing with it instant relief from the task that was causing so much disruption. “Im safe” coursed through my veins and melted away all risk of failure and all potential for embarrassment. Quitting saved the day. It was a conspirator that allowed me to escape. What I didn’t realize (but eventually learned) was that my escape had me jumping from the frying pain into a hotter fire. As time went on I did my best to not participate in anything that would challenge my carefully constructed tough guy image. Quitting was my gateway drug to avoidance. I was becoming an, “almost”. I was becoming an, “I could have been”. Quitting was poison that was rotting me from the inside out. I was becoming a guy who lacked character, a guy who had no heart.
I was fortunate to have many good people in my corner. Jack was one of them. He was my counselor. His job was to teach me why I was such a screw up and what to do about it. It didn’t take long for him to see I was a quitter. Breaking my addiction was going to be my first step in straightening myself out and for some reason he felt getting slapped around the ring was a good way to do it.
Of all the combatives one can practice, boxing is the least forgiving. It is the only sport, other than wrestling, where you practice it exactly like you do it. It is uncompromising and it is punishing. It takes a certain kind of person to tolerate getting punched in the face. You either love it, or you hate it. Those first few years at Northwest Community Center with Jimmy were incredibly formative. It is safe to say they built in me “a lot of character”.
I learned a lot more than what my own blood and old leather tasted like.
I didn’t need to win. I just needed not to quit.
I lost my first fight. It was over 25 years ago and I still remember nearly that entire day. I remember being foolish enough to shave a mohawk into my hair (as if a haircut was going to make me tougher!) I remember sitting in the chair getting my hands wrapped by Jimmy’s corner man. I remember the crowd roaring as I approached the ring. I remember how hard I fought. I remember thinking I won the fight. Do you know what I don’t remember? Losing. I have no recollection of my opponent’s hand being raised. I have no recollection of disappointment, embarrassment, or shame. I have only the very distinct memory of feeling like I could accomplish anything. I remember feeling, for the first time ever, that I was a winner. I stared my opponent, both figurative and literal, in the eye and went toe to toe with him. I didn’t quit and my life was about to change.
I needed to place my trust the people that I chose to help me.
My journey was not solo. Both Jimmy and Jack were major influences on me. I sought both of them out in a bid to make a positive change in my life. Of the many benefits of being part of a team, one of the most powerful is that you become a part of something greater than yourself. You are able to impact the world in bigger and better ways than you could as an individual. And, in a reciprocal role, the team provides you with the confidence and the motivation to tackle things you wouldn’t dare on your own. As difficult as it was for me initially, I grew to understand that I needed to trust them. I needed to have faith; belief in the absence of proof. Without the self-confidence that I needed to be successful, I had to believe in the confidence they had in my ability to perform.
If you keep waiting for the perfect moment, you are going to die bored.
Tomorrow. Tomorrow. Tomorrow. Tomorrow. Tomorrow. Tomorrow. Tomorrow. Tomorrow is the beginning of the end. Tomorrow rolls off the tongue so easily with its false sense of dedication, determination, and courage. When said often enough it actually sounds believable. Tomorrow neither arrives nor departs. Tomorrow is the purgatory of ambition and achievement. You are never going to have more time than you do right now. There is no definitive sign that you are ready. There is never a moment where you are guaranteed to win, and if there was, what would be the point of trying? The moment is never going to be perfect; nor does it have to. It just has to be the time you decide you are done living a life void of risk. It is the moment you decide you are going to die with dirt in your eyes.
Years of eating leather and catching fists with my face taught me those three valuable lessons: You don’t have to win. Place your trust in those that are helping you. Stop waiting for the perfect moment. Life is short my friends, and there are no guarantees along the way. Don’t waist anymore time wondering what might be or what could have been. Whether you are debating signing up for your first competition, on the fence about quitting your job to start your own business, or considering the possibility of going back to school, you put the time in. You showed up and worked hard. You studied. You practiced.
You aren’t going to feel the soil covering your coffin, but you will feel a constant hunger and emptiness from a life devoid of risk and peril. It is time to pull the trigger and step off on your journey.