On March 14, 2019, Jordan Burroughs took to Facebook to post an extremely insightful message. This is in the context of Jordan finishing bronze at the 2018 World Championships in the 74 kg division. The post describes his mindset when he first started wrestling on the world stage, compared to his mindset years later after securing greatness. Although he is a wrestler, this really can be applied to any elite endeavor. We actually see this quite a bit in MMA where people who still possess elite skills but have lost the hunger to hunt. Anyway, here is what he said:
When I won my first World Championship in 2011, I was 23 years old and ready to take on the world.
I had a chip on my shoulder. I would wrestle hard because I thought that my opponents were better than me. I didn’t think I had the skills to compete with them, so I took a lot more risks. I had to wrestle hard, wear them down, and eventually score to win. I relied on my toughness -- my grit -- my willingness to take my opponents into uncomfortable territory and break them.
And with that came the wins. And the glory. And the praise. And then the comfort.
As I got older and my skills began to improve, I started to take less risks. I thought I was better than my opponents, so I didn’t wrestle as hard anymore. I started to play the game. I relied on my technique and not on my heart. I wanted it to be easy.
I was wrestling to protect something. With that protection came a fear of failure, and then came the losses.
I thought that since I’d won so much that my opponents would lay down for me. I thought that because I’d become better the rest of the world hadn’t. It was actually the opposite. My competition was training harder to beat me. They wrestled harder, too. They gave me their best shot every single time.
As I sit back to reflect, I realize that it’s not always the most skilled competitor who wins, but the hungriest. Because hungry lions hunt best.
Nine years in and I’m still one of the best in the world. Sure, I’m older. But I’m not any slower. I had just forgotten what it’s like to be the hunter.
I won’t forget again. Stay hungry my friends.