In life there are many questions that any person will ask themselves. One question that will constantly be asked at any age is “Am I good enough?” or in another way we ask ourselves if we’re worthy for what we seek. Whether that be success in sports, school, relationships, or life in general. Many people will often talk themselves out of something they’ve worked hard for, often this trait is learned as child. We are told by some that we simply can’t do something, that it’s meant for others. In school we are separated into “advanced” classes sometimes as early as 1st grade. Some students are told their simply not smart enough. As athletes we’re often told that we’re not talented, that someone else is just simply better. These are many of the reasons we learn the habit of questioning ourselves and our worth.
In this post I am going to talk about something I have been thinking about for a long time. My rules for my club are 1. Score Points 2. Have fun. 3. Be a Champion. But I have been looking and thinking of a great phrase to use as a reminder of what we’re seeking to achieve. At first, I was thinking of “Veni, Vidi, Vici” or “I came, I saw, I conquered” famously spoken by Emperor Julius Caesar. However, I thought of something that I believed could be a more impactful phrase to teach to athletes of all ages, one that they could tell themselves often, in any context and remind themselves that they CAN do anything they set their minds to, that phrase is “Axios!” which in Latin loosely translates to “I am worthy!”
As someone will know I am a BIG history buff. I love Roman and Greek history in particular. Centurion Wrestling Club was named for my obsession with Roman history in fact. Centurions were one of the commanders. Centurions were often promoted from within the enlisted ranks. Centurions fought and led from the front of the battlefield alongside their men. My goal as a coach is to guide my athletes as they develop as wrestlers and individuals, teaching them to become leaders in their own right. One of the first things they need to understand is that they are worthy of being a leader, no matter what the age. My coaches at Penn State expected us to be leaders as true freshman or fifth year seniors, because by virtue of being on our team we were deserving and worthy of leadership. The phrase Axios was something I actually picked up when I was learning about Roman Emperor Nero, during a story about a Roman general Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo.
General Corbulo was a Roman general who had experienced much success in his career. A popular general and nobleman in the Roman Empire, Corbulo was the brother-in-law of Emperor Caligula. He was a successful military commander who became possibly a bit too popular. At the point in Roman history when Corbulo lived a lot of emperors were assassinated or had attempts on their lives. Nero was one such emperor. After a few unsuccessful attempts by noblemen and senators Nero believed that the attempts were planned by Corbulo and ordered him to fall on his sword, a way to regain honor and prove loyalty. When ordered to do so Corbulo met his end like a true Roman, with pride and dignity and loyalty to the end. As he fell on his sword he loudly exclaimed “Axios!” or “I am worthy!”. Corbulo was loyal to the end despite his Emperor’s suspicions and desire for him to fall on his sword, he proved that he was worthy until the very end. So, do we need to prove our worth?
Do we need to prove our worth?
In short, no. We have nothing to prove to anyone but ourselves. When you are born, you are born exceptional. You are quite literally a 1 in 400 TRILLION chance. The pure fact that you were born is a miracle and success that means your life is special no matter what happens. You begin your life a winner, and you begin your life exceptional. As life progresses, we are conditioned to believe certain things as we grow. Many of which are often well intended actions and words, but they often wind up changing the way we think about ourselves. One of these ways is how we define our worth. When you are a kid you might define it from your friends, your family, and school. As you progress in life you may define it based on your job, education status, or your significant others. Life will make you question your worth, we all do it. But the key here is that the earlier we learn that our worth is self-defined the better off we will be in the long term.
Sports are something we use to define our worth almost our entire lives. Even once you are done you will often talk about sports and your previous accomplishments as ways to measure your worth. If you are insecure in your worth, someone else who might have done more than you may make you feel insignificant. But if your worth is self-defined, and you are proud of yourself and what you’ve done, you will see their accomplishment as something to be proud of and possibly even use as motivation to just simply do better, to achieve more. I can’t achieve anything else truly as an individual wrestler. Short of trying to make a comeback wrestling Freestyle I can never become any more than I already am. My athletes will all likely achieve more in their careers than I ever did as individuals, but I will never define my worth by that, instead I will be proud that I was able to play a part in their achievements and their dreams.
Using sports to learn about real life is probably one of the best aspects of the athletics, but the greatest athletes in the world didn’t become that way by focusing on what others did. They focus on what THEY do. Tom Brady is the GOAT because Tom Brady wanted to be better than himself, he is often compared to others, but he only compares himself to himself. His worth is immeasurable to the sport of football, but he is special because he never let outside factors limit him, he was a 6th round pick overall, he wasn’t supposed to be this good! If Tom Brady had listened to someone earlier in his career who told him he’d at best be a backup and maybe, he should consider getting a real job he’d never have become who he is today. So how do we define our worth?
How to define your worth?
Depending on how you are raised you may define your worth in various ways. Speaking on my own history I used to really focus on my grades, my athletics and how many friends I had. What I learned giving other people and circumstances the power to define my worth was that I often felt unworthy of what I wanted. When your goals are high and you have doubts that creep in from well-meaning individuals who question whether or not you can actually do it, you will question yourself and your worth and see those dreams often fade. A prime example of an underdog story succeeding was the Wright Brothers. The Wright Brothers were the first people to have a plan take flight, they beat out government funded programs to build a plane, they weren’t engineers, they weren’t even college educated! They simply had a dream and they made a plan fly for 12 seconds and travel 120 ft. If someone had told them that that was a fluke, that they should just give up because that was insignificant, and they listened, we wouldn’t be learning about them in History classes!
Defining your wealth is simple. Be proud of yourself NO MATTER WHAT! If you are a parent one of the best things you can teach your kids is to be proud of everything they do. That’s not to say they shouldn’t have standards, but success isn’t measured by what we achieve. There will always be someone who has done more than you, that is a fact of life. If you measure your worth by playing the comparison game you will always feel insignificant. The only opponent that matters in life is the one in the mirror, which is controlled by the one between your ears. The easiest way to beat them is to be proud of each and everything you do, but to know that you can always be better, you can always improve. For example, I am extremely proud of being a part of the four National Championships my team won at Penn State. But now my goal is to help my athletes succeed more than I did. I have young athletes who want to wrestle for Penn State, my goal is to get them there. If they fall short of that, I will still be incredibly proud because they will be better wrestlers than I ever was. They will be better men and women than I am now. My worth is defined by my own desire to give myself to my WHY, my desire to help others achieve their dreams too. But if others doubt me, if others try to get in my way, I won’t be frustrated because I define my worth, not anyone else.
Don’t define your worth with trinkets:
Money, trophies, jewelry, and other trinkets don’t have worth. While they all will represent some level of success but they should not define your worth. I’ve known many athletes who achieved the greatest level of success in their sports. NFL players, Olympic and World Champions. One of the greatest wrestlers in the history of the sport is a Russian wrestler named Buvaisar Saitiev; a man who won 3 Olympic Gold Medals, and 6 World Championships said this: “I never worry about things that cannot be fixed. My philosophy is that a wrestler should not be overwhelmed by the result. In the process of becoming a wrestler you don’t give over importance to medals and titles.” Now, this is someone who won 9 total World and Olympic Gold medals, in the 2000 Olympics though he took 2nd, to US Wrestler Brandon Slay in perhaps the biggest upset in Freestyle wrestling history. For reference Saitiev won the World/Olympics from 1995-2005 EXCEPT for 2000. His worth is not from the medals, his worth was that the process of becoming who he felt he was meant to be, the best wrestler he could be each and every day yielded the results he worked for.
Human beings are all special in our own ways. No one two people are exactly alike. We all had different goals, dreams, and abilities to help achieve them. “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”-Alber Einstein. Everyone needs to be taught that their life may be similar to others, their goals mirrored by others, but no one will ever be the exact same. There are multiple 4-time national champions in college, each of them vastly different from one another. There are multiple Super Bowl Championship winning teams within the same Franchise, but even those team had different ways of achieving it. Siblings will achieve different results in life despite being raised by the same people in many of the same ways and learning from each other. We are all unique, we are all worthy of something special. I am proud of each and every one of my athletes regardless of what they do this season, or even in their careers. They are doing something extremely difficult; they are working hard to be better than they were yesterday. They are worthy.
Axios! I AM WORTHY!
Repeat after me, “I am worthy” Worthy of what? Anything you desire. You are not normal, you are not just another person. You are special, you are uncommon. You are worthy. One of my favorite quotes about being special is a quote from Teddy Roosevelt: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat” I love this quote because it reminds me to trust myself, to allow myself to try and do so with enthusiasm. When I started my wrestling club I worried about many things, how many athletes would come to practice, how many I would have wrestling in college eventually etc. Things I can’t control. The things I can control are my enthusiasm and love as a coach. I don’t worry about what happens when I get to practice, if I have 3 athletes show up ready to work I am happy and excited to teach those three, if no one shows up I don’t take it personally. If I fail, I’ll fail trying, but when I succeed, I remember that the practices where I had 3 kids show up made this possible. Axios, I am worthy.
My athletes are worthy of me giving everything I have to them as a coach. When they compete, I am there for them to guide them through victory and defeat. To make sure that they know they are worthy when they question it. When they question whether the practices are worth it because they start focusing on the result it is my responsibility to remind them that they are worthy regardless of the results, that they love the process, and the results will come. When they win, I will celebrate their victories and help them recognize they earned them, but I will also remind them that they are worthy of success purely because they are who they are. Every single athlete who enters my room is worthy of success purely off the basis that they are great kids, great athletes, and most of all they are my Centurions. They will command respect in their lives because they are worthy of it. They will make friends with great people because they are a worthy friend. In time I will see them achieve their dreams, though some will fall short, but I will remind them that they are still worthy of the best things in life. My role as their coach, as one of their mentors is to remind them that they are worthy of all they desire. I will do so with everything I have to remind them of that fact. I am honored and grateful to be their coach. I will continue to teach them this new mantra: