I firmly believe improvement is the only real talent. You get better or you do not; you learn from someone else’s mistakes or you follow in their folly. You are either prepared to be bad at something for as long as you have to be in order to become good at it, or you quit. You let it go. It might not be for you, it might not be your thing. But if it is you will stick with it, you will keep at it. You will improve.
At least you will try.
I believe in trying. And I do not try just to say I took part. Participation is cool, but I like winning too. I just try because it is the minimum I can do when it comes to things which interest me.
When I come up against a hurdle—which, lately, is often—or when something punches back a lot harder than I do—which is what happens when you level up and start competing in different league—the question is not whether the obstacle can be overcome (I believe it always can be) or whether after being KO’d and kissing the mat I will be able to get back up again (I will, if I really want to). The question, really, is what I will do after I get up. Do I continue fighting the good fight even if the other guy is throwing combinations I cannot block now? Do I just hold out for the bell? And even if I make it to the bell do I really want to get out of my safe corner?
I mean, the corner is nice and cool. There is water, someone wipes your face, tells you things are not so bad, and shares some Tumblr wisdom with you. Or some shit like that.
But getting back on the floor means putting in effort. It means trying. And trying is a hard thing to do when you are busy coughing up your courage.
That is when it all comes down to why you are in the ring in the first place.
I have my corners. Everyone does. Before I write something I am tempted to run for the corner. When the salsa club I own is empty on a night I am hoping for a big turn-out I look to see if the cutman is prepping his bucket. The barbell I have ignored for the past two weeks makes me want to stay in the locker room.
Life, in general, has many reasons to stay in the corners.
So why come out?
My motivations are varied. It all depends on the goal. Fame (translation: my mother reads my website) and fortune (translation: I bought two bottles of Fanta the other day, cash!) are some motivators. But they are not promised, winning is never guaranteed. I think I lose more often than I win.
It is what it is.
That corner starts looking mighty friendly when I can see a phalanx of advancing deadlines marching towards me. It looks sexy when a pitch is turned down. It looks like the right place to be during slow months at the club.
Mostly, though, that corner looks inviting when I can sense the left hook heading my way. In third-person narrative I can hear the announcer describe the jarring impact the punch is going to make with my face. I can see the referee hovering above me, counting down. Through bloodied eyes I can see the roaring crowd, demanding their money’s worth.
And I can see the premise I boldly made at the start of this piece evaporate.
Because trying is not easy. It is hard work. And hard work is hard work. There is no working smart when it comes to hard work, when it comes to motivating yourself through disappointments. It is a constant battle to keep your efforts sustained, to stop your energy from flat-lining.
It is hard to remain convinced the world will forget the fall once you engineer a comeback. That takes a lot of trying.
And yet I still do it.
I hate not trying. I like coming off every pitch dirty, battered, bruised. Bloodied. Because all of my “talents” and success have been achieved through trying, through lasting. I find no stories in the corner, I find no comfort in spectating. I can sleep with courageous failure but I cannot sleep with not trying. I always have to try, I always have to improve.
And even though I might not always find vanity in victory I can always claim arrogance in the effort.
DURATION: 1 hour 17 mins (18 tracks)
MOOD: Sweaty; motivation; screw the corner
NOTABLE ARTISTS: Kanye West (College Dropout; Late Registration); Pink (Can’t Take Me Home; Funhouse); Jamie N Commons (Rumble & Sway); and Lupe Fiasco (The Cool; Food & Liquor).