PEOPLE WHO give in to their pain are almost always destined to come in second or third in life. It’s like runners in a race: one guy’s knee starts hurting and he slows down to protect it; another guy’s knee starts hurting, and all he can see ahead of him is the finish line. It’s the people who stop to consider their hurt and heartache who usually fall short of their goals. Some even drop out altogether just because they experience a little disappointment or sorrow. You’ve got to play through your pain if you want to make it where you’re going.
People on the sidelines rarely feel any pain. For the last few years, my wife and I have had season tickets for the men’s pro basketball team in Houston. We look down and watch the guys play, and if we get tired, we can sit back on a comfortable sofa and follow the game on a screen. There’s even a place to put a wheelchair. But it’s a whole different story for the basketball players. Looking down from my seat, I can see them limping off the court, putting ice on their knees, lying on their backs, even going back to the dressing room to get medical treatment like stitches — whatever it takes for them to stay in the game.
The point is there is pain while you’re playing; there is pain while you’re in the game. Pain means you’re in it. If you aren’t feeling any twinges or pangs, it means you’re out of it. You can’t quit just because something hurts; you can’t stop to feel sorry for yourself.
Not many people I’ve asked have ever heard of Buster Mathis. But if I ask those same folks if they’ve heard the name Joe Frazier, everybody’s hand pops up. Buster Mathis was a boxer who was trying to get to the Olympics in 1964. He won all of the qualifying events. He even whipped Frazier. But then Buster hurt his hand and Frazier went to the Olympics instead. Buster Mathis could have won it all, but he gave in to his pain.
Here’s a man who beat Smokin’Joe Frazier and no one’s ever heard of him. That’s why the one thing you’ve got to do is move past your pain. If you break your right hand, you have to start doing things with your left. If you break your left hand, start doing more things with your right. Believe me, there is no comfort in saying, “I almost made it.”
Life is the same way. There is always a broken dream or a broken promise; there is always a broken heart. But if someone breaks your heart, you have to move past that empty feeling. If someone steals your money, you have to get over your anger and sense of vulnerability. Why? Because you have to get where you’re going. People can take away everything else, but no one can take away your desire to get where you’re going.
People break bones all the time. There have always been people who have had no choice but to work — people with families, people with responsibilities. If they broke their finger, they had to find a stick and wrap some tape around their finger. They had to deal with it and move on. Why? Because they had to get to where they were going. If you asked them why they didn’t go to a doctor, they’d say, “I wouldn’t have gotten my crop in. I’ve got all my stuff in the barn now.”
If you want to live this good life, you have to understand that a little suffering and disappointment are bound to come with it. It’s part of the package. If you’re tired of all life’s troubles, you don’t get to say to yourself, “I think I’ll hang around in the morgue for a day or two.”The real residents of the morgue feel no pain. You could turn the temperature down to freezing in there and they wouldn’t complain. You could hold a lit match to their finger and they wouldn’t feel it burn.
In life, there’s always going to be something to wake you up and let you know you’re alive. You don’t fall down and stay down; you don’t give up just because you run into a little pain. You keep on fighting. After people leave this life, the electricity bill comes to their house. It might be six hundred dollars. But the people who died don’t give it a second thought. Have you ever heard them complain? “Oh my God, these bills are killing me.”It’s different when you’re alive. You can always tell when someone is living in a house because they start screaming about those bills. You can hear the mother or father telling the kids, “Close those windows, shut those doors, turn down the heat.” The dead do not complain about bills. That’s a job for the living.
After I had been boxing for a long time, I looked up one day and it was as though my hand had dried up. I tried to grip a little weight and I couldn’t get my fingers around it. I could barely make a fist. So I went to a doctor and he stuck some needles in there. He said, “Can you feel this?”I said, “No.” “How about this?” I said, “No.” He said, “You’ve just about lost everything out of this arm.” When I was boxing, I kept blocking shots with my hand and it apparently destroyed a nerve.
The first thought that came to mind was how I was going to conceal that from the doctors who would examine me for my boxing matches. I wasn’t thinking, “What’s wrong with my hand?” I didn’t care; I had another hand. My fingers were closed together, and I thought, “How can I conceal this from people who will say, ‘Poor old George’?” I became an expert at concealing my hand. If someone was considering me for a commercial, they weren’t going to see this right hand. I hid it. That’s because my goal was to do something with my life. If anyone was ever asked if they’d heard of George Foreman, I wanted them to know my name. I didn’t want to end up like old Buster.
Buster Mathis must not have realized that a broken heart hurts more than a broken hand. If you’ve ever watched the Winter Olympics, you’ve seen those young girls ice-skating. They always seem to be smiling. They suffer just as many aches and pains in practice as any hockey player with black shoe polish under his eyes. But they are afraid to tell their parents or coaches. They’re afraid someone might say, “Next year, dear.”
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