Joshua Davis is Un-Defeated
Joshua Davis (a.k.a. The Underdog) turns losing into a winning proposition.
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Why are people so competitive that they will do almost anything to be number one?
People want to be the best at something and want to be unique. The worst feeling is to be an anonymous gear in a big system—someone who is just like everyone else. How do you separate yourself? Competition is the best way because when you compete you get ranked. And it doesn’t necessarily matter if you’re number one, because if you’re number three you’re still unique. And if you come in last you are very unique. The champion and the failure are the two most unique people in a contest. You can be either one and achieve the goal of differentiating yourself.
Which of these competitions has the best chance of rising to mainstream popularity?
It’s either arm wrestling or backwards running. Backwards running is a great sport. People think it’s funny—ha-ha-ha. But it really is a great workout and it’s very quick in terms of how long it takes you to get to exhaustion. If you go jogging you could jog for 15 or 20 minutes before you start feeling winded. With backwards running you are out for two minutes and you are slammed. I think if people tried backwards running it would catch on. It’s exciting. Plus, you can’t see where you are going so there is an element of danger to it.
Having said that arm wrestling has the best shot. There are a bunch of competing associations right now so it’s a question of the organizations coming together so they can pool their resources and spread the word.
How do you define success and how has your conception of success changed since you began competing?
Before it was a pretty standard definition of success—having a house and kids, a happy wife, a car and a decent job. Now success is leading a life where I am constantly feeling challenged.
How has your notion of competition changed?
On a personal level, every time I go to a competition it’s very uncomfortable. I get very strung out, anxious and nervous, because I want to do well. Afterwards, I love reflecting on the experience but at the time it’s a very unpleasant feeling. I would like to stop entering these competitions. I feel drawn to them but I am hoping that the process of having written the book and bringing all the experiences together will be cathartic so I can stop trying to get myself killed.
Which one of your achievements in the book are you most proud of?
Surviving. And it’s not just the contests. It’s surviving in a positive way. I went from being a guy who didn’t have a lot of things going on and not a lot of faith in myself to being more comfortable in my own skin. My life is more exciting than it was before. The journey has been wonderful.