Tuesday, September 23, 2014

World Championships & Life Lessons

When we take to social media or the blogosphere, it’s easy to want to brag about one’s successes. I’m guilty of that, but I hope such stories are also covered in humility.

Virtually all of our success, I would argue, is a combination of the positive influence of others and our own determination. But with that said, I thought I’d share a story of when I reached for the stars…. and fell on my face. I want to share examples like that though in the framework of something positive.

When I pursue a new goal, I think of two sayings.

Always happy; never satisfied & It’s ok to be disappointed; it’s not ok to be discouraged.

I just sent out two more queries this afternoon on the novel I wrote this summer. As I pursue that larger writing goal, I think of those two quotes.

In a previous blog, I wrote about how to reach success after setbacks. I’m trying to look at my ambitions from a variety of perspectives, trying to find some extra motivation to reach new goals. And I find it helpful to look at those setbacks more closely.

One of my biggest goals from the last decade was to compete and place in the US Open World Martial Arts Championships. After some success in local tournaments, my eyes got bigger. I was happy, you see, but not satisfied. That seems to be a pattern for me, much more so when I was younger. But I think having constant new challenges is healthy for the mind, body, and spirit. I do want to be happy—and I am—but I also don’t want to be too content or too satisfied that I never stop learning and challenging myself.

So back in the mid 2000s, I made a goal to place in the US Open World Martial Arts Championships. I competed in the adult black belt forms division in the summer of 2005. Talk about stage fright! ESPN was there recording on the main stage where black belts competed (no, I never saw myself on TV), and as I announced my form introduction, I thought I would surely throw up on the judges. Here are a couple of pictures of my actual forms competition at the world championships.

That was a great summer for training. I worked out every day, completing the formal 90 day P90X program for the first time that would later inspire me to want to become a P90X certified instructor. I also practiced my kata (form)  a dozen times a day at least.

There were over 100 competitors on that main stage, and only the top ten received formal awards. When all was said and done, I was not one of the top ten. I do not know where I ranked to this day, although I sure like to think it was somewhere in the teens! Not knowing my rank and not placing in the top ten disappoints me still. For all of you who work so hard to accomplish something: Have you ever felt that disappointment? I must have trained and worked out 3 hours a day that summer. And when I first looked back at all that hard work, it felt like it was for nothing. But that’s stupid, and if we think all the work we’ve put into something—even if we didn’t earn a reward—is worthless, we are missing the big point.

It’s ok to be disappointed. It’s not ok to be discouraged. All the hard work we put into our life’s ambitions makes us stronger, and even if we fail (I hate that word) at one goal, we can apply that determinism and the life lessons we learned to new goals.  Competing in the world championships was a great life experience for me, and the lessons I learned would be passed on to my martial arts students, several of whom competed in the US Open World Martial Arts Championships a couple years later. Several of those students placed and have “world champion” on their resume. That is pretty sweet!

You see, as I work to publish a novel (or any number of goals), I remember my training to compete in the US Open. I practiced every day. Well, the daily writing I do on this blog is some my writing practice (plus revisions and other stories I don’t want to share publicly yet). And if like my US Open experience, what if my biggest writing goals never come to life? That’s ok. Because I am having fun on this journey, and learning new things about myself, about others who share their writing and blogs with me, and about others who leave comments and send me messages. That makes all of this practice worth it. And if nothing else, my writing skills will sharpen as I age, right? My ability to compete athletically may not increase as I age. So thankfully this goal only requires some time to sit and imagine!

Thank you for all of you who encourage me to write and are rooting for me to succeed. Tell me about  your goals and ambitions, and I am every bit as happy to cheer for you too. Remember: It’s the influence of others plus our own determination that are the two main ingredients for success.

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