Investing in your journey: Thoughts on your time & effort as a currency

I read an interesting quote last week that caused me to reflect on the way we invest our time and effort into an activity. The quote was Jiu-jitsu related, however I think it applies to any pursuit we have:

“Jiu-jitsu is like a bank; the more you put in the more you can take out.”

On the surface, this quote seems pretty simple at first, but the more I reflected on this, the more it made me think about the investments we make into our chosen pursuits. The more time and effort we invest into something, the more we are able to take from it and the more it will come to serve us. In this article I will reflect on this idea, as well as discuss the idea of our time and effort as a form of currency.

As a bit of a bonus, I’ve added some thoughts at the end regarding Cognitive Dissonance for those of you who are interested in how this concept may affect our perceptions of our time invested and our improvement.

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The Eternal Apprentice 

Many people are not willing to start learning something new because they dislike the idea of looking like a beginner. The cycles of learning never change and always deals in certainties: Mastery is a lifelong pursuit and we are all beginners when we start anything. These are both topics I’ve discussed before in previous articles, however I would like to explore the concept of The Eternal Apprentice; once we have started something new, how can we adopt a mindset that allows us to continue pursuing mastery? I’d like to coin the phrase, The Eternal Apprentice, to describe this mindset.

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Even when we stop wearing a white belt, symbolically no longer being a beginner, the mindset of a white belt is one that we can continue to adopt as we continue on the path to mastery. Constantly being prepared to learn is the key to self growth.

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Embracing Challenge.

We all face challenges on a day to day basis, how we respond to them is essentially the largest shaping factor in our lives. Do we step up to the challenges presented to us? Or do we back away?

Facing your challenges is the only hope you have to build resilience within yourself. Embrace challenges because of their difficulty and you will find yourself desiring greater and greater challenges. The rewards are not immediately obvious when we face unfamiliar challenges, yet they are still present; hiding beneath the surface. They are also much, much larger than you may imagine. When you finally complete your task & overcome your set of challenges, a change takes place in your mind. Your confidence grows, your belief in yourself is reinforced. When you complete what you set out to do, you affirm yourself and your desires to achieve.

Think about the most memorable days of your life so far. Chances are they were the days where you were challenged and you overcame. The best days of your life are not the meaningless, easy and inconsequential ones; the best days are the ones that presented you with stress, nerves, challenges and made you question yourself. 

We, as human beings, have been impacted more so by conflict than any other factor. Our entire biology has been influenced by it; our minds and our bodies have evolved to deal with conflict and solve problems.

Put yourself to the test: Embrace Challenge. To reject challenge is to reject living life. 

 

Fallibility: Understanding and embracing imperfection.

Fallibility; the ability to make mistakes and to be wrong. We absolutely hate being proven wrong, but one of the greatest certainties in life is that there is precious little that we can know and prove to be entirely factual. Let’s seek to better understand what it means to be fallible…

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We are no different to the earth under our feet. Faults, flaws and holes are part of our identity and, more importantly, our nature.

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Sacrifice

Think about the thing you’re really passionate about- that thing that gets you out of bed in the morning. No one would argue that you’re dedicated, you work hard and orient your life around it. But what sacrifices are you willing to make for it? 

Chances are high that you already make some sacrifices for it. You dedicate and sacrifice your free time, if it’s a physical pursuit you sacrifice your body’s well being at times too. When you look forward and you picture yourself still committed to your passion in five, ten, fifteen years from now what sacrifices do you anticipate you will have to make for it? You’re going to have to sacrifice more time; time with friends and family, time that you may want to use for other things. You’re going to have to sacrifice even more of your well being (physically and mentally). Some of these sacrifices could completely change your life. So anticipate them and ask yourself: are you willing to make them?

If you are not willing to sacrifice for your chosen pursuit, you are not pursuing the right thing. Only your true passion- your calling in life- will make you feel willing to sacrifice endlessly for it. Your passion should be the driving force in your life, so why would you only half dedicate yourself to it? Think about those at the highest echelons of human achievement; they did not get there by compromising or by holding back. Sacrifice is the price demanded by success, make sure you are willing to pay the price.

Building Pathways: Thoughts on Strategy

Developing strategy and building pathways to success is important. Whether you’re creating a game plan to win a game of chess, finding the fastest way to submit your opponent or planning to create a piece of art, you need to build an effective pathway towards that end goal.

Pathways are more than just physical motions that we go through, it also involves pathways in our mind; adjusting what and how we think. Continue reading

Allowing yourself the space for creativity

Many of us, in the pursuits we are passionate about, have the space to be creative and express ourselves in a true, honest way.

One thing we need to be aware of is that sometimes our focus can narrow and we can become absorbed by single facets of our pursuit. This can leave us without the space to find creative solutions- or to express creativity- because we become hyper-focused on the single thing directly in front of us. Sometimes, we need to take a step back and allow ourselves that space for creativity again.

For myself, my biggest creative pursuit is within Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and I’m constantly trying to find new ways to open up pathways to express myself within the (martial) art form. At times, I’ve felt like I had hit the dreaded “plateau”; where I felt like I was at a point of stasis and not seeing any improvement. I would be dissatisfied because I could not find success with the single thing that I was working on.

But the solution in cases like this is actually very simple. Sometimes, we narrow our focus too much and do not allow for the state of flow to occur, limiting our creativity and ultimately our ability to experiment & improve. When we become too objective focused, we dedicate all of our attention to completing that objective and forget to prioritize other equally important aspects.

A lot of practitioners talk about “opening up their game”. I think that this in a way refers to attending to the creative learning often required within BJJ and other martial arts or sports. Shouldn’t we always open up our games? By allowing ourselves the space to work creatively to solve the problems presented us, we will plateau less, enjoy training more and find more satisfaction when things do start to come together as a result.

Listening to Criticism.

The most valuable people you will ever meet are the ones who won’t always tell you what you want to hear. Remember that.

The people in your life who care enough to tell you what you need to hear, as opposed to what you want to hear, are worth their weight in gold.

Remember that no-one ever created positive change in their life by being encouraged to keep to doing the same mediocre things that they’ve been continuously doing without result. That is called stasis. Stasis will galvanize your way of thinking, it will encourage you to adopt weak, ego-centric narratives that justify your lack of improvement or inability to change the things that aren’t going right in your life.

Surround yourself with people who care about you and the kind of person you are. Be prepared to listen to them without taking offense. If they care enough to tell you when you’ve made a mistake, take that on board and allow it to inform your perceptions of how you act without being hurt or outraged.

Be grateful for criticism. Be grateful for an opportunity to learn and improve as a human being. Be grateful for those who care enough to tell you when you’ve made a mistake.

 

Presence of mind: The importance of mental presence in learning.

 

“What’s the secret?” 

Who has heard this before? With reference to learning; there is no secret. There is no cheat code that lets you skip the hard work, the effort and demands of improving and learning something new. However, as is the focus of quite a few discussions here at Articulate BJJ, there are specific habits we can develop that will help us to maximize, and maybe even fast track, your learning. One of these is Mental Presence.

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Thoughts on Having an Open Mind

“Oh, I don’t need to learn this. It doesn’t fit into my game plan.” or “I already know this, I don’t need to practice it.” are examples of what got me thinking about this next topic: Being Open-Minded. 

I think I’ve been very fortunate to have had teachers, friends and peers who have modeled open minded behavior throughout my learning. I think it is also because I have been surrounded by this positive behavior that it comes as a shock to me when I see people uttering statements such as the above.

It takes humility for a person to admit they don’t know something; many of us don’t want to risk looking stupid in the face of our colleagues, partners or friends whose opinions we value. Above humility, it also takes a lot of effort for us to be open-minded. In the gym, the work place or even in the company of friends, being open minded is an invaluable attribute. Continue reading