So many times in this world we let others dictate our lives. We listen to our parents, our friends, even our neighbors on what we “should do” with our lives.
No one knows our true purpose — that’s something we have to find on our own.
Our passions and our love should be what guides us in life, not just logic.
Life’s too short to spend precious moments chasing something we don’t care about, something that doesn’t make us feel fulfilled.
Sure, you could be a doctor or a lawyer and make money fast: but what good is the cash if you’re miserable?
When you follow your passion and master those skills, the money will follow, and it’ll be worth the delay.
That’s why for today’s episode of The School of Greatness, I brought on a truly inspirational woman: Michelle Waterson.
Michelle is a wife, a mother, and an amazing UFC fighter. She had a passion for martial arts even as a child but pushed her passion aside to listen to what her parents wanted.
She went to college and studied things she didn’t really care about.
One day she was hired to work as a ring girl at a UFC fight and watching the action up close made her decide she wanted to continue her childhood passion.
As soon as the semester was over, she left school and started training to be a fighter – but there was only one problem.
At that time there were no UFC women. In fact, the UFC was very clear they were never planning to let women into the UFC.
She didn’t let that stop her. She continued to train and take small fights any chance should could.
Finally, all the hard work paid off. The UFC started letting in women fighters, and she’s had an incredible career that didn’t exist not too long ago.
If you’re wondering if you should actually pursue your passion, no matter how unconventional it may be, you need to hear Episode 655.
Lewis Howes: This is episode number 655, with UFC Fighter, Michelle Waterson.
Welcome to The School of Greatness. My name is Lewis Howes, former pro-athlete turned lifestyle entrepreneur and each week we bring you an inspiring person or message to help you discover how to unlock your inner greatness. Thanks for spending some time with me today. Now, let the class begin.
“True champions aren’t always the ones that win, but those with the most guts,” Mia Hamm.
Welcome to the episode today. You matter, you are an important human being in this world and I hope you know that today, because we’re all about spreading positivity and finding out what our true passion is. How we can continue to overcome life’s greatest challenges and move closer towards our dreams.
And you have the potential to do that, today! You have the potential to take one step closer to the life you want to live and this is your daily reminder for that.
Today we’ve got Michelle Waterson in the house! She is an MMA competitor in the UFC, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, former Invicta FC Atomweight Champion, and as of December 2017, she’s ranked number seven contender in the UFC Women’s Strawweight division.
And Fight Matrix ranks her as the number 23 Women’s Strawweight fighter in the world, and between 2013 and 2014 she was ranked number one in Women’s Atomweight in the world. And we had a good time connecting, a few months back, through a mutual friend, Aubrey Marcus, who’s been on the podcast a couple of times, who is a New York Time bestselling author as well.
And we just really connected, and hit it off, and she was in L.A. and I said, “Why don’t you come on the show, because I want to learn more about the way you think.” And this is fascinating, because she was a former ring girl. She was literally walking around the ring with the number of the round, that the fight was happening in, you know, what round it was.
She would walk around in a bikini and high heels and then decided, “I want to do what they’re doing in the ring. And now she’s one of the top competitors in the world at this. So, it’s a fascinating story of how she started doing something, that wasn’t her path, and then discovered what it was.
Everyone made fun of her and laughed at her. They were, like, “There’s no way you can go in the ring and do this when you are a ring girl, walking around the ring.” And the way she thinks, her mindset, and some of the challenges that she faces as well, she talks about. And I think it’s extremely powerful and inspiring.
So, make sure you share this with your friends, lewishowes.com/655, to share this out. Take a screenshot right now and post it on your Instagram story, let people know to listen to this. What we cover in here are how she got started when it was also very taboo for women to be fighting – this was before UFC had women fighting, she got into it.
Also, what it takes to be a champion, and be vulnerable. How to build the mental confidence to win, and be vulnerable and loving. How to respect you opponent. I thought this was a really powerful answer, when she talked about respecting your opponent. And how to come back mentally after a loss. And how some people actually never come back.
We’re going to talk about those steps, and how this can apply to your life as well, whether you’re a fighter, or a mother or someone just going after your dream job. It doesn’t matter what it is, this all applies to your life and I want to make sure that you get those lessons out of this.
Before we dive in, a big thank you to the Fan of the Week! This is from TM Kenyan, who said, “I’ve been listening and trying now to catch up on the latest for a year now. Each and every episode literally does something to change my mindset. This is a must-listen for any human being that breathes on this Earth. Good job with the guests you have on the show, keep going! School of Greatness alarm to 10.0! Thomas Kenyan.”
So, Thomas Kenyan, you are the Fan of the Week, my friend! Thank you for being a part of this community, for The School of Greatness Academy program that you went through, you got some great results, it was good to see you in there.
For those who don’t know about The School of Greatness Academy, it’s something we launch a couple of times a year, to bring the community together, virtually, online, to help you guys go through a process of unlocking your greatest gifts, reaching your potential and your goals, your mindset, your habits, routines, all that stuff.
You can check it out, go to lewishowes.com, sign up for the newsletter, and we’ll be announcing the next round of The School of Greatness Academy very soon.
I want to thank our sponsor today, which is designcrowd.com/greatness. Now, for those that don’t know, design is an important part of my brand, and it’s challenging to find great designers, because a lot of them are very expensive. And what I found with designcrowd.com/greatness, is they have over half a million designers from around the world to help you with awesome creative ideas, and you get the perfect custom design every single time.
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And also, you guys know how important health is to me. This is all about optimising every part of your life. Health, for me, is huge, and that’s why I’ve got a big thank you to our other sponsor, which is sunbasket.com/greatness.
Now, Sun Basket has been amazing for me. It’s got delicious meal kits that are sent right to your door, to help you make healthy cooking easy and convenient for any busy lifestyle. It’s got organic produce and clean ingredients delivered to your door. Eighteen healthy options to choose from every week.
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Again, a big thank you to our sponsors, Sun Basket, and DesignCrowd. And now, I’m excited about this one! Powerful episode, with the one, the only, Michelle Waterson.
Alright, welcome back, everyone, to The School of Greatness Podcast, we’ve got Michelle Waterson in the house! Good to see you!
Michelle Waterson: Heloooo! Good to see you!
Lewis Howes: I’m glad you’re here! We met in Austin, through Aubrey Marcus, and we met really quickly, and got to know each other in a vulnerable way, because you shared some things about your life through poetry, actually. We did a poetry workshop with IN-Q, who’s been on the show, so it was cool to see that side of you.
And you are a UFC fighter who beats women up for a living.
Michelle Waterson: I try to! I try to.
Lewis Howes: You try to! Exactly! And my first question, I’m curious, as a fighter, what has it taught you about femininity and masculinity? Because you are a mother and a wife as well. So how do you navigate all that?
Michelle Waterson: I guess, just, I’ve never looked at myself, like, I’m super prideful for being a female in a predominantly male dominated sport, but I’ve never separated myself. I always just looked at myself as a fighter. And I feel like the minute you do separate yourself, is when you start to create separation.
So, all my team mates, they don’t look at me as a girl, they look at me as a fighter. And we train right alongside each other , and we sweat and we bleed and we cry together and we become family and that’s just how I’ve always looked at it.
Lewis Howes: Right. What is it about fighting that makes you love it?
Michelle Waterson: Well, I grew up doing martial arts, I have an older brother.
Lewis Howes: You’re karate black belt, right?
Michelle Waterson: Yeah, black belt in American freestyle karate, and I’ve done Wushu and Kempo and my elder brother, I wanted to be like him, and we grew up watching Karate Kid and Ninja Turtles.
Lewis Howes: Oh, yeah! Sweep the leg! Ninja Turtles!
Michelle Waterson: I recently showed my daughter the original Karate Kid, and she loved it!
Lewis Howes: Was she watching the new one?
Michelle Waterson: She was watching the new one first.
Lewis Howes: The new one on YouTube, have you seen this?
Michelle Waterson: No.
Lewis Howes: The Cobra Kai, or whatever it’s called. It’s the Karate Kid, what’s his name? The main actor’s name?
Michelle Waterson: The new guy? Or the old guy?
Lewis Howes: No, no, no, the original Karate Kid, what’s his name?
Michelle Waterson: Geeze, I don’t know.
Lewis Howes: He’s been part of so many memes in pop culture, I forget his name, too. But anyways, they’ve come back and filmed the original Karate Kid versus the bad guy, whatever, the other kid who swept the leg, Daniel right?
There’s a YouTube series of them, thirty years later, competing against each other. And they both have their own studios, it’s crazy, yeah!
Michelle Waterson: I’ll have to look that up!
Lewis Howes: I haven’t seen it, yet, but I’ve seen the trailers. Anyways, you used to watch Karate Kid, Ninja Turtles, and you wanted to be a Ninja Turtle?
Michelle Waterson: I wanted to be a Power Ranger, actually. My career as a martial artist kind of evolved, and when I became an adult, it cost money to compete, and I needed to make money.
And I was going to college, and I was actually working at Hooters, I was a waitress at Hooters, paying my way through college, and I was also doing these side gigs, and I became a ring girl, for like a local MMA fight.
Lewis Howes: Really?
Michelle Waterson: Yeah, and I’d never seen MMA before, but I was so intrigued, and I was watching these guys fight inside this cage, and I was walking around the cage with the little number, and I remember thinking to myself, “Man, that looks a lot more fun inside there!”
Lewis Howes: Than walking around…
Michelle Waterson: Yeah! And I was telling the promoter that I had martial arts background and I’d love to get into it, and he kind of laughed it off, and one of the guys that was actually fighting in a small promotion, overheard me. And he actually fights for the UFC now, Donald Cerrone.
And so, he overheard me and came to my work and was like, “If you’re serious about training, get your ass in the gym.”
Lewis Howes: So you were a ring girl in a bikini walking around showing what round it is, said, “I want to be in there and punching people, not walking around in heels and bikini.”
Michelle Waterson: Yeah, well it kind of just all fell together. I grew up doing martial arts, I was kind of lost, in college, I was really heavily involved in high school.
Lewis Howes: In martial arts, and karate.
Michelle Waterson: In martial arts, but just academically, and then went to college and nothing felt right, I was really lost.
Lewis Howes: You weren’t sure what major you wanted to do, or what you wanted to do after. You didn’t have a vision for your life.
Michelle Waterson: Yeah, nothing, I felt lost and I had good grades and everything, but I just…
Lewis Howes: No direction.
Michelle Waterson: Yeah.
Lewis Howes: Where did you go to school?
Michelle Waterson: I went to DU.
Lewis Howes: DU? What’s DU?
Michelle Waterson: University of Denver.
Lewis Howes: Okay, University of Denver, got it. And so, throughout school, did you graduate then?
Michelle Waterson: I didn’t. I stopped.
Lewis Howes: You did not. So, you were a ring girl, and a waitress in college, and then decided to stop and start training.
Michelle Waterson: Yeah. Like I said, I was lost, I didn’t know what I was doing with my life, spending a lot of money going to classes and just feeling like it was taking me nowhere. So, my mom and I went to Thailand to visit family, and when we were out there, I was like, “Hey, we’re in the motherland of Muay Thai and so I may as well, get some work in.
And they kicked my butt. They kicked my butt for two weeks and they laughed at me, because we trained outside on a concrete floor, and my feet blistered up and they laughed at me and said that I was weak.
Lewis Howes: Too soft.
Michelle Waterson: Yeah, too soft and it fired me up. It lit that fire back in me, and it just reminded me what my true path was, which is martial arts.
I just had this vision in my head that I had to finish high school – I finished high school top ten in my class – and I had to go to college, and then I had to find a fiancé and get married and have this white picket fence with two kids, and I thought that’s what I had to do, and it just wasn’t.
Lewis Howes: Wow! So, after that two weeks in Thailand – had you been to Thailand before?
Michelle Waterson: Yeah, when I was younger.
Lewis Howes: Right. After that two weeks of training, what was the next step? Did you go back and train more with them, or did you start training in Colorado? Or what was the next thing?
Michelle Waterson: I went back, and I continued to go to school, and then I just decided after the semester was over, that it wasn’t for me, so I dove completely into fighting and I started taking smokers.
Lewis Howes: What’s a smoker?
Michelle Waterson: A smoker is like, it’s an amateur fight, but they call them smokers because, back in the day, they had – well they probably still have them, I don’t know.
Lewis Howes: They were smoking before the fight, or whatever?
Michelle Waterson: Well, they do them in shady places, like bars and strip clubs and stuff like that, and there’s smoke all over.
Lewis Howes: That’s right. “Take the beer off the table, put the ring up, let’s go!”
Michelle Waterson: Yeah! So, I did a couple of smokers, and maybe six months later…
Lewis Howes: Did you win those?
Michelle Waterson: Yeah. I won some, I lost some, but that’s your amateur career, that’s where you learn. And way, way back then, there was really no amateur career, there was really no women fighting.
Lewis Howes: When was this? What year?
Michelle Waterson: I turned pro in 2007.
Lewis Howes: So when was the amateur then, how long was that from?
Michelle Waterson: I probably fought amateur for about a year and a half.
Lewis Howes: Okay, 2005, 2006, gotcha! So you were doing that, there really wasn’t many women fighting at the time, except for maybe some smokers in a backyard or something.
Michelle Waterson: Yeah, it was very taboo, you know? It was very taboo for women to be fighting.
Lewis Howes: Were there women in the UFC at that time?
Michelle Waterson: No, no, no, no. At that time Dana White was seriously against women being in the UFC. He would say it publicly, he would say, “Women don’t belong in the cage, and there’ll never be a place for women in the UFC.”
Lewis Howes: He said that? Never!
Michelle Waterson: Yeah! Yeah!
Lewis Howes: When did that change?
Michelle Waterson: When he met Ronda.
Lewis Howes: So when did Ronda do her first fight in UFC?
Michelle Waterson: I don’t know, I mean, I don’t know the dates specifically. I remember the event, because it was huge for women’s MMA to be able to have that platform.
Lewis Howes: What was the vision for you then, if there was no women in UFC at the time you were doing amateur fighting? Where could you go? What was the next step after these smoker events, what was the platform?
Michelle Waterson: So, there were a couple of different avenues that I could have gone, but I do remember moving out to Albuquerque and living in the dorms of Jackson Winkeljohn, and when I say ‘dorms’, it really wasn’t a dorm, it was kind of like a hole in the wall upstairs, I slept on a bunk bed next to the fridge.
But when I finally got my apartment, I remember putting up a vision board, and at that time Dana White was, “No way,” but putting up a vision board and still having ‘fighting for the UFC’ up on the vision board. Fighting for the UFC and there were a couple of different things, but that was one of them. And it was just kind of like, “Maybe not now, but eventually. Eventually you’ll get there.”
So, that was one of my goals, but also, like I said, I grew up watching martial arts flicks and stuff like that, I was like, “Man! I could be a Power Ranger, I could be a Street Fighter, I could do this and that.” But really, the reason why I fought is because it really forced me to face my fears. I’m not a confrontational person.
But fighting forced me to deal with my fears and my conflict. Once they close the cage behind you, you can’t turn around and be, like, “Okay, now I’m done, just going to get out of here!”
Lewis Howes: Yeah. You got to go to the end.
Michelle Waterson: Yeah, being afraid, like, everybody’s afraid to get hit, everybody’s afraid of losing, everybody’s afraid of getting embarrassed.
Lewis Howes: Getting hurt.
Michelle Waterson: Getting hurt, you know, bruising their ego. So, for me, it was a lot of things that I was overcoming personally in fighting.
Lewis Howes: What was your biggest fears?
Michelle Waterson: That I wasn’t good enough, that I didn’t belong, those are probably the two, those are probably the two biggest fears.
Lewis Howes: That you weren’t good enough and didn’t belong in MMA, or in general?
Michelle Waterson: Probably in general, yeah.
Lewis Howes: And what’s the biggest fear today?
Michelle Waterson: I’d have to say my biggest fear now, is getting in my own way, I guess, and am I good enough to be successful, that’s probably one of my biggest fears.
Lewis Howes: What do you define as success?
Michelle Waterson: Yeah, that’s something I’m still trying to figure out now, especially having my daughter. After having my daughter, I’m just very content with my life, because she is my everything, and I have a great husband. And so, that’s kind of like a struggle, too, is if I’m content in life, then what am I pushing for, towards? Why do I have this hole that I feel the need to fill?
Lewis Howes: Do you still have that hole?
Michelle Waterson: Yeah. For sure. I think that there are still some things that I want in my career.
Lewis Howes: What do you want?
Michelle Waterson: I want to be a champion, I want to be able, like when I think about the martial artists that I watched, growing up, it was always, like, “Wow! I want to do that! That’s a cool move!” and I want to be able to be that person for somebody else. I want to leave a legacy to where people talk about me, like, “She’s a beast!” you know? Like, “She’s an amazing martial artist,” I don’t know, to be able to do that.
And one of the reasons why I got into martial arts was because of my instructor, he really was in my life at a pivotal moment, and so he changed my life for the better, and it would be nice to know that I can do that for others.
Lewis Howes: What does it take to be a champion in the UFC?
Michelle Waterson: I think you have to have a really strong, genuine, deep confidence. It has to be deep in your core, it has to be unshakeable.
Lewis Howes: So you can’t doubt yourself at all.
Michelle Waterson: You can’t doubt yourself at all, and you have to be two steps ahead of everybody else.
Lewis Howes: What does that mean?
Michelle Waterson: There are so many different things that go into fighting, it’s not just physical, of course it is obviously, you have to be physically ready, but once you surpass that, once you guys are all on the same level, physically, then it becomes a mental game.
Are you mentally sharp? Can you deal with the media? Can you deal with all the outside noise? Can you deal with all the inside noise, in your head? Can you deal with all of the other circumstances surrounding you as you are training for this fight? There’s just so many different elements that go into it, and everything has to fall into place for you to win, that one night.
Lewis Howes: That one moment.
Michelle Waterson: That one moment.
Lewis Howes: It can change everything. What do you do to silence the conversation that holds you back? When it comes up?
Michelle Waterson: I take a deep breath and I tell myself, “Confidence,” and it just calms me. I feel like we all have that voice in our head that inner critic that will – and in my mind it’s my mom – like, “What are you doing?” you know? My mom is super critical, but I think it’s just culturally, that’s how they raise their kids. It’s kind of like that negative motivation, put that chip on your shoulder, you know?
But I’ve been working a lot with a sports psychologist, and he explained it to me in a way that, like, the same emotions you get when you’re fearful, are the same emotions you get when you’re excited. We just perceive them differently.
So any time I do get nervous, or afraid, or anxious, I just take a deep breath and I tell myself, “Confidence,” and it reminds me to use that energy, that nervous energy and transform it into good energy. Energy that’s going to fuel me, energy that’s going to build confidence within me, and energy that’s going to allow me to use it towards my benefit.
Lewis Howes: From the moment you get the announcement for a new fight, and they say, “Okay, you’re fighting in six weeks,” or eight weeks, or whenever it is – how long does it usually take?
Michelle Waterson: It depends. Fight camp is usually anywhere between six and ten weeks.
Lewis Howes: Six and ten weeks, okay, say eight weeks away, “We’ve announced this, here’s the date, two months,” what’s the challenging part for you, physically and mentally, from the moment you get the phone call, to the moment you step into the ring.
Michelle Waterson: It goes in waves. I think, at the very beginning, when the fight gets announced, it’s like, “Ah, it’s go time!” So then just trying to get your nerves in order, watching tape, trying to break down your opponent. And then you just get into a rhythm of fight camp and you forget about all that stuff.
And then the clock starts ticking down and you start losing days and you start to think, if you’ve trained enough, you start to second-guess yourself, “Do I need to train harder?” And then all the interviews roll in, and they start asking you questions of things you hadn’t even thought about until they started asking you, “Well, Tecia’s really good. She’s a power puncher.”
These are things you don’t even think about and then they say that and it brings up that self doubt again. I’d say, at the beginning of fight camp, it’s nervous and then it dies down, and then it comes back up, and then, come fight week, if you’ve prepped yourself, for me, I feel like the more physically ready you are, the more mentally content you can be.
Lewis Howes: Because you know you put in the work.
Michelle Waterson: Yes, exactly. And only you know that, right? If you didn’t put in the work, you can lie to the media, you can lie to everybody else and you can try to put on show and smile and say that you’re ready and you’re the fittest you’ve ever been, but only you know yourself if you’ve put in that time.
So, for me, I’m most confident when I know I’ve put in the time. But it’s not just putting in the time, it’s actually being present in those moments when I do put in the time, because it’s like quality versus quantity.
You can have good workout sessions, but you weren’t there.
Lewis Howes: You weren’t present. You weren’t intentional with every rep.
Michelle Waterson: Yeah, or you can have workout sessions where you are present, maybe not so many, but they mean more, because you were there in the moment.
Lewis Howes: Right. In your opinion, what does it mean to respect your opponent? And how can you be respectful to your opponent when you’re fighting them and pounding their face into the ground?
Michelle Waterson: That’s a hard one. That is a hard one, because, like I said, I’m a people pleaser, I’m not a trash talker, I’m not good at… it’s a fine line, and I think it depends on the person, really. There have been fights where I have given my opponent too much respect, and maybe subconsciously felt like they deserved the win, over me.
Lewis Howes: Really? Why?
Michelle Waterson: Because of their status, because of their ranking, because I knew them personally, and that’s hard. You have to shelve that, you have to shelve that, you have to say, “I respect you, but at the end of the day, you and I are both getting in here to take each other’s heads off and if I don’t get into the cage to do that, I’m doing you a disservice.
Lewis Howes: You’re doing her a disservice?
Michelle Waterson: Yeah, because I’m not giving her my 100%, I’m not giving her my true worth.
Lewis Howes: “I’ll take it easy on you today.”
Michelle Waterson: Yeah, like when you’re playing with your little sister, or your little brother, and they tell you, “No punching,” so you just kind of scale it back. You’re doing your opponent disservice when you do that, and that’s how I’ve had to look at it. I’ve had to look at it, I’ve had to take my opponent out of the equation.
Lewis Howes: Your feelings for them, your care for them.
Michelle Waterson: Yeah, I have to go into the octagon and tell myself that I deserve to win, because I’ve put on all the time, I’ve put in all the work, and whatever happens after that, happens.
Lewis Howes: What have your biggest losses told you about yourself?
Michelle Waterson: I guess, probably just the most obvious one is that there’s always somebody bigger and badder than you. Sometimes you can be 100% ready for something and still fail.
Lewis Howes: Really? Was there a time when you felt like you were so prepared, you were going to win and then you didn’t win?
Michelle Waterson: Yeah.
Lewis Howes: Really? How does that feel?
Michelle Waterson: Like crap. Like crap, losing in front of millions of people, it’s kind of like a nightmare that haunts you. When you win, the high is so high, and when you lose it’s just incredibly low.
And I think that’s probably another reason why we do it, is because of those endorphin rushes, but it’s funny, because when you win, you don’t really take the time to break apart your performance and see what you did well and what you didn’t do well.
But when you lose you go back and you relive that moment over and over and over again. And, “Oh, what if I did this differently? What if I did that differently? Was it because of the fight? Was it because of my weight cut? Was it because things that happened outside of my fights?”
And you start to spiral out of control with all these what-ifs. I remember talking to my coach about one of my losses, and trying to figure out why I lost, really. And I was talking to him and I was, like, “Well, what if I did this differently, or this differently?”
And he just stopped me, and he said, “Peanut,” – that’s what they call me at the gym, ‘Peanut’ –
“You just went left instead of right. Leave it at that. Because if you keep trying to do this to yourself, you’re going to take away the good that you did in the fight, and you’re going to stop believing in yourself. It was just a split second of you being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
So that was kind of like a hard pill to swallow.
Lewis Howes: Yeah. How do you manage the emotions up and down?
Michelle Waterson: I think you just kind of have to ride the wave. You ride the wave and you have to know that they’re going to come.
Lewis Howes: Yeah. Are there any fighter men or women that manage their emotions really well, that you’re aware of? Where they’re not too high, and they’re not too low.
Michelle Waterson: The girl that I look up to the most, when it comes to fighting, and also just in life in general, is probably Holly, Holly Holm.
Lewis Howes: She’s pretty good with managing emotions.
Michelle Waterson: She’s very, like even keel, she’s like, she never gets ahead of herself, she’s very humble. She dethroned Ronda Rousey, and still, after the fact, was very humble about her win, never talked snark about her, even though all throughout the press conferences leading up to the fight, Ronda was just putting her down, left and right, Holly never…
Lewis Howes: Never put her down?
Michelle Waterson: Never put her down. Even after the fact.
Lewis Howes: That’s pretty impressive.
Michelle Waterson: Never put her down. And I’ve also seen Holly get knocked out cold in a fight and muster up the humility to go to the press conference and congratulate her opponent. And then, come into the gym on Monday, and train.
Lewis Howes: That’s pretty impressive.
Michelle Waterson: Yeah, she’s an amazing woman, she really is.
Lewis Howes: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from her?
Michelle Waterson: To do. She just does. No questions, you know what I mean? She’s just a doer.
Lewis Howes: She’s not analysing it or being fearful, she’s like, “Okay, I’m going to do it anyways.”
Michelle Waterson: She’s a worker. Win or lose, she continues to trek forward and has that belief in herself that she is great, you know?
Lewis Howes: Yeah. What was the most challenging emotional wave you had to experience in leading up to a fight? That was personal, that wasn’t about the fight.
Michelle Waterson: I’d have to say it was two fights ago when I was getting ready to fight Tecia Torres. When my fight got announced there was a lot of great things happening. Tecia and I are, like, neck and neck in the rankings. My husband and I just put money down for a brand new house. And then we get a phone call from my husband’s mom, telling us that his dad got in a really bad car accident and that’s all we knew.
It was the beginning of my fight camp, and usually we don’t travel or do anything. Once fight camp hits, we’re just focussed. But there was just something in her voice that we knew something was wrong.
So we just packed up our stuff and drove out. They live in El Paso, it’s about three and a half hours out. And we drove out and she was very frantic and, talking to her, you know how the doctors are sometimes when things like that happen, they can’t sugar coat what has happened.
They have to give you the facts, factually, so that you can deal with it moving forward. And the doctors told her that he would never walk again. We were just, it was just a numb feeling, just, it was an incredible high to just, we didn’t even know what to do, really. I think the saddest part about it all is that Josh’s parents had him when she was sixteen, and they have been together and that’s all they knew, that’s all they know.
They know each other and they’re madly in love with each other and that’s one of the reasons why I fell in love with him, is meeting his family and seeing the love that they have for each other. Just always going out on the weekends, and dancing and partying. And to think that he would never walk again.
But Josh is kind of like the rock of their family. I could tell that it was bothering him, but he had to stay strong, because of the circumstances. And so, he has a little brother, 21 years, he’s going into sixth grade, and all this stuff happens, and so we don’t know how long he’s going to be in the hospital for, we don’t know anything, but we have to pick up the pieces.
So, Jaden comes back to Albuquerque with us, and we enrol him in school, but while all this stuff is happening, I’m getting ready for my fight, coming off a loss. And I feel selfish, I feel selfish when I wake up in the morning to go run, and when I tell them that I need to focus because I’m getting ready for this fight, when my father-in-law can’t even scratch his nose if he wants to.
So that was something that really weighed heavy on me, “How can I be selfish in my training, when my father-in-law is fighting for his life?” I really struggled with that, because it felt like I shouldn’t have been training for a fight, I should have been there for him. We should have been there for him. Our whole family should have.
And, my husband, he’s taking the brunt of it. He’s the rock for everybody, he’s the rock for them, he’s the rock for me, so, he broke, and that was really hard for me to see, because he’s usually the rock for me, you know?
Lewis Howes: He broke, in what way?
Michelle Waterson: He’s been in the military, he’s been overseas, he did convoys while he was in Iraq and worked in the prison and stuff, and so, yeah, he has PTSD, but I’ve never seen him, I think he was just trying to hold it in for so long and I was just trying to tell him, “Let it go.” He doesn’t want anybody to see that, and he’s probably upset that I’m saying this now.
But it was just, in our brand new house, that we were supposed to be super excited of having, and he just, I remember him going outside and just looking up at the stars and I went outside to try to comfort him, and he was just like, “You should just go to bed,” and he just stayed out there, and he broke down.
And then maybe a couple of days later, he called me and he didn’t know what was wrong, but he said that his lip started going numb and that his fingers started tingling and his heart was pounding. He was having a panic attack. But he didn’t know, he hadn’t had one ever before in his life, and it freaked him out.
He’s a financial advisor, so he’s put all this extra life insurance on us. He just freaked out, and he just didn’t know how to deal with it all, because he’s usually the one who takes care of everything, but he couldn’t fix what was happening. It just is what it is. So I think that’s what frustrated him the most.
Lewis Howes: How did you handle that? I mean, you’re still training every day, your husband’s going through this, your father-in-law, how were you able to handle it all, and stay focussed, somewhat?
Michelle Waterson: Well, he was trying to hide it from me, because he didn’t want me to get distracted, he’s also in my corner, and we just stayed close in touch and there were so many things going on that had to get taken care of, that that’s how we handled it. We just took care of what needed to get taken care of.
And we would talk to his parents, and his dad’s situation became motivation for us to push forward. All the small, minor things that he was accomplishing, whether it was moving his fingers, or being able to get in an actual wheelchair, that was a huge accomplishment for him.
And so we kind of just rallied behind each other, they rallied behind me getting ready to fight, and we rallied behind him every day in his PT progress. And so, that’s kind of how we dealt with it.
Lewis Howes: How is he doing now?
Michelle Waterson: So, he’s home now, they converted the house and made it accessible. He’s home now, and he’s doing PT. The doctor that saw him originally, the one that said he’d be paralysed from the neck down, was really shocked at his progression, so now he’s in a wheelchair, he has movement in his hands, he’s doing PT in the water and we’re just hopeful.
Lewis Howes: One day at a time, yeah, that’s good. So, during that whole fight camp, eight/ten weeks, how did it end up? Were you able to fight well? How did you focus on fight day without feeling like this selfishness, or this lack of care, or all the things you were feeling?
Michelle Waterson: I felt great. I really did have a good camp, despite everything that happened. My weight was good, I felt stronger than ever, but I did feel distracted. And usually it’s okay to distract yourself a bit, but if you distract yourself too much, you don’t allow yourself to deal with what’s really in front of you, which is the fight.
Lewis Howes: You can get kicked in the face, yeah.
Michelle Waterson: Yeah. And I didn’t deal with that. And it cost me the fight. I lost the fight. Like I said, there are so many different things that go into it, like I felt great, we had a great camp, we had a great game plan, but there were also moments where I wasn’t focussed on the fight.
Because I was, in my head I pictured this movie ending, where Grandpa Macho was going to see me win the fight and I was going to say, “This is for you, Grandpa,” and he was going to get up out of the wheelchair, in a miracle.
And I had these dreams and fantasies of it being that okay, and it wasn’t. It wasn’t! I lost my fight, I was beat up, he was still struggling, I was in the hospital until one o’clock in the morning…
Lewis Howes: Your husband’s having breakdowns.
Michelle Waterson: Yeah. And that’s life.
Lewis Howes: Yeah. What was the next step you made after that fight? Did you give yourself a break and relax? Did you get right back into training? Did you beat yourself up?
Michelle Waterson: Yeah.
Lewis Howes: Everything. Got a manicure, beat yourself up, you were training.
Michelle Waterson: I probably ate, like, five tubs of ice-cream in one sitting.
Lewis Howes: Oh man, I’ve been there many times.
Michelle Waterson: I did beat myself up, there was a lot of introspective thinking, trying to to break down, trying to figure out what went wrong, and then, like I said, when my coach said, “You have to let it go. You have to move on.” And when we decided to move on, we just really took the time to focus on family and, I don’t really know how to explain it.
I really wasn’t present. I was present somewhere else, so I had to understand that. I had to understand that I needed to be present, and that’s just the way the cards were dealt for me. And I can’t be upset about it, and I have to move forward from it.
Lewis Howes: Yeah. How do you get back to keeping your mental strength after an injury, after a bad loss, or something like this happening? How do you get back to focus, mental strength, confidence, when it’s seemingly gone.
Michelle Waterson: It’s like digging yourself out of a hole, you just have to do it one step at a time. And you have to consistently work at it, I think. Because it’s easier to listen to the voices in your head and to the media about all the negativity.
I don’t know why it’s so much easier to let the negative stuff creep into your brain than it is to fight that and to be positive, but you really do have to fight it, and it’s a work in progress. So, every time I start to think negative thoughts, I just stop and take a deep breath and tell myself, “Confidence.”
And I try to focus on the small picture, I don’t look at the big picture. It’s like trying to get up and tell yourself that you’re going to get up a mountain in one day. You’re just not. So, it’s just one step at a time, you go to practice, and today I’m going to work on my jab.
And if I get punched a million times, it’s okay, because I worked on my jab, and I know that I landed ten good jabs. And when I have a small goal and I focus on that, then I’m less likely to let those other things, that went wrong, cloud my brain.
Lewis Howes: What’s the greatest lesson your mom taught you that has supported you in getting where you’re at?
Michelle Waterson: My mom has always been, like I was saying, she’s really hard on me. But it’s all from love, and, to be honest, I think that’s probably the biggest thing I can take away from that. If I can take criticism from my mom, then I should be able to take it from anybody else.
Lewis Howes: Yeah! How many people can take it from their mom?
Michelle Waterson: If my mom is sitting here telling me that I did a bad job, and I still love her and she still loves me, then I can take it from anybody else. So the ability to take in the things that she’s saying, even thought they’re super negative sometimes, and to know that it’s coming from a place of love.
Like, she’ll tell me, literally, my last fight, the week before my fight, she’s like, “Michelle, you need to put your right hand up, okay? You always get punched on the face in the right side, all the time! Punched in the face on the right side. You get beat up all the time!” Like, a week before my fight! I really don’t need to be hearing that!
Lewis Howes: Like, “I know this, too! My coach just told me, I can watch the film.”
Michelle Waterson: Yeah, or she’ll tell me, like, “You know, she’s really good, I’m kind of nervous. Did you see her muscle? Really big, really tall? I’m scared.” Those are things that she tells me.
I’m not sure if she thinks it’s going to give me confidence, but I’ve been able to take the things that she tells me, and, like I said, knowing that it’s coming from a place of love, instead of getting angry and pent up about the things that she says, just taking a deep breath and working it through my machine and transforming it into confidence.
Lewis Howes: Yeah. What’s the greatest lesson your dad taught you about being a better woman?
Michelle Waterson: My dad would always tell me to never let anybody get in the way of my dreams, not even myself. And I think that’s probably the biggest thing, because I do. I allow myself to sabotage myself a lot, because, I don’t know, because I don’t think I deserve it, because I don’t think I’m ready, because I’m scared of success? But that’s probably the biggest thing, the best thing that my dad’s taught me.
Lewis Howes: What would make you feel like you deserve it, or that you’re ready?
Michelle Waterson: I talked about this with my sports psychologist, and I finally came to a place of contentment with that answer. And it goes to the idea of being great, and it might be because of my martial arts background and my upbringing, but it’s like, you first have to get your white belt, yellow belt, orange belt – there are steps to this, before you become a black belt.
So, in my mind it’s like, before I become a champ, before I become Holly Holm, or Muhammad Ali, I have to go through these steps and I was telling my sports psychologist that. His name is Dr Will Shandon, and he said, “Do you think that when Muhammad Ali was a champion that he still had things to work on?” And of course he did.
Everybody always has things to work on. And then he said, “So, do you think that stopped him from being great in that moment?” And it didn’t. So, I finally allowed myself to accept the greatness of myself in the present moment, while still knowing that there are things that I have to improve on. Or, not have to, but want to.
So, that’s been my biggest thing: giving myself that opportunity to be great now, while I’m still fixing my flaws.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, the permission to achieve it now, and not like, “Well, I have to wait until I hit these steps.” What do you want your daughter to know about you? What type of example do you want to set for her? If you wanted her to be proud of one thing about you, what would that be?
Michelle Waterson: I hope it’s that, throughout everything, that I never let go of my dreams, and that a big one is actually having her. You know, I had her in the middle of my career, so, there was a lot of unknowns. Can I go back into fighting? Will I want to go back into fighting? Will I be good enough to go back into fighting? And I did, and I was more successful after the fact.
Lewis Howes: Really? Why do you think that is?
Michelle Waterson: Yeah. Because I had a reason. Before, it was obviously a passion of mine, but after having her, it was like, I can’t just fight because I enjoy it. It has to be a career, I have to make an impact, I have to be able to make it something that can support my family financially.
My dad will always tell me, “Your actions speak louder than your words.” And so, I think that by pursuing my dreams, it’ll show her more than me telling her, “Go after your dreams, Baby! You can do it.”
Lewis Howes: Yeah, that’s cool. This is called ‘The Three Truths’, and I ask everyone this question at the end. So, imagine this is your last day many years from now, and it’s your last day on Earth. You’re as old as you want to be and you’ve achieved every dream you want. You’ve got the family you want, you’ve travelled, you’ve done it all.
So, whatever you’ve done, you have to take it all with you, all your work, all your…
Michelle Waterson: So am I going to a different planet?
Lewis Howes: You’re dying, it’s your last day on Earth. Unless we’ve evolved in some way and you go to some other planet, yeah. It’s your last day on Earth. It’s the last day people see you. And you’ve done it all, but for whatever reason, no one has access to your information any more, or the things you’ve said, or this interview, or your work, videos, they can’t watch any more.
But you get to write down on a piece of paper the three things you know to be true about all of your experiences, from being a mother, a wife, a daughter, a fighter, everything you’ve done, boils down to Three Truths that you would leave behind for people to remember you by.
What would you say are those three lessons, or Three Truths that you would share?
Michelle Waterson: Okay, I would say that it’s important to be a person of action. To not just dream and keep your head in the clouds, but to actually do.
I would say that another one would be to truly invest in the people that matter to you. And when I say, ‘invest’, I mean your time, and your blood and your sweat and your tears, and your heart. Because so many times we invest in the wrong things, we invest our time in the wrong things, and when it’s all said and done, that’s a lot of people’s biggest regrets. And you can’t take time back.
And I would say the last thing would be, we’re all going to run into challenges and adversities, that’s just the way the world works. And to let your circumstances, to let your adversities, to let your challenges be the wind that strengthens your character, that strengthens the roots of your soul, and to not let the wind break you, but to let it strengthen you.
Lewis Howes: Those are powerful. Those are great. I want to acknowledge you for a moment, because, from the moment I met you, until now, you’ve shown up strong and vulnerable; you’ve shown up loving and passionate, and I think you’re an incredible example of someone who is doing it all. You’ve got an incredible daughter, incredible family, you’re giving, you’re compassionate, all these things, you’re doing.
And you’re fighting for your dreams in a respectful way, and I think it’s an incredible example of how to be a powerful woman today. And that’s why I really want to acknowledge you for all that you’re doing and all the inspiration you have in the world.
And thanks for sharing everything today.
Michelle Waterson: Thank you.
Lewis Howes: Of course. Is there any final thing you’d like to share, or wish we’d talked about, that we haven’t talked about?
Michelle Waterson: No, I’d just like to thank you , because I think sometimes I try to shy away from the hard questions, and it’s nice to be forced, gently forced to answer those questions.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, yeah! Encouraged!
Michelle Waterson: Yes, that’s the word I was looking for: Encouraged!
Lewis Howes: Encouraged. I’m not forcing anybody, yeah. Where can we connect with you online?
Michelle Waterson: I’m @karatehottiemma, and I’m probably the most active on Instagram.
Lewis Howes: Okay, cool. You have a website as well?
Michelle Waterson: I do have a website, but I’m not active on it. I’ve really been trying to put more effort into my YouTube channel, putting up vlogs and tutorials and stuff like that.
Lewis Howes: Karatehottiemma on YouTube as well?
Michelle Waterson: I think so, or it’s Michelle Waterson the Karatehottie, something with thekaratehottie in it. You’ll find it.
Lewis Howes: We’ll find it. We’ll link it up for you. Very cool! Final question, then, is: What’s your definition of greatness?
Well, actually, first, when’s your next fight?
Michelle Waterson: No, I don’t have any fights scheduled.
Lewis Howes: No fights right now, okay, cool. So how can we be in tune to that, if we want to watch a fight? Just watch you on Instagram, you’ll announce it, all that stuff?
Michelle Waterson: Yeah. I’ll keep everybody posted on Instagram. The summer is kind of busy, I’m out here in L.A. going to be behind the desk, so it’s something I’m trying to pursue.
Lewis Howes: For Fox, right?
Michelle Waterson: Yeah. And then, yeah, just continuing to get better as a martial artist and hopefully, I’m guessing September time frame is when I’ll fight again.
Lewis Howes: September time frame. And where are you based? What city?
Michelle Waterson: I’m in Albuquerque.
Lewis Howes: Do you do workshops there as well? If someone wanted to come to a workshop?
Michelle Waterson: I don’t, but I will!
Lewis Howes: You will! Got it! Okay, so they can reach you on Instagram, they can message you there, or they can e-mail you on your site if they want to do something. Okay, cool.
Final question, then, what’s your definition of greatness?
Michelle Waterson: I think we kind of touched on it earlier, but the ability to accept the greatness in who you are in this present moment, with all your flaws, but to also have the hunger and desire to want to grow and evolve each day.
Lewis Howes: Michelle, thank you. Appreciate it.
Michelle Waterson: Bam!
Lewis Howes: Oh, I love this! I love when people open up, I love when they share and break down the things that hold them back, but also the things that have gotten them to where they are, to help them be successful and achieve their goals, their dreams, so that we can lean in and learn from these inspiring individuals and apply that wisdom to our life.
If you enjoyed this, make sure to share with your friend, take a screenshot and post a story on your Instagram page, lewishowes.com/655, you can tag Michelle as well, and post it on Twitter, Facebook, all the places, and let me know what you thought of this one. Again, share with a friend, lewishowes.com/655.
The full video interview is over on our show notes there, on our YouTube channel as well, make sure to subscribe, because every week we’ve got powerful video interviews over on our YouTube channel, at youtube.com/lewishowes as well.
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And I want you to remember one thing: that you are here for a reason, and a mission, and a purpose in this life. You were born with an amazing ability, and it’s your duty to figure out what the reason is that you’re here for. It’s your duty right now to discover that. I don’t care if you’re in transition, I don’t care if you’re depressed, if you’re hurt, you’re in pain, you’re uncertain, you’re scared – it doesn’t matter!
Your duty is to figure out what it is you’re here for, right now. And the best way to feel better, and the best way to grow, and the best way to achieve your dreams, is to serve others. Living a life of service, that can be just doing what you love, because doing what you love will inspire people around you through your energy, through your passion, through your heart.
That’s what this life is about. Living in service, by doing the thing that you love the most, the reason you were born is a one and only reason, and only you get to figure out what that is. You can get support from others, you can get feedback, but you’ve got to listen to the heart and soul inside of you, and reach for what you want, and start taking those steps today!
I love you very much! I hope you enjoyed this episode. If you did, let me know on Instagram, @LewisHowes, and, as always, you know what time it is: It’s time to go out there and do something great!
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