Excerpt from “6 Minutes Wrestling with Life”
August 29th, 2010
Yesterday, while I was on the side of the mat, next to some wrestlers who were warming up for their next match, I found myself standing next to an extraordinary wrestler.
He was warming up, and he had that look of desperation on his face wrestlers get when their match is about to start, and their coach is across the gym coaching on another mat, in a match that is already in progress.
“Hey, do you have a coach?” I asked him.
“He’s not here right now,” he quietly answered; ready to take on the task of wrestling his opponent alone.
“Would you mind if I coached you?”
His face tilted up at me with a slight smile and said, “That would be great.”
Through the sounds of whistles and yelling fans I heard him ask me “What is your name?”
“My name is John,” I replied.
“Hi John, I’m Nishan,” he said while extending his hand for a handshake.
He paused for a second and then he said to me,
“John, I’m going to lose this match.”
He said that as if preparing me so I wouldn’t be hurt when my coaching skills didn’t work its magic on him.
I said, “Nishan, it is not the outcome of a match that makes you a winner. You are a winner by stepping onto that mat.”
With that he just smiled and slowly ran onto the mat, ready for battle, but half knowing what the probable outcome would be.
When you first see Nishan, you will notice his legs are frail – very frail. So frail they have to be supported by custom made, form fitted braces to help support and straighten his limbs.
Braces, I recognize all too well.
Some would say Nishan has a handicap.
I say that he has a gift.
To me, the word “handicap” is a word that describes what one “can’t do.”
That doesn’t describe Nishan.
Nishan is doing.
The word “gift” is a word that describes something of value you give to others.”
And without knowing it, Nishan is giving us all a gift.
I believe Nishans‘ gift is inspiration.
The ability to look the odds in the eye and say, “You don’t pertain to me.”
The ability to keep moving forward.
A “whatever it takes” attitude.
As he predicted, the outcome of his match wasn’t great. That is if the only thing by which you judge a wrestling match is the final score.
Nishan tried as hard as he could, but he couldn’t overcome the twenty-six-pound weight difference he was giving up to his opponent in order to compete.
You see, Nishan weighs only 80 pounds and the lowest weight class in this tournament was 106.
Nishan knew he was spotting his opponent 26 pounds going into every match on this day.
He wrestled anyway.
I never did get the chance to ask him why he wrestles, but if I had to guess, I would say, after watching him all day long, Nishan wrestles for the same reasons we all wrestle.
We wrestle to feel alive, to push ourselves to our mental, physical and emotional limits – levels we never knew we could reach.
We wrestle to learn to use 100% of what we have today, in hopes our maximum today, will be our minimum tomorrow.
“We wrestle to measure where we started from, to know where we are now, and to plan on getting where we want to be in the future.
We wrestle to look the seemingly insurmountable opponent right in the eye and say, “Bring it on – I can take whatever you can dish out.”
Sometimes life is your opponent, and just showing up is a victory.
You don’t need to score more points than your opponent to accomplish that.
No, Nishan didn’t score more points than any of his opponents on this day that would have been nice.
I don’t believe that was the most important thing to Nishan.
Without knowing for sure, I think the most important thing to him on this day was walking with pride, like a wrestler, up to a thirty-two-foot circle, and having all eyes on him.
Watching him compete, one on one, not only against his opponent, but against himself and all life has thrown at him, and in the process, giving it all that he had.
That is what competition is all about.
Most of the times in wrestling you are competing against yourself.
Nishan is no different.
They say 80% of life is just showing up.
Nishan showed up today.
He showed up when most of us would have stayed in the stands.
Today, all his opponents may have scored more points than he, but Nishan competed.
He competed against his opponents; he competed against himself and he fought against life.
And no matter what the score may have said in any one of his matches, he won in every case.
You learn later in life how important the disciplines of wrestling are to you when handling real life problems, especially when facing a seemingly insurmountable opponent – a disease or illness.
If you live long enough, life will throw you to your back.
And when it does, you are much better off if you’ve wrestled.
You will know how to fight like hell to get off your back, get back on your feet and come back and win.
Chances are, I probably will never see Nishan again.
That is just how life works.
“Wrestling brother,” keep moving forward.
And I thank you, Nishan, for the gift.
You are an inspiration.