The Anatomy of Pain

Abhishek Kothari
3 min readDec 31, 2016


Using pain as an instrument to achieve excellence

The National Football League (NFL) is an intriguing franchise. It is one of the most well oiled machines,delivering arguably the greatest spectator sport in history, as well as the subject of a widespread debate for its contact nature.

In the recent past, I have been inspired by the spirit of the game. It is somewhat of an unfair characterization to brush all the NFL players with one stroke. To call them jocks sometimes does disservice to the incredible hard work and tenacity that goes into building a world class athlete.


As can be seen from the chart above, An average rookie offensive lineman (OL) weighs more than 300 pounds or 136 kilograms. Also, it is remarkable to notice the steady increase in the average weight of players over the decades. By many standards, the players are effective battering rams.

What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? The irresistible force paradox (in non western thought, this paradox can be illustrated using the Chinese word máodùn literally meaning spear – shield paradox) is an aggrandizement of the contact sport that is football. However, it also alludes to the violent nature of the sport.

There is no metaphorical or artistic delight derived from linking football to a thought experiment. However, it takes single minded focus, hard work and discipline to create a great footballer. Any amount of words cannot do justice to the journey that creates a football player.

It is generally agreed that college football is rougher than pro football (NFL). It is also quite a paradox to learn that the winner of the Heisman trophy doesn’t automatically guarantee success in pro football. The trophy is awarded to the college football player whose performance exemplifies the pursuit of excellence with integrity. However, only 2 Heisman winners have won a super bowl in decades. To learn more, check out the statistics:

The statistics say a lot about success in college football as compared to success in the NFL.

I recently watched a movie titled ‘Greater’. It is the story of the most successful walk-on in the history of college football – Brandon Burlsworth.

The movie is a tour de force.

Brandon, despite being repeatedly reminded of his inability to become an All American and also to play in the NFL uses the pain to drive his efforts farther than imagined. He not only becomes an All American but ends up being drafted in the NFL. Brandon plays for the Arkansas Razorbacks. He is also picked up to play for the Indianopolis Colts.

There is an interplay of all the factors that make a family drama. Suffice it to say that believing in yourself when the whole world thinks you are crazy is a tremendous leap of faith.

In the words of Jim Morrison, you feel your strengths in the experience of pain.

Brandon breaks physical as well as mental barriers simply by his will power and belief that he can make it. The greater the pain, the stronger his resolve.

I have wondered, if the success of Steve Jobs was also influenced by the pain he felt.

There can be many ways to deal with pain. But, using pain to drive yourself farther than you thought you were capable of is the only right way.

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Abhishek Kothari

Futurist@The Intersection of Finance, Tech & Humanity. Stories of a Global Language: “Money”. Contributor @ Startup Grind, HackerNoon, HBR