When I teach anything – be it writing, martial arts, Documents Analysis and even when I counsel young people about life, career or marriage – I always encourage my students to be themselves…to follow their own path to success. That is the single, most fulfilling freedom you and I can ever enjoy in life. I have come to realize and appreciate the importance of self-acceptance and individuality in the journey to true success and satisfaction. Let me share quickly with you how one simple experience a long time ago helped cement that principle in my heart.
Before I got married I used to compete in many freestyle martial arts tournaments and competitions. Back then I trained with a motley crew of fighters, and one of them was a friend I will simply refer to as Master Jim. I admired Jim a lot because he had heart, and though considerably older than the rest of us, he had a speed that belied his age. Jim was also one of best fake out kick boxers I have ever seen. He had a cool trick where during a fight he would constantly drop his left arm, presenting his opponent with a juicy target of an unprotected left side. When you swooped with a punch or a kick to attack his exposed ribs, Jim would quickly drop his shoulder and knock you senseless with a vicious right hook that came out of nowhere. It was a beauty of a gambit, and it worked every single time. I loved seeing Jim use it so much that I decided that I would copy it and use it in my fights. So I started training myself to drop my left guard like Jim did, and quickly swing around with my right. Pretty soon I was sure I had mastered the technique, so in my next fight I tried it, and my opponent knocked me out. I tried to use that trick again in 3 or 4 subsequent fights, and each time I was beaten. It did not make sense to me; Jim used it so flawlessly, and I studied and practiced his style for many weeks. Why couldn’t I use it effectively? It was not until Jim passed away that I found out from his brother that during his childhood Master Jim had suffered a severe injury to his left arm that left him unable to hold that arm up for more than a few seconds at a time. The damage also made it easier for him to drop his shoulder a fraction of a second faster than someone with a sturdy arm, and reach around with that blinding fast right under hook. That technique belonged to Jim, and only he could use it the way he did. I could try to copy it, but I would only be trying to be something I was not.
We all admire attractive qualities and personalities in others, and sometimes we try very hard to be like those we admire. While there’s nothing wrong with that, we need to understand that there’s a difference between learning good and useful skills from others, and trying to be exactly like them. We are who we are because of the way we were made, and the experiences of our past that helped shape our character. No matter how much you feel someone else is better than you, remember that you are unique. No one can be better at being you than you. Rather than trying to be a poor copy of someone else, work on becoming a better version of you. Explore the unique gifts and quirks that God has blessed you with, and exploit them to become the best of who you are. Turn your disadvantages into talents that can help you and others, and you will be admired for who you are. Satisfaction in life begins with self-acceptance and self-esteem. Appreciate who you are first, even as you admire the good in others and you will always be happy. Don’t forget that being the best in world starts with being the best within, so don’t drop that guard because you see someone else doing it. Find what works in you, and use it to create what works for you. God bless you this week, continue to stay safe as we work together to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic. We will get through this.
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