Coaches Corner: Never been a horse that can’t be rode, Never been a cowboy can’t be throwed

Martial Arts Minnesota

Bottom line, you are going to have good days and bad.  We have all had times when everything is going great and times when we seem to deal with set back after set back.  The ups and downs we all experience is part of life.  No matter what, at some point or another you will have to deal with events, injuries, illnesses, personal crises, or whatever that is out of your control.  For me the martial arts has been one of the vehicles I have used to develop the ability to deal with life’s struggles, and find a way to work around, over or through them.

I have had my fair share of ups and downs, but I have made it a habit to be positive and have developed into an eternal optimist. When I was in 9th grade I started to look for positive sayings from wherever I could find them.  I did a lot of reading, digging through books and started writing them down in a notebook.  As an athlete, you learn how to grow from wins and losses.  Dan Gable has been synonymous with victory.  He went 64 – 0 as a high school wrestler and then 118 – 1 in college at the University of Iowa.   Gable says that it was his only loss to Larry Owens that allowed him to become ‘good’.  In fact, after that loss Gable became an even stronger wrestler, even more determined to excel.  Gable stated, “I say that I went undefeated for seven years, lost a match, and then I got good.  He would go on to become undefeated in international competition and go unsecured upon in route to winning the 1972 Gold Medal in the Olympics.  In addition, Dan Gable believes that without that loss he would have never have become the coach he was. 

When life gives you lemons make lemonade“, not only that but drink that lemonade down to get more energy to grow even stronger.  When you get thrown off that horse, you have to shake off the dust and get back at it.  Do not stew over losses and mistakes, but rather the some time to see where you can grow from the experience.  The mentality with Muay Thai fighters in Thailand is unique compared to the U.S. In Thailand it is about the experience and not simply a win/loss record.  In Thailand they  don’t ask “what’s your record?”, but rather, “how many fights do you have?” It is the experience gained from fights that will eventually make a great fighter.  The same goes for all of us in life.  It isn’t about dwelling on mistakes, personal problems and whatever else life throws at you, but rather learning from them.  I have made it a habit to write down what I’ve learned from life’s experiences, good, bad and ugly.  It is not what happens to you, but rather how you grow from the experience. 

It is a learned skill to be positive.  One of the sayings I wrote down 35 years ago was, “You can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses”.   The same event can be taken in two different ways.  There are those that seem to find the good in everything.  No matter what we experience it is how we look at it that makes the difference.  Good luck, bad luck it is how we deal with our experiences that will determine how we grow.   There is a Chinese story of a farmer who used an old horse to till his fields.  One day, the horse escaped into the hills and when the farmer’s neighbors sympathized with the old man over his bad luck, the farmer replied, “Good luck? Bad luck? who knows?” A week later, the horse returned with a herd of horses from the hills and this time the neighbors congratulated the farmer on his good luck.  His reply was,  Good luck? Bad luck? who knows?  Then, when the farmer’s son was attempting to break in one of the wild horses, he fell off and broke his leg.  Everyone thought this was very bad.  The farmer again said,  Good luck? Bad luck? who knows?  A few weeks later, the military came to the village and drafted all able-bodied young men in the area.  When they saw that the farmer’s son had a broken leg, they had no need for him.  Good luck, bad luck?  Who knows?  Things that seem bad on the surface may in fact end up making you a better person. What determines how you will respond to life ups and downs? In simplest terms it will come down to how you habitually respond to them, positively or negatively. It comes down to how you deal with the 1/2 full glasses of lemons surrounded by thorny roses.  I found that using the thorns will make it easier to fill your glass with lemonade. 

Your mind can only focus on one thought at a time, that thought can be positive or negative. You can be actively dealing with or freaking out about what you are going through. I can honestly say I have been through the ringer a couple times. Not only the normal ups and downs of life, but also a little more.  14 years ago I was diagnosed with liver cancer, then sciatic nerve cancer.  In both diagnoses the doctors said that the chances of survival was bleak. There were many times that I had my head full of negative thoughts about dying, not seeing my kids grow up (by far the worst), if the pain was ever going to stop…Now if I would have let those thoughts take over there is a much greater chance that the outcome would have been quite different.  However, I had made a habit out of thinking positive.  It was at times a battle, but knowing that you can only think one thought at a time, I would often repeat a positive affirmation or a Bible verse over and over until I had changed my thought.  I was so happy that starting in 9th grade I had memorized positive statements and later Bible verses.  To this day I repeat positive affirmations daily to both start and end my day.  Being an optimist has in fact been both instrumental and a necessity in my life.  So whether I am able to ride that horse or get tossed on my butt, I know I have the attitude to keep getting better.

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