The Notepod #1 – “The Fighter’s Mind”

Quick note: The transcript of the audio is below. It took a while to transcribe and I’m not sure it was worth the time vs. recording new episodes or just writing new show notes with corrected quotes and links about things mentioned in the episode.

(Ideally, both notes and a transcript would be available, but I only have so much time. After writing this out it does seem like notes would be better than a the transcript. I’ll keep experimenting!)


Welcome to the Notepod: Episode 1, which is just another name for these solo episodes. Wally and I will have more episodes in the future, but right now just doing a solo episode, book notes.

Anyway, I’ll just get to these notes. The book that I’m talking about today is “The Fighter’s Mind: Inside the Mental Game. A look at the mental strategies of fighters, extreme athletes, and those on the edge.”

It’s from 2010. It is by Sam Sheridan, author of “A Fighter’s Heart“. I did an episode on that — which I probably should have listened to before I started doing this one, but check that out.

I’ll have to add a link in show notes.

Here’s his bio from the publisher’s website: “Sam Sheridan is a Harvard graduate and the author of the books “The Disaster Diaries”, “A Fighter’s Heart”, and “A Fighter’s Mind”. He’s been a boxer, mixed martial arts fighter, sailor, cowboy, south pole construction worker, and merchant marine.

And then the book description: “In ‘The Fighter’s Mind’, Sheridan explores the mental discipline required of an elite fighter. In his training shared heard time and time again that fighting is 90% mental, half the time. What does that mean, exactly? To uncover the secrets of mental strength and success Sheridan interviewed dozens of the world’s most fascinating and dangerous men.” And then, yeah, it lists a bunch of people that are mentioned in this book.

The first book was more about his journey into amateur training. I think he might’ve done a profile, but he did… He talks about like moving to Thailand to do kickboxing and training in Muay Thai. But in this book, “The Fighter’s Mind.” — So that’s “A Fighter’s Heart” — “A Fighter’s Mind” is additional profiles.

So he did… he did profiles in the previous book, but he also does profiles and focuses mostly on these profiles here. As mentioned, it focuses on the mental game of fighting and what that means.

Really enjoyed this. Finished it this morning and want to get back into doing book notes.

I’ll stop talking about what I’m going to do and just do this.

The opposite of the 4-minute mile (Freddie Roach finally gets hit)

First quote that I have here—one of the people he profiles is Freddie Roach, trainer, of course, to Manny Pacquiao, and a lot of other people. He was also a professional fighter when he was younger.

He says:

Because I had a hundred and fifty amateur fights and twenty-seven pro fights before I got knocked out. I was never even hurt by anybody—I was invincible. Then one day I never saw the punch coming, and I woke up on the floor.” Freddie laughs, smiles, and eyes me sideways through his thick glasses. “I got up, the guy rushed me and put me down again, and fuck, and then the ref stopped the fight.” He shook his head, deeply amused by his younger self’s chagrin. “From that point on, I knew I could be knocked out and that changed my whole game. My attitude. Before that, I would go in reckless. I would take a couple to get mine off, too. But then I knew what could happen, and it made a huge dent in my fighting career. I wasn’t fearless anymore. It put a question mark in my head.”

This is just kind of the opposite of… there’s another side to the story of… also mentioned in this book is the four-minute mile where Roger Bannister runs a four-minute mile, changes everyone’s mindset that something is possible and then inspires everybody to also run the four-minute mile in the following year.

There’s plenty written about that and whether that’s like a true story or not, or if that’s really like the reason, this mindset thing, but it’s definitely a good concept, and I think is a true concept…. where…

You see someone else do something, it makes it possible, more possible for you to do it.

But there’s the downside to this where you realize… you think you’re invincible… you realize you do have vulnerabilities.That changes your mindset, and then that can change your behavior.

So goes to show the power of the mind. Putting fear into someone else’s mind.

And that’s a lot of what this book is about is the mind games between two people in a ring.

I’ve been playing Brood War a lot lately. Have been losing to, friend of the pod, Jason a lot.

Now I can see it’s in my head, very difficult to get past that, thinking you’re going into a game you can’t win.

So that can be the first step to switching things up… to find that belief that you can win. I believe I can make a good podcast.

Anyway. Next quote.

Learning through video (Mike Ciesnolevicz on DVDs and seminars)

This is about Mike C, but this is in the chapter about Marcelo Garcia, who’s a jujitsu legend. And this is about Mike Ciesnolevicz, hopefully I’m pronouncing that close to correct anyway. Here’s a description: 205 pound fighter at Pat Miletich’s gym in Iowa, and one of the better grapplers at the camp. He remembers the first time he rolled with Marcelo and then basically just talks about Marcello dominating him.

But further on he talks about the DVD set that he picked up. So he said… he’s talking about Marcelo:

“‘He has a whole series of back attacks. I’ve been following his DVD series. I’ve got all four sets.’ Mike is talking about the common practice of famous guys putting together instructional DVDs as a way of making money. It’s the old school way to learn MMA: to buy DVDs and study your heroes. To go to seminars.”

What I loved about this is just… it’s a reminder of, again, how amazing the internet is, how amazing these resources we have are, and something good about this book is that it mentions all these different fights, and probably when it was originally released… not as much footage of this stuff was available. Clearly not as easily available as it is now.

But now you can pull up these different stories from the book and there’s just video online of a bunch of these different things.

There’s a chapter in the book about Renzo Gracie, where he talks about this fight in Brazil where people gathered around the cage and they were all supporters of his opponent.

And then if you got near the cage, they would like, it sounded like they would just like punch, punch you through the cage in a way and push you back towards the center and eventually a riot breaks out.

And then there’s this footage of this on, on YouTube. Great to check out and great to just see like, “Oh wow. Like this is a pretty crazy like fight, environment.”

Anyway, yeah, this whole thing of watching DVDs to learn something, study things that people put out… I think that’s great that in fighting, the experts share their knowledge and it’s great to see that that’s available in different fields.

Maybe not every field, but I definitely learned a lot of programming just going online. Same with design. Something with design that I learned was… there’s a lot more to design than just the hard skills. It’s a lot of soft skill stuff. How you talk to people in other disciplines, how you talk to other designers.

I picked up a lot of that, I would say, from Design Details. It’s a podcast.

And it depends on what field, but there are some… like programming, design, startups…. where there’s all sorts of podcasts about these things, and then you can really hear how these people talk to each other. With hours and hours of conversation.

Just as a side note, I saw this great post on Listen Notes, it’s this podcast search engine. But it’s made by one person. And he has this blog post about how he uses podcasts as his main informal learning.

He calls it his new Wikipedia.

Anyway, just was reading a forum with reactions, and there’s a lot of very odd objections to podcasts that come to mind.

And someone said like, “Oh, you can’t learn from podcasts, because the way I like to learn is… I like to really, you know, read the material and then apply it and the you can’t really learn just by listening passively.”

And it’s totally different thing. This is what I would argue is that… that’s not what I’m using a podcast to learn. It’s not like… I’m not trying to learn a specific programming concept just by listening and then thinking by absorbing it I’m going to know how to write the code .

This idea that you can’t learn by listening is so ridiculous to me.

Because it’s like, why would you even have a conversation? You’re saying like, at a certain point, if someone else is talking for more than three minutes, you think that you’re not learning anything from them?

Maybe I’m pulling it to like a different extreme.

Anyway, that’s, I’m, I’m getting into like ranting at this point, back to these DVDs.

A lot of resources online, whatever you want to learn.

I love that there’s streaming communities where people show step-by-step how they’re doing things.

Back to StarCraft, a decade ago, maybe even like more than a decade ago.

We would try to find and download these Korean VODs with people playing StarCraft with commentary over it. And then you just see like, Oh, these are like these techniques from a different country where… it was using the units in very creative ways. And just working within the constraints of the game is another thing.

Constraints are a big thing in “The Fighters Mind”, the different rule sets in can change the mentality.

There’s a few chapters about wrestling and how wrestling is different from fighting. It’s much more constrained. So a lot of times that’s where the strongest mental… you need a very strong mind for wrestling, is kind of what it was getting at.

I think it was in this book, but there is… maybe it’s a Dan Gable? No, no, no, no. I think it might’ve been like Randy Couture. I forget. But, it’s about these wrestling practice sessions where everyone would pair up and then you wrestle the same person for 90 minutes, and then you could see people breaking during that session.

Anyway, go get some DVDs.

So some of my favorite DVD sets… WrestleMania. My brother got this from for my birthday once, so it was just like, I think the first 20 WrestleManias on DVD. A training one: Better Basketball.

We actually did buy that set, which was like… it seemed like some kind of fortune back when my brother bought it. I think it was a few hundred dollars. Which is not cheap for DVDs, but, yeah, definitely helped us work on our post games.

The end goal doesn’t need to be a championship (being entertaining will build your fanbase as well)

Next quote says

“That’s the bottom line for promoters. People want knockouts, vicious exchanges, and bloody wars, and not necessarily the best fighters in the world. Especially the casual fans. They just want to hear that they’re watching the best in the world.”

So do you fight exciting or fight to win?

This is great. With the larger professional sports — basketball, football, baseball — you can get a lot of respect, just, you know, you win whatever style it is, win a championship. All people really care about, in a way is that you are the best in the world.

There are some boring styles that, and of course more exciting styles will get you further— maybe this isn’t too separate from MMA. There are exciting teams that have, they can stand the test of time without winning the championships. But it does seem like fighting is different where you can be very exciting and then have… they’re probably pretty, pretty similar actually.

If you have an exciting style in any sport, then you’ll have some kind of cult following. But people do want to see these fights that are action packed. I’m a casual fan of MMA. I can’t say I know that much. I’ll put it on, scroll through Reddit while I’m watching. That’s about it.

And yeah, I definitely do like exciting fights.

One thing that I did was… I did maybe like eight weeks of… and I’ll mention it all the time, brazilian jujitsu. And it wasn’t going eight weeks every day. It was maybe once or twice a week. So this was roughly like not training at all. But it was enough, I think, to get some appreciation of just how insane the ground game is. And what I’m looking at, look, I mean, I don’t understand it still when I watch it, but… a little bit.

I at least could get a sense of if someone can’t move on the bottom—they’re just getting smothered. That was pretty much like every time I went to a class, it was just like, I’m just getting smothered. “Here’s Francis, pair him up with the smallest person we have here, and then I would just get dominated the entire time.”

And then pair me up with someone better and I’ll just frustrate them because I don’t know what I’m doing.

So back to this, though, the importance of excitement and creating excitement as a fighter.

There’s another chapter where Kenny Florian is profiled. He talks about just the self awareness that he had. He knew, Hey, I’m not going to be… there’s levels to this.

Most people just by definition, you’re not going to be the best in the world. You can train as hard as you want. It’s going to be some combination of talent, hard work, and that kind of thing.

And he recognized, you know, there’s GSP, Jon Jones, I don’t think he mentioned… I forget exactly who he mentioned, but just mentions the best of the best in the world where they are just, it’s a different level.

You’re not going to get there.

And he recognized that, and that didn’t mean, okay, I’m not going to be the best fighter in the world, it’s not worth doing this at all.

That’s not, that’s not what he did.

He thought, okay, I’m not going to be the very best in the world, but I can be the best in some aspect.

And it can even be this aspect where GSP can watch me and be impressed by what I’m doing because he couldn’t do that specific thing.

And then similarly you can be known for having these bloody wars, having this excitement as a fighter. You can be the most exciting and not win a championship, and people will love you for that.

So it reminds me of, I guess, Gladiator where you know: “Are you not entertained?!”

And just goes… okay well he was pretty entertaining.

Overtraining is a myth (that I fully believe in!)

Next quote, here we go. This is about David Horton. So one of the… a couple of chapters aren’t about MMA fighters. One of them’s about an ultra runner, that’s David Horton.

Then another chapter is about Josh Waitzkin, who’s a chess prodigy, but he also did Tai Chi and Brazilian jujitsu, so he is fighter.

But here, about David Horton, he described him: “Horton once out of the Appalachian trail record, that famous trail that runs 2,175 miles from Georgia to Maine. He’d run it in 52 days, 9 hours, where other people would take like four months.”

And then further on, it goes… the author asks Horton

“‘Do you feel that over-training is a myth?’ I asked him. ‘Yes, overtraining is a myth.’ He said, ‘The harder you train, the more you train, the better you’ll do. World class athletes train on the verge of injury. A guy I know who finished second in the Trans America race said he took a leave of absence from his job for two months in preparation averaged 50 miles a day.'”

That’s the end of the quote.

I definitely… I think overtraining is real. I don’t think it’s myth. But I do think that you can kind of psych yourself out. I think I’ve leaned way too [far] on the very, very cautious end where I’ll think anything is overtrained.

Like if I’m sore the next day I’ll think, I must be overtraining, time to take a couple of days off.

I think it is these two things where the people that are able to push through it, overtrain and then they just think everyone else who doesn’t push that hard is weak.

I think that’s wrong.

But then I think where I was was wrong too, that like, Oh, you shouldn’t push at all in, in a way. That I would be very, very careful of overtraining. I think I could work out harder to be frank.

A couple of weeks ago, though, I did hurt my back doing some kettlebell swings. This was not an overtraining issue.

Once you’re over 30, start warming up. Start warming up earlier [than 30]. Just made that a habit. I finally experienced why everyone says your body changes after 30. Warm up. That’s, that’s my takeaway here.

Mastering your mind (Frank Shamrock takes names and meditates)

Next, there’s this quote from a chapter on Frank Shamrock. Ken Shamrock’s… not blood brother, but they were from the same, I think it’s the same orphanage. They didn’t quite get along perfectly all throughout their life.

Anyway, both of them, great fighters.

One of them, great WWE legend, but that’s the other brother.

This one is about Frank. [Great name.] He says in this book, the author writes,

“Frank taught himself to meditate in hotel rooms in Japan. ‘The logic wasn’t there of a way to beat this guy.’ He says, ‘And I had so much fear and anxiety, had to try something. I got inside myself just trying to calm down. I was sitting in the hotel thinking, Oh my God, what am I doing? When I realized I had to relax, so I worked on it. Deep breaths, eyes closed, just thinking about individual techniques. I relaxed and it worked. I started to do technical visualization.

Then I went out there and Funaki kicked the shit out of me.”

That’s the end of the quote. I love this. Just as a reminder that, you know, you can master the mental game, get better at the mental game. There’s still other aspects that will be important. You should practice the hard skills.

That said, the mental game… if that’s not there, you have no chance of success and it’s still important.

But yeah, just the idea that you’ll be able to overcome everything just by mastering your mind. Not quite. You still have to put the work in. The actual, physical work. The mental can help you train, help you push through that, but it’s not magic either.

Great chapter. Just a great book overall about how fighters think.

You’re playing chess. It starts pouring rain on you. What do you do? (Josh Waitzkin on being calm by embracing chaos)

This last one, this last quote is about Josh Waitzkin.

They’re talking about this chess tournament, and he would just, it was, I forget exactly where it was, but every month… or it would be this weekend tournament, ann every year it would get rained on at some point where competitors are caught outside.

I don’t think they’re playing chess outside. I forget exactly, but… you see the rain and then he’ll just watch how everybody reacts.

There’s basically two camps, he says:

“If they put their hands up and run, they’re controllers. So over the chess board, you take a critical moment and make it chaotic, out of control. Make it so they have to embrace the unknown to perform.

But if they stand and just get wet and enjoy the rain, then maybe they embrace chaos. That was the kind of player I was. So for them, you create a position where it takes painstaking, mind-numbing calculation to succeed.”

This is someone that has mastered his mind. He’s mastered his opponents minds. Just want the top chess prodigies. He’s who “Searching for Bobby Fischer” is based on. His dad wrote the book about his life as a child chess prodigy, but then he became great at Tai Chi, which he talks about in “The Art of Learning”. Great at Brazlian jujitsu. Now he’s doing, I think it’s paddle boarding at a high level.

But this I put in here because it reminded me of a different thing that’s good for mindset. He was on the Tim Ferris podcast. He’s on Tim Ferriss’s podcast, it seems like once a year, or once every other year. Always great episodes. But there’s an episode in there where he talks about raising his son. And he wants to make sure that his son doesn’t let… he wants to instill this idea that the environment shouldn’t control your inner manner…

I’m really butchering this description, but your state of mind shouldn’t be…. you can protect that, shield that from your environment.

The example he gives is that a lot of people—this isn’t just kids—a lot of people let the weather bum them out. It’s rainy outside, it’s terrible outside, I’m going to have a bad day.

They’re resigned to that from when they wake up. But he says what he’s taught his son is that whenever it rains, whenever it’s a storm, they put their rain gear on, they splash in the rain outside. It’s something to look forward to. It’s beautiful. Love it.

And it is this real reframe… he’s just teaching like, Hey, rainy day: good thing. It’s not… my day’s not ruined at all. I’m sure he applies this in a bunch of different ways. And I think it’s something worth thinking about and closing on.

That today can be a good day.

I’m just stealing from this book, “Tiny Habits”. He has the Maui habit. It’s BJ Fogg. He talks about the Maui habit.

What it is: wake up, you say, “Today’s going to be a good day” or “Today is going to be a great day”.

And then if something comes to mind at that point where you realize like, hey, today might not be a great day because of such and such reasons. Maybe it’s raining out and you had a beach trip planned. Anything, anything that comes up.

Instead you add one thing to it, and you say, “Today’s going to be a great day, somehow.”

I’ll close with that and I’ll try to make good episodes in the future, somehow.

Thanks for listening. This is The Notepod: episode 1.

More to come.