After taking ice cold showers in the morning for several years, I recently realized what I had truly learned from these showers.
What I realized is that I was doing the bare minimum, just kind of sucking it up and getting it over with. This was fine, but after a while I needed to grow. It was then that I realized this was a moment to excel, to push myself. The cold shower itself was uncomfortable enough, but forcing myself to stand under it the complete time and other small adjustments enabled me to push myself further.
There is a huge difference between doing something, even something strong or noble, with an aggressive attitude or a defensive attitude. The difference lies in this: with any combat sport if you get back on your heels and just block punches you will eventually get hit. Actually, you are gonna get pulverized. If you get aggressive, block and counter you may still get hit, but you are going to move the fight in your direction.
How many times have you gone into the gym to crush a workout and only wound up doing the bare minimum to call it a work out? Yes, you did it, but did you do it with excellence? This is difficult. One of the temptations in being task oriented is to become robotic just doing the task and crossing it off of your list. Don’t get me wrong, laying the foundation of making lists and completing them is necessary, but this is a stage that you must grow out of. The next stage is deeper, this is the arena where you battle not only your physical limitations but your emotional and spiritual limitations as well. This is a battle that we will all face for the rest of our lives.
The lesson applies to all facets of our existence. In work it will make the difference between a life of mediocrity and a life of excellence. For instance, if you have a blog in the hopes of making money you will want to work on it daily. You can write a few sentences here and there. Technically you’ve done what you set out to do; the bare minimum. The other option is to write, research, learn and doing whatever it takes to make your blog a success. This is excellence.
I recently began reading an autobiography of a man who completed Kyokushin Karate’s “30 Man Kumite”. For those unfamiliar with this, it is a grueling sparring session against 30 men consecutively for 1 minute each. The skill of the fighters faced also increases with each man. There are some certified bad asses roaming this planet who have also completed the “100 Man Kumite” and a “300 Man Kumite”. I digress. This book is interesting in that it is really the author’s karate autobiography. The point is that all of his training for his whole life came down to this moment, it prepared him for this moment. All of the difficult training was its own philosophy, it taught him what he needed to learn. It taught him to understand in strength. Had the author not pursued excellence in his training at all times he may not have been passed this test later in his life.
It takes work and strength of mind to build ourselves up in this way. We live in a society where people expect accolades for just showing up. We also live in a society where appearing to be is just as good as actually being. We all want the rewards without the blood, sweat and tears. This is one of the many, many benefits of the combat arts; when you get into the ring or on the mat with someone else you are authentic, there is no faking your skills. There are no excuses, you find out who you really are and what you are made of. I recently watched a documentary on Vice’s “Fightland” about a dojo in Amman, Jordan. One interviewee, a very religious man, stressed how he was planning on fighting in the ring because he said, “I don’t want to lie to others and I don’t want to lie to myself.” He wanted to find out exactly what he was made of. He was searching for authenticity. This is a truly noble search.