This week, we are talking about what it means to be a person of high quality. Whether it is at school, work, or in martial arts, what does it take to be a person that is known for being the best of the best?
I'm going to take this as an opportunity to nerd out about one of my favorite things: video games. I really enjoy playing video games and Nintendo is one of my favorite companies. Their first home console, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) released in 1985. This was a very interesting time in the video game industry as the market for games had essentially crashed. No one wanted them anymore and that was in part to a lack of quality games. Game companies were pumping out as many games as possibly and the majority of them were shoddy, at best.
But then Nintendo came along with their console and it was a major success. This was because they took the time, effort, and money required to make a great game. Instant classics such as Mario and Zelda were known for being high quality. They were fun, well-made, and worth the money.
Even today, 35 years after the release of the NES, Nintendo games are still known for being great. While other games will go on sale after a few months of being on store shelves, Nintendo games rarely get a discount and if they do, it's not by much. Why? Because they know the quality of their merchandise and that quality costs money.
That's the point I am trying to make. If you want to be a person of high quality, it is going to cost you. It may not take money, but it will cost you your time and effort. If you want to be an A+ student, it is going to take time as you study. If you want to be an amazing martial artist, it's going to take your effort and energy to train. You cannot just wake up one day and say, "Today I am going to be awesome." If you want to be awesome, then it needs to be a continuous practice.
At one point or another in our lives, we have looked a person of good quality and said, "I want to be like them." Maybe you looked at a very healthy individual and thought that you should start working out and eating healthier. Or maybe you saw an entrepreneur on television who made a lot of money and considered starting your own business. It is easy to look at a successful person and desire what they have. Most people will look at someone who is rich, beautiful, or talented and see their life sparkle and shine like silver. But what they don't see is the time and energy that went into polishing that silver.
In the age of social media and celebrity influencers, I have so many young students (and some adults) get star struck and have ideas of grandeur. There is nothing wrong with having big dreams or goals, but what's important is understanding that attaining those ambitions does not happen over night. It takes work-- hard work. It doesn't matter if its perfecting your side kick or improving your grades. If you want to be a person of high quality then your are going to have to put in the time and effort.
A few months ago, we talked with our students about humility (you can check out that blog post HERE). In our discussions with our students, we pointed out that you can be humble and confident at the same time. We noted that you can only truly be humble if you have nothing to prove, and from that comes a confidence in where you're currently at.
That confidence can go by another name: Pride. By definition, pride is a consciousness of one's own dignity. If you are aware that your life and actions have value, then that satisfying feeling you get when you look in the mirror and reflect on your life is called "pride".
But there are two types of pride. First, there is pride that elevates you up. When you accomplish a goal, you absolutely should feel pride. That gratification you feel when you think about who you are should give you a confidence boost as you realize that you are a valuable member of society.
But negative pride doesn't elevate yourself by reflecting on who you are as a person. Instead, it boosts your confidence by putting other people down. Remember, pride is an acknowledgment of your own dignity. But if you feel proud because you are "better" than the person next to you, then you are not acknowledging anything about yourself, but instead belittling your neighbor.
That's the first point I want to make: Pride, when felt correctly, comes from who YOU are and not from who SOMEONE ELSE is.
But let's take that a step further. How do you know you should feel pride? Do you feel pride when you get up in the morning and look at yourself in the mirror? Or do you only feel proud when someone pays you a compliment about how nice you look today?
I think about this a lot with my daughters. Most likely, there will come a day when they want to wear make up. Now, I am not against it, but I want to make sure they understand how to use it correctly. They should not wear make up so that other people will think they are pretty. That's not pride, in fact, it's a lack of confidence because you are depending on the opinion of other people. But that doesn't mean make up is evil. No, make up is fine but it should be used only if you want to use it. It should be used because it makes you feel good. And if you are truly taking pride in yourself, then that feeling of dignity doesn't leave when you wipe the make up off. Because true pride is about being happy with who you are.
Now I used make up as an example, but it could be applied to wearing fancy clothes or trying to achieve good grades. Those aren't bad things, but they shouldn't be the reason you feel proud of yourself. Remember you don't have value because people love you or you have the nicest clothes, or the prettiest hair or the best front kick. You have value. Period. You need to love yourself and take pride in who you are. When you look in the mirror, be proud of who you see. There is no one else like you, so be the best you that you can be.
When you want to do something, you first need to make sure you have all that is required to complete the task. If you want to build a piece of furniture, then you need to acquire the lumber and tools. If you want to bake a cake, you need to have flour, eggs, and other ingredients. But what about achieving your goals and dreams? What are the prerequisites needed to complete such grand accomplishments.
Helen Keller, the famous American author and activist, who lost both her sight and hearing at a young age, argued that one of the requirements to any achievements was optimism. She said, "Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence." Often times, we describe optimism as just being happy or looking on the bright side of things. But Keller uses different words to describe optimism, specifically "hope" and "confidence".
Hope and confidence are the expectation that something will happen. Without these beliefs, then our hard work and practice become meaningless. After all, what is the point of studying if we don't believe we can pass the test? No, we require optimism, that is, the expectation that we can succeed, if we have any chance at actually doing so.
Cut the Negativity
So how do we consistently develop an attitude of optimism? The first thing we can do is guard our minds. When we find ourselves reacting to a situation in a negative light, we must quickly redirect our thoughts to a more optimistic outlook.
Ask yourself: where can I find hope in this situation? Once you've identified that, focus on it. Drive yourself towards that goal with confidence. Like Keller said, faith leads to achievement, so have faith that you'll have the outcome you desire. If you control your thoughts in that way, your actions, mood, and efforts will follow.
Think about the most successful people you know. Do you think they found their greatest joys by doubting themselves and being pessimistic? Probably not. Cut that out of your life. Or when you see it in your child's life, try and gently redirect them. Children are sponges. They absorb what's around them. So when you see an opportunity to demonstrate optimism, let them soak that in.
Optimistic But Not Ignorant
They say ignorance is bliss. However, we don't want our students to be blindly hopeful. If a family member has a serious illness, then you have to accept that reality. You cannot just hope that it will magically go away.
But optimism doesn't just mean being ignorant and naive. If a family member is sick, be hopeful about the possibilities. What treatments did the doctor offer? What can you do to help? Focus on these glimmers of hope and reach for them. Believe that they will succeed. That's what optimism is about. Focus on hopeful possibilities instead of negative prospects.
Now, when we teach this to children we must remind that they things may still go wrong. Just because we are optimistic doesn't mean everything will turn out OK. But even when things don't go our way, there is another opportunity for optimism. As you walk through life, be confident that whatever is on the other side is a good thing. And if not, there is always a chance to turn a corner. And another, and another.
About the Author
Master Matthew Eyler is a 4th degree black belt in the Korean martial art of Tang Soo Do and a New York State certified general and special education teacher. He has over 20 years experience practicing self-defense and teaching students of all ages and abilities.