If you know me reasonably well, you know I like quotes. I love how a single sentence or paragraph can wrap up an entire philosophy neatly and succinctly so that it can be recalled at ease and create a state of mind or thought that helps me remember what is important to me. I’m a collector of quotes. If I hear something that strikes a chord I will stop what I am doing and rush to write it down before I forget it. The sources of these tidbits of wisdom are sometimes surprising but I listen to the message the words convey to me and I don’t trouble myself with who is saying them. So, when I found myself listening to Jim Carrey give a commencement speech loaded with wisdom and amazing quotes, I didn’t hesitate to write down the jewels he was giving out. Many of the quotes I listed were similar in nature but the overall message was well summed up in the following.
“You can fail doing what you don’t want so you may as well take a chance at doing what you love.”
Simple in nature, this quote struck a chord in me. When I was sixteen years old my girlfriend at the time gave birth to my son, Brandon. I was immediately swept into a world of responsibility at an age when I hardly knew who I was and what I wanted my life to look like. All I knew was that I now had responsibilities that needed to be attended to and I would have to delay personal gratification so that my son could have a childhood unlike my own. My childhood was steeped in a state of relative poverty when compared to many of the kids I went to school with. There were poor influences in those around me and a lack of direction that would haunt me for many years into my adult life. I didn’t want that for my son. I wanted him to have financial stability. I wanted him to be able to play team sports. I wanted him to have a father in his life that provided him with direction, protected him and most of all, showed him how much he loved him by being there when needed. Thus began a process of wrestling with the idea of what I should do vs doing what I loved to do.
Almost sixteen years later, Brandon is the age I was when his mother was pregnant. He had a much more stable upbringing than I did in some ways. In others, it was chaotic and full of strife. His mom and I split up when he was three years old and things were tense between us. Others would see us and say that they were “so impressed” with how well we worked together but behind the scenes, there were awful arguments and hurt feelings. One of the main points of contention was the disconnect we had regarding Brandon’s needs. I grew up without my father in my life and thus my experience told me that it wasn’t money that he needed. He needed an example. I spent years trying to figure out how to live my dream of teaching martial arts for a living but I was slowly slipping more and more into debt and life was teaching me that starting my own business and becoming successful was not as easy as simply doing it. I needed business pedigree, basic accounting and bookkeeping skills and a mentor willing to help me learn how to navigate the basic tenets of small business such as how to set up a legal business in the government’s eyes, filling out tax forms and the many other little bits of minutiae that can make starting your own business feel a lot like drowning. Most of all, I learned that without starting capital, opening a business was close to impossible. I eventually gave up on my dream and got a job in sales so that I could make a better income and be a better husband and father.
I started making better money immediately and it felt pretty good. I tried to justify the loss of martial arts in my life by telling myself that I would have to find passion in what I did instead of doing what I was passionate about. I tried to train on the side but the pressure of meeting sales quotas was heavy and I needed to prove to myself and others that I had made a good choice so my training suffered. I had won three consecutive fights before quitting my job teaching martial arts full time. I took a match that took place about five months after starting in sales and I lost for the first time in a while. I absolutely killed the guy in the first round proving that I had the skills to win but I gassed out in rounds two and three and lost the decision. I stopped looking for fights and really bore down on honing my sales skills for a while. My passion for martial arts crept back into me and about a year later I was asked to take a fight on one week notice. I told myself that I didn’t care if I lost. I just wanted to taste the ring again. It was suggested that this guy was more of a boxer than a kickboxer and that if I used my leg kicks, I would be able to shut him down. I got knocked on my ass while throwing a leg kick. I got up and finished the round but got knocked down again in round two. The ref, who had refereed my fights a few times before, didn’t like how I looked and stopped the match. I didn’t fight again for over three and a half years…
I set to improving my skills in sales and made some pretty decent money. The entire time, something didn’t feel right. No matter how much money I made, it was never enough. I was still behind and I wasn’t matching up to sales that the best salesman in my company was making. I had believed that if I just worked hard and did the things that he did that I would eventually start making what he made. I was missing a crucial ingredient for success… passion. This guy was passionate about sales. He loved the game. Sales provided him with something that he was hard wired to enjoy. I was there for money. He was there for money as well but he loved his job and that love gave him the energy to wake up every morning and go to work with enthusiasm. I was good at my job but something inside of me was dying and I slowly become more discontented with the direction of my life. In time, my sales started to go backwards and I wasn’t so good at my job. I would drive home feeling angry, sad and unworthy. I was spending the majority of my life working towards other people’s dreams and while my body was going strong, my “spirit” was slowly dying.
This entire time, I was always toying with the idea of somehow getting back into teaching martial arts. Life had taught me how difficult it would be to start a business but it was also teaching me how difficult it was to live without passion for what you do. I look around me now and I see that the majority of people take this as a matter of course. They see work as something you have to do instead of something you get to do. In me was a stubborn idealist that simply refused to bend to this idea. I don’t know where this stubborn little fellow was born but he was a real bastard and he hung on for dear life as I tried to kill him with every quote I made on the company laptop at 8:30pm when everyone else was enjoying time with their family. I eventually wrote up a business plan for starting my little business on a part time basis with $500 start-up capital. The details of how I got from there to here are many but suffice it to say that it was zig zagging path through trial and error and I still have much to learn!
So here I sit writing this… whatever this is… hoping that perhaps somebody may read it one day and decide to do what they love. Let me be embarrassingly self-revealing for a moment. At the time of this writing, I’m still in debt, I struggle to put food on the table and keep a roof over my head and I still suffer from bouts of self-reviling thoughts that for all my skills in martial arts, for all the reading and self-study on personal development, financial literacy, business matters and a multitude of other areas, I have yet to turn it all into an income that allows me to sock something away for my future while living at a level that doesn’t make going out for dinner with my wife a thing that causes stress. Maybe the person I’m writing this for is me. Maybe I’m simply creating a reminder for myself that I failed at doing what didn’t want so I may as well take a chance doing what I love. What I do know is that for all my worry about the future, this moment is all I really have and at this moment, I love what I do and the positive effect I am able to have on others’ lives gives me the energy to get up in the morning and dance to work.
It isn’t easy but at the end of the day, I have never liked easy. I like the challenge and this particular challenge ignites passion in me. Easy is boring. I like dreams that scare me. Anything short of that wouldn’t excite me enough to work hard. In the commencement speech Jim Carrey gave that I borrowed that quote from are a slew of amazing quotes that encompass philosophies on Life that I can really buy into. The following reminds me of what is really important when I look at my bank account wishing there was more in there.
“The effect you have on others is the most valuable currency there is.”
It’s important to remember the things you really value because regardless of how difficult things are or how out of control you feel about your life, you always have control about how you feel about it. There are the things and situations that make up our lives and then there are the stories we tell ourselves about those things. When things are hard and your will is slipping, it’s important to remember that reality is not the story we tell ourselves about our experiences. Reality simply is what it is. The stories are how we interpret them. Jim spoke to this idea as well...
“Our eyes are not viewers, they are projectors that are running a second story over the picture that we see in front of us all the time. Fear is writing that script and the working title is “I’ll never be enough.”
Make sure you don’t let fear write your script. You could be delaying gratification for some distant future that you may not ever see. You may be telling yourself that you need to set your children up for the future when, in fact, you could die tomorrow in some strange twist of fate! I’m not trying to be morbid. I’m only suggesting that you take this moment and live it to the fullest in a way that makes you happy. You can’t take your money with you. You can’t go back in time and witness your offspring’s childhood. If there is a voice in the back of your head despairing because you are spending eight hours a day, five days a week in a vocation that is stealing your vitality, I’m saying it may be worth considering what that will mean to your future.
From the same speech I’ve been quoting throughout this message comes a final one for you to ponder.
“Fear is going to be a player in your life but you get to decide how much. You can spend your whole life imagining ghosts, worrying about the pathway to the future but all there will ever be is what is happening here and the decisions we make in this moment which are based in either love or fear. So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect so we never dare to ask the Universe for it.”
Maybe your goals are impossible to reach. Maybe you could waste years chasing an ideal that never comes to fruition. Whether that is true or not, I suspect the journey will be a lot more fun than labouring towards a goal that doesn’t fit the values that ignite passion in you. As the old saying goes, it is the journey that counts, not the destination. Go ask the Universe for what you really want and then enjoy the journey. Forget the idea of biting off more than you can chew. Choke on greatness rather than nibbling on mediocrity and go to your grave saying “I wasn’t afraid to try!”
The purpose of this blog
This blog is intended as a place to discuss ideas relevant to both both martial arts and life in general. Our school doesn't exist with the sole purpose of making great fighters but also of helping its members develop themselves into great people. The entries are about sharing ideas. I will not spend much time editing grammatical errors so please try not to let it drive you crazy when you come across them!