This week, I’ve been preparing some of the training crew at Devotion Jiu Jitsu (our woodland temple of strength and combat) for going into competition.

A few of them will be competing at the highest level in several weeks, attempting to capture the coveted gold of a World Championship.

Some of the others have a little longer as they get ready to earn their own glory at a smaller, local tournament where we fight for our hometown respect on the mats.

As usual, many of the concepts we are discussing and programming are applicable to so many other things outside of the grappling world, and I thought I’d share a few of them with you.

First, winning in any arena has very little to do with luck or chance, and is largely about preparation.

You’ve probably heard the old cliche: “luck is where preparation meets opportunity.”

Without being physically and mentally prepared to succeed…you probably won’t.

Some folks go their whole lives waiting for their big break, and it comes and goes without them ever noticing, because they actually hadn’t prepared themselves to either see it, or take it.

The physical preparation that goes into a competition is a lot of simple mathematics: if you’ve spent more time working a position than someone else, and you’ve spent more time and effort on being certain your cardio will hold up, a lot of other variables will fall in line.

But, there are also a lot of mental aspects of preparing yourself to win that have transferable value across the board.

One of these aspects is that you have to be ready to actually show up and win.

Seems simple, but so many people prepare themselves not for victory, but defeat, by simply allowing themselves to fall to their own expectations. They give themselves an “out,” and once they do that, their chances of winning reduce to nearly nothing.

In competition, this can look like the often used cop-out, “I’m just there to have a good time and learn.”

While that seems like a great attitude on the surface, it’s actually a loser mentality to go into any situation with. It’s giving yourself permission to fail before the battle has even begun. It’s saying “I probably won’t win anyway, so I’m making sure to let people know I’m not even trying to win, so my fragile ego can handle it when I invariably lose.”

The attitude of “win or learn” is a positive *after* you’ve lost, and need to recover your winner’s mindset and not be crushed by a loss and act like a sore loser – but that doesn’t mean you have to like losing, or should like it.

Famous football coach Vince Lombardi once said “show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser.”

I believe that losing gracefully is a good trait – by which I mean controlling your emotional reaction and not acting like a child when things don’t go your way – but it isn’t what you want to be prepared to do when you go out. You should be going out every day, in every way, to win – and to win big.

Preparation is a big part of this mindset because being prepared builds confidence – confidence comes from a latin root that means “with fidelity,” or “with loyalty.”

Confidence doesn’t mean being cocky. It means believing in yourself – knowing you’ve put in the time and the work to belong where you are, and to have every reason to have total faith that you will win.

This can mean a lot of different things in different scenarios, but the fact is – if you feel unprepared, it’s probably because you are.

There’s another training cliche, “train hard, fight easy,” or a related one, “sweat more in training – bleed less in battle.”

Both of them are good mental cues to consider while doing any kind of work that is getting you ready for “the big one.” The time we put in training, working on ourselves, bringing up our skill, our leverage, and so on, should be hard as hell – we should demand a great deal from ourself, going far beyond whatever we felt our own limitations to be.

In this way, when we are forced to put that to the test, we already put ourselves through the hardest scenarios to the point where the real thing feels, if not “easy,” at least “doable.”

Beyond this, the second aspect that is the most important is not giving up.

I’ve talked about this a lot, and I’ll continue to do so, because it’s the one thing that every chronic loser hasn’t learned, and that every habitual winner has. Sometimes, winning isn’t about who’s best. It’s about who’s left.

In fights, in business, whatever the playing field: tenacity and hard work will often win the day where skill alone fails.

This is because most people do not cultivate heart.
They don’t put themselves into situations daily that require risk, resistance to attrition, endurance through truly difficult things; the hardest thing a lot of people will have to do in a day is not hit “snooze” on their alarm, or make it through a conference call, or deal with the “in-laws.”

Our lives should never look like the lives of the people we claim to not be the same as.

This concept also seems simple – but our reality will be based entirely on the equation of what we think about, and how we spend our time.

We have to understand and know that to be continually victorious will be challenging, will be demanding, will require sacrifices – and we have to take joy in knowing how difficult it will be.

When we are exhausted, disinterested, or beaten down – we must claw our way through and re-hoist our blood-soaked black banners and continue the endless march. Surrender can never be an option.

We must look to introduce challenge and risk into our daily life in order to train the heart, to train the will, to sharpen the resolve and steel the nerves. Comfort is a good thing in measure, but it is not a word we want to define our lives.

A brother of mine told me the other night that someone once told him:

“Don’t make your children put a coward’s bones in your grave.”

That stuck with me.

Be victorious today, and every day – even if the wins begin small.

Start anywhere, and take the win – press your advantage, claim the territory.

Be driven. Be absolute. Be radical.

Accept no temptation for an easy life.

Take the road of heroes, instead.