As both a martial artist and small business owner, I often deal with fear. I rely on a host of variables to ensure that my family is taken care of. Like everyone, I have bills to pay. I have a daughter to raise, I have a marriage to nurture. And I have a school full of students that rely on me to teach and inspire them. When I allow myself to become weak, and allow fear to creep into my life, I find many possibilities for ruin.
So why do I, and many others put ourselves out into the World, and stand against fear? Why do we risk that security? Why do we give up simplicity, and take on challenges and risks? That is the questions that I hope to answer today, as well as illustrate the rich rewards that come from overcoming those fears.
First, let me tell a story about why this topic is important to me. My daughter suffers from a rare genetic disability that effects her muscles and memory. In essence, the doctor said she would always struggle to do simple things such as walking and running, and more difficult tasks would be impossible. But, instead of giving in to the doctors sad story, we chose to place her in a different environment. Specifically, a Taekwondo mat. We decided to face some fears and put her on the mat with normal kids, kicking, punching, and sparring each other.
Every day, we would leave class with her crying and saying she wanted to quit. Every day she said she couldn't do it. Every day she felt like we hated her because we allowed her to be “tortured”. The road wasn't easy and she did not progress through the ranks at normal speed. Nothing came easy and she spent thousands of hours working, and training her body. First we started hearing comments from her teachers regarding how respectful she was becoming, then the comments changed to how focused she became. Later, we realized that her friends weren't even aware of her disability. She was able to run and play, just like everyone else.
Eventually, the hard work became her daily routine. She started to smile in class and grew to love the workouts. She started to accept responsibilities and even began teaching. She started to see that kids respected her and her abilities and she was their inspiration. One day they wanted to grow up and be just like her. At first she didn't believe what she was told, but soon she saw it was true and it made a very deep impression on her.
Several months ago, she stepped on the mat and tested for 2nd Dan. The reason I mention this is because she tested very well, but “no changed” due to a missed board break. Afterwards she had a 9th degree Grand Master, call her aside and tell her he was very impressed. She could have gone with the bare minimum requirements and passed, but instead, she challenged herself and accepted a no-change, knowing she didn't want to be average. She failed, not because she couldn't break the boards, she failed because she wanted to match the adult heavyweight males. Even I was impressed.
So lets fast forward to this past weekend. Several weeks ago, we were invited to a breaking tournament out of state. Myself and several of our students love competitive breaking, and we are always up to the challenge of breaking our own personal records. What made this weekend different is my daughter asked if she could sign up too. Surprisingly, she told me she wanted to compete. She only did one event, but walked away with a gold medal. Next time, she is looking at two events and has already begun practicing, after class. These are the actions that inspire me.
If asked, I'm sure she would say I am always tough on her, and that helps motivate her, but in reality, that strength comes from inside her. She has no idea how truly proud I am. So why do I tell this story while discussing fear? It's because every day, my daughter steps on the mat and faces that fear. She steps on the mat and does what doctors say is impossible. Every day she proves to herself that she CAN do it, and not only that, but she can do it well. She has found that by facing her fears, she steps out of her comfort zone and becomes a better person. Does she always succeed? No. But then constant success shows a lack of challenge. Will she grow up to be a successful adult? I honestly believe she will. She has learned one of the most important lessons of all. No one great has ever got there by accident.
So, next time you are faced with a challenge, look it in the eye and step forward. If it is a tournament, sign up. If it is a belt testing, show up. If it is a new job promotion, accept it. Fear will always be there, but so are the rewards. Once you have stared down fear, and won, the next time will be easier. That is the road to success.