Skool of Hard Knocks: 3 Life Lessons from Cooking, Kickboxing & College

Life Lessons from the Skool of Hard Knocks

“From out of all the many particulars comes oneness, and out of oneness comes all the many particulars.” -Heraclitus

Life is like a spider-web, everything is connected in some way or another. When you step away from a job or a career into a completely new chapter of life, it is easy to feel like you have wasted the last how-ever-many years of your life.

There is no doubt that what Richard Branson learned when he just started off selling budgies as a business transferred over to his other mega successes. Likewise what Gordon Ramsey learned in his early career as a soccer player was able to be applied in the kitchen — as unlikely as that may seem.

If you have recently quit a career or a thinking about quitting in order to pursue your dream — remember that there is always a baby in the bathwater, there is always something to take away from each experience. They may not apply specifically toward your new career, but they most certainly will teach you something about life. In my careers as a professional chef, athlete, teacher, and speaker, here are the biggest lessons I have learned in life.

Lesson 1: Under-Promise and Over-Deliver

In cooking, menus would always take longer to prepare than planned.

Research has also showed us that as humans, we are terrible with overestimating and over-planning our tasks and abilities in relation to time. In order to provide myself a safety net when working, I would never provide the guests with the completed menu- I would still provide a very elegant menu, just left off any extra sides that I really wanted to make but was afraid of not making the set time for lunch.

The principle is this: it is always a huge let-down if you do not deliver on a commitment, it is far better to not make a commitment, and then surprise them with whatever you end up delivering.

In short, It is always better to under-promise and over-deliver, than to over-promise and under-deliver! [Tweet this!]

Lesson 2: Losing is not Failure, But a Stepping Stone

In 4 years of Muay Thai, and 2 years of boxing, the greatest lesson I learned is that nothing drives you like defeat.

I can clearly recall the times where I was getting stitched up and sticking tissues up my newly broken nose. Talk about being in despair.

Funny enough, those times of sitting there in pain were perhaps the most powerful; to reflect on all the hard work that I went through to even get me to the fight, to remind myself that I had left my comfort zone of living in Australia and moved to Thailand to live the dream.

It reminded me that life was not only about the destination, but also about the journey. [Tweet this!]

Losing was not a failure, rather a stepping stone. More often than not, you learn more from a loss than a win.

Lesson 3: Your Belief Will Move Mountains

From the ring to the classroom, I had never challenged my mind and intellect in the context of academics before.

Having always wanting to get a Bachelors degree, unfortunately, I was told a lot growing up that I was just not a brainy kid — words are powerful, and they stuck with me for a long time.

Thankfully, I had come to a place in life of really embracing “faith.” Believing. Surrendering myself over to something much greater than myself and opening myself up to the possibility that anything was possible.

It is hard to put into words the power of belief, the mindset shift that happens with the conscious decision to believe that anything is possible turns life from black and white in 3D color.
(see related: Change Your Mindset by Changing Your Limiting Beliefs)

Regardless of what it is in life that you desire to accomplish, an unwavering faith and belief will move mountains! [Tweet this!]

What are some of the life lessons you have taken away from different careers?
Go ahead and share with the readers!

About the author Thai Nguyen

Thai Nguyen is the founder of The site is dedicated to inspiring millions of young professionals who feel stuck doing what they HAVE to do rather than what they WANT to do. Thai has been a successful Chef, an International Athlete in Muay Thai, Boxing, and Rugby; he completed his a BA in Humanities in Texas, and now travels, writes, and speaks for a living.


  • Myrko Thum

    December 31, 2013

    Thai, thanks for your insightful guest-post. Life is just the best teacher.

  • Russell Minick

    January 1, 2014

    Your success through the various challenges is something I want to keep learning from. Thanks for sharing, Thai.

  • marla Stanton

    January 2, 2014

    Recently resigned from a job. I learned that the important thing is not what my former employer thinks of me or the job I did. It is important that I inspired even just one person to live closer to Christ than before. That made the job worthwhile!

  • Thai Nguyen

    January 4, 2014

    Encouraged and humbled through the comments. Thank you!

  • Ludvig Sunström

    January 5, 2014

    Great post Thai!

    I think nr2 is especially important. There’s no such thing as failure, just a learning experience.

  • Thai Nguyen

    January 6, 2014

    @Ludvig Sunström:

    Thank you Ludvig! Blessings to you.

  • Wan Muhammad Zulfikri

    January 9, 2014

    “words are powerful”

    This phrase also relates to lesson 1 in the post. I read this in a Robert Kiyosaki book and he kept repeating the idea of words and how most of us don’t keep our words.

    To under-promise and over-deliver is a sign of an honest person who really wants to improve himself. Honesty do matter and it’s the sign of a strong character.

  • Thai Nguyen

    January 10, 2014

    Great insights Wan! Strong character is certainly something to strive toward. Blessings to you friend.


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