How to Build "a Winner's Mind"
Silver medals, marketing schemes, and getting lost in the sauce.
A lot of people operate their lives with an inferiority complex.
They think with a “me against the world” mentality, and everyone they meet along their path is either a friend or an enemy. You are either with them or against them. You’re either helping them win, or you’re making them lose.
I understand this way of thinking. I sympathize with it. I used to think like this myself.
When you’re young, it can be convenient to think like this. It can force you into a competitive mindset where you are willing to do whatever it takes to win. It forces you to grind.
But at a certain point in your life, this way of thinking is no longer convenient. If you think with a “me against the world” mentality for long enough, it eventually starts to bite you in the ass. The pursuit of your own abundance creates scarcity.
If you aren’t careful, the mindset that gives you everything you have will take it away, just as fast.
Folks, it’s not about that.
The scary part about the inferiority complex is the genuine inferiority that it creates.
A short guy who constantly thinks about how short he is is definitely a loser, but when a short guy owns his height (or lack thereof), most people don’t even notice that he’s not that tall. The height is consistent, but the sense of inferiority is not.
In most situations in life, inferiority is imagined and adopted by those who experience it. When we fail, while we do experience a direct loss, the real pain comes from beating yourself up. Losing sucks, but beating yourself up after a loss is what really sucks.
In nearly all losses we experience in life, the real pain that most of us experience is imaginary.
“We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.” — Seneca
But not all of our pain is valid. This article is not about chronic illnesses, it’s about chronic inferiority. Pain is meant to provoke action, not provide constant discomfort.
When you touch a hot coal, you feel pain in your fingers so you can learn to stop doing that. When you lose a match in Jiu-Jitsu, you feel pain so that you can learn to fix the mistakes that you made in the match and in your preparation for it.
Failure and loss is a guide. People are the ones who make it stick and last.
(Enter social media).
The internet is a problem. Social media is probably the second worst part of the internet. Porn is the worst, but that’s for another day.
People do crazy things on social media to build and protect their reputations. I’ve made myself tens of thousands of dollars online and changed my life just by storytelling, and I’m trying to uphold my “reputation” as “successful” by telling you this.
But I also realize that I’ve been privileged. I’ve had good mentors, I’m fairly resourceful, and I had support in the early days of pursuing this dream — the days when my dream was the most fragile.
I also realize that social media is a portrayal of reality, not reality itself. I don’t feel that I get attached to things I see online the way that I used to.
One crazy thing that a lot of people on social media do is that they become obsessed with self-preservation. They become obsessed with making sure their egos and reputations do not get damaged. They sacrifice community, authenticity, and personal security in order to maintain their own self-image.
When their ego is damaged, they develop the inferiority complex that I mentioned in the introduction of this article.
The key is to just let go, but we all know that it’s not that simple.
Behind the scenes in my life.
Competitive Jiu-Jitsu is brutal.
The sport is plagued by petty drama, steroids, injuries, and more. It’s not an easy way to try to be a “professional athlete”.
I’ve competed at some of the highest levels against some of the best athletes in the world, and part of what has helped me get to this point in my career has been the fact that in the beginning, I thought that the world was out to get me. I thought that everyone else was trying to take my dream away from me.
This changed the way that I acted.
I developed (without even knowing it) a scarcity mindset. I made more enemies than friends. I started to view the world more cynically than I used to. I was and am a bit of a grump.
Even as my skills developed and my competitive results improved, I still viewed everything as “me against the world”. I still thought that I had to either win or starve. When I started losing matches earlier this year, I realized that I had to take even more drastic action to keep my dream alive.
Scarcity in the brain requires drastic behavior to resolve.
This is why I moved to Austin, Texas, to train full-time. This is why I’ve competed all over the world this year. That’s why I’ve done everything I can to be the best that I can be year after year.
However, doing this has taught me an important lesson, and maybe not the lesson that you were expecting.
“Escape competition through authenticity.” — Naval Ravikant
This is a quote that I first heard on a podcast many years ago, and while it might seem a bit corny, I think there is a lot of practical advice here when it comes to becoming happier and building yourself as a resource.
In martial arts, a lot of people really struggle to accept that there are people who are better than them. I’ve noticed this a lot in BJJ especially.
Self-preservation makes people act in crazy ways. It makes them inflate their ego, blow themselves out of proportion, and act in ways that are extremely strange.
This is because people become so afraid of losing, that they stop being competitive. They think that winning and preserving the ego is the only thing that matters for their happiness and personal satisfaction.
The truth, as corny as it sounds, is that the way you play the game is really what catches people’s eye.
World-class BJJ athlete and self-proclaimed “number one grappler in the world” Craig Jones is a great example of this.
Jones has built a profitable brand and a significant following in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu through the art of not winning matches. Instead of obsessing with winning (as most athletes do), Jones has built a brand off of being funny, relatable, and creative. Of course, he’s still world-class at his skill, but that’s not really why he’s interesting.
He might not be as successful as Gordon Ryan, the current top BJJ athlete in the world, but Jones makes more money than dozens of “ADCC world champions”, despite not winning the title himself at this point in his career.
He competes still and does well, but he doesn’t need to. He’s escaped the scarcity of “competition” by being himself. By playing the game differently.
We can all learn a valuable lesson from that.
So where does that leave you? Where does this leave me?
As my career in Jiu-Jitsu goes on and on, I realize more how brutal competition is. I realize how exhausting it is to constantly be at your best.
It’s fun — don’t get me wrong — and there’s nothing like the thrill of competing in grappling, but the real profit, fulfillment, and joy of martial arts and the business of it come not by beating people up, but by teaching them how you did it.
Not by isolating yourself as some special, unique, entity, but by creating community. By being an interesting, hopefully good, and unique person.
By playing the game because you love it. By working hard because you respect it. By doing you, because what the heck else are you going to do?
As I get ready for the ADCC Trials — the qualifying phase for the biggest tournament in submission grappling — I’ve felt anxiety, pressure, fear, excitement, and everything else in between.
I’ve also felt a great deal of joy because I know that this time around, I’m playing with the love of the game in mind, not desperation.
I think that this mindset is far more sustainable than what I was operating with before.
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