I’m not someone to live with regrets.

Yet, as I reflect upon my mixed martial arts career, I must admit I do feel a slight unease.

Sometimes, I do wish that I had made more mistakes. 

In fact, this doesn’t just apply to my professional career but to life in general.

As a combat sports athlete, there’s no denying that a winning record speaks volumes.

Bill Parcells famously said ‘You are what your record says you are’.

Results matter.

But the best results can come when we learn from our mistakes.

Did you know that Peyton Manning threw 28 interceptions in his rookie season in 1998? It’s a record that still stands today.

But as he adjusted to the league, build rapport with his receivers, understood the playbook and learned how to read defenses, Manning steadily improved.

From 1999 to 2009, his completion percentage gradually rose from 56.7% to 68.8%.

Babe Ruth holds the third-highest home run record in Major League Baseball. 

But at one point, he also held the record for the most strikeouts.

Ruth was quoted to have said, “Every little strike brings me closer to my next home run.’

In his first-ever Wimbledon final in 2006, Rafal Nadal was crushed by Roger Federer 6-0 in the opening set. 

At the 2007 Wimbledon final, Federer still got the better of Nadal, but the opening set was a lot closer with a 6-7 score. 

By the time the 2008 final rolled around, Nadal would take the first set 6-4 en route to winning Wimbledon in what many consider to be the greatest tennis match ever.

As a math teacher, I see mistakes as data points.

If you want to draw any meaningful conclusions, you often require a large enough sample size.

I’ve come to appreciate this analogy of ‘mistakes as data’ more with the increasing competition in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) space between Google and Microsoft.

Open AI’s ChatGPT has been a major news story this year. It’s even attracted investment from Microsoft.

By integrating its browser Bing with ChatGPT, Microsoft is hoping it can retake the search engine market.

In response, Google launched its own AI service, Bard. 

At first glance, it seems like ChatGPT has the lead over Bard. It’s a very impressive release that has so far exceeded expectations.

Also, Microsoft has a 100 million reasons to be confident as ChatGPT set the record for the fastest-growing user base in history. 

ChatGPT is estimated to have reached 100 million monthly active users just two months after launch.

Source: UBS/Yahoo Finance

Though a remarkable feat, Google still has the dominant market share of users. It has billions of data points that it can already learn from. 

When Bard is released to the public, I expect that many existing users will simply sign up as well.

The main takeaway is ‘Bad AI with more data still beats good AI with lesser data.’

If we apply this back to my fight career, I wished I had failed more and sooner.

Those mistakes would have served as additional data points for me to analyze and learn from.

Rather than obsess over a perfect record and create the illusion of being a great fighter, it’s better to fail fast, fail early and continuously improve to actually become one.

Similarly, Google isn’t concerned about creating the perfect AI service.

Rather, it’s leveraging its strongest asset – users and data – to give it the feedback it needs to create a product that people will like and use.

But there’s a stigma to imperfection, particularly in a harsh sport like MMA where wins and losses matter so much.

A defeat is considered an unsightly blemish. No one likes to lose.

Source: TedxUChicago

During my TedTalk speech, I candidly shared with my audience ‘There’s a potential loser in each and every one of you.’ 

It wasn’t tongue-in-cheek. 

Some of my greatest losses had profound impacts on my life.

Coming back against Travis Lutter taught me the importance of responding not reacting when under pressure.

My consecutive defeats to Anderson Silva gave me clarity. I wasn’t invincible and I wasn’t as good as I needed to be. 

Rather than fixating on a championship reign, I began to refocus my efforts into becoming the best fighter I could be.

I co-founded a juicing company, and launched a clothing line but ultimately exited from those business ventures.

Becoming a business owner takes so much more than passion. I’ve since become more keenly aware of marketing, building strong partnerships and ultimately planning ahead.

Now that I’m in the commentary booth, I’m still learning how to get into a rhythm and call fights.

I’ve made a lot of mistakes and it’s with neither shame nor regret that I’m saying this.

There are many different roads to success. But whichever path you choose, mistakes are inevitable.

The lesson is to learn to see each failure, loss or mistake as a data point.