The Back & Forth of Living

Today I want to share with you ways to make fear your bitch so that you spend more time feeling like a winner

Hey You,

It’s #2.

What do you do when something scares the shit out of you?

Do you go inside your body or does what you feel come screaming out of you wrapped in anger or sorrow in attempt to put the fear outside of yourself?

If you don’t always respond heroically in the face of being frightened, I think you’ll find some extremely useful lessons in today’s piece that show you how to turn this around so that you always get to feel proud of how you respond when the shit hits the fan.

Now let’s you and I  finish the story of How To Win… Even When You’re Intimidated!

If you haven’t seen Part 1 yet, you’ll wanna go here to see it. Now let’s pick up right where we left off where Teddy Atlas was in prison right on the edge of getting punked  for his tennis shoe by what he called “This guy who was six feet and a mean looking motherfucker”…

I knew what it would lead to. I didn’t even say no. I just went after him. I knew that if I didn’t, it wouldn’t stop there. I knew that after the sneakers it was going to be my dignity he would try to take, my soul.

Some people might feel that it would be easier to avoid the confrontation, to give up the sneakers.

In the ring, I see fighters quit or give up all the time because it feels at that moment like it’s the easiest option. I always tell them the easiest thing is actually to make a stand.

The act of fighting, of facing what you have to face, in reality lasts only a few minutes. Otherwise, you have to deal with and live with the consequences forever. And that’s much harder.

So I went after this guy, and it really didn’t matter who got the best of who – though I think I got in more shots than he did before the guards broke it up. The point was, I was standing up for myself. That was what was important. After that I was pretty much left alone.

Who’s The One Person Who’s Changed Your Life For The Good?

Have you had an angel of human swoop into your life and help you see things in a way that helped you become an even more valuable friend, lover, business partner, parent, or child?

I have. Multiple people. But the one who sticks out most is Chief.

He helped me go from the path that Teddy was on to a path similar to where Teddy went when he met a man and went to live with a man by name of Cus D’ Amato who trained young fighters.

Cus is the well-known fight manager and trainer who had managed former heavyweight champ Floyd Patterson and former light heavyweight champ, Jose Torres in the 50’s and 60’s. Then much later in the 90’s he was the guy responsible for unleashing heavy weight champion, Mike Tyson’s brilliant talent on the world.

Here’s part of what he taught Teddy about fear…

“Fear is the greatest obstacle to learning in any area, but particularly boxing,” he said one night, while we sat at the table, eating a fresh-baked apple pie Camille has made. “The thing a kid in the street fears most is to be called yellow or a coward. Sometimes a kid will do the most wild or crazy things just to show he’s not scared…”

I thought of the kids I encountered in Rikers, who were capable of almost anything.

“But that’s all motivated by survival. If you can harness fear it can be your ally.

The example I always use is of a deer crossing an open field, and suddenly it’s instinct tells him danger is near, and nature begins the survival process, which involves the body releasing adrenaline into the bloodstream, which in turn enables the deer to perform extraordinary feats of agility and strength so that he can get out of range of danger.

That’s an example of how useful fear can be to a fighter if he learns to make it his friend.”

Well, even though Teddy wanted to fight, not too long after he started living with Cus, a back injury took him out of the game, but not entirely.

Cus started working on him every chance he go, telling him he thought he’d make a good trainer. He really knew how to lay it on. He told him that teachers were born, not made; that I’d been given a gift, and it would be a shame if he didn’t make use of that gift.

But he wanted to fight, he didn’t want to teach. But fate brought him to where he was supposed to be, training fighters in Cus’s gym in Catskill New York…

For me, it was a totally different experience being back.

Before, I had limited responsibilities – most of them to myself.

Now I was running things. In the space of a few short months, the gym over the police station went from being empty most of the time to being packed morning till night.

Two things led to that: one, the fact that I was in the gym every day from ten in the morning till nine or ten at night (whereas Cus  had only been showing up three or four times a week for a couple of hours at a stretch); two, the arrival of Gerry Cooney, his trainer Victor Valle, and a group of his sparring partners.

Cooney was undefeated in seven fights at that point, and an up-and-coming heavyweight. His arrival on the scene, along with mine, helped create a kind of critical mass that drew others.

Word got around that I was a good teacher, and that our gym was a haven for troubled kids. Suddenly kids started showing up from all over, wanting to learn how to box.

Before you knew it I had ten fighters. Then fifteen. Then twenty. Then thirty. It was something, it really was.  I was obsessed, and the energy I brought to what I was doing rubbed off on everyone else.

There was one young kid named Mane Moore, who came by the gym one day, then didn’t show up for weeks, then came by again and disappeared again.

He was a skinny kid, about eleven years old, with a shy manner, and an engaging, toothy smile that didn’t show itself nearly enough – at least not in the beginning .

I asked some of the other kids about him. They told me his father was gone, and he and his younger brother and sister lived alone with their mother, who was very religious. They also told me that there was a bully in his school named Goo who was beating him up every day and taking his lunch money.

A lot of the kids who came to me had similar home situations. It was interesting how many of them had mothers who tried to cope by leaning on religion. There’s nothing wrong with it , really, but on the other hand, it wasn’t helping a kid like Mane much. The fact that Mane’s mother went to church and prayed a lot wasn’t stopping  a  bully in school from taking his lunch money every day.

That’s why he kept coming to the gym and then disappearing. He knew he needed to do something, but he was afraid because he lacked confidence.

The next time eh came to the gym, I had a talk with him. I said, “Come here. I want your to try something.” I walked over to the mirror we sued for shadowboxing, and Mane followed me. “Come here, I’m not going to bite you.” I threw a jab toward the mirror. “Try that.” I threw another jab. “Just like that.”

He threw his left fist out weakly..

“That’s good.”

“Yeah?”

“Definitely. You got natural ability, Mane. You sure you never boxed in another state?”

“No, never.”

“Tell the truth, ‘cause if I’m gonna be training you, I don’t want to find out that you already got a contract with another trainer.”

“I don’t got no contrack.”

“Good, then you got yourself a trainer.”

I put out my hand, and we shook on it.

He started coming to the gym regularly after that, and I began teaching him the fundamentals; how to throw a punch, how to slip a punch, footwork, the basic stuff. After a couple of months, I decided he was ready to spar with another kid, but when the day came, he broke down and started crying. Then he ran out of the gym.

I caught up to him outside the gym door on the second-floor landing. “Come here,” I said. I led him into an empty courtroom across the hall (the police station was downstairs). He was still sniffling, I put my hand on his shoulder.

“Well, it’s good to see you’re normal,” I said.

“What do you mean, normal?”

“I mean, everybody gets scared.”

“Not like me.”

“No, you’re just more honest than most people. You show what you’re feeling. Most people try to hide it even though they actually feel the same way you do.”

“They do?”

“Sure. Let me tell you something I never told too many people. When I was a boy in school I used to get picked on by a bigger kid. He’d push  me around and take my money.”

“He took your money?” Mane brushed away the last of his tears with the cotton sleeve of his shirt. He didn’t know that I knew all about him and Goo.

“Yeah. He was a bully, and I was afraid.”

“You were afraid? But you’re not afraid of nobody.”

“I’m afraid all the time,” I said. “That doesn’t’ mean you would ever know it. I’m afraid of a lot of things. You should be afraid. If you didn’t get afraid, you wouldn’t be aware that danger’s close by. You just have to learn how to deal with your fear.”

“So what about the bully?”

“Well, one day he caught me in the lunch room by the garbage pails where the kids dump their trays. He told me to give him some money for dessert.”

“Did you give it to him?”

“I didn’t have it.”

“So did he beat you up?”

“He tried. But I had realized something.”

“What?”

“That I would feel better if I fought back.”

“You fought back?”

“Yeah. It’s a funny thing. You know that garbage pail where the kids would dump their lunch trays?”

“Yeah.”

“The bully wound up with his head in it and his legs sticking out.”

Mane wasn’t sniffling anymore. He was smiling.

“Did that really happen?”

“Yeah.”

“What about the next day?”

“He never bothered me after that. See, what I realized afterward was that I had always had a choice. Sometimes it takes a while to realize that. You do what you think is easiest  and you don’t know there’s another option. Now, I know that this has nothing to do with you, Mane, but for me, the feeling I had all those days before that happened – going home without my money and without having eaten lunch – was a lot worse than dealing with this guy for one minute. Not dealing with it meant it was there every minute, every hour, every day. I never realized that until that day. But I’ve never forgotten it.”

I gave Mane a hug and a little pat. “Now let’s go back inside the gym before they come looking for us.”

SIDE NOTE: Teddy had to do this with Mike Tyson too. There’s a video I have that has footage of Mike crying at the Olympic trials before stepping into the ring and Teddy calming him down just the way he did with Mane. EVERYONE gets scared.

That was the first of several conversations that Mane and I had in that courtroom. I was funny and strange for me to be hanging out in a courtroom given my previous experiences in one. As Man and I got more comfortable, sometimes I would even sit in the judge’s chair.

After that first day, Man would still have these little regressions, where he would get scared and start to cry, be got better and better, until finally I could get him through a whole round of sparring without him shedding a tear or giving up.

One day, weeks later, I was in the gym training the pros, and Mane came running in. It was around lunchtime, and he’d run all the way to the gym, even though he wasn’t supposed to leave the school grounds. He said, “I just had to tell you, I had to tell you, Goo ain’t going to pick on me no more.”

I was working in the ring with Kevin Rooney. From other parts of the gym came the thudding sound of someone  hitting the heavy bag, the rat-a-tat-tat from the speed bag, the rhythmic creaking of the floor-boards, and suddenly this eighty-pound kid comes running in, saying, “Goo ain’t gonna pick on me no more!,” and the place fell silent for a moment; then, all at once, these big tough guys started to laugh.

Mane didn’t notice or care. He was so happy he couldn’t contain himself. “Goo tried to take my lunch money, and I pushed him and told him, ‘No,’ and he ain’t going to pick on me no more.”

I climbed out of the ring, went over to him, and gave him a hug. “I’m proud of you, Mane. That took a lot of guts. Now I want you to go back to school before you get both of us in trouble. I’ll see you tonight.”

I can’t tell you how great it was to see this kid, who used to be sad all the time, happy that way.

Who’s the Goo Who’s Taking Your Lunch Money?

Just this past weekend we faced a pretty scary opponent. Hackers. They totally fucked this site up by erasing EVERYTHING.

It was like you and I were the Who’s in Whoville and the hackers were the Grinch who swooped in and took the Who’s feast! They took the Who-pudding! They took the roast beast!

They cleaned out the posts as quick as a flash. Why, that Grinch even took your last can of Who-hash!

Even though I didn’t start writing this part of this piece until after we overcame the challenge, it would’ve been nice to have had this little poem that Cus gave to all of his fighters called, “Don’t Quit”, while we were going through this attack on your lunch money…

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow–
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than,
It seems to a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up,
When he might have captured the victor’s cup,
And he learned too late when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out–
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit–
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

– Author unknown

One battle you can never quit is the battle to overcome your fear.

And one way that I’ve found that you and I lock fear into our bodies is through our breath. Just last week I bumbled into a book called “Conscious Breathing” that emphasized how the author, Gay Hendricks has found that most of the people he’s treated in his breathwork clinic were upside down breathers.

This means they only fill up their chest with air rather than their chest and stomach.

What’s so awesome about this is that it directly coincides with all the works of David Deida I’ve been plowing through where he hammers home the idea that most people live inside of limiting shells of themselves in part, because the front of their body is closed off due to their not breathing and speaking from the pelvis.

This makes total sense to me because I’ve recognized that when I’m paranoid, scared or insecure about something my breathing gets shallow and high in body whereas when I’m relaxed or sleeping, I breathe down to belly.

Fixing your breath is something that’s totally in your control and will give you MASSIVE rewards in your life. Your digestion will get better, your blood pressure will be lowered, you’ll be able to clear fatigue, stress and mental fog, and on and on… all of which are brought on by fear or anger.

Go find either “Conscious Breathing” or “The Breathing Box” by Gay Hendricks. I’ve been using this stuff for 3 days now and I’ve noticed it’s made a huge difference in how deep I can breathe and how deeply I can relax.

I’ve also found that it an awesomely compliments all the work I’ve been doing with the Sedona Method/Release Technique so if you’re engaging in either of those practices to get rid of resistance in your life, GO FIND ANY PRODUCT BY GAY RELATED TO BREATHING. I swear, they’ll help you optimize this process.

And if you know of any other breath work masters I should check out, feel free to let me know in the comments below.

Talk soon,

Note Taking Nerd #2

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