Muhammed Ali is widely-proclaimed as the greatest boxer in history. Ali’s charismatic personality was secondary to his systematic and often thunderous approach in the ring.
With all of his success — Ali finished his career with 56 wins and only five losses — you would assume that he loved all the preparation and time it took to be a champion. Not so fast — Ali famously hated training and preparing for his fights.
While we’re unsure of the amount of training Ali participated in, many trainers suggest that an average boxer should train 3-5 hours a day for five days per week leading up to a fight.
With that said, let’s look at a famous Ali quote regarding training:
This statement gives an incredible snapshot of reality. I can’t imagine how many times he wanted to leave a training session early or cut corners in his workout, but he didn’t because he had his goal fresh in mind. His foresight and discipline led him to become the greatest boxer of all-time.
The crossroads of quitting.
At some point in our lives — maybe on numerous occasions — we face the crossroads of quitting. We internalize a pros and cons list of the situation (job, school, relationship, etc.) and then proceed with our decision.
Due to the nature of society, our decision is often blurred through the lens of convenience. The greatest part of our society is the fact we can (literally) become anyone we want to be. With the wealth of industries and knowledge available for personal growth, we can develop into any version of ourselves that we imagine.
The greatest challenge in our society is because of that availability of training — we can rush processes that are essential for development.
In other words, we want a 40-year-old’s career at 20. We want the quick-fix health plan, but it won’t help us keep the weight off. Instead of budgeting for the new thing we want, we add it to our collection of debt because it’s easier that way. We want a better marriage, so we think a few date nights or a new ring will correct what’s going to take years of open conversation and intentional work.
When our perceived pace and outcomes fail to match our reality, we tend to quit. It’s a harsh word, but it rightly describes several behaviors.
We quit the job because we weren’t promoted fast enough.
We quit working out and eating right because we haven’t lost enough weight.
We quit budgeting and living financially disciplined because we want things now.
We quit our marriage because things haven’t improved quickly enough.
However, in most cases, there’s something incredibly rewarding on the other side when we don’t quit.
In middle school I wanted to be a sports writer.
I wanted a 40-year-old’s career at 12. The problem? I was an awful student. I couldn’t write, but I loved sports and assumed I wasn’t going to be in the NFL. I needed an alternative.
As a pre-teen, I created my own NFL Draft Blog, a blog full of passion and countless grammatical errors! Yet, it was the blog where I envisioned perspective employers eventually groveling over my work with the end goal of employment.
As a freshman in high school my creative writing teacher asked me why I didn’t write for the school journal. I told him I was too good for it because I had my own website. He laughed and asked me what my dream was. “I’m going to be a sports writer for the Patriots,” I told him.
“How are you going to get there,” he said. “I guess I’ll go to college and get a degree. Then I’ll get the job,” I cautiously responded.
As the words left my mouth I quickly understood that I sounded like a complete idiot. I paused and asked, “What do you think I need to be doing?” His following words drove me to my constant pursuit of this dream, “Take every writing opportunity you can and treat it like you’re writing for the Patriots.”
From that point on, I knew what it was going to take.
I arrived to school 30 minutes early every day to read the sports pages of the Boston Globe and Boston Herald to stay up to date on the news (unfortunately, there was no Twitter). I modeled my writing style after a couple of the writers. I took every opportunity I could which included working for the town newspaper covering high school sports. I broke down game film of my football team’s opponents alongside the coaches so I could better learn the game.
I was accepted to one college, a junior college in Massachusetts. That school cost me $18,000 for one year, but I knew I couldn’t achieve my dream with journalism training and a degree. Thanks to my full awareness of the cost, I actually started trying in school for the first time.
I transferred to a school 1,570 miles away because I needed to position myself with a university that had a great athletic program to write for while also having a prestigious journalism school.
As I said goodbye to my family and drove down to live with roommates I met on Craigslist in a state where I knew no one — I immediately questioned my decision. Five months later, I contemplated my whole career. I was on the verge of transferring away from LSU and hanging up the sports stories. It was too difficult for me.
I didn’t fit with these others journalist students. They were intelligent and I was only getting by because of my study preparation. I knew I wasn’t naturally smart. While my writing was advanced in high school and junior college, now I was mediocre compared to these students.
I couldn’t juggle working 30 hours a week on top of countless hours of studying. Surely, someone couldn’t just hire me off my one sports blog, right?!
I made a deal with myself in my Media Writing class. If I passed the class (85 or higher), I would stay and give this another try. If I didn’t — I would quit. I’d figure out something else that would come easier for me.
To my shock, I passed the class and it gave me the confidence to continue. The next three years featured immense fun, intense work, and strenuous opportunities while writing for Fox Sports, the Bleacher Report, and The Advocate.
What is life right now?
As I sat in my cubicle waiting for a meet and greet with Sports Illustrated cover athlete Ray Lewis, I glanced through my editor’s office and saw what looked like all of New York in the distance. As someone who is naturally scared of heights, there was a strange peace in this moment standing on the 42nd floor of the Time-Life Building.
I remember thinking that all that hard work made this moment possible. It started with my creative writing teacher. It was the seen moments of interviewing athletes and writing game stories on intense deadlines, to the unseen moments of staying up all night to write without pay, wondering if anyone would even read my content.
As I walked to the conference room to meet Ray Lewis, under my breath I muttered, “What is life right now.” The photography editor heard me. He stopped me and said the only thing he ever said to me in three months.
“Hey! I’ll tell you what life is. Your dedication and hard work got you here. Enjoy it.”
Months later, I continued to write like my life depended on it. I was offered a couple of positions after graduating with companies I previously worked for. I turned them down to start focusing on a new dream. A dream to give my life to serve the Local Church.
At Time Inc., there were a total of 150 total interns. Only seven worked at Sports Illustrated. Most of those interns are now big-time journalists working at large media companies. They all landed there because they embraced the struggle and temptation to quit. There was not one intern who arrived there by accident.
Instead, there were 149 stories just like mine. Stories of people all across the U.S. who had a goal, but a goal that would only be fulfilled if they gave everything.
It’s easy to throw in the towel.
From Muhammed Ali’s words to my story — it seems easy doesn’t it?
Yeah … no!
It’s difficult to get up to go to the gym. It’s difficult to eat healthy. It’s difficult to rebuild a relationship, which takes energy and commitment. It’s difficult to get that life-changing job promotion.
It’s difficult to go to college, or a post-High School program. It’s more difficult to finish.
It’s difficult to find motivation to do what others will not.
It’s difficult to have a great marriage.
No one is going to hand your life goals and dreams to you on a silver platter. To achieve them will take everything. It will take resiliency, commitment, and unwavering dedication. There’s no way around it. Your dreams and goals were not meant to come easy. There is no quick fix and smooth pathway.
Inevitably, you’re going to come to the crossroads of quitting. On one path stands your goals and dreams. The road to achieve this is long. It’s full of potholes and traffic. Looking down the road, it seems you’ll never get to your destination.
The second path is short. There’s not many roadblocks or barriers. But, this path leads to unfulfillment and regret. Sure, you’ll get to a perceived destination. It’ll appear that you fast-tracked your way to your dream. You might even enjoy it for a while, but soon you’ll find yourself discontent with where you are.
You may be contemplating quitting. Maybe you finally had enough with your job, or you’re not losing the weight, or maybe you’re on your last leg with your spouse — but, maybe, you’re also right on the verge of that very thing you’ve longed to be your reality.
You’ll never know if you quit.
Note: As you read this, understand that I don’t know your situation. I’m a faith-filled individual. When God tells me to do something, I try to listen. If He’s telling you to leave a situation — listen to Him.
Ultimately, I left a career when I was on the doorstep of accomplishing my dream because He told me to shift gears. He gave me a new, better dream. But, don’t make any rash decisions without Him. Don’t quit your job, a relationship, or situation, because on paper the cons outweigh the pros. Talk to Him, and He will guide and lead, you.