At some point or another, life punches everyone in the face.
Sometimes you see the punch coming from a mile away.
The economy is headed for another downturn. You’ve been passed over for promotion a few times. It’s not going to be a surprise that you’re one of the few that will be laid off when your company has to cut costs.
Other times, it’s a sucker punch.
One day, you get diagnosed with an illness. Or you lose your life savings from a gamble in the stock market. The most probable accident is that you get into a traffic accident that leaves you paralysed from the waist down.
Sometimes you can dodge these blows. But when life decides to keep throwing punches, you’re going to get hit. Some combination of the above is going to hit you sooner or later.
So what do you do? Let’s see where this boxing metaphor takes us.
Take The Hit
All professional boxers know they’re going to get hit at some point. No matter how good they are, they’ll never be able to dodge every blow. That’s why they practice taking punches. You’ll see them strengthening their neck and other stabiliser muscles, practising how to roll with a punch and mastering positioning.
Life is a better puncher than anyone you’ll ever meet. It’s inevitable. You’ll be knocked down at some point in your life. That’s why you shouldn’t be overly concerned with dodging every blow. Rather, you should take the hit. Better that than looking over your shoulder constantly.
Ironically, no matter how much you practise getting hit, it’s still going to hurt like hell. The best fighters still have their nose broken and face bloodied.
The advice you get on coping with grief won’t make it hurt any less. You’ll still feel the pain coursing through every inch of your body. Nothing will take it away. That’s what being down and out feels like.
Here’s the thing you already know: you’ll survive. This too, will pass.
Our instinct for self-preservation will help us recover. You’ll live to see the next day. But not all of us stay the same. Some prosper; others remain a shell of their former self, scarred by their near-death experience.
But as Sylvester Stallone says in the film Rocky Balboa, “You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward.”
The question is, will you be getting back up?
Transform Pain Into Power
Pain puts things into perspective.
When you’ve gone through a terrible ordeal in your life, setbacks no longer upset you. Struggles become a daily occurrence, to the point where it becomes the norm.
Is graduating from university with a double major tough? Is speaking eloquently in front of a crowd of thousands difficult? Is dedicating your life to inspiring others challenging?
You bet. Each of these things require hard work and sacrifice. Sleepless nights, multiple setbacks, and endless frustration is all part of the package. But to someone who has lived his entire life without arms or legs? Not so much.
When you have difficulty moving from point to point, struggle with basic functions and have been ridiculed or bullied for a long time in your life, you expect to have the odds stacked against you. Lack of sleep or a social life seems so inconsequential now.
That’s how Nick Vujicic must feel. Because he’s managed to write seven books, lead an international non-profit organisation and continue to inspire people even as he continues his daily struggle with Tetra-amelia syndrome.
As German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche wrote: “that which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” There are studies which have shown that trauma survivors report positive changes as they have a renewed appreciation for life. Post-traumatic growth most commonly comes from saying “things aren’t as bad as they seem; it could be worse”.
“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” — Marcus Aurelius
If you feel incapacitated or helpless, it’s because you were unprepared for the pain you are experiencing. The setbacks and ordeals that you face ultimately help you become a stronger person, because you have an increased tolerance to pain. When you’ve hit rock bottom, nothing else feels quite as bad.
So embrace the pain, and transform it into power.
Floyd Mayweather is a controversial figure in boxing, but he does one thing particularly well. He’ll dodge and skirt around in the ring, avoiding contact with his opponent. And as his opponent throws multiple punches at him, he’ll look for an opening to counter-punch.
It’s the same thing in life. Life is relentless.
It’ll throw you a thousand punches and beat you to the ground if you let it. But like in boxing, each time your opponent attacks you, he has to let his guard down, creating a brief opportunity for you to strike back. In fact, the stronger the attack, the bigger the opening for you.
The caveat is that you must be well-trained to spot and react to that opening. You must recognise that opportunity, and have the relevant skills to strike. Most importantly, you need to have the courage to hit back, because that very act leaves you unguarded as well.
“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” — Napoleon Hill
- Laid off in the Great Recession? No more opportunity cost holding you back from getting that degree.
- Dropped out of school and unable to get a job because you don’t have the necessary qualifications? Start your own business.
- Had your heart broken? Great time to lose some weight or make a drastic change in your life.
You’ve got to find the upside in all bad situations. You might think this is ridiculous. Incurring more debt when you’re out of a job? Start my own business when I’m not cut out to be an employee? Why would I leave myself unguarded when I’m getting hammered in the face?
To this, I say, what do you have to lose? You’re already down and out; you’ve hit rock bottom.
It’s not going to be easy. It’ll hurt, a lot. But what could possibly be worse than the pain you’ve already experienced? If you’ve taken right hooks to the face, what could a few jabs do?
Drastic situations call for drastic measures. Hiding in a corner and covering yourself will not make the attacker go away. You’ve got to go out there and hit life in the face eventually.
Once you do, you’ll realise that you don’t have to take a beating every single day.