It’s been over 12 years since I began my journey from white belt to black in the art of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. If you include my years as a martial artist, you can say it’s been 42 since my father first enrolled me in Taekwondo class at the age of 5.
In those years, I’ve seen many students come and go, with very few achieving the rank of black belt. In Brazilian Jiu-jitsu the journey for the average practitioner at a competitive school can take 10 years compared to other martial arts which I’ve seen award black belts in 1 to 3 years.
A few years ago I sat down with a friend of mine who has been training since the early 80’s. Now in his early fifties, he is the proud owner of a kickboxing school training corporate clients as well as UFC fighters. We reflected on some of our fond memories from that era, the great local competitors and schools during that time. I asked him if any of these black belts were still training today?
I was shocked to discover none of them are training anymore. I was little sad since I consider martial arts to be a lifelong endeavor especially when it comes to black belts. After spending so many years teaching, I’ve seen many black belts stop learning. Images of once fit black belts who poured their soul into the martial arts, now walking around their academy with their gut hanging out.
There are lessons to be learned from experiences such as this one, and that is continued success and excellence is on-going. It never stops when you reach the top. Too often people fall victim to their own success, believing they have achieved all there is in their field, no longer having to commit to continual excellence.
When applying this experience from the dojo to the business world, ask yourself if you are continuing to upgrade your skill-set to keep you moving forward, furthering your success? Top performers are always relentless in the pursuit for knowledge, never leaving their fate to outside forces. They sit in the driver’s seat, continuing to steer towards new opportunities, discovering new and better ways of doing things.
Like a martial arts match, bigger challenges arise through rule changes, better training methods, or new techniques being introduced. You as a competitor need to be constantly up to date with what is happening or face being left behind. This is no different when it comes to success in your career. Either keep learning, or face being knocked off the podium by the next hungrier person in line.
I have a friend Tony who bought a Taekwondo school many years ago which had only 60 students. Today, he has over 300 students paying $200 per month in a 2,500 square foot facility. One of the key things I observed about him was his great ability to take the principles of self-discipline he learned from martial arts to the business world. I’ve seen a lot of martial arts masters do well when it came to the physical aspect. They were great fighters or teachers of technique but a total mess when it came to their personal life.
Tony on the other hand, has truly applied the dojo principles to all areas of his life. He’s generous, uses his time throughout the day effectively, takes regular vacations, spends quality time with his family, continues to train and compete while running multiple businesses.
I’ve always liked to ask successful people on what their secret sauce is for success, it enlightens me, providing me some key tips to implement into my business. Tony told me he feels a big factor to his continued success is he spends $20,000 per year on personal development seminars. Every year he travels to conferences around the world to meet with the brightest minds in the martial arts business world. Here he gets to network, stay on top of the latest trends. I haven’t seen anyone in this industry in my area come even close to the matching his commitment.
So that brings me to the question, what are you doing to grow your business or career? Don’t think you need to spend thousands of dollars for seminars if you don’t have it. Instead, read books, listen to audios, or find yourself a mentor in your area who you can ask for advice.
Remember, whether you are the CEO, secretary, owner, manager, or accountant, reaching a black belt level in your career is not the end of your journey but the beginning of a new one. Keep refining your skills, make yourself the best black belt in your field. Neglect it, you will find yourself in company with the rest of the has-beens.