Freedom in Commitment

A few weekends ago, I committed to running the “Psycho Wyco” Run Toto Run 10 mile option, as well as competing at the Victory Grappling Championships in both the Gi and No-Gi divisions. I also committed to the 165 lb weight class, which means I have a few pounds to drop.

Believe it or not, this produced freedom. It takes a certain mindset, but committing can produce freedom in your mind, too.

The Right Mindset

Many of us have trouble with commitment because of FOMO, or fear of missing out on something better that may come along. Even after eventually making a choice, we let our minds get consumed on how other choices could have been better.

We first must understand that there is no such thing as a perfect choice. If we dissect our choices enough, we’ll find the good and bad in each and every one. By making a choice at all, we will be giving up something else. This is simply the nature of choices. So embrace it, and then forget about that something else. Commit to your decision. Own it, as Jocko Willink would say.

The Freedom that Ensues

In my post Choose your Suffering, I talked about how all the decisions we make are essentially about how much suffering we are willing to endure. A commenter of that post, Jonathan Vieker, was reminded of the following quote.

We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.

Jim Rohn

Once a commitment is made, it is much easier to choose the suffering of discipline rather than the suffering of regret. The commitment offers this freedom from having to make decisions that would lead to regret.

I am now focused on the physical training that will need to transpire between now and the 10 mile race and competition. The diet and calorie intake that will be needed in order for that training and weight goal to occur will also be on my mind.

What’s different? I have been training pretty consistently for over a year now, and have been wanting to get back down to 165 since Christmas. The commitment of the race and competition has cemented a path with fewer distractions and detours.

The gains (and in one case losses) are already being observed since the commitment was made. Try making some commitments of your own, and forget about the things you may miss out on as a consequence of your commitment. Instead, focus on the gains that will occur as a result!

At Least One Failure

It can be difficult for some to show vulnerability and to admit their weaknesses. Sometimes, it is easier to avoid putting one’s self in positions where vulnerability and weaknesses shine. However, many of us understand by now that avoiding these positions prevents growth.

No matter how much we’ve read about the benefits of vulnerability, agree with it in principal, and understand that it promotes our growth, it doesn’t take away the challenge of actually applying it.

Try telling yourself this before you engage in anything in which there is room for personal growth:

I’m not going to end this session without at least one failure.

Giving yourself a green light for at least one failure will help you get comfortable with perhaps many more, offering you the growth that you want and deserve.

Worst Case Scenarios are Sometimes Not That Bad

Ben Franklin edited a newspaper once. He was approached to publish something that he found “scurrilous and defamatory” which would have made him a nice sum of money. He decided to sleep on it in a very interesting way.

On his way home, he bought a cheap loaf of bread. That evening, his dinner was about half of it along with some water. He then slept on the floor. In the morning he had the other half of the loaf with some more water for breakfast.

Why did he do this to himself? To play out a worst case scenario: that he would make very little money on this newspaper by not publishing articles that were defamatory. Since he was able to survive the night and morning in such a low state, he decided “never to prostitute my press to the purposes of corruption and abuse of this kind for the sake of gaining a more comfortable subsistence.”

We fail to make specific choices in life that would ultimately be great because we think that going forward with it may

  • cost us our job
  • muddle a relationship
  • result in failure

So what? Perhaps specific choices will end in these things (but more likely not). Is that what you really feared? It is harder to see that by making the choice, in the long run

  • you will land in a better job
  • you will spark newer and more positive relationships while enhancing the positive ones you already have
  • the reward is much greater in absolute terms than the consequences of the short term failure

Experimenting through self-deprivation will help you gain the confidence necessary to make some difficult life choices. I encourage you to try one of these self experiments (or come up with one on your own):

  • Intermittent fasting, or fasting for an entire day or longer (please read about it first).
  • Giving the Whole30, Primal Blueprint, Paleo, or another type of diet a try for 30 days.
  • Plan and prepare every meal (no eating out) for 21 days.
  • Give up driving for a week. Walk, ride your bike, ride the bus, catch a cab or Uber.
  • Unplug the TV for a week.
  • Go camping for a week (perhaps while biking across a state)

During your state of abstinence, be sure to continuously ask yourself what Seneca suggests: “Is this the condition that I feared?”

The worst case isn’t that bad after all, and you will be a toughened and more hardened individual on the other side.

Lessons Learned from a Jiu Jitsu Competition

Victory Grappling Championships was held on Sunday, December 2nd in Parkville, MO.  The St. Joseph Brazilian Jiu Jitsu club hosts the event. This was my fourth competition.

In all of my competitions up until this one, I’ve won my first match.

In the Gi division, I only had one other competitor in my division.  When this happens, they have a best of three matches.  I lost my first match.  This wasn’t what I was used to.

However, I wasn’t drained, as he trapped me in a fierce triangle in which I had to tap out.

As I stood waiting to face this same opponent again, I decided that I was not going to get trapped in the same place. I thought about the mental game. He was confident, as he just beat me.  He probably didn’t know that I was making plans on beating him the next match.

The second match started similarly, but I was able to avoid his trap this time. Indeed, I eventually passed his guard for a few points.  Soon, my brown belt teammate Morgan was able to sit in my corner and feed me instruction.  This was more help than I can describe.  Having someone there giving you something to do while you are completely drained is priceless.

Morgan provided focus, something that distracted me from my utter exhaustion. These small goals and missions kept me busy doing things that put my opponent on the defensive. Time was on my side.  It eventually ran out while I was up 3-0.  I forced a third match.

Between the second and third match is when I let the mental game defeat me.  I could not concentrate on anything besides how completely spent of energy I was. My forearms were concrete. I could barely hold on to my water bottle.

Instead, I should have been presenting myself as not spent (which is what he was doing), and focusing on how my opponent is just as tired as I am, and I will be facing just as drained a competitor.  My plan should have not changed from before.

I let the mental game beat me, and inevitably, I lost the match.  It is one I should not have lost.

There was a long time before the No-Gi division would start, so I had a lot of time to recover some strength and energy.

My first roll was against someone I underestimated.  I looked at him and thought immediately that I could beat the guy.  As soon as the match began and we locked up, I believed it even more, as I was the stronger of the two.

I learned a valuable lesson.  Never, ever, underestimate your opponents. Until time runs out or they have submitted, you roll with them as you would roll with the fiercest competitor.

He led me to believe I was controlling the match, and let me in for a take down.  His guillotine was too effective for me to evade, and I had to tap out.

Now, in the third place bracket, I had to win two matches for third.  My next match was against the same guy I had already rolled with three times during the Gi division.  However, he gave me an edge by giving me way too much information between rounds. He told me he had never practiced No-Gi.  Everything else we talked about was inconsequential, because I had made up my mind I was going to beat him in No-Gi.

Lesson learned: during small talk between rounds, never talk about your weaknesses.

To really help matters, both my teammates were finished and at match side. Again, I can’t begin to describe how helpful this was.

During the match, I got several take downs, controlled the back and got my hooks in, took mount, and racked up a total of 14 points.  I observed something from the last match I had with him to this match, which was how important mentally it is to get the first points. Especially when you are drained, coming back from a deficit can be a mental mountain to climb and you find yourself defending more than being aggressive.

It seemed all the wind in his sails had vanished. The win felt good

By the third match in No-Gi, it really had started to sink in how little I knew of jiu-jitsu, and how that was the same with all of the white belts around me. We’re all out here learning and gaining more and more experience.  Even with the wins, I attribute it much to my instruction on the side lines.

I’m like a remote control car with a slowly draining battery. They control me from the sidelines with each instruction they yell, but have to compromise now and again because of that low battery.  Its responding, just not as fast and as quick as you’d like.

I faced a monster of a guy on my third match. Although I had him in height, his arms were as big as my legs. Keeping my head up (something Morgan kept yelling), I was able to defend his guillotine attacks, which would have crushed me quickly.

With the first take down, my confidence increased dramatically.  “Get your hook in!  Get your seat belt on!  Look for that choke!”  Every instruction provided focus and attention.  What’s next? What’s next?

Surprising him with my non-dominant left, I snuck my arm in for a solid choke and a submission.  Never had a bronze medal felt so good.

The six matches gave me a lot to think and mull over.  I’m so appreciative of my teammates, both the ones in the gym that roll with me week to week, and the ones that were mat side, competing along side me.  Without them, I am nothing.




Questions from Tim: Part III

In Questions from Tim, Part 1 and Questions from Tim, Part II, I answered the following questions:

  • What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?
  • In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
  • What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)?
  • How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?
  • What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be an investment of money, time, energy, etc.)

In Part III, I will address

  • If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it – metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions – what would it say and why?
  • What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?
  • What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?

If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it – metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions – what would it say and why?

I think putting this poster of outer space with the caption “Don’t take stuff so seriously, remember… You are here” with an arrow pointing at nothing you can see with any clarity.  We should have a constant reminder of how insignificant we are in this universe.

What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?

When I measure out my coffee in the morning I take extra care in getting my coffee beans to be exactly 42 grams. There is really no reason for doing so, as I could probably not tell the difference between a Chemex pot of coffee made with anything in the 40-44 gram region when brewing coffee using the same amount of water.

Since I’m waiting for the water to get to a specific temperature anyway, I’ll sometimes take single individual beans out in order to hit 42 grams. There are times when I even switch out big beans with little or vice versa once I get within hundredths of a gram.  It is ridiculous, I know.

I also love trying things that I read about that are good for me, but sound awful. As an example, I may get in the shower and decide on a whim to just stand under the shower and turn it on cold turkey! It is quite a shock to the system, and is not really that pleasant. But I read that it is good for you somewhere so I do it from time to time just for that reason alone.

What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?

If you forget everything you learned in college you’ll still be OK if you can learn and pick up a few decent habits.

  • Learn how to become ultra organized and efficient. Don’t ever believe you are organized enough and have nothing more to learn on how to be any more organized. You can be organized even more.
  • Never stop reading.
  • Write, write, and write some more. This can be done in the form of a journal, blog, etc. or a combination of any.
  • Seek novelty.
  • Do not be afraid to take charge and lead how you believe is best. On the same note, don’t be afraid to fail. Embrace the failure and learn from it.

Honestly, if you can get the first bullet point down, you will be set for life. Everything else will follow accordingly.

While taking a class again through Washburn, I was shocked at the idea that people could not get an A. If you have the ability to organize your day so that you attend class, have time outside class set aside for reading and working on the material – and then the follow through to actually use that time for what you set it aside for – you can achieve anything. 

Ignore the idea that your career should be in something you love to do. This is not necessarily true, as if you make your career out of something you love you will most likely lose the love.  Instead, find a career of something at which you are good at or would like to be really good at.  Save your passions for your free time!