White Belt Chronicles: A Personal Journey, One Step At A Time

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Over the past four months I’ve been sharing various lessons I’ve been learning in my Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Journey, and how these lessons apply to both my business and my personal life.

During this time a cool thing has happened.  Several white belts, who I didn’t previously know, who are training in different parts of the world, have reached out to me through my blog, and said that they have enjoyed reading about my experience, and that their experience in many ways is similar to mine.  I’ve also talked to several higher belts who have told me that the blog posts are somewhat nostalgic, as they remember learning these lessons as well when they were white belts in their BJJ journey.

This makes me feel very good.  I love knowing that my writing in some way is positively impacting others. 

These various messages have inspired me to start a new series on my blog, what I will be calling “White Belt Chronicles”.  In this series I will be sharing my perspective as a white belt, and it will include both the things that I am learning  (BJJ and life philosophy), as well as various observations that I am making along the way.

It will only be “my perspective”, and I would never suggest that other white belts will, or should, experience similar things.  The magic of BJJ is that it is a fundamentally personal journey.  However, in the event that some of what I write can help others in their BJJ journey then I consider that a good thing.  I also like putting my thoughts to print because (as noted in my “What BJJ Teaches About Business And Life” posts) I believe that the philosophies and mindsets taught in BJJ have remarkable application to living a productive and fulfilling life.

So here it goes….My White Belt Chronicles. 

I’ve been training BJJ now for just under a year. I currently have two stripes on my white belt.  My attendance at first was quite sporadic and inconsistent, but over time I have increased my consistency to roughly two training sessions a week (sometimes more), and it is a rare week that I don’t attend at least one class.

Here is an interesting mental observation I’ve made:

When I judge my progress by looking forward (in terms of how far I still have to go) or by looking laterally (in terms of other people’s progress relative to mine) it is very easy to get discouraged.  It seems like the path to mastery of this art is insurmountable.  It seems like there is just too much to know, and I am limited by time and natural ability.  However, when I judge my progress by looking internally, where I only judge myself against myself and my skills from a year ago, I am excited, I am encouraged, I am motivated to continue on, I am proud of myself for sticking with it, and I realize that I really have learned much in less than a year.

For me that is the only thing that I can do.  BJJ started off as a “curious trial”, something that looked intriguing.  Almost a “bucket list” kind of thing.. take a few classes, joke around with my friends that I got my butt kicked.

At some point it became something more.  I believe it has to do with my conscious recognition of the life philosophies and instruction that I was receiving inadvertently by virtue of attending regular classes.  I was learning lessons that were directly applicable to my life and business.

I was literally becoming a better human by attending BJJ class

Once I consciously recognized this, then BJJ became much more compelling.  I started to arrange my schedule so that I could attend, because I wanted to keep learning these lessons.  I wanted to keep applying them to my life, because they were positive.

That has taken me to where I am right now, almost a year in, and very motivated to stick.  However, I know that if I look forward (in terms of how far I have to go) or look to my side (in terms of my peer’s progress relative to mine) it is easy for me to lose motivation. Therefore I have made a pact with myself that I will just look inward.  I will judge my performance, and my progress based on my past.  Based on whether I am learning, whether I am growing, completely and utterly independent of anyone else.

I think that this is truly one of the most empowering ways to live.  If we live always looking ahead, at what we don’t have, we can get easily discouraged.  If we live looking laterally, at what others have, we can get easily jealous, and feel sorry for ourselves. But if we look internally, and judge our progress only based on whether we are better than what we used to be, then life is rich, life is engaging, each step is empowering and progress is noticeable.

That is something that I hope that I can always retain in my BJJ Journey.  The ability to look inward, to judge my progress against the standard of myself, and nothing else.

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