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Don’t Look Back in Anger



He stood at the busy Manhattan street corner and noticed a woman listening to music on the edge of the road. She turned to see if there was oncoming traffic. There was one major problem however, it was a one-way street and she was looking the wrong direction.


Time slowed down. Before he could stop her she stepped out into traffic. A biker going toward her at full speed moved enough out of the way to only bump her. This could have been a wake-up call to gather her surroundings and step back on the pavement.


Instead she turned to face the biker and screamed at him for their close encounter. Moments later, a cab turned the corner and sent her flying. All because she looked back in anger, instead of simply letting go.


Reset and Refocus


Josh Waitzkin, the chess International Master most known for the film based on his childhood, Searching for Bobby Fischer, shares this personal account in his book The Art of Learning [1]. Waitzkin used this story with the young group of chess players he coached in New York City as an example of what not to do.


It’s easy for a chess player to get upset when losing a key piece. Most untrained players (or trained for that matter) will overreact to this situation and create a downward spiral that leads to a loss.


Waitzkin reminded the young players, and us, to channel this emotion into focus. To take a breath. And to reset rather than simply react.


When we face a surprising loss, a slight against us, an unpleasantry in life, how can we use this knowledge? Where in your life are you holding on to anger, or worse yet overreacting to it? This may surprise you, but maybe it’s time for you to throw a brick.


Get Better Not Bitter


Georges St-Pierre admits that he did not handle it well. Weeks before, the recently acclaimed golden boy champion of UFC, nicknamed GSP, had faced a Buster Douglass sized underdog in Matt Serra [2]. Not taking his opponent seriously, GSP was caught with a surprise overhand right that shook him and eventually led to his tapping out.


St-Pierre couldn’t stop thinking about the loss and Matt Serra. Over and over again like a broken record it played out in his mind. He ruminated on how foolish he was to not better prepare for his opponent. He obsessed over it. He turned the wrong way down a one way street.


A friend made a suggestion- since he was carrying the weight of this loss with him at all times, he should create a physical manifestation of it. Why not carry a brick, with Matt Serra’s name on it, with you wherever you go? So he did. He carried it everywhere. When he went to the store. When he went to the gym. When he went to bed. Where GSP went, so went the Serra brick. [3]


Eventually something interesting happened. Another opponent started taking verbal jabs at him and he started focusing on him and his next match. Little by little he forgot about Matt Serra. He was finally ready to let go.


Making his way to the Saint Lawrence River, GSP said good bye to his brick and threw it as far as he could into the water. And with it went the negative thoughts that had weighed him down.


Release Your Bricks


Whether in the heat of the moment or for many days after, when we hold on to the bricks in our lives it gets to be exhausting. Instead of running free we are weighed down by resentment, fear, bitterness, anger and anxiety.


What if we instead took a collection of what we’ve been harboring deep down inside and truly released it?


Like everyone, I have had to face difficult people and situations in my life. In some cases when I did all I could to act with integrity and kindness I was not met with the same. I’ve had my share of bricks to carry, and have ruminated on them several times over. But never in doing so did I feel better, only worse.


GSP went on to reclaim his title and beat Matt Serra but he also learned from this time in his career and life. And so must we.


We must acknowledge these bricks, have peace with them and let them fly. Forgive those who hurt you today. Let go of what is in your past. Trust God with what is ahead of you. And you’ll end up back on top again as well.



[1] It’s worth noting that Waitzkin left the chess world at age 23 to pursue competitive martial arts, eventually winning the World Championship in Taiji Push Hands (Tai Chi in martial arts form).


[2] UFC 69 took place on April 7, 2007, at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.


[3] The Way of the Fight, Georges St Pierre pg. 77


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