Our sports-minded culture powerfully illustrates our society’s search for a quick fix. I am amazed at our athletic training facilities. We have the latest and greatest equipment. We can create dynamic results in just a few minutes a day. We are looking for shortcuts.
In this preparation, there are no shortcuts. When we find ourselves in pain, our tendency is to want to break free. We want to run. But running from our problems will only leave us more broken. We need to stand and face our fears.
As a wrestler on the U.S. National Team for many years, I trained in countries all over the world. In the sport of wrestling, Russia dominates most world competitions. I was shocked when I saw how they trained their athletes. I expected them to be training in the best facilities with the best equipment. Surprisingly, what I found were gymnasiums without heat in the middle of winter. Athletes wore layers of clothing to keep from catching pneumonia. The weight training facility consisted of nothing but a big tractor tire and a few sledgehammers. The coach would yell, “Go!” and the athletes would swing the hammers onto the tires as fast as they could in one-minute intervals. I learned quickly that the success of wrestling did not come from high-tech training. It came from good old-fashioned hard work. It all comes down to how hard you are willing to work.
Now I travel the world coaching in wrestling clinics and seminars. People pay a lot of money to learn the techniques that have made me successful. Many athletes come thinking they will learn the secret move that will instantly make them a champion. But there are no shortcuts to success. There is no substitute for hard work. I trained four to six hours a day, six days a week, for twenty-one years to become one of the best wrestlers in the world. People don’t realize, however, that my first years of training weren’t easy. I was uncoordinated. The techniques were too strenuous for my thin, frail body. But eventually my hard work paid off. The more I practiced, the better I got.
I remember training for three months working on nothing but arm bars. An arm bar is a simple move that allows you to turn your opponent on his back. Four to six hours a day, six days a week, for three months, I drilled arm bars over and over again. It was tedious and painful. I struggled to improve. At first, my opponent would easily slip out and escape. But my practice eventually paid off. By the end of those three months I knew the arm bar series well. I became known in wrestling for my arm bar technique. Today, years later, I can still do them in my sleep. At every clinic I teach I am asked to show my arm bar series. My success came because of my discipline in training.
God does do the miraculous. But I also believe there are things in our lives that God wants us to learn that can only be gained through training and discipline. God is interested in building our character, and character only comes through enduring hardships. Character is built in the long hours of disciplined training.I was on the coaching staff at Portland State University in 1991. One day a young man came to me and asked if he could join the wrestling team. I asked him about his experience in wrestling. He had none, but he assured me that he knew that he would be “really good.” I told him that he was welcome to come and learn. Before our first week of practice, I saw him walking on campus wearing a sweatshirt he had designed. The Olympics were less than a year away. His sweatshirt read, 1992 Olympic Wrestling Champion. This young man had set a big goal for himself. I had been training for years and he had yet to start his first day of practice. He figured he was going to be a natural. But all of his “natural” ability didn’t get him through the first week of practice. He quit. A month later I saw him wearing the same sweatshirt but he had scratched out the word Wrestling and replaced it with Boxing. Since wrestling wasn’t for him, he was going to be the next boxing champion instead. He told me he didn’t need a coach. He was going to train himself. He told everyone about his goal, but he refused to work toward it. He was never going to be effective without training. This guy had dreams of greatness. He could speak about greatness. But he had no idea how to live greatness.
Destiny is determined not by chance bur by choice. There are no short cuts to success. Hard work over time is the key to being shaped into a champion.