The Secret to Being Great is to Admit Your Weaknesses

My attitude is that if you push me towards a weakness, I will turn that weakness into a strength.  – Michael Jordan

I used to suck at pull ups. My reach is two inches longer than my height, and therefore I have a long way to pull myself up. Great for punching people, horrible for body weight exercises and pressing heavy things over my head. However, today I can do several pull ups, and my favorite lift is the kettlebell military press.

As an athlete, I know that the secret to getting good is to shine a magnifying glass on yourself, pin point your weaknesses (because you know your opponent is doing that) and get better at what you suck at.

When I first started training Muay Thai, I gravitated towards being a puncher. I loved everything about the jab and cross. I used the occasional kick to set up my straight punches. I was a forward fighter and somewhat one dimensional. While certain strengths can carry you far, I knew that I wouldn’t be turning pro if I was a one trick pony.

So I sought out coaches and training partners that could help me work on the things I hated: footwork, slips, clinch, body shots, teeps and a tight defensive game. As I grew I realized something important – I only hated those things because I wasn’t instantly good at them. The more I trained my weaknesses I became good at them, and I started to love those aspects of the sport too. Now, I still suck at slips, but I can report that I do keep working on my head movement!

I will never forget when I was in the middle of a fight against Kristen Shepard at San Manuel back in 2008 and it was a tough battle that was not going how I planned. I was eating too many punches, and she had an answer for my usual charge forward with my jab and cross game plan. So I grabbed hold of her and started clinching, something that up until that point I usually just avoided, preferring to fight from the outside. As I got a hold or her neck and dug in a knee, I realized, “Holy shit, I’m good at this!” The many hours of clinch practice my coach made me do prepared me, and I found a way to control the fight better. Although the fight ended in a draw, the lesson learned and new confidence I earned was rewarded enough. I knew what I had to do – train everything I sucked at until I loved it just as much my strengths.

Roxy Balboa Muay Thai Clinch

Clinching during my pro fight July 2009 vs. Sara McCarthy

This way of thinking has taught me so much in life. It’s not just athletes who can benefit from admitting weakness, I have made great strides in my personal and professional life practicing skills I lack until they become my strengths. Accounting and taxes used to intimidate me, but after learning Quickbooks and doing the books for my LLC for four years, I feel confident about my financial skills.  In college, I used not to know how to cook much more than mac n cheese and omelets, and I preferred to eat out, but today I have a bunch of go-to recipes that I can whip up after a long day at work that are both nutritious and yummy.

Now, I’m not suggesting you dwell on your weaknesses and ignore your strengths. Giving yourself a little pat on the back for stuff you shine at is good, but if you want to see some improvement in your training and your life, challenge yourself to acknowledge what you are weak at and start practicing it more, you will be surprised at the strength you discover.