Though I am not much of a sports fan, anyone who knows me, knows how much I love boxing. There are very few things that are as physically and mentally challenging or test your resolve like stepping through those ropes to face a worthy opponent trying to knock your block off.

During the bout a fighter’s mind enters a very particular state – it is heightened, primal and somewhat detached.  Because of this, good corner people will keep their talk to a minimum, using efficient, concise and strictly relevant language – usually in spurts of 2-5 word phrases. They will repeat the phrases several times during the short one-minute rest between rounds to ensure the fighter absorbs them. Things like: “don’t wait”, “stay on your toes”, “hands up”. These phrases are trained into the fighter’s subconscious, so that when she is in that clouded state of mind (or has just got her bell rung), they trigger a visceral reaction that you hope carries with her into the remaining rounds.

“Leave it in the ring” is one of those phrases your might hear (often in the later rounds or during a clutch situation). It is telling the fighter not to hold anything back; to expel everything she has – win or lose. It’s not just about effort, energy and strength. It’s also (if not more so) about fear and doubt and hesitation. When a fighter hears this, she knows to let everything go, to push beyond what she thought she was capable – to strive like it is the last thing she will ever do. For the boxer, if you can’t do this – you simply can’t win. It is the difference between the winner and loser – the contender and the champion.

The thing that many people (even some boxing fans) don’t appreciate is how important the mental aspect of the sport is – it is truly a chess match and game of wills above anything else. The same is true when you set out to build something or do work that matters. If you aren’t prepared to shed your fear, ignore the doubt and destroy all obstacles, if you aren’t prepared to leave everything in the ring – then you are choosing to fail before you start. Can you still lose? Sure, but you can come back from losses. What is much more difficult to come back from (and to correct) is knowing that you defeated yourself before the first bell even sounded.

Don’t defeat yourself before you start. Abandon your fear. Ignore the naysayers. Leave it all in the ring and be a champion!

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