Several years back, I helped run a Kenpo Karate school. Part of my responsibilities were leading classes, both for adults and kids. As I interacted with various students, I sought to understand their motivation for learning Kenpo.
Some of them were there to learn self-defense, an obvious goal due to the subject matter. Others were there to increase their physical fitness, again, a somewhat understandable goal.
However, there were those who sought the community aspects of a karate school. They were looking to “belong” somewhere.
There were others who wanted to do something fun and were trying Kenpo on for size. This student was the serial “tester” who floated from one thing to the next every few months.
I needed to provide general instruction for all students, but learned how to interact with each person slightly different. The student who liked the history of Kenpo wanted to hear the stories of how certain techniques and customs came about, but the student who was there for self-defense really didn’t care. They wanted to be engaged in physical activity that involved bodies colliding against each other.
To each their own, but as the instructor, it was my job to understand what path they were on and help clear the way a little.
Whatever their reason for being there, it soon became obvious that everyone had a different journey.
My Own Kenpo Journey
I started Kenpo when I was in the 8th grade for a simple reason: I wanted to be Chuck Norris. There was a Kenpo Karate studio down the street from my junior high and my parents enrolled me.
It was a great experience and I absolutely loved it. I practiced daily and envisioned myself being a black belt someday with my own karate school. I even participated in the junior instructor program.
A couple years later my parents moved to another part of the city, though, and I quit karate in an act of defiance. I also quit my other extracurricular activities including baseball and band. That showed them, I thought. It didn’t. The only person it hurt was me.
I returned to Kenpo training in 12th grade with a different instructor. It was a fledgling school and never offered the same level of discipline or consistency as my original studio. I trained until I left for the Army.
I found Kenpo again in my late twenties, starting over as a white belt and moving up through blue belt. The instructor was fantastic and the school was exceptional.
Unfortunately, I needed to halt my training during my first couple weeks at the police academy. One morning, I showed up to class with a black eye earned during an overactive sparring session. The training sergeant frowned upon my injury and said if I was hurt doing extracurricular activities I’d be released from the academy. I didn’t have another plan so karate took a back seat. I promised myself I would continue my training when I was off the rookie probation period.
It took twelve years for me to return. I had stayed in contact with a brown belt who had now risen to the level of a 3rd degree black belt. He was starting a school and I jumped at the chance to help him. I returned to karate with a vengeance. I started at the bottom again, but trained every day. Even though the school was only open three days a week, I was there for six, training regularly.
When I was ready, he asked me to lead the kids’ classes. Then the beginner classes. As my belt levels rose, I soon begin leading the adult advance classes.
I took my 3rd, 2nd, and 1st degree brown belt tests, each one more difficult than the last. Finally, it was time to test for black belt.
We drove across the state and I, along with several others, tested in front of an impressive panel of black belts. The entire test was nerve racking. The final portion of the test was a two-on-one fight. When it was over, I was exhausted and doubting everything I had done.
For diligent students of Kenpo, they can attain a black belt in roughly five years. That’s attending classes weekly with extra practice at home and testing regularly. It took me thirty years to reach the goal I’d set as a kid.
I cried when my instructor tightened my new 1st degree black belt around my waist.
I’d walked away from Kenpo nearly three decades ago and I carried that weight for me as something I’d never finished. It had always bothered me and I finally could say I accomplished that goal I set for myself as a young man.
My journey had reached its end.
How Does This Relate to Personal Finance?
I love reading personal finance and real estate blogs. With excitement, I scour over at least a new one every day. It’s amazing how many different stories there are.
I started out by reading Mr. Money Mustache then Money Boss. I’m sure you’ve read them as well. They’re fantastic and motivating. As I read them, though, I beat myself up for being behind the curve. Here I am, a short putt from 50 years-old and I am still working towards financial independence.
It’s no secret that I made some poor choices in my 20s and 30s. I finally cleaned up my act in my 40s but I could still make an error in judgement that would cost me money.
When I started my blog, I worried, “Will I achieve true financial independence and does anyone want to read along with that process?”
That’s when I thought back to my karate journey and those students I helped. I never criticized the student for what brought them to the school, whether it be fear, health or friendship. I welcomed them on to the mat and did my best to help them reach their goal.
My journey is different than everyone else’s. Nobody else has walked in my shoes or made the same mistakes I’ve made. They haven’t had the same successes either. They might have similar failures or achievements, but they aren’t identical.
Personally, I can easily relate to the failure of others, but have trouble (at times) believing I’m worthy of similar success.
Because of that, here are some things to keep in mind as we read about others, especially their successes.
Life isn’t a race.
We live and work in a competitive world. We all want to get to our goals quickly and will try too hard. We’ll press and cause undue stress on ourselves.
Your path is your own and only you can walk it.
Figure out where you want to go, how you want to get there and head out. Your route can change along the way. Sometimes you may even double back, but keep moving and forging a path.
The secret is not to quit.
If you stop, you are guaranteed to never achieve your goal.
Above all, don’t add to your anxiety by comparing your journey to others.
How about you?
Do you feel any jealousy, envy or inadequacy
when reading about the success the others?