by Karen Eden
As a high school wrestler, my son was asked to help referee at a junior wrestling league tournament. At those events, kids as young as 3 get in the ring to show their ability to control and conquer. (My son was also a junior wrestler in elementary school, though not at that young age.)
Funny things can happen when you’re dealing with 3-year-olds who have to do something they don’t particularly want to do. It was here that I was reminded of an important life lesson given by a toddler just barely out of diapers.
When the whistle blew, the little guy immediately fell to the ground and spread his arms open, just waiting for his opponent to pin him. It was as if he was saying, “Let’s get this over with.” It was very obvious that even at the age of 3, this boy had decided that he did not like conflict and was not going to engage in it. The crowd laughed, the parents gave him a talking to, and the toddler simply got up and went over to get his sippy cup.
The truth is not everybody can be a wrestler. It takes a lot of dedication and fortitude, and it requires a type of athleticism that will eventually separate the men from the boys.
Occasionally, I talk about my own “fall down” moment. I was in my early 20s when I decided I would hop into the get-rich-quick real-estate scene. I went to real-estate school and aced the state exam, then sat at a desk for three months without making a single dime.
I walked neighborhood streets in my ugly gold polyester jacket and knocked on doors. Some people wouldn’t answer. Some would ask for my business card. Some would ask me out on a date. But despite the hours I expended trying to make big money through real estate, it was not going to happen for me.
Today, I easily could have told my past self that because I know how much I hate sales. But for young people, finding out what they hate is all part of self-discovery. Not everybody can be a real-estate agent. It takes a certain kind of willingness and openness to people that some of us — the ones wired like I am — will never be able to genuinely pull off.
Do you remember when you became a martial arts instructor? I recall that I would take it personally whenever a student quit. Honestly, it seemed like the students I poured my soul into the most were the ones who always left. It was very discouraging at times.
But I eventually came to understand something: Not everyone can be a black belt. It takes a level of commitment that most people will not be able to handle. Especially to younger generation, the thought that it will take a good four years or more to reach the rank of black belt is not appealing.
Martial arts training forces us, as students, to take it one day at a time, to be committed to coming to class for as long as necessary and to see what happens next. Not too many things in life are still like that. Maybe we should explain more clearly what it will take to become a black belt when new students sign up. Maybe we should make the development of that one-day-at-a-time attitude their immediate goal.
What we need to tell new students is that the day their instructor bows to them and calls them “black belt” will be one of the greatest days of their life. But that’s going to take a lot of heart and soul. It’s going to take a commitment to choose not to “just fall down.” But it also will be a path that will forever change the way they face their opponent when they stand in a ring.
To contact Karen Eden, send an email to [email protected] or visit the Facebook group “The Eden Assignment.”
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