This episode, we take a look at the career and mindset of, the one and only, Conor McGregor!
It’s a struggle almost every person goes through. “What do I want to be when I grow up?” “What am I passionate about?” “What am I not terrible at?”
For the most part, people believe that all you have to do is find the thing—that one bloody thing!—that you are “meant” to do, and suddenly, everything will click into place. You’ll do it until the day you die and always feel fulfilled and happy and prance with unicorns and rainbows while making a million euro in your pyjamas.
Between ages 17 and 24, I changed career aspirations more often than I changed my underwear. And even after I had a master’s degree, it took another three years to clearly define what I wanted for my life.
For most of my teenage years, I fantasized about being a professional boxer.
Any boxing match I saw, I would always close my eyes and envision myself in a ring, fighting in front of a screaming crowd like something straight out of a Rocky movie.
That fantasy could keep me occupied for hours on end.
The notion continued up through school. But it was never a question of if I’d ever be up fighting in front of screaming crowds, but when. I was biding my time before I could invest the proper amount of time and effort into training and making it work.
First, I needed to finish school. Then, I needed to make money. Then, I needed to find the time. Then… and then nothing.
Despite fantasizing about this for over half of my life, the reality never came. And it took me a long time and a lot of negative experiences to finally figure out why: I didn’t actually want it.
I was in love with the result – the image of me in a boxing ring, people cheering – but I wasn’t in love with the process. And because of that, I failed at it.
Well, I didn’t even try hard enough to fail at it. I hardly tried at all.
The daily drudgery of training, the logistics of finding a boxing club and sparring partners, the pain of injuries. The broken hands, the pad work, hauling 20 kilograms of gear to and from training sessions with no car. It’s a mountain of a dream and a kilometre-high climb to the top. And what it took me a long time to discover is that I didn’t like to climb much. I just liked to imagine the top.
Our culture would tell me that I’ve somehow failed myself, that I’m a quitter or a loser.
Self-help would say that I either wasn’t courageous enough, determined enough or I didn’t believe in myself enough.
The entrepreneurial/start-up crowd would tell me that I chickened out on my dream and gave in to my conventional social conditioning.
But the truth is far less interesting than that: I thought I wanted something, but it turns out I didn’t. End of story.
I wanted the reward and not the struggle. I wanted the result and not the process. I was in love not with the fight but only the victory. And life doesn’t work that way.
Look, everybody wants what feels good. Everyone wants to live a carefree, happy and easy life, to fall in love and have amazing relationships, to look perfect and make money and be popular and well-respected and admired and a total baller to the point that people part like the Red Sea when you walk into the room.
Everyone would like that – it’s easy to like that.
A more interesting question, a question that perhaps you’ve never considered before when choosing career paths, is “what are you willing to struggle for?”
Because that seems to me to be a greater determinant of how our lives turn out.
Everybody wants to have an amazing job and financial independence—but not everyone wants to suffer through 60-hour work weeks, long commutes, stifling paperwork and to navigate corporate hierarchies. People want to be rich without the risk, without the sacrifice, without the delayed gratification necessary to accumulate wealth.
People who enjoy the struggles of a gym are the ones who get in good shape. People who enjoy long workweeks and the politics of the corporate ladder are the ones who move up it. People who enjoy the stresses and uncertainty of the starving athelete lifestyle are ultimately the ones who live it and make it.
This is something I wish I had known when I was starting out in my career: our struggles determine our successes.
So my advice? Choose your struggles wisely, my friend.
On the cusp of my mid-twenties, I found myself living in a converted cattle shed out in the arse-end of rural Ireland. I was overweight, failing my Master’s degree, and working an internship for peanuts. Let’s not forget the black pit of all dark days: my girlfriend at the time broke up with me over a lack of aforementioned peanuts.
I drove an ancient Nissan Micra that leaked petrol every god damn time I filled it up. Any time I drove over 60km per hour, that junk pile’s relentless rattling reminded me of how truly fragile my life was. Just like that car, I was being shaken to pieces, breaking at the bolts.
Things were rough. I got depressed. Severely.
I vividly remember sitting on the floor of my converted cattle shed, darkly gazing at a length of rope on my lap. When it wasn’t the rope, I would hold and quietly regard a razor blade while listening to angsty Linkin Park songs. The lyrics sang of a consuming, confusing force inside me, pulling me below the surface. For a while, that song of lacking self-control and feeling never-ending fear became my anthem.
…I know. Linkin Park. Ugh. I guess that just goes to show you how bad things really were.
I can’t count how many times I thought of grabbing that rope and making a one-way trip to a secluded spot with a big tree, or making that razor blade the last thing I ever touched. I felt as though I was an observer of my own life. It was just a movie, one of those god-awful horror movies where viewers are screaming at the screen, begging an idiot character not to go into the murderer’s dark basement without so much as a flashlight. I could almost hear the audience calling out to me, shouting for me to shift my life into some other direction. Depression pulled at me, though. I was being controlled, completely at the mercy of the garbage screenwriter that was dreaming up my life.
Maybe you know someone who’s suffered from depression or had an anxiety attack. Chances are, it’s someone close to you. Maybe it’s you. You, or they, might feel compelled to write, blog, or talk about your experience to help others. That’s to be encouraged; it’s brave, but let’s draw a very thick, important line, here:
When someone “survives” a negative mental health event, there’s a temptation to tell a triumphant tale and perform an uplifting story of how they slew the great dragon of depression. You know that rags to riches story; “…started from the bottom now we here.” That struggle for success against all the odds, enduring an abusive childhood, having a bitch of a mother, having a dickhead of a father, sleeping on the streets, making it off the bread line. These are real, horrible struggles, and a lot of inspiration can come from hearing about how someone overcame adversity. However, the moment those stories are reduced to fluffy, bullshit storytelling, they lose their meaning.
My journey back from the brink was propelled by martial arts. I practised Judo, MMA, Muay Thai, Boxing, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as a means of therapy kind of. At the start of that journey, it was all about the Fight Club mentality of “hit me harder to dull the pain.” I began to see that all of life’s problems become background noise when some guy is either trying to break your arm or knock you unconscious.
Gradually, I progressed beyond the Brad Pitt / Edward Norton unhealthy “hurt me” angst, and way beyond Linkin Park lyrics. I found “my thing,” and started focusing exclusively on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu above all other martial arts. Developing a fighting spirit for life is a good way to get yourself unstuck and moving towards your most authentic aspirations and potential.
By immersing myself in martial arts, I found out just how helpful it can be in all facets of life. Sure, I learned how to twist people into human pretzels, but I also gained a more practical skillset. With an expanding ability to settle inner emotional and mental conflict, I was able to twist my own problems into pretzels, too.
Just because I learned that strength, doesn’t mean I’m qualified to teach it. Why make myself a middle man when I can simply point you to the true masters? I did not write this article because I feel that I have attained some wisdom and now feel qualified to preach. I did all of this typing because this is the article that I wish existed when I was swimming in my own personal abyss. The simple act of writing it helped me get through those tough times. Maybe it will help you, too.
And why you really shouldn’t care at all…
Prior to his retirement from Amateur boxing, Ronnie Pickering experienced the glory of earning a nickname, “One Punch Ronnie.” There are good and bad things people can call you, and in my humble opinion, that one’s pretty good. Names can be powerful things. They be used as insults, comedy, and in some cases they can bolster your authority within a given field.
Good or bad, we’re not here to talk about a name’s ability to bend the world around you. Today, Ronnie will be serving as an example of how names can rot us on the inside, expand our ego, and be thrown out into the world only to bounce right back and cause massive destruction.
Ronnie Pickering became the name on everyone’s lips when a video of him yelling at a motorcyclist was posted on YouTube. The internet retains a bountiful crop of road rage compilations (“Road Rage in America” is worth watching if you want higher blood pressure,) but Ronnie’s video blew up to one million views for more than the usual reasons.
Why so many views? He was desperately eager to fight the motorcyclist, citing his terms as simply “bare-knuckle, right here, right now,” but we’ve seen that a million times. It’s textbook road rage, fight or flight at 100 KPH. There was plenty of shouting and swearing, but again, nothing new there.
The video blew up because of Pickering’s name, and not just in the sense of the internet recognizing it. On a damp and cloudy day, parked right in the middle of the lane, Pickering repeatedly asserts his identity in the face of the motorcyclist’s absolute apathy. It was like he pressed the red button to detonate a bomb, but when it didn’t blow he kept right on pressing it.
In dialog which merits printing, if not adapting for the big screen, the name flies like bullets in a shootout where no one gets hit.
Pickering asks, “Do you know who I am?”
The biker replies, “Do I care? Come on, then – who are you, then?”
A momentary pause for thought.
“Who the fuck is that then?”
Ronnie was already revved up from being (Heaven forbid) forced to wait behind a motorcycle before making a right turn. Now, like coal being dumped on a fire, here was this stranger who (how dare he) hasn’t even heard of Ronnie’s yesteryear boxing exploits in the local arena. He’s so upset that at one point he deems the screaming match worth continuing when their positions are switched and his wife is caught in the crossfire. Anything to win, anything to pick and win a fight with this disinterested motorcyclist.
An amateur boxer has this type of ego.
Now let’s travel 3,000 miles over to Quebec Canada.
Georges St. Pierre, World MMA Champion was arguably more accomplished than Ronnie Pickering, having won a decision against Johnny Hendricks at UFC 167. Like Pickering, GSP was also retired, though he was taking that bull by the horns. Despite having thrown in the towel on competitive fighting, he still regularly trained for the sake of staying healthy and continuing to do what he loved.
Georges was parking his car in a residential area near his gym, Tristar MMA. As Georges got out of his car, he was approached by an elderly man in his 80s. The old man told Georges he couldn’t park his car here in this area. No, this isn’t the story of how Georges bowed down, handed the old man a dozen roses, and kindly moved his car. He was a fighter, after all.
He still handled the situation with considerably more grace than the name-dropper in question. Georges insisted he always parked here throughout his MMA career of over 15 years and never had a problem before. The old guy responded to this by cursing at him and threatening to “kick his ass.” Let me repeat that with a few extra words: Kick the ass of former world MMA champion who was still in peak physical condition, Georges St. Pierre.
The old man gets honorable mention for his ambition, but GSP’s reaction is what we’re looking at here. He simply said, “I don’t want trouble, sir,” and proceeded to jog off towards his gym.
Now, how’s that for a comparison? In the Blue Corner, we have a mediocre amateur boxer who never even made it to nationals. His ego comes in at a whopping three hundred pounds and he craves validation as much as violent victories. In the Red corner, a household name in the MMA world who has every right to ask people “do you know who I am?”. His ego wouldn’t qualify for feather-weight despite the fact that he’s one of the most dangerous men on the planet.
The inverse relationship between ego and accomplishment is a common one, but imagine if these two characters were flipped. If GSP flipped out and started touting his name and listing off his resume of why he was most qualified to beat the old man’s ass, that would have been ugly.
On the flipside, it would have been equally beautiful if Pickering had abstained from using his name at all. What if he was secure enough in his fighting abilities that he didn’t feel the need to prove them by beating up someone who was just trying to get from A to B? I would ask, “what if he didn’t get angry in the first place?” but let’s be reasonable. He’s Ronnie Peckering. Or was it Pickering?
How do you behave in everyday life? Which one of these characters are you? Whatever your accomplishments may be, big or small, do you hang your self-worth on them? Do you expect everyone around you to have your name tattooed on their chests?
Are you the humble Georges, or the egotistical maniac Ronnie?
That was a trick question. What about the motorcyclist? Maybe just try being a nameless, road-sharing human who is at the very most disinterested in Pickering a fight.
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