by Karen Eden
My favorite Chinese eatery in the world happens to be located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It’s a very unassuming place, the kind of restaurant you would refer to as a “hole in the wall.” I’ve frequented this location for decades now and go there every time I’m in town. The flavor of the sauce, the texture of the rice — everything you would be extra picky about is accommodated. And I, my friends, am very picky about my Asian food!
During one visit, I noticed that somebody had opened a Chinese buffet next door to my favorite spot. The buffet was cheaper and, of course, featured an all-you-can-eat style of dining. There were bright balloons and banners placed across the entrance. But nope — no buffet for me. I know what’s good, and I stick with what I know.
As my family and I walked in to be seated, we noticed that the restaurant was emptier than normal. No doubt locals were giving the ballooned and bannered “all you can eat for one low price” spot next door a shot. The owner greeted us as always; the waitress took our order; the food was delicious. Nobody was complaining about the buffet next door. It was literally business as usual, as if nothing had happened.
I noted how these guys didn’t seem panicked at all. There were no low-price lunch specials, no dinner deals, no Chinese acrobats performing while you wait. I thought, Where do they get such incredible courage? Then it dawned on me: These guys know they’re good.
When it comes to competition, I’ve always told my students not to go to a tournament to watch. If you’re going to go, make sure you compete. There’s more than one reason behind instilling this in my class, but the main reason is you will never know how good you really are until you have someone who thinks they’re good standing right beside you, waiting to prove it.
At that point, it’s too late to back out. You either think you’re good enough to be there or you might get your butt kicked. Win or lose, competition teaches you how to handle life. It’s a mindset that pushes the “sort of secure” to “very secure.” There’s something to be said for knowing that you do have what it takes to win. You just have to trust the process of all that you’ve been through.
The majority of martial arts instructors know what it’s like to face competition in one way or another. People often ask me how to maintain a successful karate school when the world is facing a pandemic, when nobody has any money and when a new 22-year-old black belt has tossed his hat into the ring to make a living at what many of us have been doing for decades.
My answer is simple: You’ve got to know you’re good. You must believe that you have the very best of what it takes to succeed, no matter who or what steps in the ring to face you.
I didn’t get to return to my favorite Chinese restaurant for a couple of years. But when I did, I was not surprised to see that the buffet next door was no longer there. A pet and tropical-fish shop had taken over where the colorful ballooned and bannered entrance once stood. We were greeted, the waitress took our order and the food was delicious. It was, again, like nothing had happened.
There will always be times when a “Chinese buffet” opens up right next door to us, too. The next time that happens to you, allow me to ask you one question: “Are you good?” If the answer is yes, there’s no need to worry.
To contact Karen Eden, send an email to [email protected] or visit the Facebook group “The Eden Assignment.”
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