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Life Lessons From When I Was a White Belt

mentor motivation Oct 02, 2019

by Karen Eden


One of the hardest things for me to master during my time as a TV news reporter was learning to “hurry up and wait.” You have to hurry up and get to the scene so you don’t miss anything. But once you get there, you just stand around — sometimes for hours. You try to figure out what’s really going on, which information is relevant and which is superfluous, whom you can interview and how you can get them to talk.

That’s usually the way it is when it comes to covering any kind of breaking news. As I’m sure my directors would attest, it was never my favorite thing to do.

Seasoned reporters are the best at this. They can show up and wait from high noon until sunset — and still present the story with smiles on their faces. Why? Because they’ve done it a million times, and they don’t even entertain the thought of going back empty-handed. They’ll find a way to get people to talk and to get that story on the air.

The only comparable experience to my time spent as a field reporter was the time I spent learning martial arts as a white belt — especially while taking private lessons. I remember the sweat that accompanied just having to focus on things like, “Which hand goes where … and over which knee?”

Until you’ve done those moves over and over for months, there’s a lot of chaos inside your head. This leads to a pivotal moment in which many new students will choose to abandon the art because, frankly, it’s a lot harder than it looks. I don’t know how many times I’ve said, while giving private lessons, “Yes, it seems hard now, but trust me, it gets easier. You just have to practice!”

The truth is that my time as a white belt taught me some of the greatest lessons of my martial arts journey. It taught me how to handle chaos. It taught me that sometimes you may not completely know what you’re doing, but you still need to guess the right direction and take a step. That’s the only way you’ll ever move forward.

My stint as a white belt also taught me that the chaos won’t last. It never does. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and trust that the process will work.

Perhaps the biggest lesson I learned as a white belt was that you must learn how to wait. You have to wait for answers, for mastery of a technique, for a sign that you’ve been moving in the right direction. Sometimes, you wait for days; other times, you wait for years. Eventually, however, the answer comes — provided you keep searching for it.

Often it happens like the dawning of a new day. One morning, you wake up and go to train, and for some reason, everything just falls into place. The chaos lessens, and you can clearly see the task at hand.

Overall, I loved being in the TV news business, and I did it for many years. But when I look back on it now, it all seems a little trivial. These days, I honestly don’t think I’d have the patience to go through all that stress for one minute and 20 seconds of news each night. Because that’s how much time you get to turn a story: one minute and 20 seconds. And just like that, it becomes old news.

Like everybody else, I still experience chaotic times when I’m not sure exactly what I’m doing, but I make a move in the right direction anyway. I’m not a white belt anymore. I have learned that the chaos won’t last and that I’ll eventually get the answers I’m looking for — as long as I’m willing to stay the course.


To contact Karen Eden, send an email to [email protected] or visit the Facebook group “The Eden Assignment.”


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