synthetic zero

June 7th, 2009

Years ago, my martial arts teacher, Michael Thompson, and I were walking through San Francisco, and we came across a festival which was putting on a little informal sumo wrestling game. Anyone could participate, so I decided to enter the contest for the hell of it. There were some big guys in it, and I was a scrawny-looking Japanese guy; but I easily beat most of them, except for one athletic Chinese guy who must have had some martial arts training too. However, I had to do one last match to determine 2nd vs 3rd place, between me and this big guy. He was really shaking, he wanted to win so much, but I was calm. We got into it and he pushed me back with his size … but just as we were teetering on the edge of the ring, I relaxed and let him push and turned slightly and threw him out of the ring. I said to the people watching, “it’s because he wanted to win, and I didn’t.”

I certainly wouldn’t want to predict I’d actually win today if such a contest were repeated; I’m not nearly in as good shape as I was then, for one thing. But, I do think it’s worthwhile to point out that being cool under pressure is far more important than people realize, especially when it comes to matters of conflict or strife. The hot heads, statistically speaking, lose more often than they win, even if they may have some early success.

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