Excellence Through Imperfection…

In any field of study — be it the arts or sciences — a student must take care to not fall into the mindset of completion. We’ve all run into it, that feeling that we know everything we need. That school’s out, time to get to work. It happened to me when I worked at Mellon, and was cast aside shortly after I went to FedEx. I’ve seen it happen on the fencing strip and in the dojo. I call it Green Belt Syndrome.

With Green Belt Syndrome(GBS) comes two things:

1) That previously mentioned sense of complete expertise such that no further education is necessary.

2) A sense of entitlement to have that expertise acknowledged.

I recently saw a literal case of GBS when a fellow karate student was going from Black Belt to Black Belt, insisting on being tested for advancement. The problem with this — which was already spelled out for the student — was that any testing past Green Belt was at the teacher’s request. The sad thing is that the teachers are actually saving this student from an embarrassing failure. As it stands, there’s no way this person would pass. Two reasons:

1) The student’s Sanchin is terrible.

2) Anyone can see the lack of commitment.

When a student is standing around bored for five to ten minutes, that’s a problem. When a student receives instruction and doesn’t follow through, that’s another problem. How do you promote such a person? You can’t.

That way of thinking is easily broken by the simple realization of imperfection. It doesn’t have to come across as a negative (“You know nothing, Jon Snow”). In fact it’s better when that realization comes from within. It’s when you understand that there is much more to learn. Once that kicks in, you can decide whether you want to keep going or step away. It’s great to do the former, but it’s also okay to choose the latter. Sometimes we need to stage things back because we’re not prepared or willing to undergo the changes that come with new knowledge.

But if you decide to step up, then do it. Do it big, do it loud, do it greedy. Devour every morsel of wisdom and knowledge you can to make it a part of you. Figure out what works so you can make it yours and what doesn’t so you can put it in the trunk for later. Go and grow, but above all don’t give into fear…

Don’t be afraid to suck.

Don’t be afraid of makin mistakes.

Don’t be afraid to get hurt in some form along the way. It happens and not always by malice.

Steel is stronger than iron, but it has to endure fire and hammer to get there. Committing to that new path is a change of lifestyle, don’t underestimate that. Instead, commit. Learn. Grow. Find your limits — and learn which ones you can blow away.

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