All You Have Is What You've Learned

The weathered hands of Muhammad Ali

The weathered hands of Muhammad Ali

Experience does not come with time; experience is something one must earn over time.

By Sam Yang - Get similar updates here

In times of chaos and misfortune, all we can turn to are cooler heads. Great fighters don't trust their athleticism; they believe in their knowledge. As they age and lose their ability, they'll soon find out if they ever learned how to fight. Setting a goal to win is not enough; winning is not a one-time thing, it's an indefinite thing. And indefinite tasks require an ever-evolving process.

From professional athletes to experienced entrepreneurs, many, not only stay competitive but continue to find new successes over the course of their careers. It's about responsiveness, and as you age, you must modify your strategies with what you have learned.

Real Experience

Experience does not come with time; experience is something one must earn over time. Real experience is about knowledge acquired — you can just as easily spend a lot of time having learned nothing.

Fruitful longevity compensates weaker attributes with those that are stronger. As athleticism wanes, you must fall back on your techniques, fundamentals, and experience. When abilities fade, you have to fall back on what you've learned.

Did You Bother to Learn How to Fight

Boxing trainer Naazim Richardson — who's worked with Bernard Hopkins, Shane Mosley, and Badr Hari — has made a career of taking legends past their prime and turning them into world champions. He distinguishes the fighter from the athlete.

An athlete can find success, even win titles, without ever learning how to be a fighter. His athleticism overlaps enough with the rules of fighting, which allows him to win. A fighter gets better at fighting and wins because he is good at fighting. His athleticism doesn't replace his fighting ability, it enhances it. Likewise, a CEO and an analyst (or engineer) may have overlapping skills, but given enough time, we will find out if he is fit to run a company.

Athleticism is a beast. When you’re a young athlete, you’re faster than everyone. Roy Jones faster than everyone. But when you slow down, we’re going to find out — did you learn how to fight. Did you learn how to fight?
— Naazim Richardson

We can test for natural traits, but it's not a reliable indicator of future performance. Athletic tests tell us who the best athletes are, not the best players. The elites of science, business, and academics are not the elites of intelligence. There is a required baseline of ability one needs to get in the door, but after that, curiosity, real experience, and ever improving methods are what matter. A proven track record.

Did you learn the fundamentals of how to cover up, block, and catch shots? Did you learn the fundamentals of when a guy rocks you, headbutts you, or hits you to the back of the head to tie him up?
— Naazim Richardson
Naazim Richardson with Bernard Hopkins

Naazim Richardson with Bernard Hopkins

Where ability leaves off, craft continues to grow — if we develop it. We may not. Many won't. Time weeds out those without real experience; they won't have staying power.

If you rely on your abilities, your abilities slows down. Then you have to rely on your learning.
— Naazim Richardson

In the military, they say when the shit hits the fan, all you can count on is your training. When everything is out the window, you better have a library of knowledge to lean on. Real experience can save your life.

We too easily give out the moniker of experience, as if it's an entitled right, not an honor one earns. It's ego disguised as experience. You can fake it for a while, but you can't fake it forever.

Adapting My Methods

In my training, I used to spend the majority of my time on the physical. Now I spend the majority of my time on the technical.

In business, I used to track every new dollar that came in; now I track the happiness of my students.

I only wanted to train; now I love recovery because it allows me to train again.

I wanted every minute to be productive; now I understand, leisure separates me from unconscious machines.

Rather than speed, I rely on efficiency. I don't ask myself if I could do something faster, I ask myself, where are the gaps?

I don't panic when there are problems; I know from experience, I will overcome.

I have learned to question the way I want to do things, and instead, rely on the best way given the circumstances.

Rather than personality-based training — my personality has broken my body on several occasions — I match my training to my body and ability.

I have learned to follow my needs, not my wants. I listen to my body; not only on the mats but also in the pursuit of personal aspirations.

I have learned to rest when needed. Fruitful productivity is productivity within reason.

Rather than automatically following convention, I ask myself, is this worth doing? Is there a better way than the conventional?

Rather than an aggressive start, I ask myself, how can I do this indefinitely?

Applying This Broadly

Learning how to fight is a metaphor, where one is forced to consider the real-life consequences of ignorance. Yet, consequences outside of the ring can be much more dire. (But most have never had the benefit of having a punch knock their egos out of their heads.)

Don't allow success to be a one-time occurrence. Endure. To be consistent, you must be systematic. Pursue what is reliable under all conditions — to consistently overcome.

See a man who learns how to fight can keep that. At 60 years old there’ll still be people he can beat.
— Naazim Richardson

Think ahead. Live for today, study for tomorrow. Plan for the long journey.