The Warrior Philosophy: What A UFC Fighter With A Bad Attitude Can Teach Us About Making Art

chaelsonnen

When you create you make something that was not there before. In other words, you make something from nothing. As I’ve written before, this takes a great amount of energy. Think of your creative energy as a fire within you. The problem most creatives face is: How do you stoke that fire, keep it burning so you can make your work consistently over the long haul? The answer is you need to be open to finding inspiration in everything and everyone, even in the strangest of places. I recently found inspiration in an unusual source–a mixed martial artist with a bad attitude.

Chael Sonnen is a famous American MMA fighter who has been in the UFC for many years. His prominent bouts in the octagon include fighting Anderson Silva for the middleweight championship in August 2010, and again in a rematch in July 2012–which was considered by many to be the most highly anticipated bout in UFC history. He was also a coach for the seventeenth season of the reality television show The Ultimate Fighter. Known as a world-class wrestler, his fighting style is at times superseded by his confident attitude that some think borders on arrogance. He is famous for bad mouthing opponents before his fights.

What struck me about Chael Sonnen was his philosophy regarding his career. In his own words:

“I’ve always said, I will fight anyone, anywhere, at anytime.”

I’m sure he and his manager strategize when they are the ones picking bouts. But what the above quote means is when someone challenges him, or when the UFC calls him to bring up a potential fight, he will take any fight at any time. Period. He talks the talk, and walks the walk.

That’s admirable on a colossal scale. That’s a warrior’s code. As artists, particularly for writers, this is the code we need to adopt if we want to build a prodigious career.

One of the biggest complaints writers have is, “I want to write more, but I just don’t have the time.” Writers are always looking for the right time and place. There’s always something that’s off, some distraction keeping us from producing our work. But it’s all an excuse. The reality is–if you’re awake and you’re breathing–all the time is writing time, and every place is a writing place. Get a tiny computer or tablet, open the sucker up, and hit the keys until your fingers hurt. That’s it. That’s the secret. If you use an actual notepad and pen, then that’s even easier and cheaper, so you have even less excuses.

Sure, distractions are always out there. However, you can control what goes on in your mind. You can learn to sharpen your focus so the distractions won’t get in the way. Would you crash your car if–when driving–you noticed you had a pebble in your shoe? No, you would still make it to wherever you were going. Writing and making art can be just like driving. Get enough practice and petty distractions won’t stop you.

Life is the octagon, and we all have to keep fighting to stay in the game. Resistance will try to take you down, and it won’t ever stop. So you need to choke resistance until it gives up and taps out, though you know it will be back for a rematch soon enough.