It’s not About Winning. It’s About the Battle Itself.
Written by Holden Rethwill

How many of you are familiar with the story of Sisyphus? If not, here’s a brief synopsis:

In Greek mythology, King Sisyphus was a master of deceit and trickery. Upon his death, he was punished by Zeus and forced to roll a boulder up a mountain. However, before reaching the top of the mountain, the boulder would always roll back down. Thus Sisyphus was left to an eternity of unending frustration and useless effort, as no matter how hard he tried, he could not reach the top.

Now, how many of you have ever felt this way in the gym? What about in life? I know I have. Days, weeks, even months go by and that one skill isn’t getting any better, maybe you feel like you aren’t getting any stronger, or maybe you haven’t gotten that promotion deserve. We’ve all gone through phases like this. No matter what we do, it feels like that ball just keeps rolling right back down the hill.

I recently listened to a video by former Navy SEAL, Jocko Willink, that opened my eyes to the real lesson behind the story of Sisyphus.

In the video he’s asked if he ever feels like Sisyphus. If he ever feels like that no matter what he’s doing, he can’t get to the top. Jocko’s response really stuck with me:

The Battle Itself

Using his daily training as an example; he states that he’s been getting on the same squat rack for over 25 years. That every day, he pours his hard work and sweat into everything he does. He says that it may seem like an unwinnable battle, but that to him, it’s not about winning. It’s about the battle itself. How battling every day, constantly pushing the rock up the mountain, makes you stronger not just physically, but mentally as well.

This hit home with me. I looked at it as a metaphor for life. Life isn’t about winning and settling once you’re on top. It’s about constantly grinding to better yourself. Instead of folding and giving up when the rock keeps falling down the mountain, it’s on us to keep pushing back and fighting to roll it back up.

Later in the video Jocko states that if somehow he were ever to finally get the rock to the top of the mountain, that he would just push it back down himself.


It’s pretty powerful when you really think about it. Instead of settling and saying he’s done and doesn’t want to give anymore, he would rather push the rock back down and choose to keep fighting. To keep trying to better himself.

Too many people these days let the endless challenges in the gym and life frustrate them to the point of giving up. Instead of quitting, try using these challenges as motivation and inspiration to keep getting better. Keep pushing that rock up the mountain and never settle.

If you need some pre-workout motivation before heading to the gym today, below is the link to the video. But fair warning, you just might PR something today after watching!

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Edmond Ross
Edmond Ross
September 27, 2022 3:41 pm

The story of Sisyphus and the boulder is definitely about me. Greek mythology is generally full of symbolism, and much is relevant now. I researched this topic in college, and I remember that had free essay samples to help you discover many of those stories. There is a lot to learn and things to take note of. Thank you for the article.

Last edited 1 year ago by Edmond Ross
Bill James
Bill James
March 30, 2017 12:07 pm

Truer words were never spoken! I have felt this way for 30+ years (I’m old).

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