Sunday, July 13, 2014

What Really Matters

What makes success?

I suppose everyone has his or her own answer.  Some would say "intelligence" or "luck" or "skill" or "confidence".  Yet others would say "environment" or "having good teachers/mentors".  Still others might think it is about "timing" or "talent".  What would YOU say?

I have no doubt all of those things are contributors to success in some way.

However, the more I read about people's success stories, and think about the successful people I know, the more I am convinced that success is really defined by a person's level of effort.

It is true that people come in all shapes and sizes, some having greater natural gifts than others. It is also true that we all know plenty of people we think should have been successful but for some reason or another just did not apply their natural talents to the relevant tasks at the right times.  Many of them waited, expecting someone else to make the effort on their behalf, and ended up shocked and disappointed to discover that doesn't happen.  Only you can do it.

In martial arts, as in every other aspect of life, what matters most is your own effort.

It is singularly important to direct your energies and devote your time to those things which yield the best contributions to your success.  For this to be possible, you first need to spend enough time and energy discovering what success means for you.  This makes it very important to go and do as wide a variety of things as possible during your formative years.

However, make no mistake, even once you identify the things you love and that matter to you, only your focused and concentrated maximum effort will make those dreams reality.  The bad news is that there will be no one else to blame for your failures.  The good news is that those failures are only temporary reminders to increase your effort until you succeed.  When you do, you will know in your heart it is because of your own hard work.

Over ten years in the fast-paced securities business had me surrounded with smart people. Most of them were far smarter and better educated than I was.  It was a dawn-to-dusk pressure cooker that took a high toll on all of us.  However, only very few put the effort into learning the business completely.  Most people were content to do only the bare minimum required to get their bonus, or their promotion, or their next job in another firm.  If I had any advantage, it was that I already knew I would have to work harder to achieve success because everyone around me was smarter and more qualified than I was.  The good news is that this work ethic has allowed me to move almost seamlessly from industry to industry over the course of my career through real estate, consumer electronics, office imaging, system integration, securities and financial IT, having achieved a reasonable outcome at all of them so far.

In martial arts as well, I was not gifted with great natural athleticism.  I was always smaller, weaker, slower than the other students.  My assorted injuries and health issues meant I had to work much harder to learn the basics, and was never able to do many of the things the others could.  Learning each technique was a battle against myself.  After more than 30 years of struggling, it has started to make sense, and I am now able to teach a class and make the material accessible to and enjoyable for my students, which is my definition of success as a teacher.  I continue to work and train very hard, never forgetting that is effort, and effort alone, that makes success.

I am most grateful not for the fact that I never gave up, but for the fact that others never gave up on me.  Their belief in me has allowed me to continue to believe in myself, even when many times I have felt overwhelmed and unable to continue.  This has been true of my students and friends, but also co-workers and bosses --- most importantly, it has been true of my family.

For me, the greatest success I have achieved in my life has been to rise above my broken home and fragmented childhood and to achieve a family of my own.  This has involved no small measure of luck, confidence, environment and other factors.  It has also involved effort.  There have been many times the ghosts of my past have haunted me and caused me to become my own worst enemy and try to destroy my good life.  Despite this, I have made every effort to remember what is important and stay focused on my success - both personal and professional. Despair waits around every corner, and it is a constant and vigilant effort that keeps my demons at bay.

Every one of us - EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US - has in us the capacity to define and achieve our own success.  It is the destiny of our souls to do so, and doing so brings us the happiness that will sustain us throughout our lives.  We are born to achieve. All obstacles can be overcome by effort.

Be inspired by the people around you.  Most importantly, be inspired by your own effort.
Work hard and earn your success.  Make yourself proud.  YOU DESERVE IT.
I hope I can be there to celebrate it with you.