Answer the question
During my time as a prize fighter, I found myself having to answer a question in every bout that went more than a minute or 2. Over time I found this question was something every athlete I knew or trained had to answer as well. Here it is; Coast, quit, or kill?
Coast - lets ride it out and see what the judges think
Quit - find a way out, figure out what excuse we can use to not do this anymore today, or forever
Kill - take full control of this situation and put the opponent away, guarantee victory
In almost every physical encounter against another person, I would hit a point where I had to answer the question. It feels like time slows down, all these thoughts race thru my brain, and I have to make decision. I trained to answer the question as a killer. I would like to say I killed everything in my way, but over a 20 plus year career, I did fall short of my personal aspirations from time to time.
My most vivid recollection of this experience was the 1999 World Sabaki Challenge in Denver, CO. The referee told us that there was 30 seconds left in the last round. My initial reaction was “Holy Shit! I have to survive that much longer?” I trained totally wrong for altitude and a fight. I had a new strength coach who was a former NFL player. He trained me like linebacker, nota fighter about to fight a mile high. Yes, I was strong, but I had no lungs.
The ref said 30 seconds, my brain went crazy. My body was filled with acid and my lungs were toast. My initial response was doubt followed by anger. I was angry at myself for not being prepared, having doubts, and even asking the question at all. In a split second I went thru all of this and responded with an internal dialog where I basically yelled at myself. I remembered all the hours I trained, the rounds put in, and the burning desire I had when I took this fight.
I did not win on paper but I did not lose. For the last 30 seconds of that bout, I thru everything I had left in me plus more at my opponent. It was not enough to put him away, but I killed my demons of doubt and proved to myself how far I could go. I went so far, I almost had to go to the hospital. I blacked out in the back room and needed to be given oxygen. I went so far I almost didn’t come back. I went where I needed to go, where I put everything I had out there, where I could know exactly who was and what I was made of in that moment.
I retired 20 years later in a similar situation. I was horribly unprepared for a bout against a much younger and conditioned opponent. Instead of 30 seconds, I had to dig deep for 5 rounds, 2 of which were in a black hole of pain due to fatigue. At 20, I was learning who i was. At 40, I just validated what I already know; I can take whatever you want to throw at me and keep coming forward.
I put myself in positions where questions needed to be answered enough times to know who I am and what I can endure. This is the beauty of hard things. This is the beauty of humanity. We all have the ability to take on challenges and figure out who we are. It is not a hard formula to find success. You do the hard things, you embrace killing the demons, and you learn in time who you really are because of the work, not the abstract judgments of others.
Not everyone needs to climb thru the ropes or get locked in the cage. Take on the challenges that suit you and force yourself to go so far that some questions have to get answered. Coast, quit, or kill? I hope you find that killer that lives inside of us all. Slay the doubts, kill the demons, and live free because you know who you are.