8 Lessons In 8 Semesters: Lesson 8

8 Lessons In 8 Semesters

Diarmuid Brady


March 4, 2024

Confidence is a quiet calmness rather than a loud performance.

💡  What do you believe confidence is?
       What people, activities or situations impact your confidence either positively or negatively?
       Do you believe you could improve your confidence?

In my final semester, I had no big plans. I aimed to stick with the clubs and societies I enjoyed, finish my coursework, and leave college content. At the start of the semester, there was talk about a boxing intervarsity competition, which seemed both thrilling and daunting. I lacked experience, and the idea of participating felt like a losing battle, I thought I’d get killed! Yet, as the weeks passed, I diligently worked on the basics as I learned in Semester 4, growing more comfortable in my form and sparring skills. On February 10th, I committed to entering the competition, with just five weeks to prepare. I weighed around 74kg, fighting in the 69kg weight class. Cutting 5kg in 5 weeks felt like a formidable task as I had no prior experience. I gathered insights from podcasts produced by the nutritionist I worked with in Semester 4. They addressed using a calorie tracker, implementing a mini-cut, and understanding the satiety index. I synthesised this information into a 5-week plan. To ensure my approach was sound, I reached out to my nutritionist, who approved my strategy but suggested fight week protocols to drop an extra 1-2kg if needed.

My plan revolved around three key principles:

  1. Maintain a calorie deficit to lose weight.
  2. Consume high-satiety foods to curb hunger.
  3. Ensure sufficient protein intake to preserve muscle.

I made these specific changes:

  • Calorie cut from 2750 to 1750 daily. I calculated this using the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) Weight Planner.
  • Daily protein intake at 1.5-2g per kilogram body weight. Focused on chicken, turkey, egg whites and powdered whey.
  • Increased intake of filling fruits and non-starchy vegetables.
  • Opted for high-satiety carbohydrates like potatoes and oats.
  • Made low-calorie swaps like low-fat milk, 1-calorie spray and low-cal sauces.
  • Drank water and coffee in the morning to offset hunger
  • Tracked calories by weighing all food items.
  • Avoided highly palatable food like chocolates and sweets.

My weekly training involved:

  • 3 boxing sessions
  • 2-3 gym and sprint sessions
  • yoga and gymnastics for fun and relaxation

Initially, everything went well, I made progress in training and the diet didn’t seem to both me too much. However, after three weeks, my energy plummeted, leading to constant fatigue and hunger. This affected my thoughts and emotions, creating a cycle of food preoccupation. Despite this, I felt unexpectedly resilient. I believed I could tackle any challenge I set my mind to, fostering a sense of confidence I hadn’t anticipated.

On the day of my first fight, I found myself still above the required weight (69kg). After spending an hour in the sauna (15 minutes at a time), I finally made weight, bringing a sigh of relief. Following that, I rehydrated and prepared myself both mentally and physically by focusing on my fight plan and doing warm-up exercises. When it was my turn, I entered the ring feeling focused rather than nervous. I was reserved and tense initially, but as the fight progressed, I became more aggressive, landing more powerful shots and gaining control. It was clear I was the stronger opponent and I won by unanimous decision.

I had reached the All-Ireland Intervarsity final against an opponent, boasting greater experience, speed, and agility. This showdown was scheduled two weeks ahead. During this period, I closely studied his bouts, strategising with my coach to counter his style. Doubtful thoughts lingered in my mind about his superiority over me. However, learning from Semester 5, I let go of any expectations I had of winning, allowing me to dedicate my focus to training and mental preparation.

When the fight day arrived, I was ready. I had managed to cut my weight to 69kg during the week, making the weigh-in effortless. I warmed up and performed pad work with my coach. My name was called out and I made my way up to the ring. Stepping into the ring, my face was greased with Vaseline, gloves were snug on my wrists, and the head guard was fixed to my head. I geared up for the face-off, the referee outlined the rules, we tapped gloves and we returned to our respective corners.

Ding-ding! Round 1 — I moved out aggressively. I cornered my opponent, poised to land heavy blows, but he evaded swiftly to the side. Undeterred, I pushed him into the next corner and he dodged again. And a third time, BOOM! He countered with a lead hook, caught me off guard and knocked me off balance. I fell against the ropes and I got a standing count. This cat and mouse continued, with him dodging and countering many of my shots. I felt I was off to a bad start. Returning to my corner, I was advised to relax the power and throw shots more frequently.

Ding-ding! Round 2 — The next round saw me quickly moving out, with a more relaxed form, I let my jab go more often. I became better at closing the gap and wearing him down. As I noticed his guard drop, I landed my shots. The momentum began to shift. After the second round, I returned to my corner, seeking more advice. Sensing his fatigue, I stood up early, eager to show my tenacity.

Ding-ding! Round 3 — Once more, I charged forward, controlling the space, making it clear I was driven to win. I watched his evasions become slower and more predictable. Despite feeling exhausted, I disguised it by keeping on the front foot. At a pivotal moment, I managed to pin him against the ropes, launching a combination of shots. Sensing his mental fatigue, I battled to wear him down entirely, I pursued him relentlessly until the final bell.

The final bell rang and I returned to my coaches who were cheering. I asked them “Is that it? Is it over?”, my coach laughed, “Ye, it’s over…are you alright???”, “Ye I’m fine, I just want to know I can relax.” After removing my head guard, gloves, and gum shield, I approached the centre stage. As the referee grasped both our hands, the judges began to speak. I mentally prepared for defeat by telling myself I had lost and that it was all okay. But my hand was raised and I surged with joy as I claimed sweet victory. It was an electrifying moment, the culmination of tireless effort finally swinging in my favour.

Exiting the ring, I proudly accepted my All-Ireland medal and hugged my coach, who shared my triumph. I returned to my family who shared my glee. On the way back in the car, I spoke to my brother saying “You know it’s strange, doing this has been the most exhausting thing I’ve ever done but I’ve never felt calmer inside.” He told me he had noticed it too.

Months of intense training aimed at a singular goal had unexpectedly built a newfound confidence that manifested as a feeling of calmness. It was like stepping into a quiet room for the first time, where once, there had always been a buzzing noise. I realised that confidence was less about grandeur or and more about easing anxiety and finding comfort within oneself. If you want to build confidence, I believe in aiming for something challenging and meaningful. Then, pursue it with all you have.


You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backward.
- Steve Jobs

Reflecting on the past four years of my life has been a meaningful endeavour. What once felt like mistakes to be forgotten have transformed into pivotal moments of my story. Without them, I wouldn’t possess the insights I do today. This realisation reinforces the idea that mistakes aren’t an obstacle to growth; they are an essential ingredient. Steve Jobs’ quote recognises that clarity is often not gained until you stop and take time to look back. Looking ahead, I feel confident about placing myself in situations where I’m likely to make mistakes, recognising the opportunities for learning they bring.

I firmly believe that one’s response to life events matters more than the events themselves. This perspective acknowledges that challenges are inevitable but you always have the power to take control of your life instead of letting externalities dictate it. In this process, self-reflection serves as an invaluable tool, allowing you to integrate and embrace your past mistakes.

Now, I invite you to contemplate the three greatest mistakes in your life. Write out your experiences before and after each mistake and how they impacted you. Carry out a brainstorming session to extract lessons from each mistake. Write down any and all types of lessons—this will be eye-opening. Another takeaway from Jobs is that you can connect the dots however you see fit. Initially, I thought I had eight lessons ready to go, but after a comprehensive brainstorm, I generated 176, this means I had 22 sets of lessons to choose from. The key is to strike a balance between specificity (tailored to the event) and generalisability (applicable to various aspects of life).

As you select lessons for this series, prioritise honesty, accuracy, and coherence. Post-brainstorm, reframe your experiences through the lens of the lessons learned. Consider how your actions contributed to learning the lesson rather than making the mistake, reframing the narrative. Subsequently, redraft and edit your work into a cohesive story.

To embrace self-reflection, identify your mistakes, focus on the lessons learned and start writing.