A few days ago, I blinked. Actually just a bit, but for anyone knowing me – or if someone would have been around – they would have seen that I was moved. Not to tears, but with just a bit of emotion. And get this – it was over an award (well, a very very little one): I was promoted to another stripe on my Brazilian jiu-jitsu belt. That makes two white stripes on a white belt – barely visible to the naked eye.
Yet it got to me. I’ve been practising martial arts for almost 30 years, and I never really cared about belts – and I certainly don’t compete. I’m also what my significant other would call a bit of miserable git (she might use stronger verbiage) – not thrilled by what would make most people happy: awards, medals, prizes – or just winning something. I even wrote a blog post about how much I don’t connect to stuff like that.
But, in the spirit of this blog – I’ve learnt something about myself: some things, even some awards, get through my Prussian protestant upbringing (of work for its own sake); and I’m happy to admit it (well, this just this once). I was moved by getting that second stripe. Having thought about it, what made it so touching, was that it felt quite incidental. I didn’t have to pursue it – I wasn’t expecting it, and I wouldn’t have been disappointed for not getting it; just happy for those others who were called up.
One principle that guides me personally, as well as professionally, can be summarised along these lines: ‘If you compete with others, it will make you bitter. If you compete with yourself, it will make you better.’ Martial arts training is in my view one of the best ways to live that motto. It’s all about looking out for each other – while trying to perfect oneself. That is often a very lonely pursuit, as it can exclude others on the journey.
But on occasion, it is nice that the effort has been noticed. I don’t think I got my stripe for my excellence in this new discipline – I think I got it basically for not giving up. I had a lot of pauses in the last few months – and this little gesture did a thing I wouldn’t have expected: it motivated me. So there you have read it: I am human after all.