The first thing he saw an empty bottle of Whisky laying on it’s side next to his face.
Lance did not know where he was until he recognized his white bulldog laying on the floor next to him. The 118 pound dog stared at Lance with the helpless look that only a concerned dog could have.
After Lance struggled to get himself up, he rummaged through his wrinkled pant pockets and and pulled out a $612 bar receipt.
That was the middle of the day after the first 24 hours of drinking.
It got much worse.
That one night turned into three weeks of relentless partying.
By the end of that binge, Lance was done, he hit rock bottom.
“I’m a bad alcoholic. Everything is extreme when I drink.”
Fast forward six years.
“I don’t worry about anything now.”
Lance found happiness. “I know what I’m going to do the rest of my life.”
“Most people never find that. The guy that checks the water meter 40 hours a week… he doesn’t want to do that – but he has two kids, a house and a wife – he’s stuck.”
I’ve been trying to meet with Lance Glynn for months, but every time I called he was fighting in Las Vegas or Southern California.
When we finally catch up, I walk through his living room that is covered wall to wall with soft Jiu Jitsu mats.
‘Obsessed’ comes to mind, along with a trace of envy. Maybe that’s how a visitor feels at Hugh Heffner’s house – tempting, but a bit extreme.
I was seeking answers to questions I’ve pondered for years – what motivates high level performers? What inspires the top 5% to wake up each morning and accomplish what most of us wish we could?
Lately he’s fanatical about eating clean. Lance hands me a bowl of fruit that I pick at during our interview. He smiles while pointing at the bowl. “If we both had fruit bowls, I would eat faster just to win.”
“I’m serious,” Lance says. “I would see if I could eat faster than you.”
Lance Glynn is a champion Jiu Jitsu competitor with countless medals and championship belts. He competes almost every weekend while running the thriving Paragon Jiu Jitsu academy he opened after sobriety six years earlier.
Lance is intensely competitive, but every time I ask about the medals and tournament belts, he deflects my questions.
“The medals do not matter. I do it for me.”
Lance says competition is where you learn about yourself, but he’s not a fan of team sports where it’s easy to let others carry you.
“When you go into battle with another man, you become mentally tough.”
Lance won his first match after training only four months of Jiu Jitsu. He was ecstatic afterwards. Lance was convinced he would win the entire tournament until one minute into the next match he was choked by Paul Heely.
“You always remember your losses. Back then losing really sucked.”
Lance explained that when you train really hard you build yourself up to win. Then you dwell on what you will tell your friends and parents if you lose.
“I’ve learned how to cope with losing. I no longer cope.”
“Losing is part of it,” Lance said. “Why do I have to worry about making others [critics] happy, especially those sitting on the couch?”
Lance starts getting excited when he tells me, “I don’t really do it to win. I do it to keep motivated in life.”
If he doesn’t compete he might get comfortable and sit on the couch all day. You move forward by pushing through challenges. That’s when you grow mentally.
“Going into the tournament environment is uncomfortable, but it makes you a man.”
Waiting in the bullpen sizing up your opponent is nerve wracking. With hundreds of people watching the match, it’s unnerving when they call your name.
“How the hell is that guy in my weight class? That dude is huge,” Lance often thinks when he looks across the room at his opponent.
Lance says success is being happy – money will not satisfy you. All he does is Jiu Jitsu and he is the happiest ever. “There’s nothing to worry about anymore.”
Lance used to wake up at 5:30 every morning for work. “Who wants to do that?” He had a well-paying job with a company car, but he dreaded it.
Now Lance runs a business, but he does not worry about bills. “I could make more money, but I’d be happy as a bum if I could do Jiu Jitsu.”
His whole life revolves around the sport. 7 days a week.
“If you want to be really good at something, you have to do it every day.”
Everything he says reminds me of Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule.
It’s hard for people to understand his obsession, especially women.
Lance gives me a devious grin like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. “Girls always screw up Jiu Jitsu,” Lances says laughing.
He has lost many relationships to his passion. “When we argue, it’s never me against her. It’s her against Jiu Jitsu.”
Lance obviously enjoyed being the class clown in school — he never stops joking. Lance is laughing, but pulls out his phone to convince me he is serious.
“Look, it’s the exact same message from all of them, ‘You love Jiu Jitsu too much.’”
I don’t look. I’m not sure if he is serious – but I’m cracking up. Eventually he admits he was disappointed when he lost his last relationship.
I ask Lance if he traded one addiction for another when he gave up liquor.
“I didn’t like drinking until I found it was easier to talk to girls. I blame my alcoholism on girls,” he laughs, but behind his veneer of comedy, he’s sincere about his focus.
Lance stops laughing and gets serious for one of the few moments in our interview.
“I found my passion,” Lance said.
“They don’t understand how positive it is. They don’t know my life before,” Lance explains. “It’s not about me anymore. It’s about my team. It’s about the Paragon family.”
Lance tells me about a 12 year old who weighed 220 pounds. The kid used to leave class during the warm-up to throw up. The boy used puking as an excuse to get off the mat. Lance said, “Throw up on the mat and I will mop it up,” to keep the kid moving. Now the kid weighs 180 pounds, finishes class and loves it. His confidence grew.
Next he tells me about guy 45 year old who sat behind a computer his whole life. The man was never athletic. Now he wears a brown belt, the level before black, and is smashing people in competitions.
Lance gets more of a high out of watching his students grow than he does winning competitions. “When they feel better about themselves, I feel better.”
Lance says he never feels stressed anymore, but before Jiu Jitsu his life was very different.
Before Jiu Jitsu Lance brought his competitiveness to the YMCA gym and lifted weights. Mix the heavy weights, excessive drinking and the jock crowd that antagonized his skater group at parties – Lance got into a lot of fights.
“I would fight over anything.”
Lance followed his Dad’s advice, “Always hit the biggest guy in the group.” Sometimes he won, sometimes he lost, but they would always remember him.
I was curious about his father who at one time had alcohol issues of his own. Lance is close with his Dad who was always very supportive. Same with his mother.
I was surprised because I went into this interview with a theory that most high achieving men lacked love and affection from their fathers.
Twelve years ago a mixed martial arts gym opened up near his house and Lance was one of the first students to join. That was his first exposure to martial arts.
Initially he was drawn to becoming a “bad ass,” but that quickly evaporated.
“Four months later a Brazilian guy with messed up ears walked in,” Lance said. “This guy looked like he could kick my ass.”
It was Ricardo Miller, also known as “Franjinha,” the founder of Paragon Jiu Jitsu Academy. He did whip their asses that day and Lance was hooked.
Lance said if it were someone else who introduced him to Jiu Jitsu, he doesn’t know if he would have stuck with it. Lance had a lot of respect for Franjinha that day and considers him a role model still.
Evidently Franjinha has similar respect for Lance. Six years earlier, Franjinha invited Lance and his business partner John Letters to fly the Paragon brand when they opened their gym. Three years later Franjinha awarded Lance the coveted Jiu Jitsu black belt.
It’s Franjinha’s passion that inspires Lance. Very few have passion in life, but it was discovering his passion that turned Lance’s life around.
Lance wakes up every day with a purpose. He is optimistic about life because he spends each day doing something he loves.
Lance still calls himself an addict, but he will never again touch alcohol and it’s been years since Lance has been in a street fight. “I have no reason to fight now. All my pent up aggression is left on the mat. I don’t want to hurt anyone.”
I agree with Lance. Most outsiders think training combat sports leads to violence, but the opposite is true.
“Now I can walk away from a fight because Jiu Jitsu made me realize I don’t need to fight,” Lance said.
I came to the conclusion that Lance is no longer battling whatever demons he was masking with alcohol because he found the happiness we all seek.
Lance is happy because he is passionate. He is passionate because he found a purpose to live.
I thoroughly enjoyed talking with Lance. He is hilarious, yet I left inspired.
I’ve been training Jiu Jitsu for fifteen years, three years longer than Lance, but Lance has a level of passion that I envy. Three years ago I was honored to earn my Jiu Jitsu purple belt from Lance and John. It’s been the most rewarding challenge of my life.
I know Lance dedicates a lot of time to the mat, but what I learned today is how utterly obsessed he is with the sport.
That fixation has eliminated unhealthy distractions and fueled him to put in the work that leads to excellence.
I walked away questioning my long held beliefs about being well rounded. Many would say Lance lacks balance, but I’m not sure those with “balanced lives” wake up as excited about life as Lance does.
To play in the top 5% of any field, you must make some sacrifices, but I still wonder if those sacrifices worth it? For Lance they clearly are.
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This interview is part of the book, “Motivation: Stories of Life and Success From Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belts.” Click HERE to get it at Amazon.
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