"Please, give me everything you know. I want to be a master!"
I cannot begin to tell you how many times each and every week I'm sent these words by people from all around the world. I also hear from time to time, "teach me exactly how you would teach your kids." The truth is, most people don't have the stomach for that.
Motivation will not in itself get anyone to achieve greatness. Greatness achieved comes from within. It comes from a devotion to and a drive that often is not explainable in simple words.
It is my belief that mastery, is never truly achieved. It is an idea to thrive for and an idea to dedicate oneself too. It takes a great amount of discipline to remain persistent enough in focus, effort and drive. In order to thrive a mastery towards something one must dig deep within their own depths and justify what it means and why it is something important one wants to have. Then you must be willing to be dedicated day in and day out to the necessary tasks and objectives, not the tasks you necessarily want to do and achieve but the ones you must do.
What one must do is not often what one wants to do necessarily. Especially when the tasks and objectives become day to day and year by year monotonous.
You must exercise thinking to go beyond the average, the good and enter an entirely new league. The daily routine must not be the normal routine of others. You must be prepared to spend a great amount of time in isolated study and research. You must understand how the skills and knowledge you wish to master move laterally across other skills and subjects to understand the principles at the rate mastery requires.
This level of dedication and discipline is not easy. Most will settle for good, or more accurately, good enough in their craft.
One must be connected to their craft which means searching constantly for a stronger connection with themselves. This takes an incredible amount of courage to face truths about the self that may have been wished to remain buried.
Mastery in anything goes hand in hand with disciple and stoicism. It is a dedication of hardship that is intriguing and even at times aspiring by the many.
A master with no discipline is nothing more than a mirage. A master without evergreen study for achievement is false.
It has taught me truth, courage, leadership and self-trust...
For twenty years now I have been a practitioner of KALI, the art of Filipino Fencing. Some refer this to the Filipino Martial Arts. What I have endured and learned in the past two decades has shaped me into the human I am today but, it wasn't just the art itself, it was because of the choice of complete devotion to a path of deepness, a dedication that would demand a different kind of long distance travel. A travel to within.
Over the years of training the practice evolved patiently. Even at the times I wasn't patient. I remember the early days, even the first day, filled with excitement, fright, and eagerness. When it was new it was so difficult not only to get the physical motions down but also to resolve the emotions and still the mind. I didn't realize at the time the journey, the process that would be endured all from that single moment, that single decision, that simple phrase, "yes, I'll go check it out."
What I've learned in twenty years of practice in one thing are so many things. I've learned about fighting, I've learned about nature, people, virtue, potential, courage, bravery, perfection, stillness, decision making, emotions, communication, failure, success, what it means to be dedicated, and I've learned much about myself. I've learned about the battles one has within and doesn't even realize them or chooses to be ignorant of but, the most important things I have learned about are virtue and dedication. This is where everything else truly begins.
There is no dedication without virtue or at least the search of virtue. Commitment is easy. It's just showing up. When one falls off the wagon it is easy to recommit the next day but, dedication you either have or you don't just like a virtuous life you either live or you don't.
Everybody has their own list of virtues but, I believe no matter the list, they all should start with the virtue of truth. Without truth you cannot really be sure of other things. Without your own truth you cannot be sure of yourself. It is easy to know the truth but may be a war to accept it even regardless the reality of it. I've learned many truths about myself during my KALI practice that were upsetting, unfair, and others that where encouraging, and exciting but, nonetheless, each component was and is the truth.
Courage is the virtue that rises next. It takes a great courage to face these truths and act upon them. It takes courage to do the physical. It takes courage to work through the mental and emotional and whether you make the right or wrong decision it takes courage to see it through. However, as said by Aristotle, "There's a fine line between courage and foolishness." You mustn't mistake or confuse the two.
Leading by example is a great example to lead one's life by. This would put leadership in third place on the virtue scale. You love your children so you teach by leading them the way, correct? But, which way do you lead them? As a teacher of the martial arts I can lead my students down my path or teach them about virtues so they can use guidance along their own path and make their own decisions, failures and successes. Leadership is delicate. It's a fragile line between truth and expectation.
Without virtue what does one devote their time, effort, or oneself too? Without Truth how does one love? Without courage how does one respect? Without leadership how does one communicate? How do you do these things and live a life with precision and accuracy?
If you know something is unhealthy for a child and continue the act then perhaps you have love for the child but, you may not love the child and instead be in love with the idea of love or think that love is to be expected. The same follows with love for yourself. If one doesn't follow a virtuous dedication then how does one really trust themselves and the decisions one makes? Often times expectation is simpler than truth.
For many years I thought my practice in the martial arts was about fighting, self-defense, and physical movement, even personal development but, what it's really about is virtue and virtue is about life. One cannot sustain personal development growth without virtue and dedication. In order to live a great life one must be dedicated to living a great life whether it is a life of decisions leading to failures or successes. Whether one is a peasant or a noble, to live with virtue and dedication is the greatest success.
If you are unsure of virtue and dedication but understand the value of, then you must act and search. Without virtue and dedication you will never know true potential.
What's happening to kindness, love and virtue? What is happening to community?
I must admit, as a human I feel lost as a member of this species. More accurately I feel confused and frustrated both at once. What have we done to ourselves? Have we truly lost our way or is this our destiny? Is this our fate?
I look in any direction and I see a dog eat dog world. Everyone for themselves with small pockets of what we once were and had. The world hasn't grown dark, it's us who has.
I say hello to my neighbors and get ignorance returned. I give kindness and then I'm taken for granted. All of a sudden I'm a t fault for all that is wrong in anthers life all because of diversity. Kindness being replaced with ignorance, love replaced with lust and virtue replaced with neglect.
For so long, generations, we have been growing more ignorant with ourselves, in lust with ourselves and more negligent with ourselves. We have more and more books and seminars on self help and less and less on community, each other and connection. Yet, these are the very things, fundamental things we all want, need and are seeking for.
I watched a mother and her young daughter at dinner. She was so excited sitting there so upright, proper and proud. A display in manners and elegance of a true young lady. Not even moments and her mother separates herself and spends the remainder of the time locked on her phone. For an hour I watched this young lady of about seven or eight crushed smaller and smaller. The mother had nothing to say. She had nothing she wanted to give her daughter. Not even an hour and yet life is too short.
This same story I observe more and more just with different characters and settings. We've truly lost the value of time and each other and are quickly losing the value of living.
Perhaps this loss is due to the loss of stillness. We lost connection with each other because we've lost connection with ourselves. Faster and faster we achieve human domestication. Less of the natural world and more of the artificial acting as if we are something unnatural to this world. We move in such a hurry to go from one side of our box to the other. Too many people have forgotten the smell of wildflowers. They've lost the feeling of their hands being in the soil and the sweet and potent taste of a wild blackberry. Most people, cannot even recognize a blackberry without being in a grocery store or a flower without being at a nursery.
Perhaps as we lose our connection with nature, we lose connection with each other? In our domesticated lives everything you need is done for you by people you never see, meet or know about. So then kindness is no longer needed? No more need for yin and yang? No more need for your neighbor, which means, no more need for you as you are also a neighbor. Just as there was no need or desire for the mother to share with her daughter, who is her own nature.
As we remove our connection to nature we remove all our kindness, love, compassion, respect and the courage it takes to be someone's true friend. Happiness doesn't come from love and love doesn't come from things that make you feel happy. Love and happiness come from connection.
To rebuild connection we must look back to our foundation. Rebuild a connection with nature. Go for walks in the woods, amongst the wildflowers and feel the banks of rivers and lakes between your toes. Touch gently, whisper to and feel appreciation for life. Plant a small edible garden or at least nurture and care for a few small herbs in the house. Play music yourself. Skip the grocery store and go to the orchard.
Integrate nature into your life, rebuild the connection our ancestors once had and perhaps the world will begin to vibrate positively and won't seem so dark. It takes you, me and each other as we will always share each other's fate.
As once said by Alexander the Great, "Remember, upon the conduct of each depends the fate of all."
Somethings are worth the wait but, how many things you wait for are not worth the wait? Opportunities simply slip away.
Waiting for others to initiate, waiting for something to get closer to you, waiting to start something, waiting for the new season, waiting for the right moment, and whether it happens or it doesn't perhaps it was just meant to be?
I've played the waiting game many times over and more often than not, I lost. I've waited too long and missed opportunities many more times than I've seized them.
I think about how many times in my life I've said to myself, "I'm going to do that, I can't wait for that, or, I wish I would have started sooner in life."
I realize that every time I've waited or not waited it was a choice I had made. I've also learned that playing the waiting game most of the time (with a few exceptions of course) would result in a loss.
When something is to get done, or something is to be achieved it is best to take immediate action. One of the best guided advice I've ever heard was, speed of implementation.
The most valuable currency in life is time. You often hear people say how life is short but, perhaps that's because so many people spend most of their time not living but, instead waiting. Think about it like money, you can either sit and wait for money to arrive or wait for a paycheck or you can get to work. Life is a lot like that. you can wait for things or you can go do the things. After all, the only way to do something is to do it.
If you spent more time doing the things you've spent so much time talking about, think about how much time you would actually have in your life? Perhaps then, life wouldn't seem so short? Maybe then life would seem much more fair with the time it gives you? I guess it all depends on how you decide to you use your time.
Seneca talks about this very thing in "On The Shortness Of Life" and ah, yes, I've heard this all before but, yet we still ponder on this very thing we as humans have been pondering on for thousands of years. Perhaps waiting for permission from someone or something to stop pondering and start living the life and experiences we want.
I remember the exact moment when I changed my decision making. It was in the martial arts. Before, I wanted to attend a seminar and waited for the teacher to come to my local area. It would be so much easier when they came to my town. It would be more cost effective, I wouldn't have to purchase a hotel room for multiple nights and spend the money on travel plus being in an unfamiliar place. So I decided to wait. The only thing is, the instructor never came to my town. Then, the instructor stopped traveling all together! I felt so cheap and defeated in myself that I couldn't work up the courage and financially plan and instead I missed such an opportunity. This is when my mind shifted.
I remember feeling pretty miserable. I decided, I would never wait for another opportunity again and that I would take action to start creating my own opportunities. I started putting away a little bit of money each paycheck for my "seminar fund" and prepared myself to travel wherever I would have to go in order to train. I got tired of waiting only for disappointment in myself. I thought, never again. Twice, I was burned in life from what I felt were great opportunities (I'll talk about the other one another time, which was my absolute life changing moment!) Both of these times were my fault for relying on waiting.
No more waiting for the stars to align. How would I really know who things are "supposed" to be aligned for me anyway? Maybe life isn't about that in most areas (again, with a few exceptions.) Perhaps life is meant to be lived with courage. Even Aristotle put the virtue of courage at the top of his list. Through courage maybe life wouldn't seem so short?
Maybe instead of fearing death from a short life we should fear not living well and courageous enough from the life we are given?