by Darrin Schenck


by Darrin Schenck


In honor of hitting blog #450, I thought I’d go big with title and topic.  This is not something you’ll hear much of lately, in a world of humble brags and homogenization of skills and talents, this is going to hit different.  And that is by design.  But I know what I am talking about, as I have lived this.  I am speaking from experience.  And I will happily point out my mistakes, as there is one glaring one that if I had a “do-over” this is certainly it.

I was listening to yet another Modern Wisdom podcast with Chris Williamson, and in episode #676 with Eric Weinstein they touched on a few points that I wanted to expand upon.  At the two hour mark of this podcast, they start into a conversation regarding the right balance of arrogance and humility, and Khabib Nurmagomedov was whom Eric Weinstein chose as his example of the perfect blend of this.

When speaking about the greatness that Khabib displays, one starts with an undefeated career in the UFC.  He was 29-0 when he retired, arguably only losing one round in all of those fights.  He was dominant to a degree that was evident to all who watched.  When trying to give Khabib praise directy, however, he would immediately deflect and point skyward.  “All praise to Allah” is basically what he is saying.  His version of God was responsible for everything Khabib did, not him directly.  It is a typical Muslim trait, as humility is expected of all its followers.  But, as Weinstein points out, Khabib is well aware of his talents, and he is able to perform at a level only he knows, because of this.  He did the work, the training, the endless hours of preparation to have the supreme confidence of an unrivaled champion.

In a complete flip of this, I was talking with some people about the Netflix series Quarterback, where the cameras follow several NFL quarterbacks during the season, giving the world a behind-the-scenes look at their lives.  There was a common theme among them all: Self Belief.  For some, it may have come off as arrogance.  Thinking you are the best at your craft is one thing, but expressing it aloud is another, and a turn off to some.  This was shared by a few of the people in the group discussion we were having about the show, and I couldn’t help to jump in and share my thoughts.  It was clear that only a select few people agreed with my viewpoint; it was to a tee the competitors in the group who saw the world this way.  They didn’t have to have been successful athletes in the past, but only to have had a competitive streak in them to see the world in this manner.  The others, and I am sorry to say this to them, but they were “average” performers in their walk of life.  And herein lies the whole point of this post…

You have to believe in yourself, to a nearly ridiculous level, if you are

going to accomplish something big.

You have to be your own biggest cheerleader.  For some of that journey, you are going to be the ONLY one cheering for you.  Despite what you may expect, many of those around, for a variety of reasons, will not be supportive of a bold and daring move on your part.  Some will not want to see you fall on your face, others will be mad if you make some progress and leave them behind.  The reasons will vary, but for many, the goal is keep you in place where you are, safely out of harm’s way.  Whether you go the Khabib route and deflect all praise elsewhere, or you take full credit for your own accomplishments, be prepared for pushback from those around you.  It is just human nature to do so, it seems.

For me, I chose a goal that, to most, I had no business pursuing.  At age 15, in my first amatuer racquetball tournament ever, and after losing in the first round of the lowest division, I decided I was going to turn Pro.  Yes, despite having gotten smashed in my match, I watched the Pros play matches later on that day and I “arrogantly” decided that I was going to become one of them someday.  Where did this audacious goal come from?  I am not sure that I can say, other than I had a strong desire to be the best at something.  It took me a little bit to find what that something was; maybe I would have been rich if I had picked something different to obsessively pursue.  I will never know, because I chose this path and never wavered from it until the mission was accomplished.  I believed, deep down in my soul, that I could do it.  I lived every day from that moment forward working towards this goal.  I didn’t stop until I reached number 18 in the world, and held that spot for three consecutive years.

So, you may be wondering what that big mistake I alluded to earlier was…that is easy.  I lacked the other side of the arrogance coin that Khabib displayed so well: Humility.  In my defense, I did not have much of any support from most of the people around me.  So I took on the mindset of “me against the world” approach, and it should.  Every win was a middle finger in the face of the doubters.  Every loss was a kick in the teeth and a reminder that no one thought I could do it.  I heaped tons of pressure on myself to perform, always, to never lose.  I reached a point where this was possible in my home state, but not at the Pro Tour level.  So I lived this duality of a life: in AZ I was the man to beat, and elsewhere I was a face in the crowd.  It was maddening at times.

What I have a MUCH greater appreciation for now, and so wish I would have understood back then, was I needed to realize what the journey that I was on really was.  I should have had a much greater appreciation for all the hard work, success, and self discovery that I was on the path of.  I would have enjoyed the process much more if I had known then what I know now.  I would have had more respect from others, much more support, and I would have cherished the moments in the spotlight.  Instead, I was only arrogant, feeling like no one deserved the wins more than I did.  I quickly got to the point that if I won, it was what was expected and was barely worth celebrating.  If I lost, it was a catastrophic blow and only with the next win would things be reset to “right”.  It was a miserable existence, despite doing the thing that I loved most.

So the takeaways from my life’s work are this:

  • Appreciate the journey WHILE on the journey
  • Be humble, no one gets to a high level in any endeavor without a lot of help
  • Pick a goal that scares the Hell out of you, and commit to it wholeheartedly
  • Have audacious self belief along the way
  • Know that no matter what, it was worth it.  Trophies and checks are not the only measure of success
  • Winners in life know that you work hard, stay focused, and capitalize when life gives you a chance
  • And know that the scars of today are tomorrow’s evidence of triumph

Because of this journey I have learned so much about myself.  Since I struggled so mightily, I was well qualified to coach others and help them avoid the pitfalls I experienced.  I had seen and done it all, and was able to shorten the learning curve of others and help them achieve more than many ever thought possible.  All of these lessons applied to every facet of my life, and I am grateful for all of it.


I wish you luck in your endeavors, whatever they may be.

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