Experiences in our life shape who we are and many times some of the greatest lessons of your life take place, whether we know it or not. But when you look back and analyze it you can discover that lesson. Here’s something powerful I learned from an intense situation when I was wrestling at the age of 12.

This experience taught me what it takes to achieve something great and I’ll never forget it.

I was so nervous and uncomfortable that I just wanted to disappear.

So many thoughts raced through my mind and I felt intense fear and adrenaline.

I just watched a kid break his collarbone.

The kid who did the bone breaking went by the name Luke and I had to wrestle him next. At the age of 12, in my mind, a wrestling match was a fight.

It was just a matter of time before my name was called over the loudspeaker in the big gymnasium where the tournament was taking place.

Finally, our names were called:

“Now wrestling on mat 3, Adam Force and Luke Smith (made up last name), mat 3.”

It was time for us to meet at the center of the mat. During that moment my mind was blank and I was just like a deer in the headlights.

Looking each other in the eye, we shook hands.

The ref blew the whistle…within one minute Luke pinned me on my back.

Everything I was worried about was done in less than a minute. What was I so afraid of?

I was very disappointed in myself and sad. It was very unlike me to get beat like that.

The story doesn’t end there, it gets more interesting

Remember, that was a tournament. The very next day, our team was hopping on a buss to to Luke’s school for a team match. That’s right, I had to wrestle him again the very next day.

Here I am at the age of 12 and I just watched Luke break a kids collarbone and pin me in less than one minute. Let’s just say I didn’t sleep well that night.

After some tossing and turning, the “big day” arrived.

The ride on the bus couldn’t be long enough, I was hoping it would last forever.

The next thing I knew, I was standing at the edge of the mat staring at Luke on the other side while we held our hands to our hearts and the national anthem played.

Feeling terrified about the big moment coming just minutes into the future, adrenaline was pumping, and I clearly remember thinking to myself over and over, “just don’t stop, he’s a kid like you, you can do this.” Literally saying it like a mantra.

I was a small kid which meant I was the very first match.

It was go time.

I ran out to the center of the mat again.

We shook hands and boom, the fight started just like that, no more time to think about it.

I wrestled for 10 years and this was one of the best matches of my life. It was a nonstop fight at full tilt for the full duration of the match. Not only did I score 16 whopping pionts, I won.

There was no feeling like it in the world. It was a win for the team but also for me personally.

From that day forward Luke was afraid of me the same way I was afraid of him. His mom told us 🙂

I never lost to Luke again. That’s me (left) at a later tournament and Luke (2nd place).

What changed overnight?

For one, my dad talked some sense into me, shared some perspective.

Second, there was no way I was going to lose again and I made up my mind about that. Honestly, I started saying that mantra long before the match. Being a kid, I didn’t have any reason for doing that besides the fact it made me feel better. It kept me distracted from other feelings and thoughts and at the same time pumped me up.

That day not only stands out to me because I won, but it also changed me as a person. Something I most likely didn’t consciously acknowledge at the time.

What I learned from that day is that you can only achieve something great if you’re willing to embrace your greatest fears.

I’m not saying you have to overcome the fear. You have to embrace the fear. I didn’t overcome my fear from one day to the next, I was still scared shitless. I did however change the way I was thinking about it which allowed me to embrace it. Rather than let it anchor me down, I let it motivate and energize me.

I realized, he’s just a kid like I was and thought, “what’s the worst that could happen.”. I believed I had what it would take to win. Again, as a kid this was not strategic or conscious but looking back at what happened, that’s what worked for me.

Now, I’m 37 years old and founded my second business, Change Creator. I face fear of the unknown all the time but have now launched a the first magazine for social entrepreneurs and interviewed Guy Kawasaki, Tony Robbins and Arianna Huffington. At one point I never interviewed anyone and certainly had no idea how to create a magazine.

Taking a Chance

Have you ever spent $30,000 on a startup idea you believe in? Maybe $1,000 for a course to help you learn a new skill? It’s scary unless you have deep pockets. What if nothing comes out of it and you just threw money out the window?

Have you ever spoken in front of 100 people who expected you to be an expert on a topic?

Everyone has a different life and financial situation to consider but what usually helps me is to think about all possible outcomes and come to peace with them.

For example, I see three “what ifs” to consider in our $30,000 startup idea scenario:

  • What if you do nothing and you save it? You will be the same person in the same place with $30,000.
  • What if you lose it all? Will you still be the same person with $30,000 less? No, you will be a person that paid $30,000 for priceless experience, lessons you can share later, and a better chance of success when you try again. It’s up to you how you see it.
  • What if things work out? You will be a person that changed their life and has a story to tell.

Perspective plays such an important role in the life we lead. It can create thoughts that anchor us down and inspire poor behavior. Or it can propel us forward.

As my friend Joel Brown once said, “the antidote to being average is action.”

If you want to keep taking your life to the next level, you need to be willing to face your biggest fears.

“Life is a series of decisions that cuts off infinite possibilities at every turn. Most people look at that as a sad unfortunate fact of life. Successful people see it as a source of tremendous power.” (Mark Joyner)