How to Become More Resilient
Your dream might only be a nightmare away.
For the last 2 months, I’ve been really busy getting beat up all over the world.
In early March, I was competing and training Jiu-Jitsu on Long Island, New York. Then, a few weeks later I was competing in England. Then, I competed again in Chicago in mid-April, and then I packed a pile of my belongings into the back of my car and drove all the way down to Austin, Texas, where I have been training for the last few weeks.
In total, since the beginning of March, I’ve been on 5 trips, one of which I’m still on and will be on until the beginning of June. I haven’t had an apartment since late February and I’ve spent pretty much all of my money on nothing but food, Airbnbs, gas, and flights.
Oh, and one pair of grappling shorts.
Needless to say, I’ve been busy — but this is the life I always wanted ever since I was a 19-year-old blue belt. In many ways, I did it.
But this isn’t the end of the story.
If anything, it’s just the beginning.
The price of your dream is a nightmare.
How’d we get here?
In the last few months, I’ve had a lot of people tell me that they’d “kill to be where I am”. One that stuck with me was a 19-year-old blue belt who I met in a burger joint in Liverpool after I lost my match at Grapplefest. I saw a bit of my younger self in that kid, as I do with all younger BJJ competitors.
I’m just a grappler with a blog. I don’t really feel like much more, but these interactions do make me happy in a kind of twisted way. They make me feel like what I’ve done for myself at least has some value.
I’m not curing cancer and I’m not a TikTok star, but having a few people look up to you has to count for something, right?
But either way, after I stopped relishing in how far I’ve come, these interactions got me thinking.
Is there a one size fits all approach to chasing your dreams?
People certainly try to make it seem like there is.
I’d love to tell you that there is a list of habits you can follow (here are a few that will help you get started) and I’d also love to sell you a blueprint that can help you do what I get to do (I wrote an article on that too!), but habits and blueprints can only get you so far.
That’s not what keeps me going. That’s not why I’m relentless in this pursuit.
Here are 3 ideas that help me keep going down this crazy life path that half the time doesn’t make any damn sense:
1. Stop expecting things that you must create.
The first major life lesson I learned from combat sports came from my first wrestling match ever.
When the match started, I expected there to be a “feeling out process” at the beginning of my match where my opponent and I would hand fight and circle with each either.
I expected my opponent and I to have a technical bout where my tactics would be up against his, and I believed that I would win with my “superior strategy”.
Here’s what I learned:
Don’t bring a calculator to a dogfight.
Instead of a calculated victory, I got snapped down to a front headlock in the opening seconds, thrown on my back, and held there until the referee slapped the mat. Then, I got up, shook my opponent's hand, and ran off the mat to the end of the bench where I cried, expecting my coach to come and comfort me and tell me it was “going to be okay”.
If you’ve wrestled, you probably know that no one was going to come and tell me it was going to be okay.
All there was to do after this loss was practice more and try again.
Prepare for the worst, do not expect the best, and do not stop until you are one of the best.
2. You can push yourself to the limit and still fail. The important part is what you do next.
The way that “grind culture” talks about failure is weird to me.
People talk about failure like it’s a death that can be avoided with hard work. They talk about failure and loss as if it’s the worst thing that you can experience.
This is why so many people choose to play it safe.
Instead of it being a sign that you are inadequate, you should interpret failure as a sign that your character is being tested. Everyone can be happy and charismatic in victory, but in defeat, a lot of grown adults even act like babies.
This isn’t just about Jiu-Jitsu or wrestling or martial arts, either. It’s about life.
In writing, for example, I’ve gotten more than 20 million views on my content all over the world by now. My first articles online were read by like, 11 people. I worked just as hard on those as I’m working on this one, but they just weren’t as good.
I could have whined about not getting attention. I had every right to.
When you give your all and shit doesn’t go your way, what do you do?
Do you dig for deeper excuses? Do you run from your negative emotions, or do you experience pain and persist despite it?
The last option should be your only option.
3. Don’t forget to smell your books.
I don’t read as much as I should, but I try to read at least 25 books a year.
Sometimes I listen to audiobooks and sometimes I read ebooks, but my favorite way to read is outside, listening to the birds chirping, holding a paperback. Paperbacks are the way to go.
Maybe this makes me a weirdo, but I like the smell of paperbacks. The smell reminds me of getting lost in a peaceful library in school and hiding from my class in a world of books. The smell reminds me of using knowledge to get better at living.
So, I like the smell of my books. I also like the sound of people colliding with each other during Jiu-Jitsu training. I also like the sound of weights slamming on the ground at the gym.
I try to notice the sensations I experience in everything I do in life. I write them down as I experience them so that when I forget, I can go back and relive them.
In my opinion, this mindfulness breeds resilience.
Sometimes, yes, this makes me a little melancholy about the past, but every time, that sadness comes from a place of gratitude. I like sad music because I don’t think of it as sad, I think of it as the transcendence of sadness (except for maybe “I Miss You” by Blink 182 — that sh*t is so damn sad).
I strive to experience every moment fully — even the sad ones.
This gratitude makes it easier to keep chasing those moments without being anxious about missing out on them.
I almost didn’t want to write this article out of fear of sounding corny, but the truth is that you cannot do anything remarkable in this life without a great deal of resilience.
At least, that’s been the truth for me.
Relationships, business endeavors, crafts, and skills all take time to build. The graph for improving at these things is also non-linear, meaning that sometimes you’re going to take 5 steps back before you can take one step forward.
It’s important to have a mind that can keep going when you’re taking those 5 steps so that you don’t give up.
Habits are great. Blueprints look nice to read and they can act as guides, but usually, these things are all pretty obvious.
Want to be an athlete? Train hard, recover well, study your sport, lift weights, and compete often.
Want to be a writer? Write every day, read, edit, and publish as much as possible.
The guides are simple, but the resilience to see them through is more challenging. If you can become resilient, everything else becomes that much easier.
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