What Are You Waiting For?
What are some popular slogans you can think of? You may immediately think of something like "America Runs on Dunkin" or "Got Milk?", but perhaps one of the most famous marketing campaigns comes from Nike with their "Just Do It" slogan.
The campaign's hit slogan has an interesting origin. It's creator, Dan Wieden, who came up with the slogan in the late 80's, was inspired by the story of Gary Gilmore. Gilmore was a convicted murderer who was executed by firing squad in 1977. If you read about his trial and time in prison, you'll find that he was the first person to be executed in the United States in nearly a decade, so he was well known in the news. Before his death, he was asked if he had any last words, to which he replied, "Let's do it."
When Wieden pitched his campaign slogan of "Just Do It" to Nike, it wasn't that he was inspired by Gilmore's life, but rather the definitive intention in his final statement. For a up and coming sports and fashion brand, this idea of laying out all your cards on the table and committing to your goals was something the brand wanted to capture and capitalize on. And thus, one of the most famous slogans came to be and is still in use over thirty years later.
Why We Wait
Now obviously neither I or Wieden are trying to glorify Gilmore's life or say that justice wasn't served, but there is an interesting parallel to be drawn from his story. When faced with death (even deserved death), Gilmore did not flinch. He didn't beg or plea, he didn't stall or try to run away, he simply committed to the task laid before him, though unpleasant and terrifying.
A lot of times, the reason we put something off is because it is difficult or scary. Instead of acting in the present, we push off tough tasks, hoping that we will be better equipped to deal with them in the future. But what if we followed Nike's slogan and instead of thinking about the unpleasantries, we just focused on the "now". What if we "just do it" and continue putting one foot in front of the other.
A lot of the time, we put too much focus on the future. We talk about how difficult an exam will be so that studying seems useless. We concentrate on how tough the competition will be so we become too scared to enter the contest. But if we commit to the task at hand and just dive right in, we can grow and learn. And who knows...we may even succeed.
Changing Our Mindset
There is a great quote from Theodore Roosevelt in which he said, "The only man who makes no mistakes is a man who never does anything." The former president presents two mindsets. A person who focuses on their fear of making mistakes and the person who focuses on taking action. You may be one or the other, but you will never be both.
We should teach our children that it is better to take action and fail than it is to procrastinate out of fear or difficulty and never have the opportunity to succeed. It is great to have big goals, but sometimes we must step back and focus on just moving one foot forward, one step at a time. Instead of saying, "You can do 100 push ups," you can instead say, "Wow, you did five push ups today! I bet tomorrow you can do six!" If we can support our children in their small accomplishments, then the large ones won't seem so impossible.
So what about in our own lives? Ask yourself, "What am I achieving by putting it off another day?" The answer you'll find (most likely) is that your not achieving anything. Once you realize that, ask yourself the opposite: "What can I achieve if I was to start right now?" You may not be about to reach some gigantic, magnificent achievement, but you'll be moving in the right direction, and that is a success.
The Loyal Subject
This week, students have been hearing and discussing the subject of loyalty and what it means to be a loyal person. This is a subject that has a fine line. On one hand, loyalty is a great character trait. Being loyal shows a commitment to a person, to support them in good times and bad times. For example, we see this displayed in friendships and marriages when people support one another and stick together through thick and thin.
But on the other hand, we don't want to teach our students to be loyal blindly. You shouldn't be loyal to a person who is abusive or constantly treats you harshly. Loyalty is a two way street. It must be given in order to be received.
My wife makes fun of me (jokingly) because I am a very loyal person. For example, there is a sushi restaurant that we go to. They have great food and the service is always friendly. Every now and then my wife will suggest a different sushi restaurant we should try, but I am always vehemently against it. It's not there is anything wrong with trying out a new restaurant. It's just the our usual restaurant is consistently good, I enjoy them, and honestly, I feel their dependable service deserves my loyalty. In this example, my loyalty was earned, but that's not the only type of loyalty.
Let me expand the analogy. A few months ago we got takeout from our favorite sushi restaurant and when I got home, I realized they had forgotten to give me an appetizer we had ordered. Was this a reason to never go back? Absolutely not! Maybe they were having a very busy night, or perhaps their chef was new and got confused. Either way, being loyal means that when a mistake happens or a situation takes a turn for the worse, you stick with the person you are loyal to. Loyalty can be earned and reciprocated, but at the end of the day, it should extend past a simple transaction and become a foundational part of a relationship.
Now, I should mention that I calmly called the restaurant to let them know they had forgotten my appetizer and they were super apologetic and gave me a free credit for the next time I came in. Why? Because they valued my business and their loyalty to me was just as important as my loyalty to them.
Now this may seem like a silly example. Obviously, if I order from this restaurant and the next ten times I go to pick up my food and its disgusting and incorrect, then I will take my business elsewhere. But loyalty means I at least give them a chance. And though this may not be applicable to this particular analogy, if there was anything I could do to help out my friend or family who I am loyal to, then I would gladly do it. Loyalty is the hand that extends a ladder to pick a friend up out of the pit of despair rather than running away to find a new friend.
Let's extend the example just a bit further. Let's say that just down the road, a new sushi place opened up. This new joint is (maybe) just as good food-wise, but its got bells and whistles. They have a koi pond in the lobby and neon lighting above each table. They even have one of those inflatable wavy hand guys outside. Do I abandon my current restaurant and go to the one that has all the buzz? Probably not. I mean, again, this is an extreme example, but my point is that loyalty is faith in a person, place, or idea, and true loyalty means a commitment to the well being of such.
Trinity Martial Arts is so thankful for the loyalty of our students. It is their commitment to our school, instructors, and art that makes this a school that transcends simply being a martial arts facility, and make us a positive relational family. And our commitment is to be loyal to our students, always doing what is best for them and promoting their growth and success inside and outside of our training space. Thank you and Tang Soo!
Do you or your child want to develop positive character traits such as loyalty? Contact Trinity Martial Arts to find out more about our martial arts program, focusing on traditional martial arts, self-defense, and life skills needed to succeed in whatever it is they do!
What Do You (Actually) Know?
When I was a teacher, I would often be frustrated when teaching multiplication facts. We would spend weeks teaching children to memorize 3 x 3 = 9. Eventually, they got it and when given a speed test, they could calculate their times tables in record speed. The frustrating part was when we got to the word problems. A student could easily know their multiplication facts, but it is a completely different skill to understand when to use that knowledge and how to apply it to the real world. You may know that 3 x 4 = 12, but when I give you a scenario with three baskets, each holding four balls, you have to have an understanding of how that piece of information will help you calculate the total.
This illustrates the difference between simply knowing something and having knowledge about a given topic. True knowledge comes not through memorization of facts, statistics, or talking points, but through practice and becoming familiar with the application of a given subject matter. When we educate our children, either in school or at home, it is so, so important that we teach our children not only information, but application.
This skill can be practical. For example, in martial arts we practice hyungs, which is Korean for "forms". These are a pattern of movements and techniques. While they are beautiful to watch and an important part of our art form, their purpose does not only lie in the beauty of the movements. A black belt may know many forms, but unless they know the application of the techniques, they will not be able to defend themselves.
Teaching application can also be more abstract. It is very easy to tell our children rhetoric like "treat others the way you want to be treated" but to actually dive into a conversation about why empathy is important takes a lot more work. Teaching martial artists a pattern of movement or telling children morals they should live by are simple facts that can be retained by anyone. But having knowledge about how to use those facts requires a deeper understanding. And that is the goal of our instruction: to help kids understand more deeply, to gain not just information, but knowledge.
Teaching a Deeper Understanding of Knowledge
When you go to college for education, you learn about something called "Bloom's Taxonomy". It is a simple framework that outlines different levels of understanding for how a student's understanding and application of knowledge progresses. But there is a much simpler way of understanding how to teach our children to know more deeply, and it uses interrogative words.
That may sound complex, but you already know these words. They are who, what, where, when, why, and how. The first four words (who, what, where, when) are simple. If you ask a question beginning with one of these words, the answer will usually be a few words. It requires you to state a simple fact. For example, if I ask, "Who should you be kind to?", the answer would be simple: my siblings, friends, parents, etc. But the last two words (why and how) require a deeper understanding. If I ask "Why should I be kind to others?" or "How can I show kindness to others?", that requires more thought of how to apply the concept of kindness.
When we teach children (or even adults) to have a greater understanding of knowledge, we should shift our questioning to use those higher level interrogative words. If you do this, you may find that what you know is a lot less than what you thought you knew. I don't mean that in a disrespectful way, but our goal is to not just know facts or rhetoric, but to have true knowledge, that is, a deep understanding, of the world around us.
What's interesting about this discussion is that when we talk about how to teach knowledge, it begins with questions. Using words like "how" or "why" show that we don't have a full grasp on a topic. Perhaps the first bit of knowledge we should acquire is the fact that we don't know much. Assuming this posture of humility, combined with the desire to grow and improve, will set you and your children on a path to success. I mentioned Bloom's Taxonomy before. Do you know what the highest level of the framework is? It is not the ability to analyze or evaluate, but the ability to use our knowledge to create. If we gain true knowledge, we can use it to create wonderful things, perhaps even a better world for generations to come.
About the Author
Master Matthew Eyler is a 5th 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.