“See if you can get on the mats in Thailand! I’m sure they’ve got freestyle wrestling.”
After a few Google searches, I saw that Coach Davis was right.
With my mom’s help, I got a phone number for the Sports Association of Thailand. After fumbling around in my broken, unpracticed Thai (I went to an international school and at the time didn’t find the Thai language interesting), my mom mercifully took the phone back and did a lot of the talking for me. Not hearing the other side of the line, I made my best guesses based on my mom’s half of the conversation.
“So here’s the deal. The national team is training for the Asian Games right now. Training is free since it’s sponsored by the government.”
Sweet! Sign me up, I thought. My mom continued.
“No one at camp speaks English except for the foreign coach from Sweden. He also warned that living conditions were very…rural. If you’re interested, they’re there for another six weeks.”
I certainly wouldn’t be living like a prince. I’d wash my clothes by hand, sleep on a bed made out of some combination of straw and plastic (no springs), get eaten alive by mosquitoes, wouldn’t know anybody (and would have to survive on broken Thai as I had studied in the United States for four years at this point), and would have very spotty internet. I’d basically be living in poverty.
Holy shit. Is that worth it? Up to that point in my life, that would easily be one of the most uncomfortable living situations that I’d have to put up with. Based on my limited life experience at that time, I’d be living a nightmare. I hesitated.
My situation at home was much more comfortable, but much less fulfilling. I had grown curiously fascinated by wrestling along with the self improvement aspect of the whole pursuit. With absolutely nothing planned over the summer, this could have been my best and only chance to train in wrestling. My passion for the sport would have to transcend the conditions of hardship. Financially, it was a no-brainer. Living and training for free for a month and a half? Incredible. Still, I hesitated.
The easy exit was to say no. I had full control over this decision and my mom didn’t force me one way or another. There, I could hope to cross train in judo or something along those lines. My mom also recommended sumo wrestling. As you could have guessed, there was a bit of a disconnect here. She had never seen a wrestling match.
The hard answer was to say yes. It was the clear best choice with the best possible outcome for what I was looking to do. Nervous and stressed to the point that I even surprised myself, I said yes.
“Let’s go. I need to do this.”
How did I arrive at this decision despite the incredible amount of discomfort, suffering, and uncertainty that it would cause me?
I had unknowingly tapped into a mental exercise that compelled me to take the leap of faith. This exercise had someone visualize or think about the past, present, and future. The idea here was that people can flee their pain by hiding in one of the three modalities. For example, “I can wait to do it later” is a way to defer an action to the future without feeling the pain in the past and present. By visualizing the consequences in all three areas, people would feel so much pain that they would have no choice but to take action. When world-renowned performance coach Tony Robbins performed this exercise with his audience during one of his events, some people were reduced to tears and felt compelled to take immediate action on certain problems that they were facing. The exercise itself consists of three simple questions:
1) What pain has this caused me in the past?
2) What pain is this causing me right now?
3) What pain will this cause me in the future?
With a vivid memory and imagination, I had nowhere to hide.
In terms of past pain, I had just finished my sophomore year varsity record with a pitiful 2 wins and 9 losses. I hated losing so much that I would be seen crying after particularly frustrating matches.
In the present, I had watched hours upon hours of wrestling, hoping to learn something. Not having wrestling mats or partners to practice with really hurt my obsessive desire to improve myself at the time.
In the future, I never wanted to feel the frustration of a loss ever again, especially if it were within my control to prevent. If I didn’t go to train with the Thai national team, there would be no way that I would be able to look myself in the mirror and like what I see. Knowing what my best option was at the time and not taking it for fear of discomfort? Unacceptable.
The answer was clear. Despite the overwhelming unease and nervousness, I knew I needed to go to training camp. Off I went, and it propelled my wrestling career to new heights. The benefits from the experience were endless.
My experience in training with Thailand’s national team led to a closer bond with my wrestling coach, who ultimately became the best mentor that I would ever have in my life. It also sparked interest with a certain college wrestling coach, and it eventually led to getting accepted to my top choice college with a substantial amount of financial aid. This was the only way that I could have afforded a private college education. My subsequent experiences led to many leadership opportunities, which gave me plenty of meaningful stories to share while interviewing at large corporations. This then led to an internship, which ultimately led to a very solid job offer before I’d even graduate from college.
All from a very tough decision I had made when I was 15. Was it easy? Certainly not.
Your turn. Think of something you’d like to improve in your life. What pain has it caused you in the past? What pain is it causing you right now? What pain will it cause you in the future if you don’t do anything about it?