He’s not that fast. He’s not that powerful, but he’s composed. Boy, is he composed. He was making me throw while he was patient with his shots.”
That’s boxer and mixed martial artist Conor McGregor, speaking about opponent Floyd Mayweather Jr. Don’t you wish you had that composure?
It is not about how good you are. We all know talent that doesn’t make the big time. It is not about how good you look, how fast you are or how strong. It can be all about composure.
So, when did we learn it? And if we didn’t, how do we get it?
First, there’s the acknowledgment that you need it. If you are winning, do you know why? Can someone else tell you, and will you actually listen? If you know you need it, who do you turn to?
You probably don’t learn it from your coaches, parents or teachers. They already see your strengths and weaknesses and do their best to work with them. It could be from your lover or partner — depending on their patience and how determined they are to help you. It might be a yoga teacher, reaching into the mindfulness portion of your brain, or a mentor with whom you have a special relationship. While these people can illuminate your failings and highlight your strengths, teach you their tricks and train you in their habits, they cannot insert themselves into the moment when composure is the one trait required over all others.
Drugs and out-of-body experiences don’t get you there. Alcohol certainly makes it worse.
The self-discipline to maintain equanimity when all appears to be going wrong must come from your composure bank. This bank is progressively filled by a combination of practices.
First, it is established by cultivating a view of the world that inculcates patience, even when impatience is the norm. This is the ability to pause verbally, physically and emotionally, when the impulse is to be defensive or strike out.
Second, you fill the bank by training yourself to see the efforts of others as both sufficient and additive to your goals and your life. Translated, this means that other people’s disappointing poor performances are either accepted or worked with, but not criticized.
Third, you constantly use every experience and every observation to add to your knowledge and skills, building your confidence and enhancing your performance. This was Mayweather’s secret.
None of these qualities takes superior innate physical skill or even intelligence, but they do take acquiring those traits. Composure is a resource you draw upon, as needed, in the heat of the moment. It must be stored up, within reach and always available.
How robust is your composure bank? Do you make deposits each day?
When Mayweather was training for the McGregor fight, the urge to deck the novice immediately must have been overwhelming. The fact that he patiently waited for McGregor to tire, that he gave the audience a good show, that he confidently attacked at just the right moment not only won the fight, but it demonstrated for all to see that — when winning is the goal — composure outweighs all other traits.
Composure may be the ultimate secret weapon — in the ring and in life. I wish I had more.
Dr. Kevin R. Stone is an orthopedic surgeon at The Stone Clinic and chairman of the Stone Research Foundation in San Francisco.