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The Courage To Fail


Last week at wrestling club, I was paired with a young high school kid during live sparring; he couldn’t have been more than 15.

Being older and more experienced, I decided to showboat a little bit during my match with him. Nothing mean or excessive. Just some playful and creative stuff that I would not try with someone my skill level.

Towards the end of the round, this kid manages to dart past my defense and grab one of my legs. Impressed, I decided to reward him for his effort and allow him to take me down. Instead, he froze.

“Go for it!” I said.

He didn’t budge. Instead, he balled up while clutching my leg and waited for some inevitable counterattack to fall upon him.

“Why not finish?” I asked.

He made a half-hearted attempt to do so, thus I retracted my decision to allow the takedown and threw him off of me.

USA Wrestling Courage to Fail
LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 10: Jordan Ernest Burroughs of the United States (red) and Denis Tsargush of Russia compete in the Men’s Freestyle 74 kg Wrestling on Day 14 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at ExCeL on August 10, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

He let go of my leg. His eyes were downtrodden in shame. I took a knee and sat down next to him and told him this:

“Yo, you are beating yourself first. You can’t look at what I am doing and psych yourself out. Intimidation is just an illusion. You have to play your game regardless of what I choose to do. If you lose, who cares? If I counter it, who cares? It is just practice. No one is judging you. I get my ass kicked too. Way worse than this. It’s all part of the learning process. It’s how you grow. Learn to have fun with the getting beat up part too and just enjoy the journey. Wrestling and life in general is hard enough as it is without us beating ourselves down first.”

lou brock

A week later. Another young kid showed up at our club. He was complaining in the locker rooms before practice.

“I don’t want to wrestle against this guy! He’s too big! I don’t want to wrestle against that guy. He’s got tattoos!”

Out of generosity, my training partner Julio, who is a seasoned MMA veteran, a rough looking guy covered in tats, decided to help break this kid’s fear by letting him drill throws on him over and over again.

After practice, I asked the kid, “Still afraid of big scary men with tattoos?”


“What do tattoos have anything to do with someone’s fighting ability?”

“It means they can beat me up!”

“You’re beating yourself. You are giving yourself limits that don’t even need to be there. Face them down next practice.”

“I’m going to get my ass kicked.”

“Then you get your ass kicked. It’s how you learn. Look, one day, you’re going to see a beautiful girl that you like sitting across the room and all your friends are going to be telling you that she’s way out of your league. They are scared and they want you to be scared with them. If you keep telling yourself that all the scary looking men with tattoos are tougher than you, then you are going to be the guy that listens to them. If you want to be the guy that says to your friends ‘I am a wrestler and I don’t know what the fuck out of my league means’, and walk up to her and take her out, then you face those down big scary men with tattoos.”

…he didn’t.

Rocky Punishes Drago

The majority of what scares us in life is completely irrelevant. ‘Scary men with tattoos’ and the date supposedly being ‘out of your league’ are just self-imposed limitations. Most men with tattoos have no fighting ability what so ever and most dates, who are actually worth your time, are not that shallow. The sad truth is that most people will let self-limiting beliefs kill their dreams before they even explore the opportunities.

We build so many illusions in life that magnify our fear of failure. It does not help that society and often times, our closest friends and family, tell us what we should be afraid of what they could not accomplish.

I’m not going to sugar coat it, however. Failure can hurt. Loss. Frustration. Rejection. Pain. Granted, most of times, failure does not hurt as bad as you think it would be. Some of the harshest rejections are some of my friend’s funniest stories. Some of the worst humiliations I had in sports and in career ended up propelling me to get something even greater.

That being said, sometimes failure puts you on your knees. Sometimes, it hurts so bad you never wish you had the courage to start.

When this happens, you need to ask yourself whether this goal is worth it to you. Take a break and figure it out. Ask yourself if you are on the right path and whether this is truly what makes you happy.

If the answer is yes, then you need to find the courage to continue out of the respect for the person that HAD the courage to FAIL. For that pain of failure is the reason why you had to be brave enough to start in the first place. Honor that bravery and get back onto the field.

Rudy courage to fail


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