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The Bridge on the River Kwai is a classic film about a group of prisoners of war (POW’s) who are enslaved and working for their Japanese captors to construct a bridge. It’s a movie about one man–Colonel Nicholson–and his massive hubris in taking pride in what is essentially a partnership with the enemy.

The bridge that his POW’s construct will supply the Japanese, who are at war with the Allied forces. While there is duress in extracting labor from the prisoners, Nicholson adds his own special element of delusion: Nicholson actually believes that the bridge stands for something.

Have you ever had to work for a cause that was completely unethical? Like, say, working for a corporation that skirted the law to defraud people? Or writing advertising copy that was purposely misleading? It happens everyday in the world, somewhere, in some way.

What also happens is that one day, someone comes along with a mission to blow that bridge up. To eviscerate the lies and deceptions and reveal the true nature of how things work. Imagine all the crusaders appearing with statistics and studies attempting to end the war on drugs. Or the educators who unveil a new model for learning. There are going to be pissed off stakeholders within the DEA and education system respectively who do not want to see any change.

What’s worse, what’s far worse is when the slaves themselves rally to the cause of their oppressor. Rational thought is thrown out the window as they react with rage towards those trying to change the status quo.

I think it’s crazy that people would willingly give up their freedom. But how much more terrible is it that people involved in building something unethical or contravening their own mission statement would rally against their own best interests?

I suppose it can be soul destroying to see that lie destroyed. Well, the people that lose sight of what’s important don’t really have much comfort when the truth comes out, do they?

One gym I enjoy being a part of is TorontoBJJ. Of late, I made a couple video interviews with my teammates Gabe Sagman and Jon-Taine Hall. Gabe was scheduled to have his third pro fight on May 30 in Burlington, but he had to pull out due to injury.

I shot a lot of video of Gabe and his brother Reuben for a documentary short that I plan to release before Gabe’s next fight, which is tentatively scheduled for late October.

As for Jon-Taine, he is a jiu-jitsu phenom who faced an elite Olympic wrestler at Hard Knocks 44 in Calgary, Alberta on June 26. It was a real struggle for Jon-Taine to find opponents, so he stepped it up and took a really challenging match. He ended up losing a decision, but I believe he will come back much stronger next time around.

I give full credit to both Gabe and Jon-Taine for the commitment they’ve shown to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu throughout the years. Both are brown belts and both proudly fight under the TorontoBJJ banner. Of course, there’s much more to come and I look forward to watching their journeys unfold from the best vantage point in the house–as their teammate.

Mental Confidence

Many factors come into play when discussing success. Some will point to a superior educational pedigree. Others to inherent class advantages. Some like to chalk it up to luck. And then there are those who talk about cognitive patterns that are hardwired into us–obviously, that’s my preference.

We are conditioned into our mindset by those around us and other environmental stimuli.

As the quote goes from Good Will Hunting, “Most people never get to see how brilliant they can be. They don’t find teachers that believe in them. They get convinced they’re stupid.”

I won’t get into the debate over which type of teacher, professor or coach is ideal– authoritarian, authoritative or hands-off. But I will make the bold suggestion that if certain types of people don’t mesh with your goals, perhaps it’d be better to move in separate directions.

In a great article from ExpertBoxing.com on the Mindset of a Champion, the author talks about how our relationships are key to success. Some common pitfalls are listed:

The worst thing you can do is start throwing negativity into relationships before they’ve even been established. Talking behind someone’s back. Arguing with people over nothing. Letting jealousy affect your ability to be professional/courteous/polite. Maintaining or allowing negative relationships and people to stay in your life is another mistake.

No matter how talented someone is, no matter how much potential they have, they can be brought down to the level of mediocrity or non-achievement without the right people around them. The bad attitudes of others rub off and surface as bad habits in you.

Formula One champion Nigel Mansell devotes a page in his autobiography on how himself and his wife actively distanced themselves from friends who were overtly negative about his embryonic efforts in Formula Ford (a feeder league for Formula One):

There were people whom we hardly ever saw, but if something went wrong they would come up to us and say, ‘I could have told you about that. I could have told you that wouldn’t work.’ It’s amazing how many people we’ve run into with that attitude.

Mansell goes on to say that if these people were more constructive in their approach, their opinions would have been palatable.

I have a cousin who has always been negative to me since my childhood. She’s older by about 7-8 years, so perhaps a false sense of superiority or smug condescension blossomed with the age gap. While I couldn’t imagine going up to her and criticizing her prospects at her office job, she’s always had “smart” things to say about writing, journalism and the arts.

I find it ludicrous that this kind of person presents themselves as a direct impediment to mental confidence and then complains when communication breaks down. Worse still is when someone with no context or background in an area wants to pontificate as an expert on the subject material.

As the article from ExpertBoxing.com states, I don’t need an army of ‘Yes-Men’ to fluff false confidence and agree with everything that I do. But I also certainly don’t need prolonged exposure to toxic opinions that offer no benefit to me whatsoever. And neither does anyone else.

Resonance

Sometimes a song catches us because we know how real it is. The Killers “Mr. Brightside” is one of those songs, and it has an interesting back story.

Says vocalist Brandon Flowers, “Lyrically, it’s about an odd girlfriend of mine. All the emotions in the song are real. When I was writing the lyrics, my wounds from it were still fresh. I am Mr. Brightside! But I think that’s the reason the song has persisted – because it’s real. People pick up on those things. And that goes all the way down to the production; we recorded it in a couple of hours, but it just sounds right, you know?”

Of course, the listener feels the emotional resonance. That’s what makes a hit. The artist can’t explain after the fact– the song has to speak for itself.

Back in the day, in high school music class, I noticed an interesting phenomenon: we learned to play instruments with high technical proficiency. But something was missing– there was no emotional attachment to the music. I can only speak for myself, but I never put my heart and soul into playing the notes; I just went through the motions because I was doing what I was told to do.

Creativity is such a personal journey. If you’re working to please the teacher and allow them to overlay their own concepts of good and bad onto you, you’re silencing a part of your own dynamic range. You’ll find a rebellious spirit in every emerging artist worth mentioning because they brought something different to the table.

 

A Farewell to Georges St-Pierre

Leading up to Canadian Georges St-Pierre’s announcement of his impending retirement, I wrote about how the UFC has to rely more on light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. With UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez out for a year,  GSP retired and lighter-weight fighters not drawing, it really does look like Jon Jones will be forced to carry the brunt of duties as Zuffa’s point man.

I gave my thoughts on GSP’s retirement in a new CagePotato article, A Survivor in a Dangerous Game, GSP Finds the Exit Before It’s Too Late:

Georges St-Pierre’s tremendous desire for public validation of his talents was both his greatest strength as a fighter and his greatest weakness in terms of his personal health. He put it on the line for fans, media, and a promoter who were all just as likely to offer scathing criticism as they were to give him praise.

[Read more here]

Finally, Kid Nate from BloodyElbow.com scheduled an MMA Tete-a-Tete with myself and former USA Today reporter Beau Dure as guests. See video embedded below.

As part of the well-received (and continuing) “Shill ‘Em All” series on the MMA media, I wrote part 3 on the “Fanboys” who populate the MMA industry.

The most direct response to the article came, not from an MMA fighter, but boxer Paulie Malignaggi during a press conference to promote his upcoming bout with Zab Judah:

The media has always been inaccurate or overly critical of Malignaggi when it comes to his fragile hands and close/controversial decisions he’s dropped.

FightOpinion.com’s Zach Arnold dissected Malignaggi’s rant, and came up with things that fighters can do in order to support change like attending commission meetings or pushing back at the right time. Zach’s point is that any change in combat sports requires fighters and managers act as active participants who are involved in all issues across the board.

Would Malignaggi be so upset about bad judging or the biased media if he wasn’t a victim of either? The conclusion is obvious: people agitate for change when they have a problem; when problems don’t affect them, they don’t care.

***

Finally, I talked about the Shill ‘Em All series, the MMA media and my book on the MMA Dude Bro Podcast. You can listen to it here.

Zero to Hero

One of my favorite scenes from The Sopranos is where Tony starts questioning his entire life– asking “How did I get here?” instead of selling pots and pans in China. Being a sociopath, he finds a way to dismiss any attempt to actually change his life. Worse still, those around him–notably, Meadow–get sucked into the family business.

Still, this begs the question about whether things could have turned out differently. What if Tony had been born into a Norman Rockwell-type family scene? Not suggesting he’d be happy, but certainly, he wouldn’t be caught up in a life of criminal activity.

Of course, it doesn’t matter where Tony Soprano grew up or who he became. As a fictional character, or even looking at real life examples, people want to believe they have the option of choice. Rags to riches, or so they say. If you’re in the majority of people who wasn’t born into the good life, could you condition yourself into someone who has it today?

As artists, creative types and writers, we put ourselves in positions, each and everyday. The outcome is always guaranteed before anything takes place because we know the maximum potential that a project entails. We enter into that contract knowing the pitfalls, drawbacks and rewards.

All of this being said, for Tony Soprano, there’s only the next score. For Sopranos creator David Chase, there’s only the next project. And for myself, well, with the right approach, the sky’s the limit.

Wrote a widely popular sequel to “Shill ‘Em All: Why Ethical Journalism Is So Hard to Come By” called “Shill ‘Em All, Part 2: The MMA Media’s Race to the Bottom” for CagePotato.com.

Ideally, the relationship between professional sports organizations like the UFC and media members should be about interdependence, where both parties rely equally upon each other. In practice, many MMA media members and outlets often exist as the clingy, powerless co-dependent partners that put the needs of the UFC before the need for factual and accurate sports journalism…

(Read more here)

The reaction was almost unanimously positive. Those who cover boxing noted the similarities in promoter’s attempts to control the media. However, it should be said that boxing writers have tremendously more freedom to point out conflict-of-interests.

MaxBoxing.com writer Gabriel Montoya, for instance, was banned from Goldenboy boxing matches for composing satirical tweets. The term of his ban? Just two cards. MMA writers can measure their banishment from fights, PR lists, conference calls and other events over the span of multiple years.

Did two radio interviews to comment on the piece. One for Sportsnet 960 in Calgary with Peter Klein; the other for SiriusXM’s Fight Club (available to listen here).

There will be a part three to this series, so stay tuned!

I appear on the Fight Network show Five Rounds to discuss Anderson Silva. Scroll to 17:05 to see my segment on the show:

In 2006, boxer Clinton Woods, then the reigning IBF light-heavyweight champion, was being awarded the ‘Fighter of the Year’ award in Britain. Former boxer Alan Minter, a famed British middleweight champion who had faced Marvin Hagler, was slated to give a speech about the award-winner’s merits. Instead of speaking about Woods, Alan Minter stole the moment for himself.

Said Woods, “Minter stood up and went on a rant about his son’s (Ross) career and then started talking about his own fights. That would be fine under different circumstances – I think Ross is an improved fighter and Minter is a former world champion – but it wasn’t his moment, it was mine. He didn’t mention me once in a speech which was supposed to be about the winner of the Fighter of the Year!”

There’s a concept in yoga, one of five Yamas, called “Asteya.” It translates into non-stealing, which seems like a clear directive. But it can apply to much more than theft or fraud involving money, coin collections or hedge funds. Attention is something that can be stolen, as Clinton Woods’ story illustrates.

It should be a simple matter of etiquette that dictates social graces. Clearly, Alan Minter is a bitter old man or a narcissist, and there’s never any compromising with those types of people.

In any organization, group or social circle, there will be people pushing themselves to the forefront regardless of the context. The best example I can give of this happening to me has been when someone has criticized my writing without actually having read my work. How can you give an opinion on something where you don’t understand the ideas, rationale or lay of the land?

There’s no easy way to deal with this situation in sports, the entertainment business or corporations. As long as someone has power, a name or value, they are going to want to self-perpetuate their influence like a virus.

At one particular press conference, a Russian TV journalist went on a long-winded question that involved multiple pauses. Then his question had to be translated back to the English press. What he was doing to the room, participants, media– and even his own outlet– was painful to experience. I was glad to see the event staff roll their eyes and refuse to take any further questions from the Russian journalist.

How do we deal with people stealing attention from others? From promoting their own egotistical or self-important viewpoints and crowding the airwaves with static? In a Facebook era, with everyone feeling entitled to air random thoughts, grievances or opinions, it’s not going to be easy going forward.

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