The football coach with fangs
This was back in the year 1999. I was a 13-year-old student in the 7th grade when it happened. I used to play right wing in my class football team, in a school called Jagacha High School in Howrah, where I grew up. It was a semifinal in the inter-class football tournament.
We were at 1-1, but we were playing a team much stronger than ours. We were barely holding on, trying to fight back the repeated waves of attacks from every angle, every side.
Towards the end of the match came a point when on an instinct I ran up the right flank and got a nice pass, alone, just outside the box. As I was running fast, I couldn’t control the ball well and took a shot outside the goal. A golden opportunity wasted.
Our class teacher was standing right there. He started screaming at me. Never play football in your life again, he said. You are completely worthless. Stay at home.
I understand his passion for the game today, but back then, his behaviour destroyed me. Our team won in a penalty shoot-out, but I could not even show up for the final. I fell sick.
You know we can fall genuinely, verifiably, medically sick whenever we want, right?
I never played right-wing or forward positions again. I played football later and played quite well, but the fear of missing another goal made me play in the defence always after that. I didn’t give up playing football though and eventually got quite good at it. I scored many goals even from the defence in school (a different one) and later while representing the university.
This was a teacher who never coached me about anything, though he was the official football coach of our school. He never said a good word to me, or tell me how I could become a better player. He never said anything good about how we fought back against a much stronger team. However, when I made one mistake, he was right there to bare his fangs at me.
I was too young to realize back then, but these are the exact kind of people we do not want in our corners, but we end up with them often enough. I was not a bad student or a terrible footballer, this was a teacher who didn’t know the first thing about teaching or coaching.
It happened many times in my life, later again.
The girlfriend who believed that it’s her duty to keep me in check
About 5 years back, I was dating someone who genuinely believed that I “fly in the air” too much for my own good, and she must keep me grounded. She made it the mission of her life to keep my ambitions and dreams in check!
I had a mentor who I trusted a great deal. When I was annoyed about the situation and discussed it with her, she said that the person I was dating was doing a great job and that it was a very good contribution in my life. I bought into this story as well.
Life became a struggle every day, but I took it into my strides, or so I thought. In reality, I was slowed down in every sphere of my life. My energy went into fighting to have my way on every single decision. I had to spend hours defending myself or explaining why I wanted to do a certain thing. My momentum was stolen.
Then a day came. She had gone away from Delhi for a couple of months for some work. I was left alone for two months. I made great progress in those two months, in business, in personal development, health and everything else.
The day she was back, she assumed the same role of keeping me in check. I saw for the first time the huge difference. I realized that I have the wrong person in my corner.
I realized what a disaster the previous 3 years were. And that was the end of that relationship. Results in my life skyrocketed immediately after that.
Do you like boxing?
Have you seen a boxing match? After every round, the boxers go back to their corner until the bell goes off for the next round. When they return, they have their coach whispering in their years, someone giving them water and perhaps a massage, or a pep talk.
And while the fighter’s skill is important, the person in his corner whispering in his ears is very important too.
Boxing coaches specifically learn how to talk to their fighters during a fight. They call it the corner work.
The corner work between rounds can be vital, the difference between winning and losing. If the fight is comfortable, there’s not a great deal of impact but in a fight that’s to-ing and fro-ing, it can be crucial.
Here is what ace boxing coach, former professional boxer and multiple times British boxing champion Ryan Rhodes have to say about how important a role the corner plays in boxing matches:
You earn your money in the corner.
How you are in the corner depends on how well the round has gone obviously, but the main thing regardless is to remain cool and calm. You have to assure the fighter everything is under control because he has enough to worry about already with the other guy trying to take his head off, without the corner panicking.
The best part about the corner is that you can see things going on that sometimes your fighter doesn’t see. So when they get back to me and sit down, you have to make sure they’re comfortable, are breathing properly and then give them the advice.
If it is all going to plan, assure them as they might think differently and tell them to go again. But, if it’s the other way around, that’s when you earn your money because that is the most important minute in there.
You have to always be honest in the corner and tell them how it is. As the trainer, you can’t just rely on one game plan, because if that collapses, you can’t adapt and the fighter loses his confidence. You have to be capable of having plan A, then plan B, and, if you have to, go to plan C.
Is this the kind of person you want in your corner?
What’s up with your corner these days?
My intention is that you see how important it is to have someone in your corner when you are up for the biggest fights of your life!
Are you fighting without anyone in your corner? Oh man, I have been there and I can tell you that it is such a bad place to be in!
What is worse than that? There is something.
Do you have crappy people in your corner, people who misguide you, make you small, drain your energy, like to keep you in check? I had such people in my corner once, and it was like trying to fly while I am shackled to the ground.
Jettisoning those people from my life and from my company did wonders for me. I would never get anywhere good if I did not ditch those people in time. Never have people working against you in your corner.
Never have incompetent people in your corner either. For example, law teachers are very competent at finishing the prescribed syllabus, but they do not have the most updated information about what career decisions you should make. They probably know more than you, but career advice is not their profession, nor is there any kind of accountability. You would make a great mistake if you went by the advice of a law professor in your career because most of them have a very limited understanding of the legal industry and how things are shaping up ahead.
On the other hand, they may give you comprehensive advice if you asked them about how to become a professor and what challenges you are likely to face along the way.
In good universities, there may be a good career office, with staff that specializes in helping you to choose the right career and provide you with the information you really need.
When you are already a lawyer and have been practicing for a while, you probably still need someone in your corner to talk about how to win the next round. But do not trust people who are directly in competition with you, do not trust people who are just a few years ahead of you and do not have a complete picture of how the market is shaping up.
That’s why your boss or your colleague may not be a great source of career advice.
Another set of people who you must be wary of is those who have internalized an environment of hatred, criticism, absence of support and nurture, and who believe that this kind of hostility must be passed on to and endured by the next generation. There are plenty of them in the legal profession.
Seek out truly knowledgeable people, who have spent time developing spcialized knowledge and skills that can help you.
You need mentors, you need teachers, you need supporters and friends.
Chandragupta Maurya became a great emperor because he had Chanakya whispering in his years in his corner.
Arjuna chose to have Krishna in his corner during a war, and not the Narayani Sena, which was one of the largest standing armies of the time. And we know how that one choice greatly influenced the outcome.
In the Ramayana, even Lord Ramachandra needed so many people in his corner, from Lakshman, Sugreev, and Vibhishana to defeat Ravana. It is not something he could pull of on his own.
Who are the people you need in your corner to succeed? You need to think hard about it.
This is a big part of building a team when you start your own practice or law firm as well.
Who is in your corner?
You need an environment where all the others are also committed to growth. If you find yourself in an ecosystem where everyone has given up already, and have accepted tyrannies of fate or where people spend time pulling each other down or idly gossiping and judging others instead of striving for greatness, I request you, get out of such places.
You like it or not, those people are in your corner, making your life toxic, robbing you of the opportunity to live your full potential in this life.
And remember, as a lawyer, it is you who the client has in the corner. Would they be proud to have you? Will they trust you implicitly and respect you with no shred of doubt?
That is essential to being a successful lawyer.
Do you want me in your corner?
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