When Muhammad Ali was asked how many situps he had done, he said, “I don’t count my situps; I only start counting when it starts hurting because they’re the only ones that count.” That’s the deal - when you’re not suffering, you’re not growing. The more time you spend inside your comfort zone, the less you grow. The more we look adversity in the face, the stronger we get. The more we can dig in when things get hard, when they look scary and when the road ahead of you is a little rougher than you wanted or expected it to be, the stronger we come out of that hardship. See, adversity and struggle and setback are just opportunities to get stronger, to get better, and to get more mentally tough.
When we fail in life, it’s usually at something we haven’t done much. Imagine drawing a big circle and listing all the things you’ve ever done inside it. The things you do every single day go in the middle of the circle, and the things you’ve tried once or twice go near the edges. Now, outside the circle, list all the things you haven’t done - sports or instruments you haven’t played, languages you haven’t spoken, places you haven’t been. My guess would be that you’re really good at the things in the middle of the circle. As you work outward, your ability level probably starts to drop. And as you get outside the circle, you probably don’t have a clue how to even begin a lot of those things. The outline of that circle is called the “margin of your experience” and it’s incredibly important. Because it draws the line between things we’ve tried and things we’ve never attempted, it’s where we start to fail. And for that exact same reason, it’s where we start to grow.
At The Dojo, we can take comfort in the fact that when things get hard, we aren’t alone. We’re all in it together and while we might all be at different places in our journey, we’re doing it as a team. Whatever your goal is, my goal is to help you get there. We do that through training and operating right at the edge of that circle. I’m not content to let you sit in the middle of it and do the same things you’ve done over and over again. Remember - when it gets hard, it’s because it’s supposed to be hard. That’s when you show yourself what kind of stuff you’re made out of. And a big part of my job is to help you realize that you can do it. Whatever your struggle is, you can face it and beat it. But you have to make the choice to be relentless. The ones who listen to the voice in their head telling them to stop, that it’s too hard, those are the ones who don’t ever get to see how tough they could actually be. And what a shame that would be, to never know what you’re capable of.
My challenge to you, to my students, to myself, is this: expand the margin of your experience. Embrace the pain of not succeeding at first so that you never stop growing. It’s when that circle stops growing that we, ourselves, stop growing. Keep making the circle bigger. Try new things. Be really bad at them. Because by putting our heads down and our eyes forward and charging ahead and just doing the work, we won’t be really bad at them for long. That’s how we make our future stronger.