The MMA veteran shares exclusive advice for female entrepreneurs.
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Whether acknowledging Women‘s History Month or International Women’s Day, this March has provided numerous opportunities to celebrate women who are fighting for their dreams. To really put this truth in perspective, I interviewed UFC Women’s Strawweight fighter Michelle Waterson, aka ‘The Karate Hottie.’
Waterson has inspired countless fans with her tremendous mental resilience, emotional intelligence and respect for her art, and continues to have big plans for herself.
We went four rounds in our Q&A session, covering Waterson’s life as a mother, fighter and successful entrepreneur. Her prevailing message is simple: Women should never give up on their dreams.
How important is it for a champion in any field to practice mindfulness?
I tell people this all the time — the fight is either won or lost before you ever step inside the octagon. You’ll always hear fighters say that a fight is 80% mental and only 20% physical, and it’s true because you can definitely defeat yourself before you step inside the octagon. Mindfulness is very important. If you don’t tend to your garden, you’ll grow weeds. If you don’t put into place any intention of victory, intention of inflicting pain on your opponent, then the things that will grow in your mind are doubt and fear. And all of those negative things you don’t want to be there affect you, so you can’t just go into a fight reactionary; you have to go into a fight with intention to be victorious. Mindfulness is key to winning.
As entrepreneurs, we get knocked down in our own way. Did you ever want to give up, and why?
I wouldn’t necessarily say I wanted to give up, because I just think that that’s not within me. But there definitely have been times where I felt hopeless and where I felt like everything was against me, like I was drowning. And in those moments, what you have to realize is that sometimes, it’s part of your journey to feel that way. What distinguishes the good entrepreneurs and the bad entrepreneurs, or the champions versus the others, is the fact that they can pass through those challenges. If you allow those little adversities and roadblocks to stop you, then you’re not strong enough to be a champion; you’re not strong enough to be an entrepreneur. It’s just like when you’re playing a video game, and you have to beat the boss to get to the next level, and then you have to beat the next boss. So you just have to understand those challenges are necessary in your journey. You might not beat the boss the first time, or the second time, or the third time. But when you do beat the boss, that feeling and the growth makes everything worth it.
What advice do you have for women entrepreneurs who are fighting for their dreams in a male-oriented environment?
I am a female fighter in the UFC, which is predominantly run by men, and most of the athletes are men. But that doesn’t change what I have to offer or why they need me. I leverage what I bring to the table. In my case, I think because I am so open to sharing my life and my family with the world, that’s something the UFC has not really had in the past. People who weren’t fans thought of this as a brutal sport with people who liked to inflict pain on other people, that it was all barbaric. I was able to come into the UFC and offer a different side — as a loving wife, a loving mother. So I made myself an asset to the company. Women are agents of change, always leaving things better than we find them, and that is an incredible superpower.
Did you always know in your heart and soul that you were wired for success?
I do feel like, as a child, I was always very competitive. I wanted to get the best grade in class, and if we were doing a group project and I knew that somebody was going to drop the ball, I was just I was that kid that said, “Let me do it all so we can get a good grade.” I always wanted to be the best at everything that I did, because it just spoke to my character. But I think when you’re young you have a different idea of what success is. When you become an adult and you enter the workforce, you actually have to deal with the realities of life as an adult. So now my idea of success is different. I have a very successful relationship with my husband, with my daughter. I’m still climbing the ladder in my professional career. I thought that being successful was a concrete idea, like you get to this one place, and boom. But success is always pivoting and growing as I grow and understand more about life and who I am and what I want to accomplish in life. So I’m always looking at the next highest mountain, setting new goals, and my success is always ongoing.