After I started to progress in my CrossFit classes, I became obsessed with mental toughness articles, especially on tough minded people and teachers of toughness. I read biographies and did research on tough SOBs like General Patton, Lombardi, Butkus, Pete Rose, boxers’ Jack Johnson, Joe Louis and Jake Lamotta, the miracle on ice hockey coach – Herb Brooks, Billie Jean King, Jim Abbott, Jackie Robinson, Jim Otto, Wilma Rudolph, Kirk Gibson (even though I hate the Dodgers) and my favorite tough guy of them all – wrestling great Dan Gable. Just to name a few. I used to think their path to success came easy for these guys, but on the contrary, they all had to get over great adversities in their life. The above list is a who’s-who of people that had to overcome huge short comings and major obstacles.
Another major theme they all had common was the need to prove people wrong. They say it is not emotional healthy to hold grudges, but this group of bad asses, said “Screw my health.” Not only did they look back in anger, they embraced it. The chip on their shoulders pushed them to greatness. A lot in this group was physically gifted, but their greatest talent was their determination to prove those who doubted them wrong.
Having others doubt your ability can be extremely discouraging. It can destroy your confidence and prevent you from reaching your dreams. Doubt was not only was a huge part of those famous athletes in the mentally tough club, but they thrived on it. I’m sure there were a lot of positive influences that helped shaped their success, but what really stood out to me in my research is how the negative factors in their life really pushed them over the edge. They needed those who didn’t believe in them. The possibility of never being good enough gnawed at them and got under their skin. They didn’t care what it took, but they had to do whatever it took to show those who said they couldn’t do it, that they can not only achieve it, but do it better than anybody else.
The critics may have ridiculed this group for their lack of natural talent, but they clearly made one huge mistake in sizing up their capabilities. They underestimated the power of a defiant will. This tough minded platoon felt in their hearts that they were so wrongly undervalued, it became their compulsion to outwork and out tough their competitors. They had their motor running on high at all times and were cursed with not having the ability to shut it off even when they tried. Being under-appreciated fueled them to work their asses off, endured a lot more disrespect along the way, tolerated more pain and heartbreak, just to do one thing – to get the last laugh. This is the creed of the mentally tough. Not just to shut up your critics, but to slam the door on their faces. They all had the unbelievable stamina to persevere through all the crap and finally shoving it down the throats of their detractors. And when they did, all the personal sacrifice that they made was more than just worth it. It justified the years of unbearable hard work and lack of achieving personal satisfaction by finally delivering the parting shot or better yet, the death blow at those who questioned their abilities. Nothing was probably more satisfying to them than rubbing in it and reminding their doubters that all made one huge, freaking mistake.
No athlete holds a grudge longer and with less forgiveness than Michael Jordan. Not making the varsity basketball team when he was a junior in high school, ate away at him and made him restless. It drove Jordan to overachieve and out do everyone in practice and with his conditioning skills. His perception of being not being good enough at this young age was never erased as it sustain his excessive drive to be one of the greatest basketball player that ever live. In fact, his Chicago Bull teammates would say Jordan loved it when he felt he was slighted and at times, he would purposely create imaginary friction between him and his opponent in his mind just to work him up even more. What a sick competitor Jordan was.
If you read any self-help books, I’m sure a majority of them will tell you that holding a grudge is unhealthy and counterproductive. I’m sure this may be true, but then again self-hatred can lead to negative consequences as well. If we don’t channel our anger into some positive and responsible action, we can inwardly project it on ourselves, which I think is extremely unhealthy and self-destructive.
What I have found is that toughness training is very cathartic in nature. By working through the pain from those have damage us with their words and coming out on top of it, is very forgiven. Oddly enough, I am very grateful now for those who attempted to ruin my life as they are the ones that made who I am today – a relentless and tireless bastard in the face of great doubt. That is I can say, I am very thankful to having these pricks in my life.
I’m not going to suggest to you to embrace any grievousness that you may have against somebody that did you wrong. But, if you do, the firepower to get you to take some positive actions is very potent. I used to have a client that whenever she didn’t feel like workout, all she had to do was to imagine that her worst critic was standing next to her and telling her “she didn’t have in her to make through the WOD.” This simple cue, spurn her into the workout like a mad bull. The point is your worst enemies probably have gotten the best of you. Now, it’s your time to reverse the table on them. Are you going to continue to let them tell you how worthless you are and prevent you from true happiness? Or are you finally, going to put your foot down and shut them up for good?
You have the potentially to stop letting others control you. Find the motivation and drive in you to go and achieve what they said you can’t do. If you don’t take the first step, your enemies win and you have brought incredible joy to their lives. On the other hand, if you accomplished what they said you couldn’t do, you will bring some well-deserved misery to their shit hole of a life.
Be relentless in your pursuit. If you should fall, you will not feel any pain as your enemies can no longer hurt you. This means you have to ability to tolerate more bullshit than you could ever imagine.
Now march on.