“Whenever an individual or a business decides that success has been attained, progress stops.” – Thomas J. Watson, Sr., founder, IBM
Success means different things to different people. For some, it means having great wealth. For others, it’s fame. Some consider power the ultimate measure of success. Still, others define it as contributing something meaningful to the lives of others. However you define success, some consistent elements are necessary to achieve it.
First, you must be dedicated to your endeavor. You cannot do anything half-hearted and expect to be successful. You must commit yourself fully. This means sometimes sacrificing other things you might want in order to achieve the success you are seeking. It also means being tenacious, not giving up because the road has become difficult. As William Feather, author of As We Were Saying, notes, “Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.”
Success also involves risk. In the movie Dead Poets Society, Robin Williams’ character teaches his students the Latin phrase, “carpe diem” – seize the day. This requires a certain amount of risk-taking. We’re not talking about the kind of risk that would be classified as “risky behavior” – drug use, alcoholism, philandering, etc. We’re talking about taking risks that will help you grow as an individual and stretch your talents and abilities. This sometimes means doing something others would be afraid to do. It means seizing an opportunity others don’t see. Roger Babson, founder of Babson-United said, “The successful man is the one who had the chance and took it.”
In addition, success requires us to take a personal inventory of our talents and abilities, likes and interests, resources, and values. When we know these things we can effectively utilize them in the right way to achieve success. If we don’t know what our abilities are, how can we use them to achieve the success we seek? This is why Warren Bennis, founder of the Leadership Institute of the University of Southern California said, “The key to success is identifying those unique modules of talent within you and then finding the right arena to use them. Knowing who you are and what you can do is critical to being successful.
Finally, being successful requires a different attitude about failure. Ross Perot, founder of EDS & Perot Systems, and a former presidential candidate stated, “Failures are like skinned knees – painful, but superficial.” Successful people see failure as the stair steps to success. They know that not every endeavor will be successful, but the trying, the competing, the striving is what will produce ultimate success.
As you consider these four keys to success – dedication, risk, personal inventory, and failure – examine them in the context of your martial arts training. Are you a “successful” martial artist? How do you define success in your training? Are you dedicated to your training? Do you take risks that will stretch your abilities? Do you regularly evaluate your abilities? And do you let failure paralyze you or motivate you to improve?
Challenge yourself to apply these principles of success to your martial arts training and other areas of your life. And remember National Football League coaching legend Vince Lombardi’s encouragement, “In great attempts, it is glorious even to fail.”
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