Destiny decays when discipline declines

Mike Tyson

The Athenian statesman, Critias, once said, “If you discipline yourself within, you will be less vulnerable to injury from outside”. In life, you need more than a willing spirit to fulfill destiny; you need a conquered flesh! Self-discipline is the ability to do what is right even if you don’t feel like it. Living a principled centered life is the hallmark of winners.

Great people are greatly principled. The core secret of winners is held up in the belief that to go up in life, there are things to give up. There are two ways of learning in life: it is either you learn by ‘instruction’ or by ‘destruction.’ Winners don’t just show up suddenly; they are all products of a rigorous and disciplined system. Alan Armstrong said, “Champions do not become champions when they win the event, but in hours, weeks, months, and years they spend preparing for it. The victorious performance itself is merely the demonstration of their championship character”.

“He who gains victory over other men is strong, but he who gains victory over himself is all powerful”- Lao-Tzu
One of my most fascinating books ever on discipline, Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win, is co- authored by a retired Navy SEAL Commander in the U.S Navy, Jocko Willink. Willink talked extensively on how we must always take ownership of our lives and that nobody must ever be the reason why we fail in life. He succinctly captured his idea about discipline in one quote, when he said, “Discipline equals freedom.” As a youth pastor and leadership coach, I have observed with unfailing accuracy that what ultimately destroys a man at the top are actually the indiscipline nature, habit and sin that followed him there.

“No man is free who is not master of himself”- Epictetus
One of the most frightening human beings ever to step into the boxing ring, Mike Tyson, was the model of the supreme gladiator-unbeaten and unbeatable. Mike won brutal victories against his opponents; a man with ferocious and fierce punches that normally sent opponent into hypnotic trances. Most times, his punches throw opponents into unrecoverable bouts of hallucination. Never before had one individual captured the attention of the wider world via sport except Muhammad Ali. From 1987-1990, he was the undisputed world heavyweight champion conducting a reign of terror in the prize-fighting ring and earning millions of dollars while doing it. He unleashed terror upon his opponents in a way that was unprecedented in boxing history.

Michael Gerald Tyson is a former undisputed heavyweight champion of the world and holds the record as the youngest boxer to win the WBC, WBA and IBF heavyweight titles at 20 years of age. Tyson won the first 19 professional bouts by knockouts, 12 of them in the first round. He was first heavyweight boxer to simultaneously hold the WBA, WBC and IBF titles, and the only heavyweight to successively unify them. A man with outstanding hand speed, accuracy, coordination and timing, Tyson was highly fitted to dominate the ring but was poorly prepared for the life beyond the ring.

Though his life was amazing in the ring, his pathetic and catastrophic “grace to grass” story in sporting history was also pitiable and unprecedented. Tyson learnt a critical life lesson later in life: that, winning is not about knocking opponents out in the ring but rather knocking out habits and attitudes that are bound to wreck us in life.

The former President of the United Stated, Harry S Truman once said, “In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves. Self-discipline with all of them came first.” At the height of his fame and career in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, Tyson was one of the most recognized sports personalities in the world. Apart from his many sporting accomplishments, his outrageous, undisciplined and controversial behaviour in the ring and in his private life have kept him in public eye and in the courtroom. A man noted for his violent and erratic behaviour.

Throughout his childhood, Tyson lived in and around high-crime neighbourhoods and was repeatedly caught committing petty crimes and fighting those who ridiculed his high-pitched voice. He frequently ran into trouble with police over his petty criminal activities, and by the age of 13, he had been arrested 38 times!

“We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret”-Jim Rohn
Tyson’s passion for the sport of boxing was highly overwhelming that he became determined to learn everything he could about boxing, often slipping out of bed in the middle of the night to practice punches in the dark, punching imaginary enemies that will later become real in his quest for a boxing career. Tyson’s life in the ring became so fascinating to the extent that the Nintendo Company decided to animate and immortalize his ferocious punch in one of their gaming packages. His uncanny ability to level his opponents in only one round earned him the nickname “Iron Mike”.

Though Tyson’s fame was soaring in the ring, his personal life suffered heavily in the closet. By the early 1990, Tyson’s problems outside boxing were also starting to emerge. He seemed to have lost direction, and his personal life was in disarray. He was arrested in July 1991 for the rape of 18-year-old Desiree Washington, Miss Black Rhode Island, in an Indianapolis hotel room. This trend of scandals and events initiated a downturn in his life. After two successive divorces due to this unstable marital life, he filed for bankruptcy in August 2003 after years of financial struggles, exorbitant spending, multiple trials and bad investments.

In an attempt to pay off his debts, Tyson sold his upscale mansion in Farmington, Connecticut, to rapper 50cent for a little more than $4 million. He crashed on friends’ couches and slept in shelters until he became a social ‘fugitive’ through his unruly and unbridled life. In an interview with USA Today published on June 3, 2005, Tyson said, “My whole life has been a waste, I’ve been a failure”. Tyson was once tagged the undisputable heavy weight champion, but if the undisputable truth be told; Tyson was the real iron Mike not in life but only in the ring, for when the vagaries and vicissitudes of life put him to test, it was very obvious that Mike could actually bend and even broken beyond repair.

“If you do not conquer self, you will be conquered by self”- Napoleon Hill
I would like to reach out to all the youths out there in the words of Max DePree, “We cannot become what we want to be by remaining what we are.” We need to constantly adjust ourselves in order to get the best out of life. Let us all declare a massive war against indiscipline. It is either we suffer the pain of change or suffer remaining the way we are! When Albert Einstein was labeled as being ‘insane’ by some of his colleague, he called for a brief interview to really explain the meaning of insanity to the world. His own definition of madness eventually routed out his senile enemies when he shocked the world with what is today known as the quote of the century: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” How can we be the future of tomorrow if we lack the core ingredient of leadership? Self-discipline is personal leadership.

“Unless you change how you are, you will always have what you’ve got”-Jim Rohn
The Holy Bible admonishes parents in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it”. The greatest evidence of love from parents to their children is discipline. When parents refuse to discipline their children, then it is taken that they’ve given them over to a destructive future. An undisciplined child has already been prepared for his own doom. Indiscipline can bring rot into any life; in the case of Iron Mike Tyson, it has shown that even an ‘iron’ can decay!

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Michael Gerald Tyson


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