The fragile ego

Everyone has an ego.

I have one, it can be rather large at times… my ego is such that if I compete I fully expect to win even if I know I may not.

When I played rugby I looked at the opposing side with disdain, there was no liking them whatsoever. It was a bitter, almost, hate that made me want to attack with everything I had, support my teammates to the final whistle and win the game at all costs (within the rules).

Team sports are like that. I always said it takes a special kind of psycho to play a violent sport. When you go out on the field, you know you are going to get hit, kicked, slapped, stepped on, hurt and a myriad of other negative things. Its not how much you can dish out, its how much you can take and keep going.

I’ve played with a broken ankle that was taped up and loaded with Vicodin.

I’ve suffered concussions, been thrown into rock hard ground, played with back pain so intense I had to lay down at the half to be stretched out. Each play was like a knife shooting through me… but I sucked it up.

I’ve been extremely lucky to avoid major injuries in my sporting career and I hung up my cleats in 2009 for good leaving with some aches but without the extensive rehab associated with them.

My ego wouldn’t let me quit. I don’t like to quit. To me quitting on my team, and myself, signifies failing. Not losing, quitting…

After the game, you shook hands and acted like nothing happened. The game was left on the field. End of story. If you have a grudge with a certain opposing player, it is ended by the final whistle. Emotions are brought out in sport that have no business being carried over into life. In other words, leave your ego on the field.

Individual sports have their own ego. It isn’t about a team as much as it is about that man in the mirror.

The only person who is responsible for your success, in an individual sport, is yourself. You can be surrounded by great coaches and excellent lifting partners but if your ego is too large to absorb and learn, you will fail yourself.

No question about it.

When you succeed, its on you. When you fail, its on you. You don’t have teammates pushing you along physically. Just verbally. You don’t have someone picking up your slack if you are having a bad day. Its all you.

There is a false sense of security with repeated success. Humility helps put it all in perspective.

At one point in your lifting (or sports) career you were a beginner who had problems with two 45 pound plates on the bar, you came from something weak into something strong. We all did. The guy in your weight class started out the same exact way you did. You started out with two left feet not knowing a damn thing about the sport you were playing.

Your ego should never be too large to forget that. Knowing that at any given moment you can be defeated, get hurt, bomb out, have a bad day or embarrass yourself. Humility keeps it all in perspective.

All great champions have that despite the exterior they may give off.

Examples?

Michael Jordan… insatiable work ethic. Despite being the greatest basketball player that ever lived (with perhaps the largest ego alive) he practiced relentlessly. He taunted teammates to be better, he shot thousands of jumpers after practice to improve his range and he went from being a decent high school player to a living legend.

Jerry Rice and Walter Payton… off-season workouts lasted 3-4 hours a day. Running hills, lifting, drills… all repeated until the movements were instinctive. Both of them were not projected to be NFL superstars out of college. A work ethic of a champion determined their fate.

Tony Gwynn… physically the exact opposite of what a baseball player should look like (at least according to the modern game). He took the science of hitting to a Ted Williams level.

There exist champions in the field of lifting that have a similar work ethic… people like Mike Tuscherer who continually analyzes his lifts to ensure he is being efficient. He trains alone, with no team, no spotters and pushes weight that would crush the vast majority of us.

All of these men expect excellence, as do each of us… they all have egos that drive them to know they will win once they are on the field or the platform, yet all of them know that the ego isn’t large enough to substitute hard work.

You may think you are the best, you may be the best right now… but everybody can be beaten, everyone can lose, everyone can fail. What brings you back from the defeat, the failures and the setbacks is having enough ego to know you can do it and having enough humility to set it aside and work your ass off to get there.

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