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Let Your Hands Go

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Back in college, my boxing coach would remind us every day of the most important thing we needed to do as fighters.

It didn’t matter if it was heavy bag practice, sparring, or between rounds at an actual match, he would say over and over again:

Let your hands go.

The instructions were simple enough – throw more punches.

I didn’t really think much about it because I always threw as many punches as I could. I’d punch until I was exhausted.

That’s what letting my hands go was all about, right?

During my fourth year of boxing it finally clicked.

I was in a sparring match.  3rd and final round.  45 seconds on the clock.  I got my opponent in a corner.  I took a broad stance and started throwing.  But something was different.

I was in control of my breathing and my strikes landed exactly where I wanted them to land.

I was in control of the rhythm and pace of the fight and threw combination after combination.

I was in control of the speed and strength of my blows – my opponent couldn’t do anything but cover up.

The bell rang.  The sparring match ended.

For 45 seconds, I pressed the offensive without once worrying about my defensive posture.  For 45 seconds, I controlled the fight and my opponent.  For 45 seconds, I let my hands go.

The Path to Mastery

It took me 4 years to let my hands go.

4 years, not because I didn’t understand, but because I wasn’t ready.

I wasn’t ready because I was too nervous to loosen up and fight calmly; I wasn’t ready because I was too scared to truly press the offense; I wasn’t ready because I focused on avoiding counter punches instead of how I could inflict damage.

But most of all, I wasn’t ready because I hadn’t reached the level of mastery I needed to take heed of his advice.

It took me 4 years to finally appreciate the advice given to me years before, but, just as importantly, it took me 4 years to actually execute the advice properly.

I tried in the past to let my hands go – throw as many punches as I could to take control of the fight, but it just didn’t work the way it was supposed to.

That’s the funny thing about mastery – it takes years to figure out the subtlety of the simplest things.

Let Your Hands Go

That day I learned something important: when you really let your hands go, there’s nothing your opponent can do.

If he tries to counter, he’ll leave himself exposed to your flurry of strikes.  If he tries to pivot, you can adjust your own position and keep pressing.  If he slips out of the corner, you can back off and get ready to let your hands go again.

They say the best defense is a good offense – that’s what letting your hands go is all about.

And you need to do the same with your creative project.

Are you a writer?

Let your hands go.

Write more.

Write every day.  Write without inhibition, without worrying what others will think, without concern for the crowd’s reaction.  Just write.  And when you write, let others read.

Don’t wait to get chosen by a big publishing house.  Let your hands go – publish yourself.

Are you an entrepreneur?

Let your hands go.

Create a product to sell – and start selling it!

If the first 100 don’t buy, try the next 100.  If no one buys, try a different angle, a different pitch, a different unique selling proposition.  Keep testing and experimenting.  Entrepreneurship by its nature is uncertain.  It’s a path fraught with danger, pitfalls, and possible death (of your product).

People will wonder why you don’t just get a respectable job with a predictable income, like a warehouse supervisor at the robot factory.  Let your hands go – take your own path.

Are you waiting on the sideline?

Let your hands go.


There are too many broken things in the world that need fixing.  Falling in line, clocking in and clocking out, doing what you’re told – life’s too short and you’re too clever to waste your days this way.  Do what matters to you.  Don’t worry about the group you just left on the sideline, their job is to cheer (and jeer) accordingly.

Your job is to do the work.  Let your hands go – start today.

Be the Disrupter

It might be presumptuous of me to say, but it’s becoming more and more clear to me the type of readers who read and subscribe to my blog; you guys are the instigators of the world.  You’re the map drawers, the path choosers and the disrupters of the world.

I’ve already highlighted a few of you – this barely scratches the surface of the hundreds of people who I’ve had the opportunity to correspond with directly, and the thousands of others who are doing amazing things but haven’t reached out to me (yet, I hope).

My point is this: you’re not alone in this fight.

While everyone’s struggles are unique and every path is different, we all share the commonality of the creative war itself.  We’re all in the trenches together – it’s just that the trenches spread for thousands of miles and there’s a lot of dead space.

Don’t lose heart.

Keep blazing trails, keep doing the hard, creative work, and keep disrupting the standards set by the average majority.

It’s not easy, but it’s important.

And remember, when things get tough…

Let your hands go and be the disrupter this world needs.


Photo credit: clarita from morguefile.com

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  • Tom, this is a fantastic motivation post for the creative community. Keep those hands swinging with more stellar content like this an elevate the average majority to the extraordinary!

    • Jeremy – thanks so much for leaving a comment!

      Like what you’re doing over at Marriage Pursuit – keep up the great work!

  • Wow, Tom, awesome post! What is it about your boxing stories that I seem to love? I 1/2 want to learn how to box after reading them! LOL Seriously though, this and how you got started w/ boxing at West Point both resonated with me a lot for whatever reason. I think because they show how much heart you clearly have.

    I really enjoyed this story and the pace you set though. I could feel myself like exhaling every time you said “let your hands go” and just sort of leaning into the idea and my fear of getting out there. Like, REALLY getting out there, and getting started with the work I want to do. So anyhow, thanks for the inspiration! Great way to end my night!

    • Julie – thanks so much for the kind comments. They mean so much to me, so thank you.

      I have a few more boxing stories up my sleeve, so expect a few more in the future (they don’t always have happy endings, but there’s usually a great lesson in there somewhere) 🙂

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