Gold from "Win or Learn" by John Kavanagh.

Updated: May 25

I've just finished reading a compelling book. Win or Learn by Conor Mc Gregor's coach John Kavanagh is a very pleasant read full of golden nuggets and an overall feeling of inspiration and possibility. I believe it's an awesome read for entrepreneurs, coaches, or anyone passionate about peak performance and the mindset of champions and their coaches.

Below you will find the quoted statements I found powerful along with my personal notes for the reason I liked them.

"My coachees are Gym ready. What does that mean? [...] When fighters turn up at my gym, they’ll get everything they need from me. But I won’t drag them to the gym. That’s something each individual needs to be accountable for.” - John K.

This really speaks to the philosophy in which I run my coaching practice as well. I will give 100% to those who are 100% committed. Otherwise, let's not waste each other's time.

"Whatever you need, I’ll provide,’ I said. ‘But you don’t take a step back or fall off this path. You’ve got to give me everything back, one hundred per cent." - John K to Conor McGregor when Conor was slipping off.

This also reflects a value of conducting my business. I believe the old adage "the client is King" is, well...old. I do not adopt it. I much prefer to adopt the philosophy that the client and I (or us) are level headed and RESULTS are King. I also have found that my clients love that approach. It's genuine and it does not compromise what truly matters.

"Joseph Duffy had succeeded where I had failed. It was responsible for Conor’s acceptance that he needed to adapt." - John K reflecting on Conor's loss in the ring.

He was excited that Conor's loss had imparted on him a lesson that John as a coach could not have imparted. Sometimes the best teacher is experience. Actually, almost always.

"The level of trust and understanding needed to make a difference between rounds takes a long time to grow. It’s sort of like a relationship with a partner: when you reach the stage where you’re so familiar and comfortable in each other’s company, a nod or some other similarly minor gesture can communicate a message that you may have once needed words for."

After Conor's success, a lot of fighters came to train at SBG but before they could get the best of John they needed to stick it through a year and truly develop a relationship with him. Not out of exclusivity but the genuine phenomenon that coaching is truly most impactful when a trusting relationship with solid chemistry is created.

"After the fight, Conor went out of his way to thank me publicly: ‘John has changed our lives. He’s been an inspiration to us all. He is a master of human movement. He’s a genius at this game.’ It was kind of funny that he said I was changing my fighters’ lives, because the way I saw it was that they were changing mine. I guess that’s when you know you’re doing things right as a team.”

To me a sign of a truly satisfying career, mutually beneficial transformation. That's why I Love what I do :).

“As long as you’ve worked as hard as you can, you should be at peace with the result, whether it goes in your favour or not. Luck also plays a bigger part than we’d all care to admit, so don’t be too hard on yourself when you lose and don’t go overboard with patting yourself on the back when you win. That’s been my approach from the start and it will continue to be until the end.” - John K.

Failure is a great teacher, albeit an intense one. When it all comes down to it though, it is the learning, the experience that matters most. Who we become in the process rather than external accolades.

"With people like Paddy Holohan and Owen Roddy, I can only hope that I have inspired them in the same way that coaches like Kieran McGeeney, Eoin Lacey and John Connor have influenced me. All three of those guys have taught me so much from their own experiences about striving for the highest standards." - John K

I like this one because it emphasizes the importance of having our own teachers, mentors, coaches on our road to mastery.

“Ultimately it comes down to what motivates you. If money is your only incentive, your determination to succeed in competition will fade as soon as you start admiring your bank account. Conor has stated publicly that money is a motivating factor for him, but only because it happens to be a consequence of learning, improving, competing and winning – which is what drives him, first and foremost.” - John K.

I Love this because I believe that although Money should be an important motivator of what we do, it definitely should not be the top motivator. Let alone Top 3.

To me Doing what we Love, Offering substantial value, Working with people we Love working with come before Money.

"Around the time he first met Tyson, Conor had been thinking about buying a Lamborghini. Mike gave him some financial advice: ‘If it depreciates, rent it. If it appreciates, buy it. That’s all I’ve gotta say." John K.

Spoken from the guy who bought Tigers to have hanging around in his back yard...I guess he learned a thing or two about money management.

"Still, the questions and criticism kept on coming. A lot of people were extremely reluctant to admit that he was winning simply because he was a great fighter. I soon realized that this was no bad thing. As long as there are questions to be answered, there’ll be big fights to be made. Can he beat a wrestler on a full training camp? Can he beat a champion? Can he beat a champion in a heavier weight class?" - John K.

I learned that people Love drama and that can create a lot of success for those who know how to leverage it.

"Gradually. The expectation became extremely draining. Even the walk-out left him feeling tired. As soon as he stepped inside the octagon, his legs felt heavy. That’s common for fighters – it’s a natural feeling, a hormonal fight-or-flight response as blood rushes to the legs – but if you’re cognizant of the magnitude of the situation, that can grow in your head and spread throughout your body, to the detriment of your performance. You can usually brush off that feeling of heaviness once the action begins, but if there’s even a tiny seed of doubt in your mind, that seed will flourish and manifest itself gradually. That’s exactly what happened to Paddy against Louis Smolka. He looked sluggish right from the start and he faded very quickly. That had never happened to him before." - John K.

No matter how good you are in regular times, if you are to make it to the big leagues it is so important to learn to manage the moments of pressure. In those moments usually lies the most important hit or miss of your life. It might be unfair but it's the truth.

"He was an inspiration to many people, including myself. If you want something badly enough, never let anyone tell you that you’re not capable of attaining it. You’ll eventually reap the benefits of possessing that kind of attitude." - John K.

Fight for your dreams until the end. I've been told again and again that what I wanted was just a figment of my imagination. Everyone doubted me, and some still do, and although it affects me I do not let it stop me. When it's all said and done, I am confident that I will look back on my life with tremendous pride.

"Who else is doing what you’re doing? Who else would move up two weight classes and fight a top guy on less than two weeks’ notice? You could have backed out of this when dos Anjos pulled out and nobody would have said a negative word, but unlike what everybody else would have done, you didn’t even give it a thought. You hold your head up high and speak positively when you’re on that microphone. Be proud of what you’re doing because I know I am. Remember what Fedor Emelianenko said: “Only those who never stand up, never fall down.” - John K.

My favorite statement of the whole book. This is the first thing John K whispered in Conor's ear as soon as his fight against Nate Diaz ended on a loss. It's not about winning or loosing, it's about much more!

"The fire in your belly is replaced by food. Being stuffed isn’t conducive to maintaining a competitive mindset." - John K

There is tremendous power in leveraging our primal instincts to hunt when we are hungry. If we over eat it surely affects our hunger to reach our ambitions and it surely affects our output. Eating until we are 80% satisfied is an advice widely spread in Japanese wisdom.

"I’ve been Ireland’s first MMA fighter, first Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and first coach of a UFC champion. Sure, they’re significant achievements to reflect on, but that’s not what I’ll take the most satisfaction from when I call it a day. The overriding theme when I look back will be that I spent my life doing something I love. There’s no greater satisfaction than that." - John K

I read and hear this again & again from all the greatest. We might not all be able to become Michael Jordan, Conor McGregor or Steve Jobs, but most of us with a brain, an internet connection and a computer, can do what we Love. That is the biggest gift. I haven't found any feeling like it. Nothing has been more satisfying than to dedicate myself fully to what I Love.

"You’ll never master everything about this game, because there’s simply too much involved. I’ll be a student of the game until the day I die." - John K.

When you do something you are passionate about. Retirement is something you dread.

"Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose, but every time we learn.

There are challenges ahead that will test our capacity to absorb the lessons that are dealt by sport at the highest level. I know that some of those challenges will result in victory and others will end in defeat. But I’m enthusiastic about them all. Regardless of the outcome of any contest, the real winners are those who learn the most." - John K

The reason I say that failure does not exist.

If you have enjoyed this post, you will probably enjoy John's book - "Win or Learn: MMA, Conor McGregor and Me: A Trainer's Journey". As I mentioned, it's a great read I recommend.

If you are inspired by this post and are aiming for greatness, reach out to me, It will be an honor to meet you.


© 2019 by Elie Dagher.