If you’re going through hell, keep going

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Monday mornings I train with Sifu. Every time we meet, he teaches a sparring combination – that is the curriculum for our time together. Setting aside the ridicule I endure and the mental button-pushing that he does, I always receive an assignment from him. He’ll say, “Listen, you have to work on this specific detail this week, so that next week we can move on.” And that’s our agreement.

Norges sjømatråd: Foto: Marius Fiskum © Norges sjømatråd

So Tuesday mornings in sparring, I’m working on the assignment I’ve received. The truth is that very often as I’m learning and reviewing, I’m getting punished. I try to do what Sifu’s been telling me to do and I get hit and hurt in the practice. I’m way outside my comfort zone; it’s very, very frustrating.

The trouble lies with me. I constantly screw up the process, because instead of staying with my frustration and discomfort, I fall back on what I already know.

I battle it, but a big part of me wants to go back to a place where I’m comfortable – where I strong arm people, I bully people, I hit them hard to get my way. It’s because I don’t want to deal with this feeling of failure time and time and time again.

But when I step back, I see something different. I see that my “default setting”, returning to the comfort of what already works, looks an awful lot like the Grim Reaper. And he’s there to take my progress.

The lesson for us at a time like this is that our “status quo” is often the thing with the sickle that cuts our growth and kills it.

When I step further back, I find that exact same dynamic exists in other places in my life. Maybe I read something that empowers me or I hear something that inspires me, and when I try to integrate it in my life, I get punished for doing something good.

It’s because the world that I’ve created doesn’t respond to me in the new way that I’m trying to be. And it’s constantly obstructing me, thwarting me, in my mind. I get really frustrated and I want to fall back on how I’ve always been.

All good is attacked – at least at the beginning. If you’re doing something that you know is good for your progress, expect that it’s going to be hard for a while. But then the breakthrough will happen.

Winston Churchill said, “if you’re going through hell, keep going”. So that’s our message. There isn’t any progress in turning back. The learning process takes time, and change is painful. But if you do it this way, by moving through the impediments and the obstructions rather than retreating to safety, you’ll create the tools to develop real progress in whatever areas you’re determined to see it.


For more about our larger project of cooperative Jiu-Jitsu and martial arts training, visit the Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (Brooklyn BJJ) website here.

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