The 5 Secrets of Being Supernatural
Stoic startup thoughts on “Win or Learn” the book of MMA Champion Connor McGregor’s trainer and coach John Kavanagh
“Hey, stop the car,” Connor McGregor said. “I need to get my 188 of unemployment money.”
“We haven’t got time. I can loan you the money.”
“No, stop the car.”
Connor went in and collected his dole money and then barely made his flight to win his first UFC fight ever. Over the next years, Connor and John went onto to world titles and hundreds of millions of dollars, and in the process, the fighter and his trainer developed a bond and mantra to becoming supernatural that applies to all of us.
Becoming supernatural takes an MMA approach to (failing fast) learning, preparation, self-awareness, effort, and erasing the word failure, as we know it, from our vocabulary.
1. Why did John and Connor succeed where others quit?
Well, the word “failure” holds no true weight on the day to day life of John Kavanagh or Connor McGregor. If you can change the vernacular from “failing” to “learning,” you can begin the path of life mastery.
Usually people think failing (learning, you see what I did there?) is the worst thing that can happen to them. Parents don’t want their kids to fail. Unsuccessful startups or big companies don’t want their employees to fail. Coaches try to control every variable so athletes won’t fail in practice or games. Uncertainty and fear kill improvisation, creativity, and growth like a poisonous snake’s venomous bite.
The supernatural startups, businesses, teachers, trainers, coaches, athletes, and parents show us how the illusion of fear controls us.
2. John Kavanagh is one of the world’s most famous MMA coaches in the world, and he teaches us why.
John describes our lives as goldfish living in a small bowl. A goldfish will grow to the size of the container or water it lives, swims, eats, and breathes in. Luckily, you aren’t in a real fishbowl. You are in a mental fishbowl. Can you grow beyond the boundaries that currently contain you?
Let’s get cutthroat (for a moment) and compete our asses off in a higher self kind of way. Let’s prepare our minds, crafts, passions, and startups like Connor trains and fights. His fists and kicks fly like gears of second-hand clocks clicking into the faces, guts, ribs, eyes, and ears of his opponents. He unleashes his fury, not just in the big moment, but in all the small ones leading up to it.
A huge vision takes hundreds of small punches and mental kicks to make happen.
When you fight, you naturally put yourself on the line. You are vulnerable. You can lose. You can get hurt. You can fail. Get made fun of, get laughed at, and scolded.
But more importantly, you learn. You analyze what happened, and take stock and prepare better next time. You tear into your next practice like a madman. You watch video. You prep more. Eat better. Sleep earlier. Losing creates hunger.
John Kavanagh knew this as a fighter. Before he taught Connor McGregor, he was one of the first Irish-born MMA fighters with a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. No one had ever decided to try fighting in Ireland in MMA. His journey to the top of the trainer’s world is much like his rise to the fighting world. He taught himself how to learn from failures. And how did a country with not one MMA fighter produce John, then Connor, and then create Ireland’s biggest professional MMA training gym?
One of the quotes from his book may explain it:
“Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose, but every time we learn… the real winners are the ones that learn the most.”
Winning and losing reside on the same coin. We flip the coin when we step into the arena of our dreams, our jobs, our marriages, our startups, our passions, our crafts, and our relationships. Every day whether we want to admit it or not, we are either learning, or we are aren’t.
We are flipping that coin even if we are scared to show the world something meaningful to us.
3. Is failure ever really final?
Honestly, the word failure feels final to me. But why? Every time I fail, I learn and grow. To me, failing should be erased from our vocabulary. Failure represents a “closure illusion” to the weak minded. Losing a big game, or a client, or a home, or partner, or a business, it all seems like an ending rather than a beginning. But if you replace “fail” or “lose” with “learning,” it’s such a better way to live and reframe your life.
The supernatural take as many moments as possible to learn as much as they can from any one event.
Flip the coin with “winning” or “learning,” and heads or tails doesn’t matter. Flip the coin and let it ride. The difference between most successful athletes, startups, and humans is understanding how you react when you lose. Or fail. Or bomb. Or get laughed outta the building.
There is a simple tip I use: what does your inner voice say when you get your ass kicked?
“The refs sucked. The team cheated. The startup had more capital. That guy was born rich. My wife doesn’t love me. That kid had a dad that cared. That dog is crazy, it can’t be trained. My boss is an imbecile.”
The most critical thing is being self-aware of your own Inner Voice that parlays fears and insecurities about failure into daily paralysis. Be an entrepreneur, not a wantrepreneur.
4. What ELSE does your voice say to you after you fail?
I’ve lost thousands of basketball games in my life. In sports, failure is the main catalyst for growth and learning. Pete Carroll got fired from his first head coaching NFL job. John Wooden coached for 17 years before winning a title. My teammate Antonio Gates went to five colleges before becoming an All-American basketball player.
“We took a gamble and this time it didn’t pay off. That won’t change how we go about our business. We will, however, continue striving to make sure that we’re as well prepared as we can possibly be. That’s what gives us the confidence to face any challenge. We’ll take that risk again if we need to.”
~ John Kavanagh
This is the what John told Connor McGregor after he lost to Nate Diaz to be the first dual weight class champion. There was no reason for Connor to try and fight Nate with such little preparation. And athletes, coaches, and humans that love competition flip the coin as much as possible and try to learn as much as they can from their losses.
They refuse to listen to that Inner Voice of Fear. I respect this stoic philosophy for living and approaching life because it makes us grow faster.
Why fail fast?
Because this way of living helps us get to 10,000 hours of learning quicker. This elevates our minds and skill set. Losing burns and itches our soul, yet by learning from our backward steps just as much as our forward steps, we prevail.
Every time you compete, every time you put something on the line, you take that proverbial magical coin, put it on your thumb, and flick it into the vast unknown. And as the thin metal orb flips, tilts, and falls to the Earth in slow motion, glinting, catching the rays of the sun until it lands, you learn.
This self-awareness is the magic that sport teaches us — that we can fail and reinvent, that we can fail and learn, that we can fail and prepare better, as soon as possible. Here in the dank, dark place of negative emotion, feeling, and reflection, we learn the most.
5. Make your dreams laughable.
As a kid, people would snicker and sneer at my dreams. I’ve said it a hundred times to my readers, kids, and athletes that I train or coach, or lead. There is no safe place for your dreams. Someone, somewhere will scoff at your life’s goals.
Once you start to work and compete and take steps every day, you flip the coin. You learn to shut out the noise. You quiet the negativity and the haters as you invite failure to your doorstep.
“For the vast majority of the journey the most convenient move would have been to throw in the towel. But there’s no easy route to any place that’s worth getting to.” — John Kavanagh
Learning is the most important lesson — that we can try again to win, and learn, and manifest what we truly believe in our hearts and souls as our calling in life.
For those in the fixed mindset, this may never make sense, and I hope you can break out of your fishbowl soon.
For those practicing the growth mindset, I hope this will always make sense, and your life becomes supernatural.
Stay true, stay weird, and live stoic. Do something great,