Sunday, April 20, 2014

Burn the Ships

by Doug Ward on February 28, 2013

In boxing, once that opening bell rings, there’s no turning back. You can change strategy.  You can choose to dig in and create a new outcome, but the only way out is to finish the fight.  You can go out on your back, out on your feet or by doing the unthinkable (quitting), but there has to be a conclusion.  You can’t take a break from the action or call a time-out to reassess.  The fight must go on.

So before the action begins, resolve yourself to fight with all of your heart, no matter what.  Do it now.  Before the bell rings, make the decision to lay it all on the line.  This decision to give it your all will make you a better fighter.  It will make you harder to beat.  Your opponent will sense your determination. He will feel your unwavering strength.  He will know that he is in a serious game of attrition and a good ole’ fashioned game of chicken that you will not stray from.

This decision also takes away your other options and will make the task-at-hand easier to accomplish.  You won’t have to fight an internal battle while a physical one is going on.  Your mind won’t be weighing the options because you have none.  You already eliminated those long before the fight started.

It’s not unlike the situation that the Commander of the Spanish Expedition found himself in back in the spring of 1519.  Hernando Cortez and his Spanish Fleet of over 500 soldiers, set sail to the shores of Mexico.  He landed his eleven ships there to seek revenge and acquire riches from the ruling Aztecs. Realizing that some of his men were fearful, full of doubt and hesitant to engage in battle, Cortez did the unthinkable.  He removed the sails from all of the ships, except one.  He threw the compasses and all other valuables overboard and burned all of the ships.  “Burn the ships!” Cortez commanded as he took his men to a point of no return.  With a single order and decision to fight and win at all costs, he took away all other options from his men and eliminated all other courses of action from his own mind.  He left his soldiers with no other choice, but to succeed or die trying.  After a long battle, Cortez took control over the Aztec capitol city, Tenochtitlan and, on August 13, 1521, he claimed it for Spain. Tenochtitlan later became known as Mexico City.

Boxing requires a single-minded focus second to no other sport. Its athletes have to be purposeful, uncompromising and willing to risk it all and lose everything.  Having the right mindset means that turning back, retreat is not an option.  Burn the ships and leave yourself only one path to success.  Soon you’ll find that it’s the only real satisfying option anyway because, even when you’re unsuccessful, you’ll know in your heart that you made a decision, carried it through and fought to the very end, without reservation.

The next time you get ready to step in the ring; don’t just be ready for battle…be ready to “burn the ships?”

Doug Ward is the President and Trainer for the Underground Boxing Company.

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