This blog post is part of the blog tour for John Couret’s book, Breaking Barriers: How to Knock Out Adversity and Live Life as a Champion
About a month ago, I found myself feeling physically tired and heavy. In my attempt to pursue an active lifestyle, I decided to try boxing. During my first session, I struggled to follow the footwork that came with each punch and jab. As I tried to roll with the punches, I felt like I was failing my boxing coach each time I would swing and confuse jabs, hooks, and my footwork. Needless to say, I haven’t gone back to the ring since then.
When I received a copy of John Couret’s book, I felt like the cover was mocking me – oh great, a book about life and, um, boxing. But I decided to give it a shot – and I’m glad I did. Couret’s writing is very straightforward and he keeps a conversational tone throughout the book. The chapters are concise yet the brevity does not sacrifice the depth of the ideas that he wishes to convey.
While I read each chapter, I felt like I was going through a quick huddle with a coach. It gave me just enough time to regroup, think things over or get that much needed burst of adrenaline.
I’ve worked with hundreds of students for the past ten years. There is nothing more painful than seeing a child struggle so hard yet s/he continues to experience failure. Whenever I talk to students with problems, there’s a common theme that comes out whenever we talk about resolving issues -“I didn’t try hard enough.”
While it may be true that some of them did not, in fact, try hard enough, it’s not always the case. And as Couret puts it, sometimes you just have to take a knee:
“If you find yourself reaching a point where you might lose control, ‘take a knee’ and give yourself an opportunity to regroup, reassess, and rejuvenate. No matter what you are going through physically, mentally, or spiritually, you should never allow the situation to get the best of you.”
The word grit has become very popular these days. Business training courses, education curricula and policies have embraced the concept. The problem, though, is when the grit narrative is taken out of context and is reduced to just simply “never giving up” no matter what. We can only struggle so much and taking a break doesn’t necessarily mean the same as giving up. We have to stop romanticizing hardships.
Chapter 7 of Couret’s book gives examples of what it means to take a knee. He retells the story of the famous Cinderella Man and how he won, lost, and won again in the boxing ring and in life. He knew when to take a timeout, when to let go, and when to get back in the ring – he did all of this while keeping his eye on the prize. His goals were clear and he never lost his focus. He knew that in order to reach that goal, he would need the humility to stand back for a bit and let things be.
Let me end with my favorite part from this chapter. Below is an excerpt from the story about the two lumberjacks:
There were two lumberjacks, a young one and an older, more experienced one. The younger lumberjack challenged the older lumberjack to a competition in an effort to prove that he was better and more qualified than the “old man.” The challenge was to see who could chop down a tree the fastest using only an axe. The older lumberjack accepted the challenge and the two began chopping their respective trees in earnest.
Approximately ten minutes into the challenge, the older lumberjack took
a break and stepped away. The younger lumberjack continued to steadily swing away at his tree. The older lumberjack returned and resumed chopping his tree. Another ten minutes later, the older lumberjack took
yet another break and stepped away. At this point, the younger lumberjack noticed and began to laugh to himself, believing that the old man just couldn’t keep up or had given up. He felt confident that he had already won.
A few moments later, the old man returned and resumed chopping his tree. In just a few more swings, the older lumberjack’s tree began to fall. The younger lumberjack was astonished. Mouth gaping open, he asked, “How is it that you took two breaks to rest and you still beat me while I never stopped chopping?” The old man responded with a smile, “I did take two breaks but I wasn’t resting. I was sharpening my axe.”
I’m quietly taking this as a sign of “sharpening my own axe.” After reading this book, who knows? I just might make it back into the boxing ring.
For more details about John Couret’s book Breaking Barriers: How to Knock Out Adversity and Live Life as a Champion, visit his website.