As a professional MMA fighter, I know what I speak of when I proclaim, “Failure is not an option!”.
It’s hard to think of a more fitting battle cry for anyone about to step into a cage and fight.
Yet sometimes, failure is the option we’re left with. Whether it’s a split-decision loss or a humbling technical knockout, defeat is a failure.
While actively competing, I never paid much attention to failure.
I believed failure was more a consequence than a result.
There would be little doubt if I prepared, trained, and presented what I knew was the best version of myself on game day. In that case, victory was the reward.
Failing to prepare is not trusting the advice of my coaches, the sparring and simulation with my training partners, and my team’s exercise and dietary regimen.
Every member of our team meticulously plans for match day. Right down to the smallest detail because it’s often the things we neglect that can stall progress or, worse, cost you the match.
Sometimes our game plan works, other times, not so well.
Should an athlete go into a match thinking about “What ifs?”
Do you stick to the plan knowing full well it might not work in your favor? Or do you ad-lib and react on the fly?
And more importantly, does thinking about this in advance help you?
No defeat, no surrender
In 210 BC, Xiang Yu, a Chinese commander, led his troops across the Yangtze River to attack the army of the Qin dynasty.
After resting on the riverbank for the night, the troops were shocked to find their ships burning in the morning.
This was no ambush. Instead, Xiang Yu himself had set the ships on fire and ordered all cooking pots crushed. He explained that without both, the troops would have no other choice but to fight to victory or die.
Surprisingly, that was exactly what followed as his troops rallied to win nine consecutive battles and defeated the Qin army.
This story brings to mind the pivotal question: How would you react if there were no plan B?
In my profession as a mixed martial artist, we’re constantly drilling different fight situations during training camp.
Contingencies factor heavily into our preparation, especially when facing elite wrestlers and BJJ specialists.
As I said earlier, even the best laid plans can go awry.
When that happens, your fight instincts take over and you’ve unlocked survival mode.
It’s easy to look at an MMA match and understand survival.
However, not having a plan B can apply in other situations as well.
A crazy career change
You should have seen the look on my dad’s face when I dropped the news about becoming a professional fighter.
He turned to me and said, “Look son, you better have a backup plan.”
Most parents would have the same reaction. Especially since I was the first to graduate college in my family and had a fairly stable job as a teacher.
Having a professional fighting career was almost unheard of at the time. The UFC had yet to gain mainstream prominence and the industry suffered from a lot of misconceptions.
At the time, you could argue I had a back up plan. If things didn’t work out, I could maybe go back to teaching?
Honestly, I never really harbored such thoughts. Not because I was enamored with fighting, but more so because I believed I could make it with my work ethic and perseverance.
I eventually won my parents, family and friends over with my determination and spirit.
And the rest is history.
All or nothing
Remember the 2021 Super Bowl Champions Los Angeles Rams?
Just a few years before, the Rams were rebranded from the St Louis Rams to the Los Angeles Rams.
The fanbase wasn’t too thrilled at losing a franchise to LA and the team wasn’t performing up to expectations.
The front office made a series of blockbuster moves. They fired the head coach, traded for a quarterback and bolstered the team with some big signings.
It was clear that the LA Rams had effectively mortgaged their future by trading away almost all their draft capital to win now.
Though it was a bold move, it paid off handsomely.
The LA Rams won Super Bowl LVI over the Cincinnati Bengals (unfortunately…).
But the question remains: Was this move worth it?
Considering how difficult it is to win a championship, some would agree that it was the right decision.
But at the same time, did the Rams harm their chances of competing effectively for the next few years?
It felt like the LA Rams threw caution to the wind and didn’t have a plan B.
They went all in and frankly were rewarded for their gamble.
Is not having a plan B only a good idea if things work out?
What do you think?